Detroit Pistons Writer
Over the past few seasons, a youth movement has emerged in the Motor City. When Detroit Pistons’ GM Troy Weaver was hired to restore the franchise, he went scorched earth and completely tore down the roster. In the place of aging veterans, Weaver acquired young talent through the draft, free agency and the trade market.
Entering the 2022-23 season, the Pistons boast one of the youngest rosters in the NBA. The team has 12 rostered players aged 24 or younger.
The young guys are going to receive plenty of playing time this season. Detroit is still in the ‘add young players and develop them’ stage of its rebuild. However, that does not mean Detroit’s veterans will not receive their fair share of opportunities.
The Pistons will give their veterans some run to boost their trade value and to help develop the young players while they’re on the court.
Here are three of Detroit’s veteran players who will play important roles this upcoming season.
In the 2022-23 season, Cory Joseph’s role will be significantly different than it was this past season.
The 31-year-old started off last season coming off the bench before being thrust into a starting role due to the struggles of Killian Hayes. Joseph played well in his 65 games with the Pistons, including 39 starts. The University of Texas product shot a career-high 41.4 percent from beyond the arc on 2.4 attempts per game.
Starting next to Cade Cunningham, Joseph was not a primary ball-handler for the Pistons during his tenure as the team’s starter. Instead, the point guard was relegated to more of an off-ball role while playing as a secondary playmaker for the team.
This upcoming season, Joseph is projected to be more of a depth player for the Pistons. Rookie guard Jaden Ivey is expected to take his place in the starting backcourt, and Killian Hayes and Alec Burks are the likely bench unit guards.
Joseph may not receive significant playing time, especially early on in the season. However, the 31-year-old will find his minutes filling in for injured players. Joseph is also a reliable option to replace a rotation player if they have major struggles on the court.
Joseph is a candidate to be dealt at the trade deadline this season. He is not someone who is going to move the needle for a championship contender, but teams value reliable veteran guard play. If a playoff team loses a rotational guard to injury during the season, it would come as no surprise if Joseph is on that team’s shortlist of players to trade for as a replacement.
Weaver and the Pistons’ front office acquired Alec Burks via an offseason trade with the New York Knicks.
Burks figures to play a prominent role in Detroit’s rotation this season. The 31-year-old has the versatility to play multiple positions. At 6-6, he can play along the wing, but he also has the ball-handling skills to play point guard. As a multi-faceted tool, Burks can play in any multitude of lineup configurations for the Pistons this upcoming season.
Burks is not expected to garner a starting spot in Detroit’s lineup, but the veteran has the skill set of a replacement-level starter. He started 44 games for the Knicks this past season. Burks is a solid defender and a good three-point shooter, sinking over 40 percent of his shots from beyond the arc two seasons in a row.
While Ivey is the favorite to start next to Cunningham in Detroit’s backcourt this season, it would not be shocking if Burks was the actual starter early on. If Saddiq Bey slides up to power forward to replace Jerami Grant, Burks is a candidate to start at the small forward spot as well.
Like Joseph, Burks is a player who contending teams might target at the trade deadline. He brings everything Joseph does, but he does it at a higher level at this point in both players’ respective careers. If Joseph’s trade value is a late second or cash considerations, Burks could bring back multiple seconds or even possibly a late first, depending on how desperate a team is for a backup guard.
Nerlens Noel/Kelly Olynyk
It is unlikely that Nerlens Noel and Kelly Olynyk both garner playing time for Detroit this upcoming season. The Pistons currently have a logjam at the center position, and someone is going to have to take a back seat in the big man rotation.
Noel offers basic pick-and-roll abilities on the offensive end and not much more. The 28-year-old hangs his hat on the defensive end. Noel is a traditional rim-protecting big man. He boasts a career defensive rating of 101 alongside averaging 1.5 blocks per game.
Noel has struggled to stay healthy throughout the course of an NBA season. In five of his 10 seasons in the NBA, Noel has appeared in over 60 games just five times. He has appeared in less than 30 games three times in his career as well. However, when he is healthy, Noel is a reliable defensive big man.
Olynyk is a floor-spacing big. He shoots a career 36.5 percent from beyond the arc. He did struggle a bit from three-point range this season, shooting a career-low 33.6 percent on three attempts per game. Expect Olynyk to bounce back from a down year shooting for his standards. On the defensive end, Olynyk is respectable. He is not elite at anything, but he is a serviceable defender.
The battle between Noel and Olynyk for a spot in the Pistons’ rotation is one to watch coming out of training camp and the preseason. Both players bring their own strengths and weaknesses to the table, so it will be interesting to see which player head coach Dwane Casey prefers in his rotation entering the season.
(Featured Image Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)