Predicting statlines for Detroit Pistons’ core: Who will step up as leading scorer?

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Pistons, once again, will be one of the NBA’s most youthful teams next season. Eleven of their 17 players on the roster are 24 or younger.

To improve last year’s 23-59 record and make a push for the NBA play-in, the Pistons will need their young players to be significantly better — especially since their leading scorer from 2020-22, Jerami Grant, is now with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Grant’s departure should lead to bigger roles for several members of Detroit’s young core. Let’s predict the 2022-23 final statlines for all 11 of their under-24 players:

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Cade Cunningham

2021-22 stats: 17.4 points, 5.6 assists, 5.5 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 0.7 blocks, 41.6% overall, 31.4% from 3 (5.7 attempts).

2022-23 projection: 23 points, seven assists, six rebounds, 1.5 steals, one block, 43% overall, 35% from 3 (7 attempts).

Despite leading the team in shots per game (16.1) and in overall touches last season, Cunningham still has a lot of room for growth. Per 100 possessions, he averaged fewer shots than Reggie Jackson, Jaylen Brown, Kristaps Porzingis, Tyler Herro, Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram and Zach LaVine — all talented scorers, but also players who benefited from playing alongside a star.

Grant’s exit could lead to Cunningham’s shot total increasing substantially. As a point of comparison, Luka Doncic was second in the NBA last season in shots per game with 21.6 and Trae Young was ninth with 20.3. Cunningham may be in a similar position next season, tasked with carrying a roster without a second player within the NBA’s top-50 in shots per game. If Cunningham cracks the top 10 in shots taken and couples it with better all-around efficiency, 22 points per game could be his floor.

Saddiq Bey

2021-22 stats: 16.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 39.6% overall, 34.6% from 3 (7.4 attempts).

2022-23 projection: 18 points, six rebounds, three assists, one steal, 43% overall, 37% from 3 (eight attempts).

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Bey’s sophomore season was a mixed bag. He transitioned from spot-up shooter to featured scorer, and he had flashes of looking like a legitimate second option. But an early-season slump hurt his efficiency. His averages during his 53 games without Grant — 18.2 points, five rebounds and 2.4 assists while shooting 42.2% overall and 37.8% from 3 on 8.4 attempts — could be a preview of what will come next year. Bey still needs to improve his touch inside the arc, but some positive regression for his 3-point percentage should boost his overall numbers.

Isaiah Stewart

2021-22 stats: 8.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.1 blocks, 51% overall, 32.6% from 3 (0.6 attempts).

2022-23 projection: Nine points, 10 rebounds, 0.9 blocks, 47% overall, 33% from 3 (1.5 attempts).

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Beef Stew’s role could change next season. He’s played the majority of his minutes at center thus far, but the Pistons’ crowded big man rotation, Stewart ability to switch onto smaller defenders and his improving outside shot could encourage the coaching staff to play him at power forward more often. With more minutes and improved 3-point efficiency and volume, Stewart could flirt with averaging a double-double. He’s already Detroit’s best all-around defensive player, so much of his growth must happen on the offensive end.

Jaden Ivey

2021-22 stats: N/A.

2022-23 projection: 13 points, four rebounds, three assists, one steal, 43% overall, 32% from 3 (four attempts).

Three guards were drafted within the top five in 2021 — Cunningham, Jalen Green and Jalen Suggs. Cunningham and Green, who averaged 17.3 points on 42.6% shooting from the field and 34.3% from 3, were both All-Rookie first team selections. Suggs struggled offensively, averaging 11.8 points 36.1% overall and 21.4% from 3.

JALEN ROSE:Pistons have their next All-Star backcourt in Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey

It’s tough to project rookies, so Ivey’s prediction is a complete dart throw. Like Green, Ivey is arguably the most athletic guard in his class and will produce highlight-worthy dunks. Like Suggs, Ivey prefers to get downhill and has an iffy jump shot. Ivey’s first step and bounce should translate immediately. His improved shooting as a sophomore at Purdue may not, as his 3-point percentage declined significantly in Big Ten play. Ivey should put points up, but it may take time for him to get comfortable as a shooter and playmaker.

Killian Hayes

2021-22 stats: 6.9 points, 4.2 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals, 38.3% overall, 26.3% from 3 (2.5 attempts).

2022-23 projection: Eight points, five assists, three rebounds, one steal, 41% overall, 32% from 3 (four attempts).

