The regular season is finally underway this week for the NBA and the Detroit Pistons. Expectations for their restoration have been as high as we can remember over the past decade. With Summer League and preseason action concluded, real basketball is beginning on Wednesday for the Pistons when they host the Orlando Magic at home.
Detroit’s restoration plan has been prioritized through natural growth through the draft and methodical acquisitions with needed value. Their past three draft classes look to be the focal point of the direction for this franchise. General Manager Troy Weaver has also landed gems via trades and free agency by adding veterans who address needs along with holding return value in case the Pistons trade them for future assets.
The rise of a young rebuilding team normally takes a lot of time and growing pains to develop. Throughout this restoration phase, the concept of patience has been preached consistently throughout the franchise. The players have spoken about how hungry they are to grow and compete, but it is still going to take time to arrive at that point as a contender.
There is without question an improvement in talent on this roster. That does not mean it translates to wins right away. The preached method of patience should hopefully echo from the players throughout the fanbase as well throughout this season.
Realistically, there could be a few different outcomes to how this season plays out for the Detroit Pistons. Some outcomes may be more difficult to reach than others, but there is a world where each of these outcomes is possible.
Here's a dive into what the worst-case scenario, best-case scenario, and most realistic scenario on how the 2022-23 season will play out.
Worst Case Scenario for Detroit Pistons: 25-57, Lottery Team, 13th Seed in Eastern Conference
The talent and quality of play in the Eastern Conference are as strong as it's been in about a decade. Most of the contenders have the needed balance on their roster of rising youth and experienced veterans.
While the Detroit Pistons have improved talent on the roster, what currently holds them back is their lack of experience on the court together. You rarely in the NBA see teams as young as the Pistons rise to playoff contention that fast. Detroit is entering the season as the fifth-youngest team in the league. It would be unfair to have lofty hopes for a roster featuring a team average of 24 years old.
There are realistically at least eight or nine teams in the Eastern Conference that are more established than the Detroit Pistons already. The top six playoff teams from last season are still as strong as they were in 2021-22. The play-in teams from last season like Brooklyn Nets, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Atlanta Hawks each added significant help this offseason to their lineup.
Even the teams who missed the playoffs last season look to be stronger this coming year. The New York Knicks signed playoff breakout point guard Jalen Brunson to a $100-million deal. The Washington Wizards will have their star shooting guard Bradley Beal back and healthy after missing last season to a wrist injury. There is even attention to be paid to the Orlando Magic who just added the No. 1 draft pick, Paolo Banchero, to their exciting young core.
Looking at the Pistons roster, they also have a lot of concerns that could take some time to address. The preseason showed some glimpses at some issues Detroit might be dealing with this season.
Detroit struggled defensively allowing over 250 total points in the paint through four preseason games. There are not enough proven interior defenders on the roster for the Pistons to rely on yet. Center Isaiah Stewart is probably the best frontcourt defender on the team. However, the Pistons switch everything defensively which creates mismatches and excessive fouls called on them. Stewart is also only 6’8 which limits his ability as a rim protector.
The other bigs on the roster have their own questions as well defensively. Newly acquired forward Bojan Bogdanovic is known as a three-point specialist, not so much a defender. The Pistons traded up for center Jalen Duren who holds promise as a future paint protector. Forward Marvin Bagley is entering the season with a knee injury and is still finding his way on the defensive end.
Detroit’s best perimeter defender is G Killian Hayes, who is used as the team’s sixth man. The starting wing is Cade Cunningham, while Jaden Ivey and Saddiq Bey will need to show some progression as capable defenders who can stay out of foul trouble.
Offensively is also a concern when considering the team’s spacing and shooting. The Pistons finished 29th in the NBA in three-point-shooting last season. Detroit added two veterans this offseason to enhance their shooting with Bogdanovic and former New York Knicks shooter Alec Burks, who both are just under 39 percent lifetime shooters from three. Detroit will not be able to rely on those two alone to increase their shooting woes.
Bey and Cunningham will share the majority of threes taken by the team as two of the primary ball-handlers and shooters on the team. They both dealt with inefficiency issues last season and will need to be close to the league average to give the Pistons a shot.
