The 2021-22 season came to a close for the Detroit Pistons after a 118-106 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. The Pistons finished the season with a record 23-59 record, third-worst in the league.
Detroit could not have opened the season much worse than they did. The team got out to a 5-29 start with Cade Cunningham, Jerami Grant and Kelly Olynyk all missing time due to injury. The team sat at 13-45 at the All-Star break.
After the All-Star break, things began to click for the Pistons. In their final 24 games, the team went 10-14 while playing some of the best basketball Detroit has seen in years.
While they were still a below .500 team, Detroit showed great improvement over the final stretch of the season. Rookie sensation Cade Cunningham made a convincing push for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award. Saddiq Bey erupted for 50 points while showing great potential beyond being just a three-point shooting threat. Isaiah Stewart experimented with stretching the floor. A role off the bench proved to greatly help Killian Hayes as he continues to develop.
This offseason could be pivotal for the Pistons. They hold a three-way tie for the best odds to land the number one pick in the NBA Draft. With Blake Griffin‘s contract coming off the books, they will also enter free agency with plenty of cap space. How this offseason plays out will determine if the Pistons look to turn the corner next season, or if they will wait another year.
To gain some insight on this coming offseason, I sat down with the Pistons beat writer for The Athletic, James Edwards III.
(Note: This conversation has been edited for length and clarity)
Which Piston had the most surprising performance this season?
Saddiq Bey. I thought what he did last year as a rookie, as a spot-up shooter, he could do that for any team in the league for a long time. He has improved around the rim this year. He is putting the ball on the floor and scoring all over the floor. For him to make that big of a leap in one year caught me by surprise. I thought it would happen, but I thought it would take some time.
What do you see as Saddiq Bey’s ceiling?
I think his ceiling is the second-best player on a good team. I think the floor is the fourth-best player on a good team. He has proven he is going to be at least a premier role player in this league.
Which Piston’s development are you most curious to see next season?
I think Killian Hayes’ jump shot is the biggest thing, because I think that probably determines if he is a starter or not. If he comes back and has good improvement from three, and if they do not draft a guard, I think there is a world where he could start next season.
If you had to guess, is Jerami Grant on the Pistons’ roster next season?
I hate copping, but I do not know because I think Portland is really going to go for him. How far are they willing to go is the question. If they are willing to give up their lottery pick this year, I think it gets done. If not, I think Jerami stays.
Assuming Jerami Grant does stick around, do you think the Pistons him a max extension?
I think they work out something. I do not know if it is the extension Grant is seeking, but I think there is a conversation.
Putting you in the GM chair, the lottery ends and Detroit has the number one pick again, who are you taking?
March 23, 2022; San Francisco, CA, USA; Gonzaga Bulldogs center Chet Holmgren (34) shoots the basketball during practice day of the NCAA Tournament West Regional at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
Probably Chet Holmgren. The upside on both sides of the ball is greater than anybody else in the draft. You pick number one to try to get the best player, the guy that is going to be one of the faces of your franchise for the next decade. You try to get the most complete player too. I think Chet, on paper, is that.
Whether or not he gets there is obviously the big question. There are questions about his frame. I think if he is what he is supposed to be, they are set for a long time. If he is not, I think we will find out fairly soon. I do not think it will be many years into Chet’s career to find out if he was worthy of being the number one pick. He is either going to have it or he is not.
If the Pistons fall outside the top three, who would you take?
I like Bennedict Mathrurin a lot. I think he would complement Cade well. He is not the greatest ball-handler, and I know Dwane Casey likes a ball-handler next to Cade. So, Cade would have to improve in that regard and take on even more of a ball-handling workload.
As a true two-guard, Mathurin fills a lot of holes for this team. He is kind of a mix between Hamidou Diallo and Frank Jackson, which is exactly what they need.
I like Keegan Murray, I think he is going to be a solid pro for a long time.
I like Jaden Ivey, but I do not love him. So, if they are outside the top three, yeah sure. But I think that Bennedict and Keegan would be high on the Pistons’ list if they are outside the top three.
What separates Bennedict Mathurin and Keegan Murray from Jaden Ivey as prospects for the Pistons?
When you already have the guy, and they have that in Cade, I think the Pistons could use a guy who is a traditional two-guard. Bennedict can shoot the ball. He does not have a lot of wiggle, but he is very direct with his drives. He gets to the hole. I think he is a very underrated passer. I think he can improve defensively. He just fills a hole.
Keegan Murray, you just watch how easily he scored the ball in college. I think he is a smart player. I love his size. He does not have the greatest foot speed, not the greatest footwork defensively, but I like his size. I do not think he needs the ball to be effective like Paolo Banchero does. He can score off of cuts and stuff like that.
With Ivey, everybody compares him to Ja Morant, but I do not see it. His shot is going to need work. I do not think he is a great passer. I do not think he is great defensively. He is an exciting player. I think if all goes well he is going to be scary, but I am not sure that all will go well.
What kind of players do you think Detroit will target in free agency?
A secondary ball-handler. Somebody that can play next to Cade who is also a good shooter. Someone more in their prime. Cory Joseph does those things, but he is a backup at this point. They need a guy who can run their offense and play off of Cade.
They could use more size up front too. Depending on what they do with Jerami Grant and Marvin Bagley III.
I think if they make a big move, it is for a guy on the perimeter and not in the frontcourt.
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