30 Teams in 30 Days | 2023

30 teams in 30 days: Pistons look to turn corner behind new coach Monty Williams

Patience will be a prerequisite in Detroit this season as the team begins the process of developing young players.

New coach Monty Williams will have a lot of young talent to work with this season — including Cade Cunningham.

Key additions

  • Coach Monty Williams, F Joe Harris (trade), G Monte Morris (trade), G Marcus Sasser (draft), G/F Ausar Thompson (draft)

Key subtractions

  • Coach Dwane Casey

Last season

For a franchise once celebrated as the Bad Boys, the Pistons last season were just plain bad. There’s no use trying to sugarcoat a 17-win experience, one made possible in part by Cade Cunningham pulling up lame with a shin injury before Thanksgiving and playing just 12 games. Loaded mainly with young players (one of the youngest rosters in the league) who spent the season trying to gain traction, the Pistons were the definition of a work in progress. All of the byproducts of a rebuilding team were painfully on display on a nightly basis. It was Detroit’s worst record since 1979-80, and making matters grim, the misery didn’t result in the No. 1 overall pick.

To be fair, the Pistons had the same lottery odds as the Spurs and Hornets, but still, it would’ve been a payback of sorts had the Pistons got lucky. And as you know, this was the draft to win, with Victor Wembanyama as the generational prize (and no offense to Cunningham, the No. 1 overall pick in 2021). So the Pistons settled for the No. 5 pick for the second straight season. There was some good news: Jaden Ivey delivered a promising rookie season, and a mid-season trade brought center James Wiseman, a former No. 2 overall pick, who played well for the Pistons upon arrival. Still, the Pistons entered the summer only too anxious to cleanse themselves after a tough season and seek help.

Summer summary

Casey certainly wasn’t to blame for a 17-65 season. He had respect in the locker room and around the league. But coaches usually don’t survive when their teams finish at the bottom. And such was the case here. Casey was booted upstairs into the front office, and the Pistons went big-name hunting in their search for his replacement.

Their timing was right, at least, because the Suns jettisoned Williams after the playoffs and suddenly a respected coach who took his team to the NBA Finals just two seasons earlier was on the market. That said, was Detroit really that attractive of a job to get Williams’ attention?

Well, when you throw a ton of cash in his or anyone’s direction, that helps. So the Pistons showed him the money: Six years, $78.5 million, then the richest deal in NBA coaching history (since surpassed by Gregg Popovich in San Antonio). That’s a lot of respect shown to a coach who hasn’t won a championship, but just the same, a coach who instantly gives the Pistons credibility and hope.

What will be crucial is the patience level of Williams, because in this situation, it needs to be high. Consider that Williams is coming from a winning franchise in Phoenix. This will be a contrast, to say the least, a 180-degree change. The Pistons could’ve gone the young assistant route to fill the job and saved their money down the road for a closer-type coach with experience once they morphed into a contending team. But if Monty Williams checked all the boxes and is your guy, you get him.

Again, this is the flip side of the Suns, because in Detroit, the future is not now. And that’s even if Thompson, the top pick who’s still a teenager, will hit the ground running in his rookie season. Detroit must hope that, for the third straight year, they’ll get positive vibes from their top pick, with Thompson following Cunningham and Ivey.

With their second first-rounder, the Pistons grabbed Sasser instead of trading the pick; this means the Pistons will once again be one of the youngest teams in the league.

They did add a few vets in Morris and also Harris for next to nothing. In that sense, Troy Weaver, the GM, elected to go big-name hunting perhaps next summer. Instead, he forked over a portion of the team’s salary cap space to extend Isiah Stewart.

This was a curious decision. Stewart only showed glimpses of solid play and it probably doesn’t bode well for Marvin Bagley III’s future in Detroit. But the money (four years, $60 million) is reasonable for a 22-year-old who’s trying to develop into a stretch-4, and he compliments center Jalen Duren well.

Besides, the Pistons are back in the business of drafting and developing; Stewart is the first Pistons draft pick to get a rookie extension since Andre Drummond in 2016. So that’s progress … right?

Up next: Oklahoma City Thunder | Previously: Toronto Raptors

> 30 teams in 30 days: Complete schedule

* * *

Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery.