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Detroit Pistons 2022-23 NBA preview: Jaden Ivey joins Cade Cunningham as the youth movement builds

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The Detroit Pistons had a pretty solid offseason that involved drafting some promising young guys in Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, closed the Jerami Grant chapter by trading him to Portland for a modest return, and shocked everyone when it pulled off a trade to acquire Bojan Bogdanovic from a Utah Jazz team that has been having a fire sale all summer long.

All those savvy moves almost make you forget that Detroit finished with the third-worst record in the league a season ago. But that’s all in the past, and while the Pistons don’t look like a playoff team right now, there is reason to be optimistic about where this franchise is headed.

Ahead of the 2022-23 season, here’s a quick breakdown of Detroit’s offseason, and a preview of some key storylines to watch for when the season tips off in a few weeks.  


Key changes

  • Traded Jerami Grant to the Trail Blazers in exchange for a 2025 first-round pick via Milwaukee (protected 1-4), second-round picks in 2022, 2025, 2026, $21 million trade exception
  • Acquired Bojan Bogdanovic from the Jazz in exchange for Saben Lee and Kelly Olynyk
  • Acquired Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel and Kemba Walker from the Knicks
  • Drafted Jaden Ivey No. 5 overall
  • Drafted Jalen Duren No. 13 overall


Top of the key: Forward progress

Looking at what the Pistons have done over the last several years it’s fair to say they’ve nailed every aspect of their rebuild thus far. Detroit drafted its franchise guy in Cade Cunningham, and followed that up by adding another top-tier prospect in Jaden Ivey, as well as a promising big man in Jalen Duren, both in the 2022 Draft. Even the 2020 draft was fruitful for Detroit, picking up guys like Saddiq Bey, Killian Hayes and Isaiah Stewart who have made strides in their improvement since entering the league. Detroit topped all that off by trading for Bojan Bogdanovic, and taking on some distressed assets from the Knicks in Kemba Walker, Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks this offseason, adding valuable veterans to surround the young guys. 

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On paper, Detroit has one of the most exciting young cores in the league, and while acquiring the talent needed to rebuild a team is the hardest part, the equally difficult next step is translating that into on-court success. We saw shades of the Pistons taking steps in the right direction toward the end of last season, losing games by a smaller margin, and even picking off a win or two against playoff teams. But when the Pistons took two steps forward, it was followed by taking a step back, like losing their last three games by a combined margin of 20 points.

Progress isn’t going to be linear, and the Pistons are probably going to rack up tons of losses, but a step forward would be to not have the lengthy 14-game or 8-game losing streaks. The talent on this roster makes Detroit better equipped to limit those long losing streaks, so we should see a more improved Pistons squad capable of at least keeping games competitive.   

Next up: Cunningham’s second act

Cunningham had a rookie season that was typical of many guards starting out in the league. He flashed his scoring prowess and elite court vision, but also turned the ball over a bunch and had many inefficient shooting nights. However, both of those things can be chalked up to getting his feel for playing at this level. Despite the inefficiency, he still averaged 17.4 points, 5.6 assists and 5.5 rebounds. That’s a very solid foundation to start with, so it’s not worth getting too hung up on where he faltered in his first season in the league.

That being said, those will certainly be the two areas to look for in Cunningham’s development in his sophomore season. He ranked in the 72nd percentile among guards last season in shot attempts around the rim, but in terms of converting those looks, he ranked in the 28th percentile. It didn’t get much better when you look at his other shooting numbers further from the basket, but if there’s one thing to suggest Cunningham can shed those poor shooting stats from a season ago, it’s his performance during March of last season. Over a 14-game span, he averaged 23 points, seven assists and six boards, joining Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson as the only other rookies to average at least 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds over an entire month. Even better, Cunningham shot 48 percent from the field during that span, the best shooting month of his rookie season. That’s the level of efficiency the Pistons need from him, and — should he produce — it’ll be a step in the right direction. 

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As far as the turnovers go, when you have a facilitator as gifted as Cunningham, an errant or ill-advised pass is bound to happen a few times each game. As he gets more comfortable reading defenses and as his teammates know where he’s going to deliver the ball, those turnovers should come down a bit. 

One more thing: Flexibility to acquire more assets

As previously mentioned, Detroit has done a superb job of acquiring young talent in each of the last three drafts, and equally as impressive has been how Troy Weaver has made moves to keep the Pistons flexible going forward. A prime example is the acquisition of Bogdanovic, who can soak up some of the scoring lost from trading Jerami Grant, and provides Detroit with a player who can play on and off the ball. That versatility will allow head coach Dwane Casey to get creative with his lineups. 

While Bogdanovic’s production will prove incredibly useful this season, the fact that he’s on an expiring contract makes him a prime trade candidate at the deadline if the Pistons choose that route. While the Jazz didn’t get a great return for Bogdanovic, that doesn’t mean the Pistons won’t be able to squeeze a first-round pick from a championship-contending team looking for some scoring depth. The same is true for guys like Burks and Noel, both of whom are on expiring deals and can net decent returns for Detroit. The point is, the Pistons have options, and while they likely won’t be making the playoffs this season, they’ve made moves to suggest they’re headed in that direction in the near future.

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Key games

Circling key games for a team that is in the midst of a rebuild is a difficult exercise, but despite the fact that Detroit likely won’t be in the playoff hunt there are a handful of games worth watching, and it starts with the first game of the season which will pit the No. 1 picks in the last two drafts against each other in Cunningham vs. the Orlando Magic’s Paolo Banchero.

A month later the Pistons will head to Sacramento to take on the Kings, which at face value doesn’t look like a worthwhile matchup. However, when you factor in the controversy around the Kings passing on Jaden Ivey for Keegan Murray with the No. 4 pick, which allowed the Pistons to come in and happily scoop up the former Purdue guard, it certainly provides some interesting context to that matchup. The third game that should be circled on Detroit’s calendar is a late January matchup with the Houston Rockets, another franchise in a similar spot as the Pistons with their rebuild. Not to mention it’ll pit Cunningham against the guy that was selected right behind him in the 2021 draft, Jalen Green. The two guards put up 20-plus each in their lone matchup last season, so it’ll certainly be an entertaining matchup to watch again.

  • Oct. 19 vs. Orlando Magic
  • Nov. 20 at Sacramento Kings
  • Jan. 28 vs. Houston Rockets

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