NBA Season Preview: Detroit Pistons

2019-20 Regular Season Record: 20-46 (.303%), 13th in Eastern Conference, Missed Playoffs
Head Coach: Dwane Casey

When Dwane Casey was unceremoniously dumped by the Raptors prior to the 2018-19 season, many were stunned. The Pistons quickly scooped him up and were rewarded with an unspectacular 41-41 season and a playoff birth. Unfortunately, the Pistons took a serious step backwards last year and with Blake Griffin only playing in 18 games (while being largely ineffective), they officially pulled the plug on the season when they traded Andre Drummond in early February – going 1-11 in the 12 games after the trade. The Pistons were only competitive in games due to Christian Wood’s breakout following the Drummond trade, and the resurgence of Derrick Rose. Wood, who was playing for his 5th team in as many years, broke out after the All-Star Game, averaging 24 ppg, 9.6 rpg on 57.1% shooting, while Rose’s per 36 minute numbers were on par/better than his 2010-11 MVP year. 

How will Detroit’s Rookies Play?

Detroit made out with a solid haul of draft picks in the 2020 NBA Draft – point guard Killian Hayes at the 7th slot, Isaiah Stewart at 16, and Saddiq Bey at 19th overall. Hayes, the lefty from France, was the best point guard prospect on the board and is an intriguing player, coming out of the German Bundesliga after playing his youth in France. At 6’5”, Hayes is an excellent playmaker and has already played 3 years of professional basketball in Europe, so he should be ready to contribute straight away. Hayes is also fortunate to have veteran Derrick Rose on his side. Rose will be given the task of mentoring and preparing the young point guard for the rigors of NBA life. Hayes is excited about it: 

I'm really excited to play with D-Rose, being able to learn from him, compete against him at practice. It's a great opportunity for me to get better and to learn really early. Without any Summer League or anything, the season is going to come really quick so, being able to learn from this guy is really a blessing. I think we all grew up kind of watching Derrick Rose. It's definitely going to be cool being with him.

Saddiq Bey, one of the more NBA-ready prospects, was expected to be drafted late in the lottery and when he fell down to the 19th spot, the Pistons made sure to grab him. At 6'8", 215 lbs. with a 7'0" wingspan, Bey figures to be a 3&D specialist, with room to grow into a playmaker on the offensive end. At 6'9", 250 lbs., 16th overall pick Isaiah Stewart brings high energy and hard work and uses Bam Adebayo for inspiration as an undersized big man in today's NBA. The Pistons were able to come away with two of the most NBA-ready players (Hayes & Bey) and two of the more underrated prospects in the draft (Stewart & Bey), so look for the young draftees to make an impact for Detroit this season. 

Is Blake Griffin Still “The Guy”?

Playing in only 18 games last year, Blake Griffin averaged subpar numbers across the board – 15.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.3 apg and 0.4 spg in 28.4 mpg. Can he get back to being an All-Star? His first full season in Detroit was one of his best all around seasons in the league (24.5 ppg/7.5rpg/5.4 apg), while playing the most games in a season, 75, since 2013-14. A physically compromised Griffin truly hurts the Pistons chances at a playoff run. By all accounts, Griffin is in great shape to start training camp, as Dwane Casey has stated after only a few days of training camp: 

He hasn’t taken a play, a possession or a drill off yet. He’s looking good. All the guys are getting their sea legs under them after being off for so long, but he’s the Blake of old, making plays and fitting in seamlessly. He did a lot of work this summer to strengthen his legs and he’s done that. He’s back to being the Blake of old.

Griffin is one of the NBA’s true superstars and if he is fully healthy and engaged, he’s a handful for any team to take on.

Is Dwane Casey on the Hot Seat?

After making the playoffs in his first year with Detroit, but stumbling to a 20-46 record last year, is Dwane Casey already on the hot seat? He’ll be in charge of a team that is trying to get back into the playoffs on a regular basis, while developing the young talent that was brought in over the offseason. That’s a hard act to balance. Do you leave the young kids in when the going gets tough? Or do you bring in the veterans to steady the ship and try to win a game? Time will tell how Casey handles these situations, but it won’t be easy for the 3rd year Pistons coach.

Photo Credit: Prensa Internacional/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire