So, I have to admit that I might not have been the most gentle person in the world when writing on Troy Weaver’s most recent moves. In some crazy turn of events, I am actually optimistic today. Maybe the heat is frying my brain, or perhaps summer break has just made me realize that the world is a better place. Let’s be honest, we are about two years from the upcoming Biden-Trump Round 2 debacle. What’s not to be happy about right now?
In order for the Pistons to be good this year, they have to shoot the rock from deep. Isaiah Stewart’s summer league shooting and his shooting at the end of last season is more than enough to make me optimistic about the Piston’s roster this year. The offense could really work if it continues to get shooting from a mixture of Stewart and Kelly Olynyk at the 4. Aside from those two, do the Pistons have enough shooting to fix their offensive spacing issues? Let’s break down the Piston’s roster to see.
The Pistons won’t lack for depth this year as they will roll out Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Killian Hayes, Corey Joseph, and Saban Lee. Cade is a better three point shooter than his 31.4% rookie campaign showed; I am going to write some of this off to the load that he had to take, being a rookie, and the lack of spacing/playmaking ability last year. Jaden Ivey made tremendous gains last year at Purdue and shot 40% in his first summer league game. Killian Hayes is a sub 27% shooter from deep so far in his career, and the same goes for Saban Lee. The main difference between Hayes and Lee is that Hayes has been consistent while Lee had a solid shooting rookie campaign before falling apart last year. Corey Joseph is a veteran that has been pretty consistently around 34% from deep (thanks Sportrac for the stats).
The Piston guards are still a guard away from where we need to be from deep. I think Cunningham and Ivey will provide enough pop, but Coach Casey will either have to move a wing to play in the guard rotation, play poor shooting young guys (Hayes and Lee), or play Corey Joseph big minutes. In theory, the Pistons should be giving big minutes to the young players to see where they are in Year Three; after all, Troy Weaver needs to decide whether Lee and Hayes should stay or go. There is not a great solution here.
The Pistons will not enjoy as much depth at the wing with a complement of Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Livers, Kevin Knox, and Alec Burks. The positive is this group is fairly versatile and can play a couple of positions. Saddiq Bey is a 36% career shooter and showed the ability to put points up last year. He should be the starting 3 and the key choice at the small ball 4. Alec Burks is a career 38% shooter and is coming off a season where he shot 40%; the guy is a legit spacer and has the chops to be a good defender. Burkes doesn’t fit into the youth movement, but he is a guy that should be able to spell Bey or slide to the 2. Kevin Knox is an enigma who is a streaky shooter and oft injured. Will he be healthy enough to play? Will he rebound from the worst shooting year of his career? The most interesting piece to the puzzle is Isaiah Livers, who lit it up in summer league and shot 42% from deep last year despite struggling with injuries. The Pistons will be intriguing if Livers can continue to develop like his has. Livers also has the ability to slide up to the 4, so his versatility is appealing. In all, the wings are a pretty good shooting group.
This is where the Pistons have a glut, a surplus, a plethora, a surfeit, a well you get it. The Pistons can trot out Marvin Bagley III, Jalen Duren, Nerlens Noel, Isaiah Stewart, and Kelly Olynyk. This is probably more bigs than what the Pistons need, especially since Bagley, Duren, and Noel are more traditional bigs. Plus, the Pistons have Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Livers that can slide into the 4 spot, so we are more than covered here.
Shooting is still the name of the game. As mentioned above, Isaiah Stewart has been hot from deep, and Kelly Olynyk has shot north of 36% for his career. Unfortunately, the remaining three are pretty bad three point shooters. All three athletic and fun to watch, but they cannot be on the floor together. I am interested to see the rotations as Jalen Duren is a freak of nature in a league of freaks of nature, and the Pistons just traded for Noel and resigned Bagley III. Will Duren get run to develop, or will more veteran presences eat up the time? It will be interesting to see.
The Pistons should be a much better three point shooting team this year. A likely starting lineup next year will have Bagley, Stewart, Bey, Cunningham, and Ivey. While it is not the strongest shooting group possible, Ivey’s freakish speed and Cunningham’s craftiness should give Bey and Stew wide open shots, which they will hit. Bagley’s athleticism should draw defenders from a dunker or a diver position. The second unit could still be fun as Duren, Olynyk, Livers, Burks, and Hayes go to work. This lineup has two non-shooters in Duren and Hayes, but Hayes is a very willing passer. Burks, Livers, and Olynyk are all dangerous enough to keep Duren open as a dunker. I love their small ball lineup potential with Stewart, Livers, Bey, Cunningham, and Ivey; this lineup would cause defenses nightmares with the shooting ability (though there is no real lob threat in the group).
Overall, the Pistons have improved one of their most glaring weaknesses from last season. I am still not sold on all of the off season decisions, but they should make strides. This group should show us how good Dwayne Casey is as a coach; there is enough talent and depth to make a play-in game.