Detroit Pistons Writer
The Detroit Pistons currently boast one of the youngest rosters in the NBA. The team currently has 12 players aged 24 or younger on their roster, including two-way contracts. In the midst of Detroit’s restoration, developing that young talent is their top priority.
This past season, Detroit saw two players enjoy breakout seasons.
As the first overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, expectations were already high for Cade Cunningham entering his rookie season. Cunningham not only lived up to those expectations, but in the minds of the Pistons’ front office and the team’s fans, he exceeded them. Cunningham established himself as the face of the franchise and quickly became the best player on the team.
Coming off his rookie season where he was utilized mostly as a sharpshooting wing player, Saddiq Bey was expected to continue to play in a supporting role. However, in 2021-22 Bey showed he could be much more than a role player. The Villanova product showed flashes of self-creation skills. When Cunningham and Jerami Grant missed games, Bey was called on to step up as Detroit’s go-to scorer. He even managed a 50-point game late in the season.
Both Cunningham and Bey had big seasons for Detroit this past season. The pair locked themselves in as integral members of Detroit’s core.
As always, this season presents the opportunity for any one of Detroit’s young players to break out. It could be only one player that establishes themselves as a core piece, or it could be multiple guys. If luck is not in the Pistons’ favor, that number could also be zero.
To speculate which Pistons players are in a position to potentially break out this upcoming season, I spoke with Woodward Sports’ own Jeff Iafrate and Sean Murphy.
This is what we came up with.
Saddiq Bey can take another jump for the Pistons
Bey enjoyed a boost in scoring output this past season. Some of that increase was due to his development, but a lot of it also came as a result of necessity. Bey was the only player to appear in all 82 games for Detroit in 2021-22. He was often thrust into a position where he was required to be the go-to scorer, not because he was the best choice, but because he was the only choice.
This upcoming season, Bey’s development could match the role he is asked to play in Detroit’s offense.
The team dealt Grant to the Portland Trail Blazers this offseason, leaving the Pistons without their leading scorer from the past two seasons. Cunningham is likely to step up as Detroit’s new top option, and Bey will have the chance to establish himself as the second scoring option.
This past season, Bey scored 16.1 points while shooting 39.6 percent from the floor and 34.6 percent from beyond the arc. His scoring numbers could significantly rise just by improving his shooting efficiency.
Bey has the opportunity to prove he can be the second option on a high-level NBA team. He flashed that potential at times during the 2021-22 season. Now, with Grant out of the picture and another offseason of development under his belt, Bey could take yet another big step forward in his game.
Isaiah Stewart could be in for a big third season
Isaiah Stewart might see his role shifted this upcoming season. The 6-8 big man out of Washington spent his first two seasons playing at center in the Motor City. Heading into year three, he is one of the players Detroit is likely considering at the starting power forward position.
This potential transition comes mostly out of necessity. Detroit has a log jam at the center position, and Stewart is one of the few big men on the roster with the versatility to play at the four. The big man flashed the makings of a decent three-point shot late this past season. If he can build off of that and become a consistent long-range shooter, there is no reason to believe he cannot make the switch to power forward. Stewart already has the defensive switchability to make the transition work.
Moving to power forward could further unlock Stewart’s abilities on the defensive end. He is undersized to play as a traditional rim-protecting big, so switching to a weakside help defender role could elevate his defense to a higher level.
Even if Stewart sticks to center, he is a candidate to break out next season. His budding three-point shot will make him a bigger threat on offense, and with the additions of Jalen Duren and Nerlens Noel this past offseason, he should still get opportunities to play as that weakside defender.
Stewart’s tenaciousness combined with his new-look jump-shot, that’s going to allow him to space the floor and play with other big men, is not only going to make him more valuable but the spacing with this Pistons team is going to get him more open looks. As long as he gets more consistent around the basket and from three, he’s going to increase his averages this season. He’s a player to watch.
Isaiah Livers can grab a spot in the Pistons’ starting lineup
In a limited sample size, Isaiah Livers showed he could be a reliable role player for Detroit.
The University of Michigan product shot 42.2 percent from beyond the arc as a rookie, most of which came off catch-and-shoot opportunities. He kept the ball moving as well, often passing up an okay look for a better one. Defensively, he brought high effort and good communication.
It was only 19 games, including five starts, but Livers has shown he can be a reliable three-and-D player in the NBA. He continued to flash that potential in Summer League, where he brought intense defense and a trigger-happy three-point shot.
Heading into his second season, Livers has a chance to earn a place in Detroit’s starting lineup. The departure of Grant has left a void at the starting power forward spot. Entering training camp and preseason, Livers will make a push to replace Grant in the starting lineup.
A breakout season for Livers is not going to be nabbing an All-Star selection. Instead, a breakout season for Livers will be establishing himself as one of the league’s best young three-and-D role players. He has the skillset and the intensity to accomplish that.
Livers is the perfect rotational piece for any team in the NBA. His shooting ability combined with his defensive versatility is going to earn him plenty of minutes, and playing alongside multiple playmakers is going to benefit him and allow him to take the next step.
Sean Murphy believes in Marvin Bagley III this season
Going into his first full season in Detroit, Bagley is in prime condition to shine. The former number two overall pick inked a new three-year contract this offseason and has a lot to prove. In his limited action with the Pistons, Bagley showcased his ability to create his own offense and to get lobs above the rim.
If Marvin Bagley can improve on the defensive end, he will have no issues with staying on the court. And with the addition of Jaden Ivey, that’s just another pick and roll partner for Bagley to enjoy. Perhaps the biggest thing going for Marvin Bagley this season is the continuation of his fresh start in Detroit. Bagley no longer needs to carry the expectations of being the number two pick. Rather, he just needs to focus on being the best version of himself.
Bagley would not be the first person to find new wind in his career after leaving Sacramento. This is a big year for the young big, and could even be a breakout one if he plays his cards right.
(Featured Image Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports)