The Detroit Pistons went into the 2020-2021 NBA season with little expectations after winning only 20 games in the 2019-20 NBA season. Blake Griffin only played in 20 games before both sides agreed on a buyout agreement but even in the games he played, Griffin looked like a shell of himself. Jerami Grant was the team’s big-free agency signing and he performed well. Grant averaged 22.3 points per game and finished second in voting for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
The Pistons had three first-round picks in the 2020 draft and used those picks to draft Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, and Saddiq Bey. Hayes dealt with injuries all season and never found his footing but Stewart and Bey both showed promise. Both made the NBA All-Rookie Team and cemented themselves as part of the team’s future. The Pistons finished with a 20-52 record, the worst record in the Eastern Conference, and landed the top pick in the 2021 draft.
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The biggest offseason storyline for the Pistons is the arrival of Cade Cunningham. After landing the top pick in the draft, Detroit selected Cunningham, a 6’8″ combo guard. Cunningham gives the team a true franchise player and future perennial all-star if he lives up to the hype. The team also added two sleepers in the second round in Isaiah Livers and Luka Garza. Both are productive college players who could have an immediate impact. Kelly Olynyk and Trey Lyles were signed in free agency to bolster their frontcourt depth. Saben Lee, Hamidou Diallo, Frank Jackson, and Cory Joseph were all re-signed after serving as key reserves last season.
The Starting Five
PG – Killian Hayes
SG – Cade Cunningham
SF – Saddiq Bey
PF – Jerami Grant
C – Isaiah Stewart
The big question with this lineup is the fit of Hayes and Cunningham. Both are point guards, but unlike Hayes, Cunningham has shown the ability to knock down perimeter shots off the ball. Cunningham has good shot-creating skills and he shot 40 percent from three in college. Hayes shot only 28.8 percent from the three-point line so when he does not have the ball in his hands, he has little to offer. He is a pure playmaker at this stage in his career. Both players will have to adjust their game.
Bey will start at small forward and his perimeter shooting will be greatly needed. He shot 38 percent from three last season on 6.6 attempts per game. Grant will again be the team’s go-to scorer on offense. Stewart’s defense and rebounding will be the key to this lineup. He was one of the best rookies in both of those categories last season. Stewart has also shown flashes offensively. At only 20 years old, he could make a big jump in his second year.
The Pistons originally waived veteran point guard but the team had second thoughts and ended up re-signing him. Joseph played some of the best basketball of his career last season with the Pistons. He’ll be back in his role as the backup point guard. Josh Jackson and Diallo are two high-energy, super-athletic wings that will be relied upon for defensive purposes. The second unit will look to push the pace in transition when these two are on the floor.
Lyles and Olynyk will both get minutes as backup bigs. Olynyk is in for a bigger role than Lyles due to his perimeter shooting. Rookie Garza has exceeded expectations up to this point and could crack the Pistons big-man rotation. Frank Jackson will see minutes at both guard positions. After a promising rookie season, Lee returns as a reserve point guard. Lee could push Joseph for more minutes. Livers are part of the team’s logjam at small forward but his perimeter shooting and defense could earn him more playing time than expected.
One Potential Move to Make
The Pistons are rumored to be one of the teams interested in Ben Simmons. A trade centered around Grant is what it would take but the team is in rebuild mode and seem to be pretty content with the state of their roster. All of their key players are young and have yet to hit their prime. Adding a perimeter shooter is more likely. Detroit was a below-average three-point shooting team last season and they still have not addressed that area.
One of the youngest rosters in the NBA with an average age of 25.1 years old, the Pistons are going to struggle. There will always be growing pains with a team this young. This season is all about the development of the young players on the roster. Cunningham, Hayes, and Isaiah Stewart are all only 20 years old. Bey is 22. Grant is 26. Winning 30 games with this roster would be an accomplishment.
The chemistry of Cunningham and Hayes is something to keep an eye on. If Hayes improves his game as a scorer then this could be a perfect pairing. Detroit will be a good defensive team but the offensive end is where all the questions are. As of today, the team lacks perimeter shooting, and Grant and Cunningham are the only consistent shot creators on the roster. The Pistons have a lot of potential on this roster, but fans will have to be patient.
Season Prediction: 28-54, Fifth Place in the Central Division
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