The Pistons haven’t had a representative in the NBA All-Star Game since Blake Griffin’s all-everything season in 2019. They’ll keep that streak going this season, with no one being selected for the Feb. 20 All-Star roster, which is somewhat expected for a team with only 12 wins.
The future is looking brighter, with the young core developing. Cade Cunningham is in the conversation for rookie of the year and their 2020 draft class, with Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart, Killian Hayes and Saben Lee, has shown flashes of being foundational pieces for the future.
With another top-five pick in this year’s draft a likely outcome for their dismal season, the Pistons could be in position to turn things around sooner than later. They’ll have an important next couple of months coming, with a pending decision on Jerami Grant’s future, plus some flexibility in the salary cap with a substantial amount of money coming off the books.
This week’s News & Views looks at some of those developments and what’s ahead for the Pistons:
►News: Cunningham, Bey and Stewart were selected to the Rising Stars roster for All-Star Weekend.
►Views: It’s not an All-Star selection, but it’s something. It’s recognition for Bey and Stewart, who weren’t really on the radar last season as rookies. But they’re getting their due in the aftermath. They were all-rookie selections after last season and the league seems to be taking notice to their rapid development and contributions, even on a rebuilding team.
The Rising Stars format will be different this year, with 12 rookies, 12 sophomores and four G League players split into four seven-player teams and playing a three-game mini-tournament. It’s a new look that will provide a little more excitement for what was an exhibition that was even less competitive than the actual All-Star Game.
It’ll be interesting to see how the young Pistons look when playing in a different up-and-down style with other young players, which might be more similar to an AAU scenario.
The Pistons’ last selection for the Rising Stars was Svi Mykhailiuk in 2020 — and before that, it was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in 2015. This is the first time they’ve had three players selected in the same season.
►News: The trade deadline is approaching next week, and Grant reportedly is one of the top targets.
►Views: The Pistons are in an enviable position of having Grant, who is on a very friendly contract for $20 million this season and $21 million next season. He’ll be eligible for an extension that could be over $100 million, and if the Pistons aren’t ready to make that type of long-term financial commitment, they could make a deal.
Grant was the Pistons’ big gamble in free agency before last season — and it paid off very well for them. Even if they decide to trade him, they could get a hefty return, such as two first-round picks, or a first-rounder and a developing young player. That’s pretty good for taking a low-risk chance on Grant.
There’s a nice market for the Pistons to try to create a bidding war for Grant. Several teams are on the cusp of either the play-in game and others are a player away from making a deeper run in the playoffs. Along with that, there aren’t many good options available in the market.
On the other hand, the Pistons shouldn’t feel like they have to deal Grant simply because other teams are calling. The market could be about the same after the season, with Grant being on an expiring contract and the market for free agents not tantalizing either. Either way, the Pistons have to decide what Grant’s long-term future will be and whether they can add more young talent, and what impact that would have on the rebuild.
►News: The Pistons’ rotation changed with the return of Grant and Kelly Olynyk.
►Views: There’s going to be some tinkering with the rotations as two of the Pistons’ most versatile players try to plug into the lineup. After missing almost two months, Grant didn’t look like he missed a beat, scoring 17 points on 6-of-13 shooting in Tuesday’s loss to the Pelicans. He was 3-of-6 on 3-pointers, and he seemed to have that same aggressiveness in trying to get to the rim.
Olynyk looked a little slower, which is expected in trying to return from a knee injury. In his brief return on the western trip, he looked better against the Sacramento Kings, but against the Utah Jazz, he was a little more sluggish. There’s going to be time for them to adjust, but the key will be how they mesh with the other young players.
Hamidou Diallo moved from the starting unit to the second group, and he did many of the same things, such as playing heady defense and slashing to the rim, that opened some eyes to his effectiveness when he was part of the starting group.
Trey Lyles is getting more help in the frontcourt, as he’s playing more with Olynyk or Isaiah Stewart, and not having to play as the backup center. There’s still plenty more to figure out, but the initial signs are good that the Pistons will be able to work well with their new additions.
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Timberwolves at Pistons
►Tip-off: 7 p.m., Thursday, Little Caesars Arena
►Outlook: The Timberwolves (26-25) have won six of their last nine games and they’ve been one of the surprises in the West, climbing into the No. 7 position. Karl-Anthony Towns (24.4 points and 9.5 rebounds) and Anthony Edwards (22.3 points) have been standouts this season.