Saturday Night NBA Action: Philadelphia 76ers at Detroit Pistons

Andre Drummond is an eventual All-Star, and certainly a franchise talent.
Andre Drummond is an eventual All-Star, and certainly a franchise talent.

Philadelphia 76ers at Detroit Pistons
Time: 7:35 PM ET
Spread: DET -12.5
Total: 194

Betting odds c/o Bovada

The Philadelphia 76ers are just 8-31 on the season and will struggle badly to even get to 20 wins this season. Visiting a red-hot Detroit Pistons team probably won’t help either. The Pistons, winners of eight of its last 10 games, are 12.5 point favorites at home, where they sport a 10-10 record thus far this season.

The biggest reason for Detroit’s turnaround has been the waiving of max-contract player Josh Smith. Smith’s disruptive attitude and poor shot selection on the court had robbed a fairly talented Pistons team of its chance to compete.

But Stan Van Gundy knew this, and being both in charge of operations and the head coach gave him the freedom to boot the career-underachieving forward. In doing so, it has freed the arms of the Pistons offense to work through the talented Andre Drummond, and even Brandon Jennings has been using his speed to disrupt opposing guards. It is as though the Pistons suddenly realized they are more than a lottery team. SVG had everything to do with that.

As for the 76ers, the team has been playing better ball, but still bad. Philly has won four of its last 10 games, but is still just 3-16 on the road, and that is where this game will hurt. The Sixers have some nice young talent, but there is clearly no emphasis on winning games now.

Last year’s rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams may find himself elsewhere after the trade deadline given the talent behind him (Tony Wroten). Nerlens Noel has looked good, even better than many expected offensively, but Philly still has no idea how he will gel with Joel Embiid when the No. 3 pick eventually makes his NBA debut (likely next season).

Philly will have to work to keep Drummond off the glass, and that is no small task. The former UConn Husky is averaging 4.9 offensive rebounds per game, and power forward Greg Monroe adds another 3.1 on that end, while being only one of two Pistons to score over 15 points per game (the other, gunner Brandon Jennings). Jodie Meeks has become instant offense off the bench, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is a defensive terror when he sets his mind to it.

Essentially, Stan Van Gundy is shaping this Pistons team into the blue collar hustle addicts that Pistons fans have come to love. The talent may be a far cry from the “Bad Boys” days, but SVG will gradually mold this roster into something of a contender.

The Pistons may or may not make the playoffs this year, but even with a mid-round pick the addition of a missing piece could be possible. Monroe is a restricted free agent at season’s end and will be courted by numerous NBA teams in need of a quality starting power forward.

Monroe (20.2 PER), Jennings (20.0) and Drummond (20.0) are the best three talents on this team, but the focus will be building around Drummond as this team moves forward. The flashes of talent in him scream superstar, where that just is not the case, even with a red hot Jodie Meeks hitting eight consecutive threes, as he did in Orlando on Dec. 30. The team has weapons, and with Josh Smith out of the way, we’re finally all getting to see that.

The Pistons will eventually move up in the standings, and as to whether it happens in this latter half of the 2014-15 season isn’t ultimately what matters. The team is competing again, and that is what the average Detroit fans: effort first; then wins.

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