Losses have overshadowed the Detroit Pistons for the 2022-2023 NBA Season.
At 16-56, they currently have the worst record in the league and are bracing themselves for the Victor Wenbanyama sweepstakes. The loss of Cade Cunningham was the first domino to fall, as surgery to repair a left shin stress fracture sidelined their franchise player for the season and with it any hope for the Pistons’ current campaign. Try as they might, winning might hurt more for Detroit than losing.
Or so it seems.
A long-term view is something that isn’t frowned upon in today’s NBA, especially if executed well. After all, the race to draft Wenbanyama comes with the hope of postseason appearances and championships. While that unfolds, the Pistons can view games from a different perspective. And it starts with the players themselves.
On the surface, the players have nothing to play for but for themselves, but their performances serve as an audition either for Detroit or the 29 other teams in the league. This is their sandbox, a space for them to learn what works and what doesn’t for themselves. After all, a good showing could end up being a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Some of the players in the roster have already taken an opportunity to put themselves on the map.
Killian Hayes had been much maligned since being selected by the Pistons with the seventh overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. His shot was off and the nights were mostly empty and disappointing. The arrival of Cunningham complicated things and with Jaden Ivey, Hayes seemed to be the odd one out.
When Cunningham went out this year though, Hayes stepped up. Mature would be a fair description, but it was apparent that Hayes needed more time to get acclimated to the NBA than what was earlier thought. When time was given, the results spoke for themselves.
At the trade deadline, Detroit acquired James Wiseman by sending Saddiq Bey to the Golden State Warriors (who then sent Bey to the Atlanta Hawks) and Kevin Knox to the Portland Trail Blazers. In 14 games, the second overall selection in the 2020 NBA Draft has averaged close to a double-double (13.8 points and 9.3 rebounds) and maximized the additional reps and newfound opportunities the Pistons have afforded him thus far.
Ivey, Detroit’s top pick in 2022, has started the most games (63) and has shown considerable growth over the span of one season. The Pistons organization views him and Cunningham as the backcourt of the future and while Cunningham is on the mend, he has gotten up to speed with the rigors of the NBA.
Of course, other players like Marvin Bagley III, Jalen Duren, and Isaiah Livers have strutted their stuff when given the opportunity and when considering all the moments of individual excellence, what does it mean for the team level?
It depends on what direction the team will be going. Pistons head coach Dwayne Casey could be on the hot seat, but regardless of his status for next season, he will continue to deploy his system. There were traces of the tactics that made Casey successful during his stint with the Toronto Raptors and time will tell if the Pistons’ records will match those of the Raptors.
Obviously, Detroit is currently playing without their star, but in an age where injuries have become all the more prevalent, it has not been uncommon for teams having to fend for themselves while a star is out. That way, they learn more about themselves not just as individuals but also in terms of a team identity. The NBA will continue to be a star-driven league but even the best need their teammates to win games and championships.
The Detroit Pistons and their fans have been through some tough times in recent years and this season is unfortunately no different. However, there are reasons to believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it begins with some of the players leading the grind through this current campaign.