Sure, everyone is focused on the playoffs, but what Detroit Pistons fans really care about is the future. That magical phase that is always upcoming but never in the present so you can’t be disappointed.
Call me a sucker, but I’m actually getting excited about the future of the Pistons so much so I’m even ready to be excited for the present. And that is chiefly because of an intriguing batch of rookies brought in by Troy Weaver and company. Each rookie had their moments in their first season, but it got me thinking — who is going to have the best season next year?
I turned to our friends at SB Nation Reacts to gauge the thoughts of Pistons fans and the results were actually quite surprising. The clear winner was No. 16 overall pick Isaiah Stewart, who win from the biggest head-scratching selection in the NBA Draft to having one of the biggest on-court impacts of his draft class.
A full 45% of Pistons fans think Stewart is going to take the next step and have the biggest impact next season. Stewart is a tireless worker, freakishly strong for his age and has a gigantic wingspan that allows him to rebound and block shots effectively as a 6-foot-8 center. He also has a smoother jumper and an emerging perimeter game. If he can become a true stretch big with his level of defense, he could be the steal of the draft.
Perhaps even more surprisingly, not too far behind was lottery pick Killian Hayes. The 19-year-old point guard struggled through injury and an unreliable jump shot in his first season, but he showed plenty of skills that could point to good things … if the offense ever comes.
Hayes showed superior court vision and creativity in getting his teammates quality looks at the basket. He also played quality defense at the point of attack using his size, quick hands and footwork to stay in front of and frustrate opponents.
He’s got to develop a reliable jumper, learn to finish and/or get to the free-throw line and limit his turnovers, and the fans seem to think at least a few of those boxes can be checked in year two.
Saddiq Bey was a surprising third-place finisher in this poll with only 20% of the vote. Bey was a plug-and-play contributor on both ends of the floor and likely would have broken the record for 3-pointers made in a season if it was an 82-game slate. Fans apparently believe Bey is closer to his ceiling already and the growth potential isn’t quite as high as Stewart and Hayes.
Lee, Detroit’s two-way player didn’t garner any votes. Watch him prove everyone wrong and become the starting point guard by the end of the season.
Fans in the Stands
With the first round of the playoffs underway, the most noticeable difference in the games has been the addition of nearly full crowds. According to the latest SB Nation Reacts survey, more than 50% of fans around the country said the inclusion of fans has significantly improved the viewing experience, only 16% said it hasn’t improved the experience at all.
Having fans in attendance provides at least the semblance of a home-court advantage. Just over a third of Pistons fans believe Detroit would have finished the regular season with a better record had fans been in attendance all season long.
Did the people vote yes because they feel like the “raucous” Little Caesars Arena crowd would have willed the team to a few more victories? Or did they think that with pressure to put butts in seats would make the rebuilding Pistons less likely to fully embrace the tank?
Everyone Hates LeBron or Loves the Suns
With the rest of fans around the country watching at home, there is no shortage of great opening-round series to enjoy. 30% of fans around the country believe the Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Lakers series is the best of the group. The New York Knicks series against the Atlanta Hawks is the next most popular choice, with 21% of the vote.
Similarly, 26% of fans believe the Suns best display the characteristics of a successful team. This could be fans manifesting their desire for a true David vs. Goliath matchup between the Suns and the Lakers. Phoenix is a young-ish upstart with a Yoda figure in crusty old Chris Paul, and they are facing the Empire in the defending champion Lakers behind LeBron and Anthony Davis.
After everything LeBron has done to the Pistons, I gotta say, “Go Suns!”
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