Tonight at 8:00pm EST the Pistons will be in Chicago to play against the Bulls. The Pistons are on two days of rest after beating the Nets, as are the Bulls after beating the Knicks.
The Bulls were the laughing stock of the league for the early part of the season, and despite their recent surge you can still see how bad they were (and that they still are bad, just less so) in their current standings. They still sport the second worst offensive efficiency in the NBA at 101.1 points per 100 possessions, but don't worry, they make up for that with the 24th ranked defense by allowing 107.9 points per 100 possessions, which combines for the second worst net rating at -6.8 points per 100 possessions.
That said, this is not the same team that started the season looking like they were a Robin Lopez trade away from being a Hinkie Sixers team. They are 12 and 8 over their last 20 which included a 7 game win streak. Lauri Markkanen looks like a keeper as a legit 7 footer who can really shoot. Justin Holiday is not all that good but he can shoot threes. Kris Dunn has found his way a bit after a terrible rookie season, he has continued to progress towards being an awesome defender and while he still struggles with some things on offense he has found a sort of base competency that was not there last year. Robin Lopez is still a good defender and rebounder who just makes your team better. Denzel Valentine joins Dunn in having a bounce back year after a terrible rookie year, he doesn't do a whole lot other than shoot threes but he can really shoot them. Nikola Mirotic has been on fire, David Nwaba is a awesome defender, Jerian Grant is not very good but he is servicable, Bobby Portis has been alright. The Bulls team that the Pistons will face is even more different since Zach Lavine is expected to make his Bulls debut after tearing his ACL against the Pistons last year. I doubt he will play a lot of minutes but still.
This team is still not very good, but they are not too shabby and if the Pistons play poorly and/or without injury they could be in for a real fight. If Lavine looks good fairly quickly then the Bulls could suddenly have a good outlook going forwards, they may win too many games and hurt their draft pick but if they kept somewhat on their recent trend they may suddenly look to have a nice grouping of young talent and Hoidberg may actually be able to coach in the NBA.
Matchups to watch:
Drummond vs. Lopez: Lopez is the sort of strong and disciplined player that has always given Drummond trouble, but Drummond is an improved player this year. Drummond's new-found passing abilities should help to give Lopez trouble, as the Dribble hand-offs will pull Lopez out from his comfort zone in the paint, but Drummond will still have to work in this one.
Pistons vs. Markkanen: This dude is legit. He looks very much like a 20 year old rookie when he tries to defend and create his own shot, but he can knock down open shots like crazy and when he puts together coherent possessions as a creator and defender you see the potential. Regardless, given Tobias Harris' penchant for falling behind shooters this worries me a bit. On the plus side Markkanen will have to guard Harris on the other end.
Dwight Buycks vs. Staying hungry: Congrats to Dwight Buycks! Seriously, he has received a full NBA contract which is great for him. It will be important for him to continue to play on both ends as though he is still fighting for his very NBA life though, because given his lack of size if his effort and tenacity drops by much he will be a much less effective player.
Pistons vs. Defensive effort and execution: The Pistons had a great defensive game against a bad offensive team in the Nets, but they have a tendency to not replicate those defensive performances. The Bulls are a bad offensive team and if the Pistons play with the crispness they did against the Nets then they should have a chokehold on this game, if not though...
So in conclusion...
Wink knowingly at your friends if:
The Bulls can't score at all.
Drummond's more complete game helps him over the bizarre speed bump that has been Robin Lopez.
Tobias Harris continues to play at a really high level.
Run for the hills if:
Markkanen is getting open looks from deep.
Lopez is going to be a thorn in Drummond's side forever.
Zach Lavine looks really good and out for revenge against the Pistons.
Opportunities for me to look stupid:
Tobias Harris scores a lot of points, then they put Nwaba on him and that stops very quickly.
With Nwaba the Bulls have a chance defensively, but with him they can't score at all.
Zach Lavine has at least one play where people be like “Dayum.”
Pistons put forth another good defensive effort for a comfortable win.
Pistons 105 – Bulls 90.
What do you think? Can the Pistons perform on defense? Can Tobias keep track of Markkanen.