Do the Pistons have one of the best young cores in the NBA?
By: Sean Murphy
When the Detroit Pistons hired Troy Weaver to head basketball operations, they did so for one key reason. And that reason, is because Weaver is known for his eye for talent. In just three seasons, Weaver has been able to get multiple lottery players, including the top pick Cade Cunningham. Put that top player around the likes of guard Jaden Ivey, wings Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Livers, and bigs Jalen Duren and Isaiah Stewart? The Pistons have reason to believe they have something special brewing.
The question, however, is where does this Detroit core stack up to the rest of the NBA? Afterall, the Motor City is not the only ones rebuilding through the draft. In fact, there’s numerous young cores around the league that believe they have something cooking themselves. My co-host on From Half Court Jeff Iafrate and I made a list ranking the league’s current best young cores. This list is based on their current ability to contend, but also projecting their overall future. The Pistons finished near the top of the list, but still have room to grow.
S Tier: Young and Competitive now
The top tier of this list contains the young cores in the league that are genuine dangers in the playoffs. In particular, teams like the Mavericks have already made the Conference Finals. And the Memphis Grizzlies looked to have a chance to get there. Even without Ja Morant, the Warriors had real fits with Memphis. Their core runs deep, with versatile threats like Jaren Jackson and Desmond Bane. Not to mention their ability to develop players in the G League. The Atlanta Hawks made an Eastern Conference finals appearance, and added Dejounte Murray in the offseason, a young point guard off his first all star appearance.
The Cleveland Cavaliers were at the top of the eastern conference when Ricky Rubio, Jarrett Allen, Lauri Markanin, and Darius Garland were all healthy. They ended up getting knocked out of the play in, but they have the foundations of the best defensive front court in the league going forward. Evan Mobley lead the rookie of the year race for the majority of the season, and there were arguments made for Mobley being all NBA defensive team his first season. He has instincts on the defensive end that have garnered him comparisons to the likes of Tim Duncan, Chris Bosh, and even Kevin Garnett. Good company to be in. And the Pelicans have Zion and Herb Jones. Must I say else?
A Tier: Lots of talent headlined by Pistons, bright future ahead
The Pistons find themselves at the top of this tier, and in Jeff and I’s opinion, rightfully so. Cade Cunningham is one of the highest rated prospects to come into the league since the LeBron James Draft. And after his first season in Detroit, he showed exactly why that was the case. Cade had a statistical performance in March that was only done before by one other rookie (some player named Michael Jordan). Despite the Pistons slipping in this summer’s draft, they were still able to walk away with Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren. Between having Weaver in the front office, and Dwane Casey in the coaching seat, the potential trajectory is really high.
The rest of the teams in this tier have similar talent to Detroit, but don’t have a player as good as Cade. Scottie Barnes did win rookie of the year, but was not given the same responsibilities as the Pistons guard. He still has the makings of a star, but as a wise man once said, “There’s levels to this”. The Oklahoma City Thunder have a deep well of draft picks in their disposal. Not to mention prospects like Josh Giddey, Shea Gilgeous Alexander, and one of my personal favorite prospects Chet Holmgren. They have the potential to be contenders very soon, and can use their assets to trade for talent to support their young core very quickly.
The Magic and Rockets both have the foundations of a good young core. However, they both are likely to still end up towards the bottom of the conference. Paolo Banchero and Jalen Green both have star power on the offensive end, but are not as much of two way stars as other prospects in this tier. And naturally being based in Detroit, we value the defensive end. There is a lot of talent in this tier. And odds are these teams are going to contend in the coming years. Unfortunately, for most of these teams, this is more than likely a lottery year.
B Tier: Good foundation, room to grow (not the Pistons)
The Indiana Pacers, for just being in year two of their rebuild, have a lot of young talent. Tyrese Haliburton was borderline highway robbery, and is the type of star most teams dream to build their team around. Also, they still have big man Miles Turner on the roster, someone they can keep to build around, or trade for more assets. And if the Pacers can land a top lottery talent to go alongside Haliburton and Bennedict Mathurin, they will rise up this list quickly. The Charlotte Hornets do have Lamelo Ball and Terry Rozier. But after the Miles Bridges incident, the Hornets roster now seems to be in flux. It’s never a good thing to lose your leading scorer for nothing. Especially to such tragic circumstances.
Tiers C and D: The Rest
The Utah Jazz have a tier for themeselves solely because they have Donovan Mitchell. Whether they choose to trade him or keep him, that’s a chip they can use to boost their rebuild. And there is no more dire situation in the NBA than the Washington Wizards. Having no draft luck, and Bradley Beal on a supermax contract, they have no upward trajectory. And the San Antonio Spurs are now finallly committing to a rebuild, after years of neglecting the reality. The cubbards of the Duncan era are now barren, and Greg Poplovich will now be tasked with leading a rebuild to end his coaching career.