And just like that, the Pistons’ offseason is coming to a halt.
It started with Dwane Casey stepping down as head coach. After that, it took two months and a hardcore hunt to land Monty Williams as the organization’s next sideline manager. The Pistons then shifted their focus to luck, hoping it would bless them with Victor Wembanyama in the 2023 NBA Draft. They instead got the No. 5 pick and ended up with Ausar Thompson, who after a terrific summer league has everyone interested in how good he can be. There were also some trades. Isaiah Stewart became the first Pistons draft pick to sign a second contract with the team since Andre Drummond in 2016.
A busy offseason for Detroit is finally winding down a bit. Well, at least, I think.
With the dog days of the NBA offseason starting this week, it’s time to answer some of your Pistons questions as we await the start of training camp.
“I’m pretty low (but hopeful) on our shooting. Do you understand that will be addressed later? Or do you think the team will bet on internal development from the young core.” — @mtommy_
I’m actually high on Detroit’s potential as a shooting team this season, assuming no more trades happen.
It felt like the Pistons were an abysmal 3-point shooting team a season ago — 17 wins will do that to you — but they finished the season 21st in 3-point percentage. It’s not a position to celebrate, of course, but Detroit wasn’t disastrous from deep.
The Pistons need some internal development to become a top-15 3-point shooting team next season, but I don’t think it will take anything out of the realm of possibility. Cade Cunningham is a good shooter; he hasn’t shown it yet from 3 in the NBA, but I promise you he won’t keep shooting 30 percent or worse from 3. Isaiah Livers, who shot over 40 percent from 3 in college and as a rookie, hit just 36 percentage of his 3s last season. He’s a better shooter than that.
Isaiah Stewart showed enough last year that I could feel comfortable believing he can hit 36 percent this season. Jaden Ivey, who knocked down 34 percent of his 3s as a rookie, will get an even cleaner look this coming year playing alongside Cunningham, who was injured for most of last season. To me, it is more likely that the positive development will happen than not.
On top of that, Detroit added two more proven snipers in Joe Harris and Monte Morris to go with incumbents Bojan Bogdanović and Alec Burks, both of whom have shooting resumes that speak for themselves.
I would actually be surprised if the Pistons did not do finish as a top-15 3-point shooting team next season. However, we will have to wait and see.
“Given Cade’s return and the offseason acquisitions, which Pistons player do you think will surprise people this season with their play on the court?” — @Uncomfort__
If you’ve been following my work since 2020, you know I believe in Stewart’s shot. People are uncertain about the prospect of him being a good 3-point shooter, and I understand those concerns. But I believe Stewart will silence some of the critics who don’t think he has upside as a shooter next season and shoot at least 36 percent from 3 next season. I will die on this hill.
After him, it’s Ausar Thompson. If you subscribe to Athletics or you’re deep in the Pistons Twitter community, you’ve watched Summer League and seen how impressive he is. However, there are far more casual fans than diehards, and they don’t have time to analyze the summer league closely. Once the season starts and more people go to the games, I think Thompson will quickly become a fan favorite.
Finally, Morris. Shoutout to the great city of Flint, Mich. I’m not sure the average fan realizes how solid Morris is. The case could be made that he will be Detroit’s best backup point guard for at least a decade. The only one who competes with him is Derrick Rose, and Morris, while not much of a scorer, is a better 3-point shooter and much better defender. After the Pistons went into the summer with $30 million in cap space and didn’t make a big splash, I think people got mad about Morris’ addition. I understand it. He is a really solid player though.
