The Pistons have the foundation for the NBA’s next great young team

When the Detroit Pistons last won an NBA playoff game, George W. Bush was still the president and the championship core of the team from their 2004 title run — led by Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace — was still available . Ever since that fateful trip to the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals, the Pistons have consistently been one of the NBA’s happiest franchises.

It feels like that’s about to change.

In just a few years, the Pistons have built one of the best young cores in the NBA. It begins with Cade Cunningham, the franchise player who landed Detroit by winning the 2021 NBA draft lottery. The Pistons landed another blue-chip prospect in guard Jaden Ivey in the 2022 draft and rushed to steal one of my favorite draft prospects, center Jalen Duren, with a trade at the end of the lottery. The two promising rookies will join a group that included the Pistons’ haul in the 2020 draft – Killian Hayes, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart.

Landing talented young players is only part of the equation to building an eventual winner. Teams also need to have the right veterans around them to give the youngsters a chance to succeed. Detroit has done that too — and made another brilliant move in that regard by acquiring Bojan Bogdanovic in a deal with the Utah Jazz earlier this week.

Because of this, the Pistons should be set for great success in the near future.

Cade Cunningham is the primary stud initiator that every team needs

It was easy to see that Cade Cunningham was well on his way to becoming a future NBA star since his high school days at Montverde Academy. I spoke to Cunningham for a feature film prior to his senior year, and since then he’s only met and exceeded the hype.

Cunningham is the kind of oversized lead ball handler every team wants. At 6’6, 220lbs, ball in hand, he puts pressure on defences, scoring and passing. A good three-point shooter, he can also play off the ball, although his shooting skills as a rookie didn’t really show up in the numbers at 31.4 percent from deep. Given his success as a collegiate-level shooter in the state of Oklahoma — where he scored 40 percent from three hits — you can expect him to be a better shot in his second season with the Pistons and beyond. Oh, and he’s a plus defender too.

The hardest and most important piece to find for any NBA contender is a primary initiator. The Pistons have a bright future because Cunningham has a bright future – and he’ll have the ball in his hands a lot. How high the Pistons’ ceiling eventually gets should reflect how high Cunningham’s ceiling is. It’s not crazy to think that he should be an All-NBA caliber player in his prime.

Jaden Ivey is a great addition to Cunningham in the backcourt

If there’s one lack in Cunningham’s ability, it’s a lack of top speed. That’s why Jaden Ivey fits perfectly next to him in the backcourt.

Ivey was our #3 pick in the 2022 NBA draft, but he fell to the Pistons on draft night at the #5 pick. The turbocharged guard will be one of the fastest players in the NBA from the moment he steps onto the court. His ability to apply rim pressure is a great addition to Cunningham’s more deliberate playmaking, giving the Pistons a thunder-and-lightning approach that should be incredibly difficult to defend and fantastic to watch.

Ivey will likely be rough defensively early in his career…but Cunningham can take on the tougher task in backcourt. Ivey isn’t a reliable catch-and-shoot threat just yet…but Cunningham can spread the ground around his drives. Cunningham doesn’t have the extra gear to apply rim pressure whenever he wants…but Ivey’s best skill is just that. We can’t wait to see how this pairing develops.

The Pistons get shooters and rollers to position their two stud guards to succeed

Let’s take one at a time, starting with my favorite addition to the core of the pistons.

  • Jalen Duren – Big Roller: I had Duren as my fifth overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft because he was the youngest player in the class, has great physical tools, plays with high motor skills, and has shown promising skills. With long arms, great jumping abilities, and man-child strength, Duren will have plenty of gravity as a vertical spacer with a huge catching radius. Having a great rollman is one way to make life easier for your guards, and Duren will be just that. Getting him 13th overall via trade was a stroke of genius on the part of lead executive Troy Weaver.
  • Saddiq Bey – Wing Archer: Bey is a tall, 6’8, 215-pound winger who lacks top-notch athletics and creative ability, but fits that core because he’s a good shot and rarely turns the ball. Year 3 is a big year for Bey, but the addition of another ball handler in Ivey should help clarify his role going forward. The Pistons really only need him to hit three-pointers and hold their own defensively.
  • Bojan Bogdanovic – wing shooter: The 33-year-old is a high-volume three-point shooter who, if necessary, can also generate offense from dribbling. He will be able to spread the ground for Cunningham and Ivey while also improving Detroit’s chords. This is a great fit in terms of skills, position value, and making life easier for your young stars.
  • Killian Hayes – Defense Guard: I had Hayes as a top-three prospect in the 2020 draft, and he certainly didn’t live up to that. Hayes just struggles to hit the ball and is not a good shot at catching. At the same time, he’s only 21 years old, has an incredible size for a guard and is already very good defensively. I like the idea of ​​Hayes leading the second unit alongside Ivey when Cunningham needs a breather.
  • Alec Burks – Security guard: The Pistons used their cap space to land Burks and Nerlens Noel this offseason. Burks is another shooter to surround Cunningham — he’s hit at least 40 percent of threes in each of his last three seasons. Like Bogdanovic, Burks can also get a bucket if necessary and should relieve the young guards in halfcourt a bit.
  • Marvin Bagley III – Big Roller: Don’t write off the former No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft just yet. The second and third jump king, Bagley, is a super springy rollman, giving Detroit another vertical spacer and offensive rebounder.
  • Isaiah Livers – Wing Archer: Livers had a great four-year career for the Michigan Wolverines before the Pistons took him in the second round of the 2021 draft. All he did as a rookie was hit 42 percent of his threes. Although a little short and slow for a foursome at 6ft 7 and 230lbs, he can hit the rock with consistency from deep and generally plays with a high IQ.

The Pistons are going to be great…eventually

In Detroit it will take time. Cunningham has to learn how to be the guy and going from good to great is the toughest move in the league. Ivey may need a couple of years to improve his defense and develop some semblance of midfield. Duren is so young that it’s hard to expect him to make an immediate contribution, but I love his long-term potential.

The Pistons will be one of the most exciting young teams this year. Ultimately, I believe this group will form a sustainable winner. For the first time in a long while, things are looking good for the Pistons.

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