NBA GM Survey: Some say Detroit Pistons have league’s best young core

Detroit Free Press

For a team not expected to make the 2023 NBA playoffs, the Detroit Pistons are getting a lot of love from those in the league.

Some general managers are enamored with Troy Weaver’s latest draft class and think the Pistons’ youngsters are the league’s best, according to an nba.com survey of the GMs.

The Pistons were one of eight teams (the Los Angeles Clippers were the most popular pick) chosen as the league’s most improved this upcoming season and 10% of GMs said the Pistons had the best young core, trailing the Memphis Grizzlies (38%) and Cleveland Cavaliers (41%).

And don’t think this is Weaver stuffing the ballot box in favor of his own decisions — general managers were not permitted to vote for their own team or personnel when answering the 50 questions about the best teams, players, coaches and offseason moves, per nba.com. Percentages provided are based on the pool of respondents to each question, rather than all 30 GMs.

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The Central Division was well-represented with Milwaukee Bucks as 41% of the GM’s pick as title favorites for the first time in the 21-year history of the survey. The Golden State Warriors (25%), Clippers (21%) and Boston Celtics (11%) also received votes. Last year, the Brooklyn Nets were the pick; despite returning most the roster and “adding” Ben Simmons, no one was feeling Brooklyn.

Pistons guard Cade Cunningham was tied with Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards (17%) as the second-most popular answer to which player is “most likely to have a breakout season” in 2022-23. Cleveland Cavaliers big man Evan Mobley was the most popular choice with 21% of the vote. Former Michigan basketball star Franz Wagner, a starting win for the Orlando Magic, earned a vote as well. Former Michigan State basketball standout Jaren Jackson Jr., now with Memphis, led this category last season and played well before undergoing foot surgery that will keep him out through the fall and into the winter.

This year’s top Pistons pick, Jaden Ivey, didn’t get any votes for projected 2022-23 rookie of the year (Magic No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero garnered 79% of those tallies) but Ivey was picked by 14% of respondents as the best player in the class five years from now. Banchero was named by 31%, followed by Oklahoma City’s Chet Holmgren (28%) and Houston’s Jabari Smith, who tied with Ivey. Ivey and Pistons forward Jalen Duren were both listed among the biggest steals of the draft, with Duren tying with Houston’s Tari Eason to lead the way at 14%.

Pistons newcomer Bojan Bogdanovic wasn’t the best player to switch teams this offseason, but 7% of respondents said his addition was the most underrated. The Portland Trail Blazers acquiring Jerami Grant from the Pistons and the Nets not trading either of the players who reportedly wanted out of Brooklyn were other notable moves, according to the survey.

Warriors forward and Saginawian Draymond Green was named among the best leaders, the best interior defenders and the most versatile defenders (as was Jackson, his Spartans brethren) in the league.

Phoenix Suns All-Star Devin Booker, a Grand Rapids native, was named the best shooting guard, with 45% of the vote (Golden State’s Stephen Curry, Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Denver’s Nikola Jokic were named the best point guard, small forward, power forward and center, respectively). Detroit native and New Orleans Pelicans coach Willie Green garnered a couple votes as the best motivator in the NBA, and former Piston Darvin Ham (48%) was tabbed as the new/relocated coach who will have the “biggest impact” on his team.

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Antetokounmpo and Dallas star Luka Doncic were the only two players selected when GMs were asked who they’d want to start a franchise with and those two led the MVP projections as well, followed by Curry and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.

In terms of changes to the game and league rules, many GMs said they wanted to see the challenge rule amended to allow coaches to keep it on successful attempts (as is custom in the NBA and NFL) and they’d like to see free agency happen before the draft, among other things.

Find the general managers’ answers to all types of questions, including the most athletic player in the league, the best home-court advantage in the league and the best passer in the league, at nba.com.

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