By: Bogart Lipe
We’re going to find a great deal about the Pistons in the coming weeks. This past week yielded middling results, primarily because of a reprehensible 17 point loss to the previously 8 win Mavericks a week ago. The Pistons followed the loss up with a vital three point win against the Knicks and a 24 point thrashing last night versus the Pacers. However, looming over the Pistons and their improving 19-14 record are the key injuries starting to pile up.
Avery Bradley is still not ready to return from a groin injury, and is now being evaluated on a week-to-week basis. The current target is to have him back for the New Year, but nothing is clear at this point in time. Last night, Bradley’s backcourt partner Reggie Jackson badly sprained his ankle, and after having an MRI today has been ruled out for 6-8 weeks with a grade 3 sprain. Only after the 6-8 week period will Jackson be re-evaluated, making the true timetable for his return opaque.
The injury comes at an incredibly inopportune time, as Reggie was in the midst of one of his most effective offensive performances of the season. In just 21 minutes, he recorded 8 points and 13 assists, many times finding the right teammate in the right position. Whether it was feeding Andre Drummond near the basket via pick and roll or kicking it out to a scorching Tobias Harris, Reggie was picking apart the Pacers’ defense.
*A note on what should have been a historic night for Tobias: he made all seven of his shots in the first quarter, including 5 three pointers, en route to a 21 point quarter. For the rest of the game, he took 4 shots total, ending with 31 points on 10/11 shooting. It’s an absolute travesty that he wasn’t force-fed, as it was clear he was as hot as a player can possibly be. He should’ve received at least 25 shots and had 50 points but what do I know.*
The Reggie injury could prove to be disastrous, especially if Avery continues to miss time. For a team with aspirations for a middle to high seed in the conference, the Pistons cannot afford to start Ish Smith and Luke Kennard for weeks at a time. The rotation will be stretched, with either Langston Galloway (who just found out he will be a father to a boy by way of a fun gender reveal you should look up) or two way player Dwight Buycks expected to lead the second unit at point guard for the time being. As for Ish, he will need to adapt his playing style with the starters. He tends to dominate the ball even more so than Reggie Jackson when playing with the second unit, and players like Tobias, Dre, and a (hopefully) healthy Avery will need to get their shots up in order for the team to continue to win games.
What this means past the next week or so is also unclear. Stan Van Gundy may feel pressed to make a trade to help the team tread water up until the All Star Break, possibly for a wing player. Trading for a point guard wouldn’t make long term sense, but a prototypical 3-and-D wing player could prove to be beneficial to the Pistons for the right price. For now, the Pistons need to get through the injuries to their backcourt, and build off their 5 wins in 6 games stretch. They only play two games in the next week, with a game in Orlando and a home game against the Spurs. At least one win in Orlando will be key, since for the next weeks, or months, the Pistons can’t afford to drop games against inferior teams.