Hayes doesn’t need to make a massive statistical leap to secure his place in the NBA. He’s already an aggressive perimeter defender and talented, capable passer. But he must make strides as a scorer to stay on the floor. Modest gains as an outside shooter could help him secure his spot as Cunningham’s primary backup.

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If he fails to improve his percentages from last season, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him concede minutes to Cory Joseph and Ivey. Hayes has put in a lot of work to become a capable floor-spacer. 32% isn’t a good percentage, but it would be an improvement and could keep defenses honest if he’s able to balance his off nights with games where he hits three or four 3-pointers.

Marvin Bagley III

2021-22 stats (Pistons only, 18 games): 14.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 55.5% overall, 22.9% from 3 (1.9 attempts).

2022-23 projection: 17 points, eight rebounds, one assist, 54% overall, 25% from 3 (one attempt).

We can’t rule out the possibility that Bagley will be Detroit’s second-leading scorer after Cunningham. Among returning players, Bagley was third both in points and in shots per game (11.1) despite arriving at the trade deadline. He immediately established chemistry with Cunningham and was Detroit’s most efficient player after Isaiah Livers. Bagley is a proven interior weapon and will see his shot attempts go up, especially if he’s promoted to the starting lineup.

Isaiah Livers

2021-22 stats: 6.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.1 assists, 45.6% overall, 42.2% from 3 (3.4 attempts).

2022-23 projection: Nine points, four rebounds, two assists, 44% overall, 41% from 3 (five attempts).

After just 19 games last season, the shooting-starved Pistons will have no choice but to play Livers. He’s one of the best shooters on the roster and made the most of his opportunity after recovering from a foot injury that cost him most of his rookie season. He is capable on both sides of the floor, can play shooting guard and both forward positions and has a legitimate shot at starting. At the very least, his floor-spacing should guarantee him 25 minutes a game.

Hamidou Diallo

2021-22 stats: 11 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.2 steals, 49.6% overall, 24.7% from 3 (1.7 attempts).

2022-23 projection: Eight points, four rebounds, one assist, one steal, 48% overall, 27% from 3 (one attempt).

Last year was a breakout season, of sorts, for Diallo, who emerged as one of Detroit’s most reliable bench players and capitalized when a COVID-19 outbreak whittled the roster down to a few core pieces in December. But Livers’ emergence and Ivey’s presence could cut into his minutes next season. Ivey duplicates Diallo’s athletic gifts, and Livers is a significantly better shooter. Diallo’s margin for error will be slim. At the very least, he must be more consistent on defense to secure his place in the rotation.

Jalen Duren

2021-22 stats: NA.

2022-23 projection: Six points, four rebounds, one block, 60% overall.

How many minutes will be available for Duren? Stewart, Bagley and Kelly Olynyk are all safe bets to be ahead of him in the rotation. Duren could be impactful from Day 1 as a lob threat and imposing defensive presence, but we may not see much of him unless he exceeds expectations or injuries open more minutes for him.

Saben Lee

2021-22 stats: 5.6 points, 2.9 assists, 2.4 rebounds, 1 steal, 39% overall, 23.3% from 3 (1.6 attempts), 16.3 minutes.

2022-23 projection: 3 points, 2 assists, 2 rebounds, 42% overall, 25% from 3 (1 attempt).

There weren’t many minutes available for Lee last season, as Cunningham, Hayes and Joseph absorbed the vast majority of playing time. Lee was a star with the Motor City Cruise but didn’t look comfortable during the scant minutes he played with the Pistons. He played fewer minutes as a sophomore than he did as a rookie, and it’s tough to see that trend reversing with Ivey also in the fold. Lee may not even make the main roster, as Detroit is facing a roster crunch and will have to cut someone before the season tips off Oct. 19.

Kevin Knox

2021-22 stats (with Knicks and Hawks): 3.1 points, 1.5 rebounds, 36.5% overall, 27.8% from 3 (1.8 attempts), 7.4 minutes.

2022-23 projection: ?

Your guess for Knox’s statline next season is as good as mine. The fifth-year forward is with his third franchise, and the Pistons could be his final NBA stop if he doesn’t find his niche on offense. His signing was a dice roll by the front office, as Knox is still only 23 years old. We’ll likely only see him play garbage time minutes next season, unless he suddenly figures out how to score the ball.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.

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