Why the Orlando Magic rebuild has left Detroit Pistons in the rear view


DETROIT, MI – The Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic faced off in battle of rebuilds on opposite ends of the spectrum.

Many fans have wondered very loudly how the two teams seemingly started off in the same place but have drifted so far apart.

The Pistons are trying to stave off setting the franchise low in wins while the Magic are tied for 7th in the eastern conference and just a half game back of the 6th seed.

Both teams have made good draft picks, and the Magic haven’t added many established veterans beyond Gary Harris and Wendell Carter, Jr. Both of which can still be considered relatively young players.

So what’s been one of the bigger differences between the two rebuilds and catalyst to the Magic’s surge this season?

Defense, defense and more defense.

They aren’t that different in terms of offensive efficiency with the Magic sitting at 113.7 on the season and the Pistons rating at 111.6. But the defensive rating is where the disparity begins to match the gap in the standings between the two.

According to NBA.com the Orlando Magic have a defensive rating of 112.2 while the Pistons are at 119.8. That’s fifth best in the league for the Magic and 29th for the Pistons, which tells the story.

This is what I believe influenced the types of players the Pistons traded for at the deadline. They traded veterans who could score pretty well, but were defensive liability’s for younger players with a knack for defending.

Players like Simone Fontecchio and Quentin Grimes present a combination of outside shooting, ability to drive the lane and defense. Traits that Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks were lacking despite being their scoring ability.

Any hope of improvement?

In the latest matchup which the Magic won 112-109 on a last second shot by Paolo Banchero, the Pistons defense was noticeably improved.

They displayed much better on ball defense as well as when a switch was needed. The potential is there, but the consistency is lacking. The first half defense was good in spurts, but the Pistons surrendered 65 points. While they held the Magic to just 47 second half points and just 22 in the final quarter.

“I was proud of the way we hung in there, head coach Monty Williams said. “Our defense in the 2nd half was the bench mark we want to play with.”

The Pistons also defended Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner much better than their previous matchup. They had 20 and 38 points respectively in a 111-99 loss on February 4th. But finished with only 29 points and 36% shooting combined in the latest game.

“We were more locked in, in terms of communication, and had better defense on ball,” Simone Fontecchio said. “They had a tough time playing half court offense against us in the second half. But they also hit a lot of tough shots.”

One of those tough shots being a questionable last second make by Paolo Banchero where he appeared to have traveled first.

An unfortunate set of events that will probably have most observers overlook the defensive improvements by the Pistons in this game.

The most difficult part has been consistently stringing together stronger defensive performances. But they are confident they can and will improve the defensive efficiency, especially with the new additions.

Quotes of the game via Simone Fontecchio

On his first home game at Little Caesars Arena:

“I love it. I love the arena and I love the fans. This is a great gym to play in and the energy was great. Was too bad we weren’t able to give them a win.”

On the lack of foul calls:

“We have to earn that respect from the refs and the league. I think we’re doing a pretty good job, but we gotta earn that respect. We’re a young team so we got to go and get it.”

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Photo Credit: Brandon Dent – Woodward Sports Network