The Detroit Pistons have not come out of the gates strong to open up the 2022-23 season. After winning the opener against the Orlando Magic, the Pistons went on a five-game losing streak. Sitting at 2-7, the team has five losses by a 20-point margin or more, including Wednesday night’s 116-91 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.
Detroit’s struggles have been on display throughout the first nine games of the season.
On offense, this team can put up enough points to win games, but their defense is near the bottom of the league. The Pistons’ 118.9 defensive rating ranks 29th in the NBA. The team is consistently outrebounded, averaging 43.4 rebounds per game compared to 48.8 opponent rebounds per game. Detroit’s bench unit has been unspectacular, with backup point guard Killian Hayes having an especially slow start to the season.
However, it has not all been terrible for the Pistons. The team put up a convincing 128-114 victory over the Golden State Warriors. All of Detroit’s starters scored double digits in that game, and four of those starters scored over 20 points. There are moments, like the Warriors game, where the Pistons flash the potential of the team they can become one day.
These moments have not been overly abundant for the team as a whole, but on a game-by-game basis, individual players have put on good performances. Here are three good things from the Detroit Pistons 2-7 start to the 2022-23 NBA season.
Cade Cunningham is leaving no doubt he is a franchise player for the Detroit Pistons
When Cade Cunningham was selected with the first overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, he did not have the luxury of being the fifth scoring option on a team already built to make the playoffs. Instead, the Oklahoma State product was immediately asked to be the guy for the Pistons. While he was not without his fair share of struggles, Cunningham lived up to that billing in his rookie season.
Entering his second season in the NBA, Cunningham was expected to take another step forward in his development as the team’s franchise player. After nine games, it is safe to say the 21-year-old has taken that step so far.
Cunningham averages 21.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and a team-leading 6.4 assists per game through nine games this season. While on the floor, Cunningham assists on 34.1 percent of his teammates’ field goals.
It is not just Cunningham’s numbers that have improved from last season. The second-year point guard plays with more command over the court than he did as a rookie. Cunningham is finding his spots on the court and firing at will. He is shooting 50 percent on pull-up twos. His 17.4 drives per game lead the team, and he averages 10.7 points of drive attempts, shooting 49.3 percent.
The three-ball is still a work in progress for Cunningham. He is shooting 28.6 percent from beyond the arc, including 22 percent off pull-up threes. His catch-and-shoot three-point numbers are significantly better, as he is shooting 35 percent off 2.2 attempts per game.
Cunningham is not a finished product. However, the leap he has shown from year one to year two has proven he is the franchise cornerstone Detroit needed in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Bojan Bogdanović will make Detroit Pistons’ history this season
Nine games into the season, Bojan Bogdanović has already established himself as the Pistons’ best shooter. Honestly, there is a case to be made that he is already the best shooter in franchise history.
Averaging 21.8 points per game, Bogdanović is the team’s leading scorer. He is doing so while shooting 52 percent from the floor and 50 percent from beyond the arc.
Bogdanović has been the most reliable scorer for Detroit. The 33-year-old can put the ball on the floor and score from all three levels. He shoots 52.8 percent off drive attempts, averaging 5.2 points off drives per game. The veteran power forward is shooting 59.5 percent on pull-up twos and 52 percent on pull-up threes. He is just as reliable as an off-ball shooter. Bogdanović is shooting 50 percent off 4.4 catch-and-shoot three-pointers per game.
The Pistons front office already rewarded Bogdanović for his early season performances. The team recently signed the veteran forward to a two-year $39.1 million contract extension.
Bogdanović is on pace to shatter the Pistons’ single-season three-point record. This past season, Saddiq Bey broke the record previously held by Allan Houston after Bey made 211 three-pointers in the 2021-22 season. At his current pace of 3.7 made threes per game, Bogdanović would break the record in 58 games.
The Pistons’ rookies have played well
Jaden Ivey had Jalen Duren have gotten off to solid starts in their NBA careers. Neither is without their share of hiccups through nine games, but their overall performances have been mostly positive.
Ivey has been as advertised so far in his rookie season. The 20-year-old has the burst to explode past his defender, and he pushes the pace in transition. Ivey shoots 54.5 percent off-drive attempts, leading the team in field goal percentage off drives. He has shown a decent pull-up jumper as well. Ivey is shooting 40 percent off of pull-up three-pointers. He has work to do in the midrange. He is shooting 16.2 percent on pull-up twos.
Ivey has displayed good playmaking skills as well. He averages 3.4 assists per game. The rookie has shown good vision on kick-out passes and finding cutters. However, at times, Ivey is subject to poor reads leading to avoidable turnovers. Overall he has played well. He averages 14.6 points per game and four rebounds per game.
Duren has missed the past two games after injuring his ankle against the Warriors. However, Duren has played very well in his seven games played. He averages 7.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game for Detroit. He has his fair share of lapses on the court, but his size has made him a decent rim protector when called upon. Injuries to the Pistons’ big men thrust the inexperienced 18-year-old into heavy action early in his career. Duren has been far from perfect, but he has already proven to be a player worthy of rotation minutes.
Both rookies have a ways to go in their development, but their performances early on in the season has established them as impact players for the Pistons this season.
(Featured Image Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports)