The Detroit Pistons have 11 wins and 29 losses. This gives them the second worst record in the league behind only the Timberwolves. This team ranks among the least winning teams in franchise history. And yet, this is one of the most exciting squads the Pistons have had in the last decade of mediocrity. And the future is bright.
This year marks the Pistons first with Troy Weaver as the General Manager. The new GM spent time with the OKC Thunder before making the move and should receive at least partial credit for that team’s elite draft history. Weaver made a flurry of moves in his first off-season but first and foremost was the draft. On draft night, The Pistons acquired Killian Hayes, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart, all in the first round. A trade in the second round allowed them to draft another promising guard in Saben Lee as well.
Killian Hayes was the first of those two picks and he has unfortunately missed significant time due to injury. But the latter two have not looked like rookies in the first half of their debut season. Bey is a 3 and D wing that can guard multiple positions. He has a developing offensive game that includes a sweet shooting stroke. This has already earned him a player of the week award, only the second Pistons rookie to ever do it. He is a versatile player that will play a big role in the Pistons coming seasons.
Stewart does not have the numbers that Bey does but his ceiling may be just as high. He did not start the season getting minutes. But he got his opportunity through a few of the injuries to Detroit big men. Blake Griffin’s mutual split with the team left even more playing time available for Stewart to showcase his talents. In this time as a Piston he’s shown flashes of high level defensive ability, protecting the rim and also keeping up with guards in switches and in the pick and roll. He’ll occasionally make a difficult pass or take an outside shot, showing he may be more than the typical center. But perhaps his greatest strength is his offensive rebounding, where he averages over two a game. That puts him in the top 20 in the NBA coming off the bench. He will be another key player to watch.
Free Agency and Trades
The draft is just one of many ways to, as Troy Weaver puts it, “restore” a team. Detroit utilized both free agency and trades to make a flurry of moves that completely revamped the team and primed it for the future. Just a few of their signings this year include Mason Plumlee and Josh Jackson. Two guys that have fit in nicely so far in Detroit. Whether they’re a part of the team’s long term plan or are going to be moved to contending teams in a future trade is unknown. But they’ve proven their value to the franchise and that’s something rebuilding teams need.
On the topic of valuable players. Jerami Grant has been a star through the first half of the season. His numbers nearly earned him an all-star appearance, and he is a front runner for the NBA’s most improved award. Last season with the Nuggets he averaged 12 points per game. This year he’s raised that to 23 points per game along with higher rebounding and assist numbers. When he was first signed, the move didn’t make much sense. He was a highly sought after role player by contending teams. Not the kind of guy a rebuilding roster needs. But Grant has since proven he has a place in the Pistons future.
A few other notable moves have been made. Delon Wright was traded for in the off-season. When Killian Hayes got hurt, they traded for Dennis Smith, who has put up solid numbers since coming over from the Knicks. And just recently they acquired Hamidou Diallo from the Thunder, a 22 year old guard known for his athleticism. This stockpiling of young talent is exactly how you want to start a rebuild as it gives the Pistons many options in the future.
Many of these moves have been geared toward the future, as they should be. But despite all of that, the Detroit Pistons remain a losing team. The worst in the eastern conference. Luckily, all this losing has a chance to pay off in the NBA draft.
This year’s draft class, as usual, has many unknowns. Add that to the unpredictability of the lottery and striking gold is far from a sure thing. That said, the Pistons are in a position to land a good pick. And given Weaver’s draft history there is reason to be optimistic. If they choose the correct player, it could be a huge leap in the right direction. And there are many players tearing it up right now at the college level that are likely to be NBA bound next season. If the Pistons are as aggressive in this year’s draft as they were in the last, then they could come out with a lot of talented players.
The Detroit Pistons are one of the more decorated teams in league history. They’ve won 3 championships and have had many competitive years. But for more than a decade they’ve been plagued by mediocre and losing teams. Some could argue that an 11 and 29 record is the lowest the Pistons have fallen since their championship days. But I would argue that, with the hiring of new GM Troy Weaver and all the moves he’s made, Detroit has already started to turn it around. And the future is bright for this franchise.