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Bringing back the bad boys

The Detroit Pistons' Luke Kennard (5) handles the ball against the Dallas Mavericks' Dorian Finney-Smith (10) at Arena Ciudad de Mexico in Mexico City on December 12, 2019. (Hector Vivas/Getty Images/TNS)

By Connor Lannen

The past decade has not been kind to the Detroit Pistons, a historic basketball team. From the late 80’s to late 2000’s, the Pistons won their division nine times and their conference five times. Resulting in three NBA championship banners being added to the rafters.

Since their last division title in 2008, their last year in a streak of six consecutive conference finals appearances, the Pistons have only managed to make the playoffs twice. In both seasons, they were swept in the first round of the playoffs.

It seemed as if for the past 12 years the Pistons have been going in circles, and constantly in a rebuilding state. Fans are impatient of teams rebuilding and want to have a competitive team every year. Unfortunately, that is not how the rebuilding process works.

For the first time since that 2008 season, the Pistons look to be trending in the right direction, thanks to the team’s new General Manager, Troy Weaver. Weaver made some exciting moves in the NBA Draft on Nov. 19, and facilitated trades that gave the Pistons three first round draft picks.

Weaver used his first selection to draft Killian Hayes, a point guard from France as the seventh selected player in the 2020 NBA Draft. Hayes is a highly touted point guard, who could make an immediate impact with Detroit. 

Hayes also has a connection with the Pistons 2019 first round pick, Sekou Doumbouya. Hayes and Doumbouya played for the same team in France, and look to be a dynamic duo on the courts of Little Caesars Arena for years to come.

Most Pistons fans, who were glued to their couch waiting for Hayes to be announced, figured they could flip the channel after the pick. Weaver had other plans as he traded with the Houston Rockets for the 16th pick. With this pick, Weaver selected Isaiah Stewart, a center from the University of Washington.

Not five minutes after the trade for Stewart, another alert popped up on the TV informing fans that the Pistons had traded with the Los Angeles Clippers for the 19th pick in the draft. With that pick Weaver selected Saddiq Bey, a shooting forward from Villanova University.

“They added some good young talent in the draft,” said Tony Dombrowski, host of Trash Talk on 88.3 FM, when discussing Detroit sports. 

Even with the young talent in Detroit, expectations for this season remain low but it is a step in the right direction.

Following the draft, Weaver did not stop pursuing avenues to strengthen the roster. In the past month Weaver has made a total of 26 moves, through the draft, trades, and signing of free agents. 

The newcomers to the Pistons were headlined by Jerami Grant, a shooting forward that played a pivotal role in the Denver Nuggets playoff push a season ago. The Pistons gave him a three-year, $60 million deal solidifying Grant as a large part of the rebuild to come.

In addition to Grant, Weaver made deals for NBA veterans such as Mason Plumlee, Delon Wright, Wayne Ellington, Jahlil Okafor, and Josh Jackson. All six veterans should serve as role players for the 2020-2021 Pistons team and will help develop the younger players.

“I really like what the Pistons have done, hitting the reset button on the roster was necessary and I like this new direction the team is going in,” Dombrowski said. 

The Pistons did hit the reset button completely and only retained four players from the previous year’s roster.

The four players that will take the court this year with experience in Detroit are Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Doumbouya, and Svi Mykhailiuk. Griffin and Rose have been perennial superstars in the past and would likely have been traded this offseason. However, they do not hold a trade value that meets their potential due to their individual injury histories. 

If either Griffin or Rose have a breakout first half of the season it would not be a surprise to see the Pistons trade them to a contender in exchange for draft capital. Doumbouya and Mykhailiuk are expected to be key contributors in the rebuild, as management hopes they will remain in the Motor City for years to come. 

“I think Killian definitely needs to be a focal point (in the rebuild) but other than that, they just need a few more future picks to hit and then they are rolling,” said Dombrowski. 

The Pistons will look to do just that and will take this season to develop the new talent as well as create a winning culture in the locker room.

The next couple of years do not look to be championship seasons but are the most important seasons for the future of Detroit basketball. Nothing but good things have come out of training camp regarding Hayes and Doumbouya and we will see the chemistry that they can build, in hopes of being the next faces of the Pistons.

The Pistons will play the Knicks in their first preseason game on Friday, Dec. 11. This will be their first time taking the court since COVID-19 caused the NBA to shut down in March. Regardless of the outcome of this season, it is exciting to have basketball back in the D.