It’s not coincidence that the names seen most often as you thumb through Pistons record books are the players who populated the Bad Boys and Goin’ to Work championship eras.
Those teams won championships because their rosters were dripping with many of the greatest players in franchise history. Isiah Thomas. Joe Dumars. Bill Laimbeer. Dennis Rodman. Ben Wallace. Chauncy Billups. Rip Hamilton. There were great players before (Dave Bing, Bob Lanier) them, between their eras (Grant Hill) and since (Blake Griffin), but the preponderance of Pistons history is wedged into the decades of the ’80s and the ‘00s.
Now comes a new wave of talent aiming to make this the roaring ’20s. Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Jalen Duren, Ausar Thompson and Isaiah Stewart – if this all comes together the way Pistons envisioned when they aimed high and landed Monty Williams as coach – have a chance to put their names in Pistons annals in the seasons ahead.
Here are five best guesses as to how that might play out for the 2023-24 season:
Cade Cunningham will author the first 22/6/6 season in Pistons history.
- Grant Hill never had a season in which he averaged at least 22 points, six rebounds and six assists. He came close several times. Hill averaged more than six rebounds and six assists in four consecutive seasons starting with his second year, 1995-96, but the only season in which he averaged more than 22 points a game was his final season in Detroit, 1999-00. Hill averaged 25.8 points and 6.6 rebounds that season, but his assists dropped to 5.2 a game as he became more of a scorer. His 19.2 shot attempts per game that season were easily a career high.
- Cunningham averaged 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists as an NBA rookie before playing only 12 games last season when a stress fracture of his shin required corrective surgery. Cunningham averaged 19.9/6.2/6.0 last season, but that was as he was dealing with the severe pain that led to the discovery of the stress fracture.
- Throw out his last game – four points, three rebounds, two assists – and Cunningham averaged 20.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.4 in 11 games. He’s coming back stronger and wiser, in his own estimation, after studying the game from the sidelines following his injury. Go back to Cunningham’s rookie year, when he shook off a slow start after missing all of training camp and the early going with an ankle injury, and he averaged 21.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.5 assists over the season’s final 20 games.
Ausar Thompson becomes the third Pistons rookie to record 100 steals.
- Isiah Thomas holds the rookie record with 150 in 1981-82 and Hill racked up 124 in 1994-95. Thomas has four of the top seven seasons in Pistons history for steals, topped by his 204 in 1983-84, and his 1,861 career steals are one shy of doubling the runner-up in franchise history, Ben Wallace at 931.
- The biggest hurdle to Thompson getting to 100 steals will be playing time. He showed in Summer League, where he averaged 2.6 steals over four games, the combination of athleticism, instincts and demeanor that serve as the backbone of great defenders. And those are the tools that will make him an attractive option as Williams ponders his rotation options.
- But the Pistons have better depth than they’ve had in a generation and Williams might opt to lean on veterans Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Harris and Isaiah Livers while easing in Thompson – unless the rookie makes it impossible to limit his role.
Two Pistons crack the all-time 3-point accuracy list.
- Jon Barry owns the best 3-point percentage mark for a single season, hitting 46.9 percent when he dubbed the team’s effective second unit “The Alternators” in 2002-03. It might surprise Pistons fans to know that Rip Hamilton, remembered best for his lethal mid-range game, is No. 2 on the list at 45.8 percent in 2005-06. Reggie Bullock, Hamilton again, Anthony Tolliver, Chauncey Billups, Joe Dumars, Lindsey Hunter, Ben Gordon and Allan Houston round out the top 10.
- Here's betting that two players from the group of Joe Harris, Bojan Bogdanovic, Alec Burks and Isaiah Livers push a few of those guys off the list. Harris, in fact, could threaten Barry’s mark. Harris has had two seasons shooting better than 46.9, leading the NBA in both 2018-19 (47.4) and 2020-21 (47.5), and came close in 2021-22 (46.6).
Jalen Duren becomes the first player in Pistons history to average a double-double in points and rebounds after starting the season as a teenager.
- Andre Drummond would be the obvious best guess for a first player to do so – and he came close. But in Drummond’s second season, 2013-14 when he became a starter and finished with averages of 13.5 points and 13.2 rebounds, he turned 20 two months before the season opener.
- Duren, who will be 19 until Nov. 18, averaged 9.1 points and 8.9 rebounds a year ago while playing a bit less than 25 minutes a game. He averaged 13.2 points and 12.8 rebounds per 36 minutes and, no, he won’t play 36 minutes a game this season but he’s got a chance to play 30. And he might not need that many to get to his double-double.
Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey become the fifth Pistons backcourt duo to average a combined 40 points a game.
- And they would be the first to do so in more than 20 years since Jerry Stackhouse (29.8) did the lion’s share of it in combining with Chucky Atkins (12.0) to crest 40 a night. The Hall of Fame duo of Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars did it once, in 1992-93. Dave Bing did it three times with Jimmy Walker and once with Eddie Miles.