The Pistons finally found their franchise centerpiece by winning the draft lottery and the rights to Cade Cunningham. Now begins the process of finding the right pieces around their new star to maximize his burgeoning talent. Last year’s promising rookie class — featuring Isaiah Stewart, Killian Hayes, and Saddiq Bey — provides a solid start towards building that foundation. Detroit isn’t ready to compete yet, but add in another high lottery pick this year and suddenly this team could be looking pretty enticing long-term.
The fanbase is split between those who view a perfect scenario one that sees the team consistently competitive but still winning just 20-25 games for a better chance at another top pick to team with Cade Cunningham. Then there is a contingent who want to see a 15-plus game improvement and the team fighting for a play-in spot. In reality, it’ll likely fall somewhere in between those scenarios so that everyone in the fanbase is miserable.
The worst-case scenario really has nothing to do with wins and losses and everything to do with how much Detroit’s young core can show. So the disaster scenario is that Cunningham shows he’s probably not THE guy you can build a contending team around and the Pistons seem to have wasted not just a lottery pick but a potential franchise altering No. 1 overall selection.
In completely remaking the Pistons in just over one year, it’s pretty clear what Troy Weaver wants in his team, and that makes projecting it out relatively easy. There will be no questions about hustle, energy, commitment on both ends of the floor but there will still be some obvious talent gaps and concerns with consistent offense and rebounding.
The Pistons haven’t had a draft pick as exciting as Cade Cunningham since Grant Hill. And Cunningham has quickly endeared himself to the fan base. While I don’t expect a ton of highlight plays, I’m excited to see how he sets the tone and establishes the pace of the game. And the little things he does on defense and in the passing game that set him apart.
Dennis Smith Jr.