Could last season’s Pistons figure into this year's NBA’s title picture?
Detroit — Blake and Bruce against Andre and Keef.
Or against Reggie and Luke.
It’s a very real possibility that a handful of Pistons from last season will figure heavily into the NBA’s championship picture.
With Andre Drummond joining the Los Angeles Lakers and debuting Wednesday for the defending champions, that makes six Pistons from last year playing on the three title favorites, according to betting markets from DraftKings, FanDuel and others.
Drummond started for the Lakers against the Milwaukee Bucks on ESPN on Wednesday night in a 112-97 loss.
However, he suffered a toe injury, and left after 14 minutes.
The eight-year Pistons standout was bought out by the Cleveland Cavaliers and then joined LeBron James and the Lakers as a reinforcement for the repeat run.
Pistons fans are pleased with the new direction of General Manager Troy Weaver, but could have extra rooting interests this summer when the Larry O’Brien Trophy is being decided.
Coach Dwane Casey said he keeps tabs on former players like Drummond around the league.
“I watched that game a little bit last night,” Casey said before Thursday’s game against Washington. “I think he’ll be a big help to the Lakers. His size, his athleticism, the way Andre plays, they have a need at that position. I think he’ll be a great fit, plus he’s a great teammate.”
Los Angeles also picked up Markieff Morris from the Pistons in the buyout market last year. Former Pistons guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope also plays for LA, and starred in the NBA title run last year.
It’s a similar type of late-season pickup as the one made by the Brooklyn Nets last month when they signed Blake Griffin after the Pistons bought him out.
In Brooklyn, Griffin joined Bruce Brown from last year’s team. He was traded by the Pistons in the offseason, as was Luke Kennard, who joined the Los Angeles Clippers alongside Reggie Jackson, another Pistons buyout from last year.
Mykhailiuk getting hot for OKC
Speaking of former Pistons, Svi Mykhailiuk is finding his stroke with his new team in Oklahoma City.
Mykhailiuk scored 22 points in Wednesday’s win against Toronto. That’s now a two-game stretch averaging 19.0 points per game and 10.9 in seven games for OKC.
The 3-point specialist is shooting 37.8% from long range for the Thunder after shooting 33.3% for the Pistons this season.
The early returns for both teams have been strong since the trade last month, as Hamidou Diallo has looked promising for Detroit.
Diallo scored 19 points in consecutive games for Detroit before sitting out Thursday’s game with a right groin injury.
Pistons avoid NBA’s best scorer Beal
One night after facing the NBA’s second-leading scorer in Damian Lillard, the Pistons avoided Washington’s Bradley Beal, the current scoring champion.
Beal, who was second in the league in scoring last season with 30.5 points per game, is getting 31.3 points this year.
Beal is dealing with a hip contusion.
For the Pistons, Dennis Smith Jr. (right lumbar spine soreness) returned after missing four straight, and Wayne Ellington (right calf) was back in the lineup after missing Wednesday against Portland.
Josh Jackson was back in the starting lineup Thursday for the eighth time this season over Ellington, who has started 28 games.
Fast and furious schedule
Thursday’s game opened an April slate for the Pistons that features 16 games, tying January a season-high.
Seven of the games are at Little Caesars Arena and nine are on the road, including a five-game trip starting Monday in Oklahoma City, Denver, Sacramento, Portland and against the Clippers.
Right in the fire for Lee
Pistons rookie point guard Saben Lee got his fourth straight start on Thursday and fourth this season.
In those games, the second-round pick has matched up with Kyle Lowry of Toronto, Lillard and Washington’s Russell Westbook twice.
Entering Wednesday, Lee was averaging 9.0 points and 5.3 assists as a starter.
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.