Earlier this week, I wrote an article naming five players to the Detroit Pistons All-Lovable team of the 21st century. It is the middle of August, and with no major Pistons news to speak of, I do not think there was a better use of my time.
Well, surprise surprise, it is still the middle of August, and there is still nothing of particular note surrounding the Pistons.
If the Pistons are going to get an All-Lovable team, it is only natural that they receive an All-Hated team of the 21st century as well.
Unlike the All-Lovable team, there are no restrictions for who qualifies for the All-Hated team. The only requirement is that the players drew the ire of Pistons fans, whether it be due to their on-court performance, their contract or their draft position.
This is not to say the hate these players received was necessarily deserved. You can hardly fault a player for getting injured or accepting a contract that is above their perceived value. This team is simply made up of players who Pistons fans, whether rationally or not, decided to hate.
Without further ado, here is the Pistons All-Hated team of the 21st century.
Guard: Reggie Jackson 2015-2020
Reggie Jackson got off to a hot start to his tenure with the Pistons. After being traded to Detroit at the 2014 trade deadline, Jackson closed out the 2013-14 season averaging 17.6 points and 9.2 assists in 27 games with the Pistons. He re-signed with the team as a restricted free agent on a five-year, $80 million contract.
In his first full season as the Pistons’ starting point guard, Jackson posted near All-Star numbers. He averaged 18.8 points and 6.2 assists in 79 games. Alongside Andre Drummond, Jackson’s play propelled the Pistons into the playoffs where they were quickly dispatched by the Cleveland Cavaliers in four games.
In six seasons with Detroit, Jackson posted 16.2 points and 5.6 assists. He started and played in all 82 games of the 2018-19 season. However, something was off during the latter portion of Jackson’s Pistons career. Jackson was not playing at the same level he had reached during the 2015-16 season. Injuries kept him sidelined in some games and limited his effectiveness in others. His play suffered as a result, and the fans were quick to turn on him.
Fans booed and ridiculed him at Pistons’ home games. The point guard recently said that the hate from fans nearly made him retire.
Did Jackson deserve the hate? No, not really. He was bit by the injury bug, only playing in more than 52 games twice during his tenure with the Pistons. When was healthy, he performed well. Yes, Jackson’s time with the Pistons was a disappointment. No, he does not deserve all the blame for the team being a disappointment.
After being bought out by the Pistons in 2020, it is nice to see Jackson find success with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Guard: Stanley Johnson 2015-2019
There was a lot of hype surrounding Stanley Johnson after his rookie season with the Pistons. The Arizona product played well in the 2015-16 season. Fans loved the physical defense that Johnson brought to every matchup he faced. Johnson did not back dow from the likes of Lebron James or Kawhi Leonard. He did not necessarily win these matchups, but he brought an intensity and grit that one could not help but praise.
However, there was one thing missing from Johnson’s game, something really important. It was something that would make or break his long-term future with the Pistons.
Johnson did not have any semblance of a competent offensive game.
Johnson was an abysmal three-point shooter. In 267 games with Detroit, Johnson shot 29.2 percent from beyond the arc. His three-point shooting percentage regressed in each subsequent season with the Pistons. He was not much better from the floor shooting 37.2 percent on all field goal attempts in his four seasons as a Piston.
With no real offensive game to speak of, Johnson was never able to establish himself as a legitimate starter in Detroit, despite his physical defense.
His inability to develop caught the ire of Pistons fans.
Johnson will be remembered in Detroit as a draft bust. The team traded him away in the final year of his contract, and fans were generally overjoyed by the announcement.
Johnson has since bounced around the league. He appears to have found a home with the Los Angeles Lakers, at least for now.
Forward: Josh Smith 2013-2014
No player draws as much hatred from Pistons fans as Josh Smith.
Smith’s tenure with the Pistons was a disaster. The Pistons signed him to a four-year, $54 million contract during the 2013 offseason. He played in just one full season and 28 games of a second before Detroit waived his contract and stretched his money. One major factor in Smith’s consistent hatred from Pistons fans is that the team was paying off his contract through the 2019-20 season. His money sitting there as dead cap space acted as a reminder of one of the franchise’s lowest moments.
In 105 games with the Pistons, Smith averaged 15.5 points per game on poor efficiency. He shot 28.3 percent from beyond the arc, and 41.3 percent from the floor.
It did not help that the Pistons were throwing out a frontcourt of Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond in the starting lineup. As it turns out, utilizing a lineup with zero floor spacing during an era of basketball where the three-point shot was taking over did not lead to success.
Smith’s time with Detroit was short-lived, but the hatred for him is still fresh in Pistons fans’ minds.
Forward: Jon Leuer 2016-2019
It is easy to forget Jon Leuer played for the Pistons. It is hard to forget how much money he received to join the Pistons’ roster. Detroit handed Leuer a four-year $42 million contract during the 2016 offseason. During his contract, he had one year where he was decent and two years of not-so-good before he was traded away.
Leuer posted 10.2 points per game in his first season with Detroit. In the following two seasons, he regressed to averaging 4.1 points per contest. He missed the majority of the 2017-18 season after he opted to have season-ending surgery and he missed half of the 2018-19 season as well.
The Pistons signed Leuer to be a floor spacer. The power forward was a career 37.5 percent shooter from beyond the arc up until he signed with Detroit. In three seasons in the Motor City, Leuer shot 27.6 percent on three-point attempts.
It was not the injuries or the ineffective play that really drew some hate towards Leuer. It was the contract, Leuer was eating up a lot of cap space to not play for Detroit, and fans took notice. While the power forward was not hated nearly as much as some of the other players on the All-Hated team, his time in Detroit certainly was not celebrated.
Center: Darko Miličić 2003-2006
Darko Miličić might be the biggest draft bust in NBA history. He is certainly the biggest draft bust in Pistons history.
Detroit drafted Miličić with the second overall pick in the 2003 NBA Draft. In a draft class headlined by the likes of Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the Pistons drafted a player who would be dubbed “The Human Victory Cigar” since he only appeared in blowouts.
Miličić did not receive much playing time in Detroit. He appeared in 96 games, including one start. Over three seasons, Miličić averaged 1.6 points and 1.2 rebounds while shooting 33.9 percent from the floor. As a center, he shot below 40 percent from the floor.
After being traded away from Detroit, Miličić actually enjoyed a decent career in the NBA. He appeared in over 100 games with all three of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Memphis Grizzlies and Orlando Magic. From 2007 to 2012, Miličić averaged 7.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. He was far from living up to the billing as a second overall pick, but he was at the very least a serviceable big man.
Miličić receives hate from Pistons fans mostly because of what could have been. With Anthony, Wade and Bosh all available with the second pick, the Pistons could have had a future Hall of Famer with their selection. But, Detroit took Miličić. They won the NBA Finals during his rookie season as well. So, at least Miličić has one more ring than Anthony does.
(Featured Image Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)