Detroit — Meet the 2021-22 Detroit Pistons, with analysis from Rod Beard of The Detroit News.
►2022 salary: $10.1 million
►The skinny: The No. 1 overall pick will have high expectations, and he showed in Summer League that he’s ready for the challenge. Cunningham brings star power in his complete package of decision-making, 3-point shooting and defense. A sprained ankle has kept him out of all four preseason games, and the team has been ultra-conservative in making sure not to bring him back too soon to avoid further injury. Whenever he’s ready to play, he’ll be the starter and face of the franchise.
►2022 salary: $5.2 million
►The skinny: A good defender and athletic wing, Diallo still is building toward reaching his full potential. He gets to the rim easily and is an asset in transition, and he’s a challenge to guard when his outside shot is falling. Diallo provides depth at the crowded wing position, so who carves out consistent playing time in that group will be something to watch at the start of the season.
►2022 salary: $5.6 million
►The skinny: After a hip injury short-circuited his rookie season, Hayes is looking to bounce back. He had an encouraging Summer League, but nagging injuries have limited him to one preseason game. Hayes is the projected starter and although he played just 26 games last season, the pressure is on for him to show signs of development. He’s been a strong defender, but his biggest jump needs to come with scoring.
►2022 salary: $3 million
►The skinny: After playing on a two-way contract last season, Jackson has emerged as one of the critical components of the second unit, and as one of the Pistons’ best outside shooters. He hit 41% on 3-pointers last season and after an ankle injury early in the preseason, he’s shown again that he will be in the rotation of wings, and he could start if Cade Cunningham’s injury lingers into the start of the season.
►2022 salary: $4.9 million
►The skinny: Joseph is the veteran security blanket that the Pistons need because they have so many young point guards. Joseph has led the reserve veteran group during the preseason but also showed last season that he could be a capable starter if needed. His steady play has earned coach Dwane Casey’s trust, and Casey values having the veteran leadership in the locker room and on the court.
►2022 salary: $1.5 million
►The skinny: Lee was a second-round pick last season and emerged as one of the “Core Four” building blocks, shown in his conversion from a two-way contract to a standard deal in the offseason. Lee’s game has developed to complement his speed and athleticism, and he showed in Summer League that when his outside shot is falling, he’s at his best.
►2022 salary: $1.9 million
►The skinny: McGruder has shown that he can be surprisingly productive at either of the wing positions. He doesn’t have to play a ton of minutes, but the young players say his bigger impact is off the court, where McGruder is an important voice in the locker room and on the bench, helping the young guards adjust to the NBA.
►2022 salary: $2.8 million
►The skinny: Bey had an outstanding first season and was named to the All-Rookie first team. He was durable, playing in 70 of the 72 games and posted impressive numbers: 12.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 38% on 3-pointers. Bey will be a foundational piece for their rebuild and as he adds to his offensive repertoire inside the arc, he’ll improve his overall game.
►2022 salary: $20 million
►The skinny: Grant is having a career renaissance after coming to the Pistons last season in free agency. Before he won the gold medal with Team USA at the Olympics, he was in the All-Star conversation and finished second in voting for the Most Improved Player award. Grant proved last season that he can be a lead scorer and high-level defender, and during the preseason, he looks like he has picked up right where he left off.
►2022 salary: $5 million
►The skinny: He has been embroiled in a wing competition with Frank Jackson and Hamidou Diallo, but Casey said that Jackson will be in the rotation because of his good decision-making skills and all-around play on both ends of the court. Jackson is playing freely and has found a good groove since coming back to his hometown. He’s a good defender, and with some good outside shooting, he’ll be tough to defend.
2022 salary: $1.1 million
►The skinny: A foot injury from his Michigan days has limited Livers from practicing at full speed, but he’s getting close to being cleared to be in full-contact drills. He could start the season with the Motor City Cruise in the G League, and with his size and skill set, he could be a valuable future asset.
►2022 salary: $2.5 million
►The skinny: The Canadian was a target in free agency to help bring some size and versatility to the roster. With the San Antonio Spurs, he was a solid player, and he showed in the preseason that he can be a good rebounder and presence in the paint.
►2022 salary: Two-way contract
►The skinny: Following four years at Georgetown, Pickett went undrafted, but the Pistons scouted him well, and after a good performance at Summer League, he earned a two-way contract. With his size and shooting ability in the midrange and from 3-point range, he could become a big-time asset, if he can adjust defensively. He’ll get valuable experience in the G League with the Motor City Cruise.
►2022 salary: Two-way contract
►The skinny: Smith has been battling an ACL injury, but he is working his way back. This could be considered a “redshirt” year for him in the NBA, but the Pistons believe that he has good potential to be a future contributor.
►2022 salary: $12.2 million
►The skinny: The Pistons’ big offseason free agent brings a different dimension to the offense, with his ability to shoot from the perimeter (39% in 27 games with the Rockets last season) and to create opportunities for teammates. His veteran experience is valuable for the two young centers and he’s been in winning situations before, so having him around during the rebuild is important.
►2022 salary: $925,000
►The skinny: He was a value pick in the second round of the draft, but Garza has become a fan favorite because of his work ethic and hustle. He was the national player of the year at Iowa, but most experts didn’t think that his skills would translate to the NBA. He’s proving them wrong, and the Pistons believed enough in him to convert his two-way deal to a standard contract.
►2022 salary: $3.3 million
►The skinny: After a surprising first season that landed him on the All-Rookie second team, Stewart has been hampered by an ankle injury he suffered while working out for the USA Select Team. He’s getting back his endurance and full strength and as he steps into the starting role, he’ll be challenged by bigger centers, but he’ll make up for his relative lack of size with hustle and tough play.