Injuries have overwhelmed the Pistons this season – they lead the NBA in man-games lost to injury with a whopping 66 through their first 14 games – but the play of rookies Ausar Thompson and Marcus Sasser stands as the impression from the season’s first month with the most relevance for their future.
In an ESPN.com report co-authored by Kevin Pelton and Bobby Marks, Thompson and Sasser were ranked No. 3 and No. 4 among all NBA rookies, behind only Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren.
Here’s an excerpt from their post:
“While Amen Thompson has only played in four games in Houston because of an injury, his brother Ausar is competing at an All-NBA Defensive level with the Pistons. Thompson’s 13 steals and 19 blocks through his first 10 games are the most since Marcus Camby in 1996-97. He had four blocks against Phoenix and has three games of three-plus blocks this season. What really stands out about Ausar is his knack to grab offensive rebounds. He is ranked second in offensive rebounds and is the first player with 40 offensive rebounds through 10 career games since Elton Brand in 1999-2000, per ESPN Stats & Information.
“Sasser has been solid in both ends of the court. He held Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, LeMelo Ball and Kevin Durant to a combined 3 of 15 shooting as a primary defender. On the offensive side, Sasser does not settle. In a loss at the Milwaukee Bucks, he had it going from the perimeter but also showed a terrific floater in the paint.”
Even amid a 3-point shooting slump – Sasser is 2 of 15 from the arc over his last four games – the Houston rookie is still shooting 46.9 percent overall and 38.8 percent from the arc. He’s also a perfect 7 of 7 at the free-throw line. And while rookie playmakers often struggle with turnovers, Sasser has amassed 35 assists so far against just nine turnovers. He has more steals (10) than turnovers.
The Pistons have had representation on the NBA’s All-Rookie teams for the past three years with Jalen Duren and Jaden Ivey named to the second team in 2023, Cade Cunningham a first-team selection in 2022 and Saddiq Bey a first-teamer and Isaiah Stewart a second-teamer in 2021. There is an excellent chance Thompson and Sasser keep the streak alive in 2024.
BAGLEY RED HOT
Marvin Bagley III has been a below-average foul shooter over the course of his six-season NBA career, sporting a 69.1 percent career mark. But he’s been a lights-out shooter so far this season. Bagley has hit 34 of 37 at the foul line in 2023-24, a 91.9
percent clip. Among players with at least 35 free throws shot this season, Bagley is No. 7 in the NBA in accuracy.
Who was the first player in NBA history to score 2,000 points in a season?
THE WEEK AHEAD
· MONDAY – The Pistons host the Denver Nuggets, defending NBA champions. The Nuggets will carry a 9-4 record into the game after losing at Cleveland on Sunday night. Two-time MVP Nikola Jokic is off to the best statistical start of his decorated career, averaging 28.8 points, 13.8 rebounds and 9.0 assists. Though relatively healthy, the Nuggets will be without Jokic’s running mate, point guard Jamal Murray, averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 assists.
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· FRIDAY – The Pistons play their fourth and final In-Season Tournament game of the season at Indiana against the Pacers. Indiana is 2-0 so far and can go to 3-0 with a win at Atlanta on Tuesday in Group A play. The Pacers led the NBA in scoring at 126.5 points per game before being held to 116 in a Sunday loss to Orlando. Fourth-year guard Tyrese Haliburton is the orchestrator, averaging 23.5 points and an NBA-leading 11.6 assists a game while shooting 43.2 percent from the 3-point line.
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THIS WEEK IN PISTONS HISTORY
The first piece of the team that became the Bad Boys was put in place when Jack McCloskey, hired by then-Pistons owner Bill Davidson, drafted Isiah Thomas with the No. 2 pick in the spring of 1981. A few months later came the second piece: Vinnie Johnson. On Nov. 21 of that year, McCloskey – hired in December 1979 as general manager – traded local hero Greg Kelser, Magic Johnson’s co-star on Michigan State’s 1979 NCAA champions, to Seattle for Johnson. McCloskey knew Seattle liked Kelser because they tried to trade for him a season earlier but Kelser, dogged by knee injuries, flunked the physical. Johnson, the No. 7 pick of the 1979 draft out of Baylor, made his mark as a sixth man with the Pistons, coming off the bench behind Hall of Fame guards
Thomas and Joe Dumars. Johnson would start only 164 of the 798 games he played for the Pistons over his 10 seasons in Detroit, but he did it so well that he had his No. 15 retired and earned one of the most iconic nicknames in Detroit sports history: “The Microwave.”
DID YOU SEE THIS?
Through 12 games, Pistons rookie Ausar Thompson – pushing his way into a Rookie of the Year race that was all but conceded to Victor Wembanyama before the season tipped off – had gone past the following thresholds: 115 rebounds, 35 assists, 20 blocked shots and 10 steals. That makes him the first rookie to hit those benchmarks in his first 12 games in 45 years. The last player to do so was Mychal Thompson, father of Golden State sharpshooter Klay Thompson, in 1978. And the only other player to do so was Bill Walton in 1974.
George Yardley scored 2,003 points during the 1957-58 season, the first season for the Pistons in Detroit after relocating from Fort Wayne, Ind. Yardley, then in his fifth NBA season, led the NBA by averaging 27.8 points per game and played in all 72 games to nose past the 2,000-point threshold. Yardley played seven NBA seasons – his debut came in 1953 when Yardley was 25 after playing one season of AAU basketball and spending two years in the United States Navy – and was an All-Star in each of the last six of them. He was voted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 1996. Midway through Yardley’s second season in Detroit, he was traded to Syracuse for Ed Conlin.
(Eddie Rivero, Pistons basketball information specialist, contributed to this report.)