Can New Pistons Keep Playoff Drive Alive?
The Detroit Pistons were a busy team at this year’s trade deadline. Aware of the possibility that they were underperforming, and at risk of wasting Blake Griffin’s career year, they didn’t stand pat. They acquired two new players via trade, Thon Maker and Svi Mykhailiuk, and then added veteran shooter Wayne Ellington via the buyout market after he was bought out by the Phoenix Suns.
The Pistons enter the All-Star break clinging to the last playoff slot in the East; will these new additions be enough to keep them there, and do they have any future with the club? Let’s take a look.
Wayne Ellington is averaging 8.1 points per game, 2.0 rebounds per game, and 1.2 assists per game -- virtually identical to his career averages, so what you see is what you get. After last season, arguably his best season in the league, Ellington had not seen nearly as much of the court for the Heat this season, caught in a glut of wings that Heat coach Erik Spoelstra did not manage well.
Last year, the Miami Heat sharpshooter was selected for the Three-Point Contest at All Star Weekend; this year, he only started 12 games and didn’t even play in 27 of the 53 he spent with the Heat. He was used to balance salaries in a trade to the Suns, and was promptly set free, having no role with a young squad solidly in a rebuilding phase. With his arrival in Detroit, his role has been much more solidified. He has come off the bench in his first two games but has played significant minutes in both, tallying 33 minutes in a loss to the Celtics on February 13th. When the Pistons traded Reggie Bullock to the Lakers, Ellington became a big piece of the Pistons’ wing puzzle.
Thon Maker is averaging 4.6 points per game, 2.7 rebounds per game, and 0.5 assists per game this year, which are basically a match for his career numbers, but where Ellington has a 10-year track record, the Pistons certainly hope that Maker’s best years are in front of him. The seven-footer was acquired by the Pistons for Stanley Johnson in a one-for-one trade of two former lottery-picks who have yet to pan out.
Maker has all the skills of a new age center: range that extends to the 3-point line, the ability to protect the rim, fledgling ball-handling skills -- but he is raw. The 21 year-old was not playing in Milwaukee and asked for a change of scenery in order to further his development. In order to become an everyday starter, Maker must add some more weight so he isn’t as easily moved on the interior. Maker will provide stretch 5 ability for the Pistons and will continue to develop the more playing time he gets. Maker shows many flashes of what he could become; hopefully Detroit will be able to maximize his immense talent both now and into the future.
Svi Mykhailiuk is averaging 3.3 points per game, 0.9 rebounds per game and 0.9 assists per game in his inaugural season in the NBA. The 6’8 sharpshooter was acquired by the Pistons in the Reggie Bullock trade, along with a second round pick from the Lakers. While he has only played in one of the three possible games for the Pistons, Detroit views him as a long-term asset and will work to develop him into an NBA-caliber wing. Mykhailiuk is already an NBA caliber shooter: he takes 64% of all his shots from 3 and hits them at a 32.2% clip -- not great, but definitely something to build upon.
The Pistons needed -- and got -- a wing overhaul at the deadline, but it remains to be seen if any of their acquisitions have a high enough ceiling to make a difference. Detroit may benefit more from the other teams in their vicinity focusing more on draft position than getting blown out by the Bucks in the first round of the playoffs. If you’re a fan in Motown, you hope the new pieces provide a greater push than just watching the Red and Blue back into the postseason.