The third era of Detroit Pistons basketball
First there was the Bad Boys.
Then the Going to Work crew.
And the third era of the franchise starts today.
The era still needs a name, but it now has a face. Cade Cunningham.
It's been 13 years in the basketball wilderness, including a cascade of bad decisions and rudderlessness. Kicked off by the Chauncey Billups-Allen Iverson trade, the Ben Gordon-Charlie Villanueva free agency signings, the Josh Smith signing, miscasting Andre Drummond as a franchise player, then the Blake Griffin trade, it's been a long series of gaffes, mistakes, and desperation moves that delivered only two playoff appearances and zero playoff wins.
Of course, it remains to be seen if Cunningham can bring a fourth NBA Championship to Detroit, but there's finally a reason for true excitement.
Troy Weaver has shown that he knows what he's doing. His method is a bit wacky at times, but he's a mad scientist who has brought the franchise back to life.
After assembling a solid young core and some high character veterans, the challenge remained for how the team would add a star. Some long overdue lottery luck helped out there and there you have it: the Pistons have one of the most promising young rosters in the league.
They may not be able to match the stockpile of draft picks of the Oklahoma City Thunder. And they haven't accomplished anything yet. But they have an identity around toughness, defense, and hopefully unselfish team play. They have a combination of players who have been successful at young ages (Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey, Hamidou Diallo (a restricted free agent), and Saben Lee) as well as developmental players (Killian Hayes, Sekou Doumbouya).
Cade is the final piece.
For now, at least. Weaver will certainly continue to add seasoning to the stew he's brewing, whether it's through his affinity for high upside/low risk bets or targeting the summer of 2023 or 2024 with the team's cap space opening up. But the key ingredients of that stew are already there.
There's also still the opportunity to add another solid draft pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, considering how many Eastern Conference teams are planning to fight for the eighth seed. Six of the top seven in the East should all be back in the playoffs (Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Brooklyn, Atlanta, Miami, and Boston). New York will aim to be back, along with Indiana, Chicago, and Charlotte pushing for the bottom of the bracket. Cleveland has a mandate to win, Toronto still has talent, and we'll see what happens with Bradley Beal in Washington. That leaves just Detroit and Orlando as the two teams in the East where winning isn't the biggest priority.
There's plenty of talent in the 2022 NBA Draft, which could be a great chance to add a co-star alongside Cunningham.
The team has so much going for it right now. Perhaps the biggest remaining question is coming up with the name to represent this new era. It's poised to be an exciting one.