DETROIT, MI - MARCH 24: Cade Cunningham #2 of the Detroit Pistons warms up before the game against the New Orleans Pelicans on March 24, 2024 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2024 NBAE (Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Pistons Mailbag - WEDNESDAY, May 8

The lottery and draft, Cade Cunningham’s future with the Pistons and a Bad Boys vs. Goin’ to Work debate are on the docket in the latest edition of Pistons Mailbag.

TJ_Yuuta: How different would this season and the future look like had we won the lottery last year?

Langlois: The 2023-24 season wouldn’t have looked a whole lot different – not in the standings, at least – as best evidenced by the fact the San Antonio Spurs went from 22 wins in 2022-23 to put themselves in position to draw the No. 1 pick and to *checks notes* win 22 games in 2023-24 even as Victor Wembanyama was unanimously winning Rookie of the Year. But there’s no getting around the fact that the future of the franchise would appear exceedingly promising if Wembanyama was wearing Pistons red, white and blue. Alas, he is not. And the NBA isn’t going to step in at this point and say, oops, the Pistons really should have gotten the No. 1 pick last June. But there are 28 other NBA teams that don’t have Wembanyama, either, and I don’t see any of them deciding to go out of business because of it. It’s fascinating to unwind transactions and wonder what might have been, what ripple effects would have transpired, if a team had done X instead of Y. But those things don’t do franchises must good, other than hopefully inform better future decisions – or, in this case, better future fortune.

Langlois: While it is never easy to guess what a front office values with regard to roster construction or how it evaluates and orders draft candidates, it’s impossible to gauge a direction for the Pistons this time around because we don’t yet know who’ll be tasked with making the ultimate call on draft night. Troy Weaver remains in place as general manager while the search for a head of basketball operations is under way. There are critical decisions to be reached over June and July, for sure, with a top-five lottery pick, likely more than $60 million in cap space to use in any variety of ways and what could be a robust trade market. I would be floored if whomever is empowered with decision-making power doesn’t decide that Cade Cunningham is the person around whom roster decisions would be made foremost, but how much that really affects the call on draft night is less certain. Really, the priority on draft night has to be getting the player you believe has the best chance to grow into an impact player. I don’t know if there’s been a draft in the last few decades where the identity of that player is less certain, but it’s highly likely there will be at least a few who grow into All-Stars within the next five or six seasons. The Pistons need their pick to be one of those guys – whether he’s a center, a wing or a point guard. Getting a player to complement Cunningham is important, but less critical than getting a player who shows up prominently on the opposition scouting report every night.

@cbaz521/IG: Bad Boys vs. x’04 team – who wins a seven-game series?

Langlois: I asked Joe Dumars – who played central roles in winning all three titles as player and architect – that very question once. It would have been a fascinating series and likely would have gone to a seventh game at The Palace of Auburn Hills, home to the Pistons for all three of their NBA championship runs. The 1989 went 44-6 to finish the season and playoffs with Mark Aguirre in the starting lineup after Trader Jack McCloskey’s daring move to ship Adrian Dantley to Dallas for Aguirre. They went 15-2 in the playoffs with three sweeps and a six-game win over Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. The ’04 team probably made an even higher-impact trade, landing Rasheed Wallace when Dumars worked the phones until barely 10 minutes before the deadline to convince Danny Ainge in Boston to join in as the third team and push the deal over the finish line. Holding five straight opponents under 70 points a few weeks after adding Wallace was as astonishing as the 44-6 blitzkrieg run of the Bad Boys. Two great teams.

@axemanozh: I’ve given up on the team being good again in my lifetime, but can we get the classic court design back? The blue sidelines, no painted keys one is terrible. Oh, and the return of the 2000s red jerseys as the Statement editions.

Langlois: Given up, eh? Snowflake! I’ve got to admit, I pay zero attention to court design, but I’ll pass your sentiments up the line to see if anyone salutes. I was a fan of the red uniforms, though. I’d be more excited for the return of those than I was for the teals, though I thought they passed the eye test. I’d vote for going back to home whites and road blues (or reds) and call it a day, but I surely understand the interest around the new uniforms. Of all the new iterations that have come and gone over recent years, my favorite was the 2022-23 City Edition inspired by St. Cecilia’s.

@tauberskyler/IG: Hopes for next season?

Langlois: I’d start with better health. Of all the young players critical to their future, only Jaden Ivey got through the season without prolonged injury absences. Cade Cunningham had the knee strain that stalled momentum just as he appeared on the verge of entering top-25 status across the NBA; Jalen Duren, for the second consecutive year, had his explosiveness muted by sprains to both ankles; Isaiah Stewart had three different lower-body injuries that cost him double-digit game losses in each instance; and Ausar Thompson missed the final month-plus after blood clots were discovered. It’s very hard to maintain any type of cohesion or establish any momentum with that many key players in and out of the lineup – and we didn’t even get to injuries to veterans Bojan Bogdanovic and Monte Morris or trade acquisitions Quentin Grimes and Simone Fontecchio – for a veteran team, never mind one of the youngest teams in the NBA. Beyond health, I’d hope for productive off-seasons for player development for the eight young players likely to return, good luck in the lottery draw on Sunday and things falling into place on the trade/free agent front with an assist from teams looking to get off of contracts in response to the punitive impact of the new collective bargaining agreement for those well above the luxury tax line.

@bigdogpistons1: Have there been interviews for the president of basketball operations?

Langlois: None that have become public knowledge, at least. It’s been three weeks and a day or two since the Pistons announced the search for a head of basketball operations, so it wouldn’t be unusual for a search firm – it’s been reported the Pistons have engaged the services of one, which is standard practice – to take that long doing its due diligence. That really starts with getting a clear vision of what the Pistons are looking for in an executive, then scanning the landscape to find the individuals that seem most capable of fulfilling the franchise’s aims. It’s probably about at this point when interviews would be lined up. Things can move quickly from there.

@jacob_sotelo_08/IG: When are we giving Cade the big bucks so he doesn’t leave?

Langlois: Cunningham is eligible to sign an extension this off-season that would go into effect for the start of the 2025-26 season and carry him through the 2028-29 season. It will register as a great surprise across the NBA if Cunningham doesn’t come to training camp in September with a contract extension in place.