First half summary: For a team sputtering along with the NBA’s second-worst record — 10-26, just three games better than Minnesota — there are a lot of things going well for the Pistons. They rank 19th in defensive efficiency and are 24th offensively. They’re outscoring their opponents from both the 3-point line and the foul line on a regular basis. They should, by the numbers, be more of a middle-of-the-pack team. And they play much harder than their record would indicate.
But that’s what you get in a rebuild and that’s what you get with kids. Detroit is happy with its kiddie corps of Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart, Killian Hayes and Saben Lee, and the jobs done by GM Troy Weaver and coach Dwane Casey in developing and deploying them. With some very helpful veterans such as Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, Delon Wright and Wayne Ellington (depending on what happens at the trade deadline), the Pistons are a solid NBA League Pass team to watch.
Biggest question going into the second half: Blake Griffin’s unsettled situation has reached a conclusion with his buyout, which will make him an unrestricted free agent.
Now the biggest question for the Pistons is, what’s up with the point guard spot? Lottery pick Killian Hayes was flipped the keys to start but hasn’t played since his seventh game, suffering a labral tear in his hip. Weaver and staff reportedly still envision Hayes running that position, but whenever he returns the lanky 19-year-old will essentially start his rookie season over again. Wright, Lee and a refurbished Dennis Smith Jr. have all made arguments on the court for either starter or backup minutes, making 2021-22 wide open unless Hayes makes a considerable leap.
Playoffs or lottery?: Lottery. Assuming the Pistons can keep this formula going — playing hard, getting young guys reps and still losing enough games to be in line for a Top 3 lottery finish — they stand to choose from the next batch of acclaimed top prospects.
Could another lottery pick make Detroit’s roster next season too young? Arguably. But Weaver only is getting started as the team’s impresario, and Casey does a great job in giving the 22-and-under crew only as much responsibility as they can handle. What we’ve seen in the first half hasn’t been demoralizing, either to the players or the fans, and there’s a great chance that will not change.
— Steve Aschburner