2020-21 Kia Season Preview

2020-21 Season Preview: Detroit Pistons

The rebuilding Pistons have fully embraced the need for dramatic change.

There are high expectations for the Pistons young players.

When last seen, the Pistons were … seeking an entirely new direction. With just two one-and-done playoff trips, and a combined 164 games under .500 in the past 11 seasons, it made sense for new general manager Troy Weaver to embrace changes for 2020-21. He got busy as soon as he could, where he could, and now only four players return from last season’s core: Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Sekou Doumboya and Svi Mykhailiuk. Wholesale changes are no assurance the Pistons can improve on their 20-46 uninvited-from-the-bubble results, but they might be more fun while finding out.

What’s New? Weaver took some grief early in free agency when it appeared he was trying to corner the world’s market of journeymen centers, and even more as big man Christian Wood, arguably Detroit’s best player last season, was signed and traded to Houston. When the smoke cleared, though, the roster had pieces for coach Dwane Casey to mix and match almost endlessly and a nice — if this matters to a team focused on rebuilding — combination of youth, experience (Griffin, Rose) and players somewhere in the middle (Grant, Plumlee). Griffin and Rose, if they stay healthy and productive, could be targeted in trades for more potential. But there already is a good amount with top pick Killian Hayes in line for starter’s minutes, second-year man Doumboya and rookies Isaiah Stewart, Deividas Sirvydis and Saddiq Bey.

What’s Missing: Familiarity with each other and their games, and any obvious pecking order after the two multiple All-Stars are two early-season needs. The better Griffin and Rose play, the greater the chance they won’t be around to help the Pistons close the season. Grant will need to guard against playing “up to” his new $20 million salary. Hayes provides a wiry, lefthanded pick-and-roll practitioner at the point, but may required a short leash while learning. Nurturing the other young players, without too much scarring from losing, is a top priority that might challenge a willing-but-frequently-unable defense.

Potential Starting Five

Killian Hayes | 11.6 PTS, 2.8 REB, 5.4 AST (overseas)
The No. 7 pick gets “point guard of future” baptism early.

Delon Wright | 6.9 PTS, 3.8 REB, 3.3 AST
Former Raptors backup excited to reunite with coach Casey.

Mason Plumlee | 7.2 PTS, 5.2 REB, 2.5 AST
Valued for his screens, rolls to the rim and defense.

Jerami Grant | 12.0 PTS, 3.5 REB, 1.2 AST
So helpful off Denver’s bench, gets big payday and bigger role.

Blake Griffin | 15.5 PTS, 4.7 REB, 18 games
Concerns about bum knee allegedly answered in camp.

Key Reserves

Derrick Rose | 18.1 PTS, 2.4 REB, 5.6 AST
Career revived as Sixth Man candidate, Pistons’ spark.

Svi Mykhailiuk | 9.0 PTS, 1.9 REB, 1.9 AST
Should see more chances as catch-and-shoot marksman.

Jahlil Okafor | 8.1 PTS, 4.2 REB, 1.2 AST
Former all-rookie pick gets fresh start, 2-year guarantee.

Detroit Pistons, last 5 seasons

Season W L PCT OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
2019-20 20 46 0.303 108.8 20 112.3 22 -3.5 23
2018-19 41 41 0.500 108.4 21 108.7 12 -0.3 16
2017-18 39 43 0.476 106.6 19 106.7 10 -0.1 19
2016-17 37 45 0.451 105.3 23 106.7 8 -1.4 21
2015-16 44 38 0.537 105.3 15 104.9 13 +0.3 14

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Season Prediction

There’s a 52-pickup feel to this season, with new players slotting into new roles around a couple of veterans who might wind up as placeholders. The best combinations are TBD, with matchups dictating minutes from night to night. The answers at as many as four spots might not even be on the roster yet. Pistons fans will see this get worse before it gets better, at least on the bottom line.

Predicted finish: 21-51

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Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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