Another focal point of improving their shooting will be Isaiah Stewart’s transition as a floor-spacing three-point shooting power forward. Most of his time last year was spent at center, but the Pistons have utilized him a lot at power forward. His shot looked much better in preseason and Summer League, but it’s too soon to pencil him in as a reliable shooter.
Lots of things must go perfectly for such a young team in a loaded conference. The only definitive teams the Pistons should finish better than this season are the troubled Charlotte Hornets and the rebuilding Indiana Pacers. Outside of those teams, Detroit is facing some stiff competition all year long. The Pistons could end up as a lottery team again if the struggles are as bad as we think they could be.
Best Case Scenario for Detroit Pistons: 39-43, Play-In Team, 10th Seed in Eastern Conference
In a perfect world, the Detroit Pistons have the upside and the improved talent to shock a lot of teams in the league. Many NBA followers were enamored with Detroit’s draft this summer and have bought stock into the breakout year of Cade Cunningham. While it could be a tall task, it’s not impossible considering the talent on this team. They do have the talent to push for a play-in-tournament spot.
Cunningham is without question the driving force behind Detroit’s success this season. He surpassed every expectation as the 2021 No. 1 overall draft pick. The former Oklahoma State point guard averaged 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game in his rookie campaign while accepting the responsibility as the face of the franchise.
Bigger expectations are placed on his shoulder in his second season. Cunningham has added on 15-pounds of muscle in the offseason and has new talent at his disposal to play with. Most young guards in NBA history take a significant leap in their second year. Cunningham has all the tools as a playmaker and scorer to make that leap a reality this season.
The Detroit Pistons added some firepower to the backcourt in the NBA Draft by adding first-round guard Jaden Ivey to the rotation. Ivey’s play style features a lightning-quick first step, underrated passing vision, and unteachable athleticism. His game looks like a perfect backcourt compliment to the methodical style of Cunningham. Ivey’s explosiveness should help the Pistons play fast in transition and create easier buckets for everybody.
Detroit also added a lot of frontcourt assistance as well this offseason. They traded up for a super athletic paint protector and lob threat in Memphis center Jalen Duren. The Detroit Pistons resigned lob threat forward Marvin Bagley to a three-year deal after he rejuvenated his career in Detroit. The front office also made a brilliant acquisition by trading for the three-point shooting services of Bojan Bogdanovic.
There is also lots of hope and attention being paid to the third-year-Pistons on the roster drafted in 2020. Forward Saddiq Bey has shown flashes of being a dangerous scorer. If he gets more open looks from downtown and improves his efficiency, his presence as a complimentary scorer could make a tremendous difference.
Forward Isaiah Stewart and guard Killian Hayes also look hungry to show they’ve expanded their game to add value to the Detroit Pistons. Hayes looked a lot more aggressive with his shot in the preseason and will need that same tenacity in the regular season. Stewart has also looked confident with his jump shot and will have plenty of opportunities to prove he’s worth extra attention from his defenders.
The Detroit Pistons showed last season they can compete with anybody. They put their best foot forward against some of the most elite teams in the league, especially in the second half of the season. With more talent added to the roster, they could turn that same fight into more wins this season.
Detroit may not start off hot in terms of winning, but it’s not impossible to think they can catch fire in the middle of the season. If Cunningham is playing like a borderline All-Star, that would mean the supporting pieces around him are elevating their game as well. The Pistons can show the needed flashes throughout the year to become a play-in team.
Most Realistic Scenario for Detroit Pistons: 30-52, 12th Seed in Eastern Conference
Detroit’s most realistic outcome lies in the middle of both scenarios. The improved roster talent will make them more exciting to watch and should give plenty of hope for the future. However, it’s unfair to expect a playoff ceiling for one of the most inexperienced teams in the NBA. Patience is a needed virtue and the Pistons are still a couple of years away from being true postseason contenders.
Tempered hopes, for now, should be the mindset all around for the Detroit Pistons. They may flirt with play-in seeding at points in the season, but it’s not likely this year. They also shouldn’t be bad enough to consider for tanking. Reality is somewhere right in the middle which is just fine for this young team right now.