The Pistons began their season with a splash, trading for capable veteran Bojan Bogdanovic. Factoring in their promising backcourt of Cade Cunningham and rookie Jaden Ivey, and some even expected them to be contenders in the NBA’s play-in tournament heading into the year.
Unfortunately, a combination of underperforming and injuries have completely derailed the Detroit Pistons, who now sit in the basement of the Eastern Conference. Cade Cunningham’s year is done after undergoing surgery on his shin. While this team has capable players they just haven’t been able to scrap together too many good stretches.
While the Pistons haven’t arrived quite yet, there have been multiple silver linings. Killian Hayes, a young guard who has mostly underperformed thus far in his career, has put together some impressive performances in Cunningham’s absence. Hayes has averaged a solid 13.2 points per game on 43.6 percent shooting while dishing 7.4 assists per game. Not a bad stretch for a 21-year old guard.
Ivey, who the Pistons drafted fifth overall, has lived up to the draft hype early on. He’s averaging 15 points per game, and has been one of the Piston’s go-to options in Cunningham’s absence.
You’ll even find promise outside of Detroit’s loaded frontcourt rotation. Jalen Duren, another rookie, is beginning to find his way early on in his career. He’s been one of the better rebounders in the NBA, averaging 13.7 boards in the past six games — an impressive stretch for a 19-year old. Between him and Isaiah Stewart, the Sixers might have some trouble keeping the Pistons off the glass.
On paper, this has been their easiest matchup in over a week. The Pistons aren’t a strong defensive team, ranking second-to-last in the entire league in defensive rating. They simply don’t have the offensive firepower to outweigh their lackluster defense either. Their offensive rating is good enough for 23rd in the league.
The Sixers started this home stretch with high expectations, and have met them thus far. The Raptors’ overtime win was probably their sloppiest game in the past week or two, and even that can be justified going against a lengthy, athletic team. Their offense still ranks middle of the pack at 15th in the league. Their defense on the other hand has been tremendous, and only ranks behind Milwaukee and Cleveland.
Joel Embiid’s 30-point streak has narrowly come to a close, but he’s still averaging a monstrous 36.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 4.1 assists on 56.2 percent shooting in the month of December. He’ll be going up against the likes of Duren, Stewart, and Marvin Bagley in this one — and it’s likely he’ll bolster these video game-esqe numbers.
Tobias Harris has quietly put together a tremendous year, and the basic numbers don’t do him justice. He’s had to adapt his game constantly during his tenure here, and he’s done so yet again in the catch-and-shoot game. He’s averaging 41.6 percent on catch-and-shoot threes this season, taking a career-high in attempts. While his overall shot attempts are still down from his norm, he’s found a way to consistently contribute and he’s played the most impactful basketball of his career.
Good news for the Sixers: the Detroit Pistons are one of Tobias Harris’ former teams. He often has good games against his former teams, so don’t be surprised if he builds off his excellent Toronto performance.
For the Pistons, Cade Cunningham and Isaiah Livers are out. Former Sixer Braxton Key, who was briefly on the team, is on a G League assignment. On the Sixers’ side of things, Furkan Korkmaz is questionable with a non-COVID related illness. Maxey is the only other Sixer listed, outside of G League assignments.
The Sixers end their homestand against the L.A. Clippers, which should be a challenging game. Securing a win against a struggling Pistons team would guarantee a 6-1 record at worst in their seven-game homestand, which would put this team in a great spot ahead of Tyrese Maxey’s impending return.