2023 NBA Offseason Preview: Detroit Pistons

It’s hard to say 2022/23 was anything but a disappointment for the Pistons, who finished with the worst record in the NBA at 17-65 after entering the season hoping to make a push for the play-in tournament.

Injuries certainly played a role in that – 2021 No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham was limited to just 12 games due to a shin injury, which required surgery. Still, it’s not as though they were lighting the world on fire to start the season with Cunningham healthy – they went 3-9 in the games he played, including six lopsided losses.

The Pistons had two separate losing streaks of 11 games and nine other losing streaks ranging between three and seven games. They managed consecutive victories only one time in ’22/23. It marked the fourth consecutive season in which Detroit has won fewer than 24 games.

Part of the problem with being bad every year, drafting early in the lottery, and trying to develop young players is that most rookies are not good NBA players. Some develop into winning players in the following years; some never do. The Pistons need more players on their roster to take significant steps forward in ‘23/24.

That’s not to say this past season was a total lost cause. Both of Detroit’s lottery picks – Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren – showed encouraging signs of progress, and the team can land no lower than No. 5 overall in June’s draft.

The Pistons’ Offseason Plan:

Hiring a new head coach is the first order of business after Dwane Casey moved to a front office role. Charles Lee, Kevin Ollie and Jarron Collins are considered frontrunners for the job, though the Pistons reportedly plan to take their time in evaluating their options.

Getting lucky in the draft again would obviously be beneficial – Victor Wembanyama is considered the best prospect since LeBron James was selected in 20 years ago. However, even if the Pistons do land Wembanyama, there are still question marks up and down the roster.

Ivey and Cunningham appear secure as the two starting guards, but they’re inexperienced and neither has proven to be a great shooter yet. They’ve also been turnover prone, which is normal for young guards.

Former No. 7 overall pick Killian Hayes had a 14-game stretch from mid-November to mid-December when people ignored his previous shooting woes and thought he was turning the corner, as he shot 41.0% from three. He wound up shooting 24.7% from deep over his remaining 46 games, struggling mightily to score from inside the arc as well.

I like Hayes’ defense and he improved as a play-maker and decision-maker in year three, but unless he drastically improves as a scorer, it’s hard to see him ever having positive value – his 45.5% true shooting percentage was the worst mark in the NBA. I definitely don’t see him getting a rookie scale extension in the offseason.

Duren seems like the center of the future, but the frontcourt is already chock full of young players like Isaiah Stewart, James Wiseman and Marvin Bagley III.

On one hand, you could argue that having a couple of former No. 2 overall picks in Wiseman and Bagley was a worthwhile gamble on their talent, despite disappointing tenures with their former teams. On the other, neither has shown the ability to consistently set solid screens, stretch the floor, or play defense, and there are only so many minutes to go around.

Stewart may not be a household name to non-Pistons fans, but he made progress with his outside shot and is a solid defensive player. As with Wiseman, he’ll be eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer – I suspect Stewart is more likely to receive a new deal, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they wait on both players.

After trading Saddiq Bey for Wiseman, Detroit has Bojan Bogdanovic and Isaiah Livers at forward, with Alec Burks splitting minutes between the two and three. Bogdanovic and Burks were involved in a lot of trade rumors heading into the February deadline, but the Pistons wound up keeping them both. I didn’t mind that decision, because having productive veterans on an otherwise extremely young team is important.

In terms of the club’s own free agents (or potential free agents), Burks and Livers are essentially locks to have their club options exercised, but as James L. Edwards III of The Athletic recently predicted, it wouldn’t be surprising if none of the remaining players (Hamidou Diallo, Cory Joseph, Rodney McGruder, R.J. Hampton, Eugene Omoruyi) return.

Diallo can’t shoot, but he’s an elite athlete and finisher who really improved on defense. I think he’ll get a multiyear contract from someone. The other players are probably looking at minimum-salary, partially guaranteed, or non-guaranteed contracts for various reasons.

The Pistons need more shooting and defense at basically every position, and they’ll have options to improve. Assuming they pick up their options on Burks and Livers and renounce all their other cap holds, they’ll have $107.4MM committed to 11 players, including Dewayne Dedmon’s dead money hit (he was previously waived and stretched) and the cap hold for the incoming top-five pick.

Where that pick lands will determine exactly how much cap room they’ll have available – if it’s  No. 1 overall, they’d have about $26.6MM to spend on free agents, based on the latest projections for next season’s salary cap. If it falls to No. 5 – and there’s a 47.9% chance that it will – then they’d have another $4MM+ in cap room.

Wherever the pick lands, that’s enough money to add at least one impact veteran. Former Pistons forward Jerami Grant, whom the team traded to Portland last offseason, has been floated as one possibility for the cap room – he’ll be an unrestricted free agent if he doesn’t sign an extension with the Blazers. Detroit will also have the room mid-level exception available, which increased in value in the new CBA – it can now run up to three years and is projected to start at about $7.6MM.

Salary Cap Situation

Guaranteed Salary

Dead/Retained Salary

Player Options

  • None

Team Options

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents

  • None

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

  • No. 1 overall ($11,979,960)
    • Note: This is only a placeholder until the draft order is determined via the lottery.
  • No. 31 overall (no cap hold)
  • Total: $11,979,960

Extension-Eligible Players

  • Alec Burks (veteran)
  • Isaiah Livers (veteran)
  • James Wiseman (rookie scale)
  • Killian Hayes (rookie scale)
  • Isaiah Stewart (rookie scale)

Note: These are players who are either already eligible for an extension or will become eligible before the 2023/24 season begins. Burks and Livers would only become eligible if their team options are exercised.

Unrestricted Free Agents / Other Cap Holds

Cap Exceptions Available

  • Room exception: $7,609,000
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