The Pistons are 10 games into the season and with a 7-3 record, are a half-game behind the Celtics for the best record in the NBA.
No typos — best record in the NBA.
It’s the Pistons’ best 10-game start since the 2008-09 season — the last year of the “Goin’ to Work” era — and they’re making more believer with each additional victory. With Saturday’s victory over the Kings, the Pistons have won two straight and five of their last six.
While there were some questions about whether the early start was a fluke, the last five games have shown there’s reason for optimism.
The Lakers loss was disappointing, but it doesn’t overshadow the impressive road wins over the Warriors and Clippers.
In that 10-game start, the Pistons have the same record as the Warriors and Rockets and it hasn’t come against the dregs of the NBA. Before Saturday’s game, the Pistons’ opponents had a combined record of 31-22 (58 percent).
Even the three teams to beat the Pistons — the Wizards, Sixers and Lakers — started a combined 13-13, so there aren’t any bad losses. Sure, it’s still early, but there’s evidence to suggest that the Pistons are playing their best ball in years.
The Monday Drive takes a look at some observations from the Pistons’ hot start and some eye-opening play from their starters and bench:
■ If Andre Drummond continues his stellar play (14 points, 14.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists) he’ll earn his second All-Star selection. It’s not just his 75 percent on free throws; his effort on the offensive and defensive ends has been the biggest difference this year. He has seven double-doubles and seemingly as he goes, they go.
■Drummond hit 14 of 16 free throws against the Bucks. It will be a matter of time before Drummond is shooting free throws on technical fouls. He’s really worked at his new routine and mechanics and it’s become a strength, keeping him on the floor late in games. He’s missed a few since, but his ability to not fall back into bad habits should be commended.
■The trade buzz about Reggie Jackson surfaced again this week. It’s something of a distraction, but the other read is it’s good news: if Jackson’s even being discussed, it means his trade value is rising. Remember, after the knee tendinitis last year, few teams wanted him and now he’s playing better on both ends of the court.
■For those fans who insist on trading Jackson, consider the timing of a potential trade — when the team is off to such a good start — and the impact that would have on the chemistry of the locker room. Point guard is not a position that can be simply swapped without having some growing pains.
■Critics will say Stan Van Gundy hasn’t handled the bench well, with the young players not getting enough time. It looks like he’s pushing the right buttons, choosing Anthony Tolliver over Henry Ellenson and Langston Galloway over rookie Luke Kennard. It’s paid off so far, with some stellar play from the veterans.
■ Kennard is struggling to find playing time, with a couple of inactives this week.
After scoring 11 points in his debut against the Wizards, Kennard has totaled 10 points in the last four games he’s played. Fans are calling for him to play, but it’s a crowded reserve group and Reggie Bullock is slightly ahead — but maybe not for long. Kennard has 26 points playing for the Grand Rapids Drive on Sunday.
■Where would the Pistons be without Tolliver? He went from not playing the first couple games to being their defensive savior off the bench. He’s known as primarily a 3-point shooter and solid defender, but he’s been more of a stopper and go-to guy against the likes of Kristaps Porzingis, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin.
■Since Stanley Johnson’s miserable 0-for-13 opening game, he’s turned things around, with 9.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and shooting 39 percent on 3-pointers. With the starting unit, he has a comfortable role and defensively, he has been active on the wings. It’s a step forward for Johnson, who struggled in his second season and is flourishing in a starting role.