“Based on what you’ve seen, how early do you see Ausar going from rotation to starting 5? December? January? In your mind, what does Ivey look like in Year 2? Same for Jalen Duren: what are year 2 floors and ceilings? What would you like to see as compensation in a Bogdanović deal?” — @TheLilLakerBoy
Assuming Bogdanović is on the roster to start the season and he stays healthy, the earliest I could see Thompson in the starting lineup is around the February trade deadline, when the Pistons could seriously consider flipping Bogdanović for assets before the season ends. If Detroit’s defense is that bad to start and/or Thompson’s summer league defense immediately translates to the regular season, it’s not impossible to imagine Williams making him a starter sooner. Still, Bogdanović was relatively healthy last season and despite his age still looks like a very good player. The Pistons need his spacing. I think Thompson is more likely to end games early than start them because of his ability to win games on both ends. (Yes, I know, it’s just summer league.)
As for Ivey, I think he’ll get more spot-up opportunities than he did last season when Cunningham returned. Ivey’s turnover should drop because he won’t be the primary ball handler, and I think we’ll see noticeable progress from him as an on-ball defender. For Duren, you’d like to see him start to show the flashes necessary to be an elite rim-protecting big. He has all the tools and Williams will push him. Duren’s ceiling will be determined by how good he can get defensively.
As for Bogdanović, I’d seek at least a top-4 protected first-round pick between now and 2026. Bogdanovic can help a struggling team get over the hump, even at his age. He has value around the league and Detroit doesn’t need to trade him. The Pistons have the leverage to wait for the return they want because Bogdanović will help make them better.
To explicitly answer your question, any conversation about trading Bogdanović needs to start with an unprotected or very lightly protected first-round pick within the next three years.
“Thoughts on the bench point guard battle. Fans seem to think Killian Hayes is out of the rotation. Am I crazy to think there could be bench units with Killian, Monte and Burks? Out of those three, I feel Killian is the better playmaker/defender, even if he lacks his ability to score.” — @TtimeLutz
You are not crazy. I don’t think it’s impossible to see Hayes, Morris and Burks sharing the floor together. One hiccup: where does Thompson fit into the rotation? In the three-guard scenario you laid out, I’m guessing the frontcourt would be Livers at the 4 and Stewart (if he doesn’t start), Marvin Bagley or James Wiseman at the 5 – assuming Williams deploys a unit at the bench. That’s the primary reason I can’t see all three guards being part of the second unit.
If Bogdanović is traded and Thompson is moved into the starting lineup, then the three-guard lineup you mentioned makes sense. My guess is that Detroit will begin the season with Duren, Stewart, Bogdanović, Ivey and Cunningham as starters. Maybe Stewart ends up being the first big off the bench and Thompson or Livers start, but I can’t get there in mid-July.
Hayes is definitely the better playmaker for others. However, Burks and Morris are better at creating their own shots. Hayes is a good defender and his size helps, but Morris is a pretty good defender himself despite being smaller. Burks, if he’s on the team, has to play. His offense is too valuable.
For Hayes to maintain a spot in the rotation, a trade that doesn’t involve him needs to happen and/or he needs to have a really impressive training camp. Morris and Burks will certainly have guaranteed minutes this year.
“Since it sounds like we’re trying to win more games this year, is Monty going to be a little more strict about rookies earning their minutes and being on a shorter leash than Casey has been on the past few development-heavy years? ” — @TtimeLutz
Yup. The kid gloves are coming off.
Guys don’t just want minutes because they’re young. While this team is unproven, it is pretty deep. Each position has a player or two that Williams can easily bring into the rotation.
Someone like Thompson might get a longer leash because he’s a rookie. But if Ivey doesn’t play effectively, Burks, Harris and No. 25 overall rookie Marcus Sasser will be waiting in the wings. If Livers’ jumper doesn’t fall like I think it might, there are tweaks Williams can make to get better shooters into the rotation. If Stewart struggles with his shot and it ruins distance, Williams has options to fix it.
Training camp and the preseason in Detroit will be fascinating. There could be as many as two starting jobs up for grabs, and while I wouldn’t bet money on it, it’s not impossible to imagine Bogdanović staying with the team to start the year and coming off the bench. There will be 12 to 13 utility players vying to be part of a likely 10-man rotation.
(Top photo: Garrett Ellwood / NBAE via Getty Images)