Detroit Pistons Writer
At the end of the 2021-22 season, the Detroit Pistons’ backcourt consisted of Cade Cunningham and Cory Joseph in the starting lineup, and Killian Hayes and Frank Jackson coming off the bench. Saben Lee and Rodney McGruder provided guard depth as well.
The pairing of Cunningham and Joseph was serviceable, but it was clear the team needed to upgrade at the guard position before the start of the 2022-23 season.
This offseason, the Pistons’ front office added that much-needed guard talent to the team’s roster.
Detroit selected star Purdue guard Jaden Ivey with the fifth overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Ivey is the most electrifying player from his draft class, and he projects to be the starting shooting guard next to Cunningham. On the trade market, the Pistons acquired Alec Burks in a deal with the New York Knicks. Other notable moves include Detroit declining Jackson’s team option and re-signing McGruder to a veteran minimum contract.
The Pistons’ backcourt has depth
Entering this upcoming season, the Pistons’ backcourt projects to be Cunningham and Ivey as the starters, with Hayes and Burks coming off the bench. Lee remains with the team; however, he could be a potential trade or cut candidate as the Pistons trim down their roster. McGruder could be a potential cut candidate as well, but he is a reliable sharpshooter when called upon. That alone could give him an edge over Lee who struggles as a shooter.
The most important of Detroit’s depth players is Joseph. The 31-year-old picked up his player option this offseason to return to the Motor City for another year.
Joseph played well this past season. His stats do not jump off the page, but he posted a respectable eight points and 3.6 assists per game. More notably, he shot a career-high 41.4 percent from beyond the arc on 2.4 attempts per game.
Joseph started in 39 of his 65 games with Detroit this past season, but with the additions of Ivey and Burks, the veteran guard has found himself going from starter to depth piece. That is not exactly ideal for Joseph, but that is how the offseason played out.
Cory Joseph plays an important role in Detroit
Despite an undeniably smaller role in Detroit’s rotation, Joseph still has a very important role to play this upcoming season. There will be games the veteran will be a healthy scratch in, but he will get his opportunities on the court as well.
The Pistons are not going to make it through the 2022-23 season without some of their guards missing games due to injury. When those injuries inevitably occur, Joseph will be the first option to fill in the hole.
Joseph is a steady veteran guard. His play is not going to turn the tide of a game in Detroit’s favor, but he can provide solid performances when called upon. He is the “break glass in case of emergency” player for the Pistons this upcoming season. Over the course of an 82-game schedule, that glass is going to be broken on more than one occasion.
Cory Joseph could supplant Killian Hayes if he struggles again this season
Hayes has had an interesting start to his NBA career. The 21-year-old has already established himself as one of the team’s best defenders and passers. However, Hayes has also had his fair share of struggles, especially as a scorer.
Hayes is currently shooting 26.8 percent from three-point range in his two seasons in the league. His struggles with shooting the ball efficiently are well documented during that stretch. Hayes also struggled at attacking the rim early on in his career. Often, he could be seen shying away from the basket to avoid contact rather than finishing through it.
Hayes’ offensive struggles were so apparent this past season, that Joseph replaced him as a starter.
Since coming off the bench, Hayes has improved as a driver. He shot 32 percent on drive attempts as a starter, but he improved to 51.2 percent coming off the bench. The film backed it up; Hayes was more aggressive finishing at the rim. He still was not where you would like him to be, but it was an improvement nonetheless. The same cannot be said about his shooting, however. Hayes continued to struggle with finding a consistent long-range shot in his role off the bench.
If Hayes continues to play as he did at the end of the 2021-22 season, there is no doubt he will be the first guard off the bench for Detroit this upcoming season. Improved driving combined with his already solid defense and playmaking are enough to make him a plus player on both ends of the court.
While Hayes is expected to continue building off the improvement he showed late last season, it is no guarantee. If the young point guard’s struggles reappear, Joseph would be first in line to replace him in Detroit’s rotation.
Whether Cory Joseph finds himself thrust into a larger role, or simply finds situational minutes, he is sure to be a steady and reliable performer. For a depth guard, the Pistons could not ask for much better.
(Featured Image Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)