The Detroit Pistons weren’t expected to post the worst record in the NBA last season, but after Cade Cunningham suffered a season-ending injury amid a difficult start to the season, Detroit shifted their attention fully to the future. The result was a 17-65 campaign that was not rewarded by the ping pong balls in Chicago, as they fell to fifth in the Draft order.
Cunningham’s return provides some reason for optimism, and it’s clear that the goal is for some solid improvement next year after giving Monty Williams a record-setting contract to take over as head coach. Still, there are a lot of holes to fill on this roster and some congestion to clear up, particularly in the frontcourt. Jalen Duren, James Wiseman, Isaiah Stewart, and Marvin Bagley III all want to operate in similar space, and at some point the front office will need to make some decisions as to which of those they’ll consider core pieces. In the backcourt, Cunningham and Jaden Ivey are unquestionably the planned centerpieces, but depth behind them is shaky, as Killian Hayes has not panned out as hoped as a former top 10 pick.
The wing is where their need to upgrade talent is clearest, as Bojan Bogdanovic (21.6 ppg) was their leading scorer a year ago and is a terrific veteran presence, but beyond him they don’t have much. What we don’t know right now is how patient Detroit is looking to be after a few years at the bottom of the East. The fifth pick could bring a chance at another high-upside swing, but if the goal is to make a stride in terms of competitiveness next season, they might not be interested in another boom-or-bust pick. How they approach that pick will give us the clearest indication of what their immediate goals are this summer.
Roster Needs: 3-and-D wing, Frontcourt clarity, Point guard depth
Ausar Thompson (No. 5 overall), B-: For many evaluators, the No. 5 spot represents the first slot with real, tangible uncertainty. Ausar doesn’t quite match the obscene athleticism of his brother, Amen, but he is a tremendous athlete in his own right with size and versatility. At this juncture, Ausar plays more like a wing and could provide key flexibility for Detroit on both ends of the floor.
Marcus Sasser (No. 25 overall), B: This isn’t a flashy selection by any means, but it’s an appropriate landing spot on the board for Sasser. His pull-up shooting is intriguing on offense, and Sasser is a very strong on-ball defender. He’s limited in size and won’t give much in terms of penetration, but Sasser profiles as a rotation guard.
2023 Free Agents:
Hamidou Diallo (UFA)
Cory Joseph (UFA)
Rodney McGruder (UFA)
Marvin Bagley III
Alec Burks (team option)
RJ Hampton (non-guaranteed)
Eugene Omoruyi (team option)
Isaiah Livers (team option)