Rebuilding is a perfectly acceptable option for teams in dire need of talent and experience, and that will be the Pistons’ focus again this season. Within that, though, there needs to be tangible progress and Detroit is at that point. After three straight seasons (2019-22) of 20, 20 and 23 victories, it’s time for something resembling a push – say, for a Play-In spot – to give all the youth and development some real context.
The Pistons seem to think so, too, with their acquisition right before training camp of Utah’s Bojan Bogdanović for Kelly Olynyk and Saben Lee. Bogdanović is a player who could help several contenders, so it seems to signal at least a desire on Detroit’s part to be feisty. After their 12-45 start dug too big a hole last season, they did go 11-14 in the final 25.
Hard as it might be to believe, the Pistons’ core got even younger with lottery picks 20-year-old Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren (18). Others solidly in the pipeline include Cade Cunningham, Isaiah Stewart and Killian Hayes (all 21), with 23-year-olds Saddiq Bey and Marvin Bagley III. There already is a crying need for a pecking order, so adding more kids with high picks holds little appeal compared to honing a few winning habits.
How will the Pistons boost their 3-point game? Make no mistake, it needs work. Detroit ranked 26th in made threes last season and 29 in accuracy (32.6%). The Pistons were 9-for-39 when they didn’t hit more than the other guys in a game. And they only reached 40% as a team 15 times. There are candidates to boost the long-range game, such as Bogdanović, Burks and Bey, but it has to fit into a scheme that suits their teammates.
OK already, the cupboard isn’t bare anymore. In fact, it’s the opposite. The tricky part for the Pistons will be nurturing along all that young talent at the same time, like the entertainment of a plate-spinner on an old variety show. Cunningham and Ivey, if truly precocious here and now, can propel Detroit toward the East’s Final Four – those final four postseason-hopeful spots of the Play-In. But 10th place still might be a slot too high. Projection: Draft lottery.
1 KEY STAT TO KNOW
+7.8 — The Pistons were the league’s most improved team after the All-Star break last season, 7.8 points per 100 possessions better than they were be before the break (minus-2.2 vs. minus-10.0).
— John Schuhmann
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
Cade Cunningham: A late start last season limited him to 64 games, but his points (1,114), rebounds (354) and assists (356) totals have been reached only by five other rookies through 64 games in NBA history: Oscar Robertson, Magic Johnson, Alvan Adams, LeBron James and Luka Doncic.
Jaden Ivey: The No. 5 pick might earn starting spot with his athletic ability but he’ll keep it if his game matures.
Saddiq Bey: Worked this offseason on improving across the board, determined to flex a more balanced game.
Marvin Bagley III: What Detroit saw in his 18-game sample after arriving from Sacramento at the February trade deadline earned him a three-year deal.
Isaiah Stewart: Undersized overachiever is hoping to stretch his offense out to 3-point range.
Bojan Bogdanović: Veteran sniper has started in all 365 of his appearances the past five seasons but at 33, might be suited to a bench role.
Alec Burks: An experienced option should Ivey need help at shooting guard.
Killian Hayes: His defense is ahead of his offense after two years, with improvement in the latter key to his minutes.
Cory Joseph: In his 12th NBA season, the point guard brings experience to an extremely young backcourt.
Isaiah Livers: His defense and shooting over the final two months suggest a rotation spot.
LAST 5 SEASONS
How the Pistons have fared stats-wise over the last 5 seasons …
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
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