The outlook for the Detroit Pistons rebuild is now much clearer. After winning the NBA lottery, the Pistons have the number one pick in this year’s draft for the first time since 1970. Mock drafts can pin whoever they want here, but the general consensus across the league is the pick will be Cade Cunningham. This was made more apparent when Cunningham announced he’d only visit with the Pistons ahead of the draft. The Pistons have been void of star power since 2018-19 when Blake Griffin was a sneaky MVP candidate. Cunningham will change that with his scoring, passing, and pro-ready skillset.
Detroit Pistons Rebuild Outlook In 2021 And Beyond
Cunningham Brings Instant Impact
The first thing that jumps off the screen is how tall Cunningham is. In the era of positionless basketball, Cunningham is a 6′ 8″ point-forward. This would make him the second tallest point guard in the NBA behind Ben Simmons who’s 6’10”. Cunningham will demand instant attention from defenders due to his ability to do it all. Cunningham used his size well, averaging 6.2 rebounds per game. He also isn’t afraid to play
Cunningham averaged 20.1 points per game in college, on a very impressive 43/40/84 percent shooting split. Considering he had a 29 percent usage rate and was the offensive catalyst for Oklahoma State, that’s impressive. Cunningham is also willing to make plays for others as he’s a good ball-handler and has great court vision. He dealt with double teams all throughout college and showcased the ability to make good plays out of them. Although he’s best with the ball in his hands, he moves without the ball fluidly and knows where he needs to be in the half-court.
Cunningham’s Fit In 2021-22
During the Detroit Pistons rebuild effort last year, they drafted Killian Hayes to be their new lead guard. Injuries caused him to play just 26 games, and he was never able to get in sync with his team. Cunningham’s size and the mismatches it creates on defense make him an option at the point. But considering Hayes isn’t a good shooter but is a good playmaker, he should be the point guard. Regardless, having two ball handlers is never a bad thing. In 2021, Cunningham’s role will be to carry the team in scoring and work on minimizing turnovers.
If there’s one critique on Cunningham it’s the 4 turnovers he averaged in college. Detroit had the sixth most turnovers per game last year and will be relying on two 20-year-olds to improve on that. At Oklahoma State Cunningham was double-teamed because his teammates didn’t warrant as much attention. With the Pistons, he has teammates who will demand attention from defenses. Jerami Grant had 22.3 points per game and finished second in the most improved player race. While Saddiq Bey was on the NBA all-rookie first team and Isaiah Stewart was on the second team.
Expectations For Pistons In 2021-22
The Detroit Pistons rebuild was in dire need of star power. After being stuck in limbo for so long, the Pistons will be on an upward trajectory with Cunningham. In clutch games, the Pistons finished an abysmal 7-25. Cunningham’s presence will help in these situations be it his scoring or playmaking. The backcourt duo will take the playmaking duties off of Grant, who facilitated most of the offense a year ago. This will allow Grant to be more efficient and play more naturally off the ball.
Defensively, the Pistons should be improved from where they were a year ago. Cunningham showed great defensive potential and is able to fight through screens and defend the pick and roll effectively. With lengthy defenders in Cunningham, Bey, Josh Jackson, and Grant on the roster, they’ll be well versed in switching their matchups. Realistic expectations are to push for a playoff birth and finish with at least 35 wins.
Where The Detroit Pistons Rebuild Will Be In 2022 And Beyond
The future beyond next year will be determined by how the core surrounding Cunningham plays. Bey has a pure shooting stroke and should be even more efficient next year. Stewart is another vital piece of the Detroit Pistons rebuild. Stewart is listed as the center but showcased some ability to guard the perimeter last year. His rim protection is his best skill, however, as he showed in the final 15 games when he averaged 2.2 blocks per game. In addition, averaged 11.2 rebounds per 36 minutes. He should start over Mason Plumlee.
Athletic wing Hamidou Diallo is an unrestricted free agent and should be brought back. His two-way play style fits the Pistons well, even if he’s not the greatest shooter. Frank Jackson is the other free agent I expect the Pistons to bring back. Jackson proved his belonging to the team in the last 14 games when he scored in double figures eleven times. Other than letting the young players develop, the Pistons will simply be waiting. 29 million dollars are still owed to Blake Griffin in 2021, meaning the Pistons will have cap space ahead of the 2022 offseason. And if they don’t want to spend it, they’ll have plenty of money to extend their core when it’s needed.
Detroit Pistons Rebuild Is Ready To Hit Another Gear
With the incoming addition of Cunningham, the Pistons have an identity. They have someone to score on all three levels and be a net positive all across the floor. Hayes was the seventh overall pick last year and should get more comfortable with a non-COVID induced offseason. Bey, Stewart, and Grant are going to be excellent role players and should be competitive on defense nightly. This Pistons team will be fun to watch as they prepare to hit another gear.