While the majority of basketball fans have already given up on the possibility of the Eastern Conference producing the eventual NBA Champion this season, I still believe the Detroit Pistons have as good of a chance as any team in the NBA to win. Before you leave some nasty comments below this article or flood my inbox with vicious emails hear me out.
While the overall talent in the West is far superior to that of the East, this talent differential will more than likely help the Pistons if they can make it to the NBA Finals. Due to Western Conference teams likely battling into six or seven games in each series it’s not a stretch by any means to think a team like San Antonio or Phoenix will need to play close to 20 games before they even reach the Finals. Detroit, on the other hand will likely sweep their first round opponent and in the second round it’s conceivable they could oust a team like Toronto, Orlando or even Cleveland in five or six games. If things play out like that, it’s likely they won’t have to enter into a six or seven game battle until they meet Boston in the Conference Finals (that is if the Celtics even make it that far). While playing three or four less games in the playoffs might not seem like large advantage, that means aging vets on Detroit can play 100-120 minutes less and endure less travelling by the time they get to the Finals.
Also adding to the fatigue of Western Conference teams is the fact they need to play all 82 games without the benefit of resting injured or older players. Detroit, on the other hand, will be able to rest most of their starters and give them reduced minutes for the last 10-15 games of the season as they will have a top two seed in the East locked up by the end of March. The competition in the West is so intense that Kobe Bryant elected not to have surgery on his finger which would have sidelined him for six weeks because he was worried it would cost the Lakers too many games and any chance at securing home court advantage in the playoffs. What Bryant didn’t tell the media, but something he was sure to be thinking, is that if he were to miss that amount of time the Lakers could be at risk for failing to miss the playoffs. The depth of the Western Conference is sure to be something that hinders rather than helps teams come playoff time.
You also can’t overlook the experience on the Pistons roster. While skimming through their roster I was amazed that, combined, the team possesses 657 games of playoff experience. Not all of those are scrub minutes either, as 436 of those games came when players started games for their respective tams. While that number is impressive, what’s even more impressive is that four players from their core – Chauncy Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, and Rasheed Wallace – all were starters when the Pistons won their last Championship in 2004 year. That core played in the NBA Finals in 2005 and has helped guide the Pistons to at least 50 wins over the past five seasons. While there are some young players such as Aaron Afflalo, Walter Herrman, Amir Johnson, Cheick Samb and Rodney Stuckey who have yet to play any minutes in the playoffs, only Stuckey appears to be in the running for minutes in the playoffs due to the team’s depth and the other veterans on the roster.
Don’t get it twisted, I still believe that the eventual NBA Champion will reside in the Western Conference, but I also feel that the NBA Finals will provide for some thrilling games, and that the Pistons have a chance to win their second championship in the past five years. I just felt the need to remind basketball fans that it’s not a lock that the eventual champions will reside in the Western Conference.