The Detroit Pistons, for the third year in a row, find themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Despite coming into this season with optimism of taking the next step, Detroit has had a suboptimal start to their season. From injuries to key reserve players to start the season, followed up by missing Cade Cunningham and Isaiah Stewart. The Pistons have been unable to avoid the injury bug, and it is a bug that has bitten hard. Sitting at 5-15 at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, Detroit’s odds of making the playoffs are all but diminished. And with Cade Cunningham’s timetable for return being indefinite, it’s apparent Detroit will have top lottery odds in the offseason.
However, despite what their record indicates, the Pistons have plenty of reasons to be thankful. From the promise of their young core, the contributions of their veterans, the significant growth in talent, and the progress being made each game is enough to bring optimism. It obviously hurts to lose Cade Cunningham for the rest of the season. However, it does open up the runway for rookie sensation Jaden Ivey. Not only that, but it also gives an opening for Killian Hayes to get more minutes. An opportunity that both young guards are making the most out of.
Pistons have a wealth of young talent
Even though the records of the past couple of seasons look the same, the wealth of talent is night and day. Detroit has come a long way, being able to add multiple key contributors in each draft. If the Pistons had a better record, Jaden Ivey would be one of the heavy favorites for Rookie of the Year. And whether he’s been on the court with Cade, or been running the show himself, Ivey has been able to produce.
Detroit’s draft would’ve been a major success if they walked away with just Ivey. However, they walked away with one of the diamonds in the rough with Jalen Duren. The rookie center just turned 19 last week, and already looks like a bonified stud. There are moments where Duren looks like Andre Drummond on the glass, and Dwight Howard when throwing down a dunk. He’s the youngest player in the league, and is already a sturdy 250 pounds. He is one of the most athletic big men in the league, and he hasn’t even begun to realize his potential. Dwane Casey has compared him to former great Shawn Kemp, and just a few games into the season, it’s easy to see why.
Detroit is learning to compete more and more each and every day
On top of the great play from their young talent, Detroit is starting to find a stable of dependable veterans. Marvin Bagley and Alec Burks have come back from injury, and both have immediately brought value. Burks and Bagley both are professional scorers, with Alec being able to hit shots from beyond the arc. And for Marvin Bagley, he’s able to crash the boards and do work in the post. Their presence has been priceless for Detroit as they have been without bench scoring for many of the season.
In addition, Killian Hayes has started to bring life to the second unit, and whatever lineup he’s been on the court with. Since their road game in Boston, Hayes has been scoring 11+ points a game and is shooting over 40% from beyond the arc. He’s playing with a level of confidence unlike Killian has ever displayed. In the beginning games of this season, Hayes played with the persona of a wounded puppy. Now, he looks like not only a completely different player, but almost a different person. His passes are more crisp, his shot selection is more decisive. And if he keeps moving in this direction, he will be more than serviceable. And he will have ease finding a job anywhere in this league.
Pistons can develop now and look forward to the Lottery in May
If there is any silver lining or the Pistons season going worse than expected, it’s the rights to good odds in this year’s lottery. It’s not normally time to be thinking about the draft lottery in November only a quarter of the way through the season. However, this draft lottery is highlighted by perhaps the greatest basketball prospect in the modern era. Victor Wembanyama, the 7’5 combo big out of France is looming over the league. And it’s never bad to be tied for the best odds to get a generational talent. And even if Detroit doesn’t hit the jackpot, the rest of the class is supposed to be one of the deepest in the history of the draft.
Another thing that Detroit has to be thankful for is the amount of financial flexibility Troy Weaver has given them. After this season, the Pistons will have over 70 Million Dollars in cap space to work with. And with Bojan Bogdanovic already secured, and Cade and Ivey both being set for now, they will have some room to play with. For the first time in over 10 years, the Pistons will have legitimate cap space. Couple that with perhaps the most talented young core in the history of the franchise? There’s a lot of reason for buzz in the motor city. The wins will still be few and far between. However, this time next Thanksgiving, it could be the Pistons doing the feasting on the rest of the league.
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