The Detroit Pistons are coming off of a 20-52 season and last in the Eastern Conference standings. The good news for Dwane Case and co. is that this awarded them with the first pick in the draft: Cade Cunningham.
The Detroit Pistons are far away from competing for a playoff spot with the team they have now, but they can finally get excited about the future. The Pistons are one of the youngest teams in the NBA and every player in the starting lineup is between the ages of 19-22 with the exception of 27-year old Jerami Grant.
This will be a season of player development for the Detroit Pistons. While the goal should always be to win, with the roster this team has at the moment, they will most likely end up in the draft lottery again to continue to focus on rebuilding and competing sometime in the future.
Point Guard - Killian Hayes
Killian Hayes, a point guard from France, is coming into his second year in the league. Many people may have forgotten about Killian last season because he was out for an extended period of time due to a hip injury. But, also because he didn’t perform at the level people expected.
The number 7 pick only averaged 6.8 PPG, 5.3 APG, and 2.7 RPG in the 26 games he appeared in. Nothing exciting about those numbers... Killians’ game wasn’t able to transition to the NBA so well from overseas. Some foreigners like Luka and Porzingis are able to immediately make an impact, but for others, it can take a few seasons to get in the swing of things. It’s really a roll of the dice what you will get out of players from overseas because the rules and the competition are so different.
This could be a bounceback year for Killian since he got a taste of the NBA level and now has had time to develop his game and get back to full health. He should start the season, but if things aren’t working out with him alongside Cade, the Pistons will probably move on from him in the starting lineup.
Shooting Guard - Cade Cunningham
The Detroit Pistons future: Cade Cunningham. Cade has been the undisputed number one prospect coming into the NBA, despite number 2 pick Jalen Green thinking otherwise. I respect Jalen’s confidence in himself, but Cade has the edge over him.
For those who don’t know, Cade Cunningham is a dynamic 6’8 point guard who can do it all on both sides of the floor. He is a score-first guard, but he excels at making plays for teammates as well. He has a high basketball IQ and understands when to make the right play. Cade is also a lengthy defender with a 7-foot wingspan who can guard multiple positions. He moves his feet well and has a certain feel for the game that’s uncommon in a 19-year-old.
In Cade’s only year in college, he averaged 20.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and 3.5 APG. He’s received comparisons to Luka Doncic, Grant Hill, & Jimmy Butler.
Small forward - Saddiq Bey
Saddiq Bey is another guy coming into his second season in the league. He was drafted 19th by the Pistons last year.
In his rookie season, he played in 70 games, starting 53 of them. He had a chance to get some quality reps in while also producing some respectable numbers. Bey averaged 12.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, and 1.4 APG.
Saddiq is a guy who can spread the floor, defend, and make hustle plays. He doesn’t try to do too much and plays smart basketball. Saddiq and Cade Cunningham should mesh well alongside each other.
Power forward - Jerami Grant
Jerami Grant took an unexpected leap last season, boosting his averages by a long shot. Julius Randle took home the MIP award, but Jerami Grant was definitely in the conversation. He went from averaging 12 PPG in Denver to 22.3 PPG in Detroit. At 27 years old, he’s just reached his prime.
Jerami Grant is an extremely athletic forward with a newly improved jump shot. Grant has an unbelievable standing reach of 8’11 and a wingspan that ranges 7’3. He has all the physical tools that can help a power forward excel at the NBA level. His quickness at this position outmatches most of his opponents. On the defensive end, he is able to guard multiple positions and get his hands on loose balls.
Grant has sort of been tossed around the league in his 8 seasons, but he seems to have found his home in Detroit. The Pistons signed him to a 3-year, $60 million contract, so he has two years left on the deal. If he continues to play at a high level the Pistons would be smart to re-sign him.
Center - Isaiah Stewart
Isaiah Stewart will be the big man down low for the Pistons this season. Once again, another player in only his second season. The Detroit Pistons drafted Isaiah with the 16th pick in the 2020 draft.
Stewart played in 68 games his rookie year and started 14 of them. He averaged 7.9 PPG, 6.7 RPG, and 1.3 BPG. Isaiah isn’t too worried about the offensive side, he’s more known as a defensive center. He’s even received comparisons to former Piston great, Ben Wallace. Standing at 6’8, he may be a little undersized height-wise, but this allows for him to make switches and the ability to guard multiple positions... something that can hurt other Centers’ value (Jokic, Gobert).
Isaiah Stewart is set for a boosted role this season with the trade of Mason Plumlee. At the center position, he’s only sharing minutes with Kelly Olynyk. So with all these extra minutes, Stewart should become a double-double shot-blocking machine.
Saben Lee, Frank Jackson, Corey Joseph, Josh Jackson, Cassius Stanley, Hamidou Diallo, Isaiah Livers, Rodney Mcgruder, Chris Smith, Trey Lyles, Kelly Olynyk
The guys who will be seeing the majority of the minutes off the bench will be Kelly Olynyk, Trey Lyles, Josh Jackson, and Corey Joseph. The other guys may crack some playing time in blowouts or just to get some experience because this will be a rebuilding year.
Corey Joseph played well last season, so the Pistons decided to re-sign him to a $10 million deal. Josh Jackson has had a back-and-forth career. He has not lived up to the expectations he had coming into the league, but he seems to have a good opportunity being a sixth man in Detroit, with perhaps the chance to move into a starting role if they decide to move Cade to Point guard. Trey Lyles is new in Detroit after playing in San Antonio and is the only backup power forward the Pistons have at their disposal. I can see Kelly Olynyk playing well in a Pistons uniform. The 7 footer is very skilled and has the ability to put up some great numbers. Last season in Houston he averaged 19 PPG.
The Beginning Of A Bright Future
This is the year the Detroit Pistons truly start their rebuild. So while they probably won’t win many games this year, it is the beginning of a bright future. The Pistons have such a long list of young players that they can work with this season and start to develop. This is the youngest starting lineup in the NBA with an average age of 21.6.
The keys to this organization are in the hands of the number one pick, Cade Cunningham. I’m sure he will be given reins to take over and start to lead this team. He won’t have many veterans to learn from, but after watching him play in the summer league he already seems to have that leadership gene ingrained inside of him. Cade will have the chance to put up some big numbers in his first season which could lead to the Rookie of the Year award.
Killian Hayes should come into his sophomore season much improved. He will probably play more of a shooting guard role alongside Cade, so he won’t have as much pressure of having the ball in his hands. Killian was quite the disappointment in his rookie season, but at only 20 years old he has plenty of time to grow.
This team will most likely have a mixed set of running and gunning it in transition, but also slowing it down and running an offense. Jerami Grant is a great transition player and is an athletic finisher at the rim. Cade is more of a calculated player that takes his time with his play. But he does have the vision and the playmaking that can work with any style of play. Very similar to Luka Doncic.
All and all, while this Pistons team will once again be a bottom dweller of the Eastern Conference, just give these young guys a few seasons to develop together and they should be competing for the playoffs again.