The Detroit Pistons are on the verge of establishing themselves as a franchise on the rise once again. With plenty of youth and promise in place, there is plenty of reasons to be excited about this team.
In the NBA, there are plenty of ways for a young team to put themselves on the map. Winning is the easiest key to solidifying relevance and seriousness as a contender, but there are other ways as well. Along with winning throughout the league comes the opportunity to build rivalries with opponents.
Holding one of the most exciting cores puts the Pistons on a path with an optimistic trajectory. However, with so much young talent in the NBA, there are many teams on that same budding track as Detroit. Some of those teams already have built-in storylines to follow when mentioned with the Pistons.
Here are a few teams that could turn into rivals for the Detroit Pistons in the future:
1 Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers and Pistons have maintained a spirited competitive battle since the Goin’ to Work versus early Lebron James era. Both teams have been working on regaining their edge as contenders. As two of the younger teams in the NBA, they’ll face each other plenty to rise again in the Eastern Conference.
Being division foes is always an easy way to start up a rivalry. The Pistons hold the all-time lead in victories against the Cavs head to head. However, they both have seen close to an even number of wins and losses head to head in the past decade.
The headlining talent of the 2021 draft class is the biggest draw for the rivalry potential. Almost every NBA follower had a hot take for their favorite prospect, and these two teams represent two of the biggest names. Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley displayed star capability in their rookie seasons. If last year’s Rookie of the Year race is anything close to the battles we can see down the line, this could be one of the most intriguing rivalries of the NBA future.
2 Chicago Bulls
In terms of contending, the Bulls are in much better shape than the Pistons. Chicago has plenty of star veteran talent with playoff experience as well. That was proven as the Bulls enjoyed a season sweep against the Pistons last season.
Along with those losses came a small bit of bad blood and some competitive fire from the stars. Chicago forward Zach Lavine and Cunningham engaged in some trash talking and some physical fouls in March. Seeing gritty battles between stars from the Bulls and the Pistons like old times was refreshing.
Another intriguing player from the 2021 draft class is second-round pick Ayo Dsounmu. The scrappy guard from Illinois spent lots of time pressing Detroit’s guards full-court defensively. He and Cunningham spent time trading highlights against each other on both ends of the floor. Pesky defensive guards like Patrick Beverly always make team competition more edgy and intense.
3 Toronto Raptors
This Eastern Conference matchup has had plenty of attention since head coach Dwane Casey was let go from the Raptors in 2018. Since returning to coaching in Detroit, Casey has built a 9-3 record against his former team. That record includes six straight victories plus a season sweep last season.
Toronto has seen their own success after Casey by winning an NBA title in 2019. They also earned a postseason bid last season led by All-Stars Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. New head coach Nick Nurse has really grown as one of the promising young coaches in the league.
The Raptors’ 48-34 record also served as an anchor to forward Scottie Barnes‘ Rookie of the Year honors. The award served as one of the most controversial topics in the NBA. Many Piston fans believed Cunningham was more deserving, which created a stir of debate online and in real life.
Barnes and Cunningham are longtime friends from back in their high school days. That won’t stop fans from comparing and pitting their teams against one another.
4 Houston Rockets
The NBA world put a lot of time and effort into creating this as a rivalry. Fans pushed their online agendas, the media added to the tension, and a couple of games even hinted that a rivalry could be on the way.
Comparing top draft picks is always a common thing and went to pretty high levels after 2021. Houston guard Jalen Green was very verbal about his disappointment in not being the first overall pick. That outward emotion took another step forward when Green retracted his desire to live in Detroit in a Yahoo interview last summer. Those comments invoked a major social media battle between Pistons fans and Rockets fans.
Things escalated even more during Summer League last season when Cunningham crossed up Green for a highlight triple. The Rockets got their get-back in the regular season when Green pulled off an emphatic dunk and screamed at Cunningham after.
Even with tension easing, there will still be a strong portion of Pistons fans ready to go hard on the Rockets’ budding star next season. Pistons fans didn’t get their opportunity to heckle Green in Detroit. He was injured during Houston’s lone visit to Little Caesars Arena last December.
5 Sacramento Kings
This is not a rivalry, but there are plenty of eyes focused on these two teams for obvious reasons. Social media took a life of its own before and after the NBA draft this summer.
The Kings spent most of their draft attention on former Iowa forward Keegan Murray. Sacramento viewed Murray as a better fit for their frontcourt and selected him at No. 4 overall. The majority of mock drafts ranked former Purdue guard Jaden Ivey ahead of Murray based on upside. The Pistons happily added Ivey to their roster by drafting him at No. 5.
Kings fans and Pistons fans have barely been able to resist constant comparison. Both players seem like suitable fits for their teams, but the fanbases seem eager to be validated with their picks. The franchises are also eager to return to winning form, and their prized first-rounders will have a major influence in that direction.