It is finally here, NBA basketball for another nine months. Dull and repetitive summertime speculation is over. It is now time to see if careless optimism or depressing forecasts (or somewhere in between) come to fruition. As I’ve said before, it’s hard to be optimistic about the Detroit Pistons. Sure, let’s get excited about new head coach Dwane Casey. Let’s get fired up about another prime season of Andre Drummond. Fine.
Is it sad that Detroit is setting it’s season goal at getting to the playoffs as a salary cap-locked, aging team? Yes, yes it is. But hey, we got Blake Griffin! He’s going to put butts in seats! Right?
Apr 9, 2018; Detroit, MI, USA; Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey looks on during the first half against the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Alright, that’s enough tears for one day. Let’s check in on the playoff picture in the eastern conference. I made eastern conference projections last month. I’m feeling even higher on the Milwaukee Bucks now, but not much else has changed in a month. For fun, let’s split all 15 teams into tiers.
Tier One: It won’t be surprising if we win sixty games and have a chance to win the whole thing.
- Boston Celtics– The current favorite in the eastern conference. Let’s not overreact to last night’s beat-down on the Philadelphia 76ers, but Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward played like crap and they still won by 18.
- Toronto Raptors– Toronto has all the tools to be just as good if not better than Boston, but that all depends on Kawhi Leonard’s health.
Tier Two: We should win 50 games and have an outside chance of making the finals.
- Philadelphia 76ers– Philly could be the best team in the east, but it’s more likely that they are due for some regression after a scorching hot post-All star break last season.
- Milwaukee Bucks– The Bucks finally have a real coach. Giannis Antetokounmpo is my favorite to win MVP.
Tier Three: We are better than anyone else not in the top four.
- Indiana Pacers– I’m not too high on the Pacers this season, but they should still be about as good as they were last year.
The top five teams are crystal clear barring trade or injury. Then it gets tricky.
Tier Four: The saddest place to be in the NBA.
- Washington Wizards– Washington clearly has more talent than anyone else in the east, but are the de facto six seed at this point for that reason. But they have some serious self-combustion potential.
- Miami Heat– Miami may or may not eventually acquire Jimmy Butler, so their record could change drastically. For now, they share the 40ish-win ceiling Detroit has.
- Detroit Pistons– Here we are. Sitting pretty in the eight-slot. 40 wins, maybe? Is that a good place to be?
I’m not going to give the rest of the conference much attention, but here are the remaining seven teams.
Tier Five: There is a small chance we are actually better than Tier Four, but probably not.
- Charlotte Hornets
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Brooklyn Nets
Tier Six: Junior Varsity.
- Chicago Bulls
- Orlando Magic
- New York Knicks
- Atlanta Hawks
Realistically, Detroit has no chance of being any better than the sixth seed. The top five teams should be really good. I know it’s not fun to be realistic, Pistons fans. It hurts, so much so that you can talk yourself into the Pistons competing for a division title. Don’t do that to yourself, guy. Enjoy the season. But don’t sound like an idiot to the rest of the NBA community. Go Pistons!