Detroit Pistons and NBA predictions: Why our guys differ on which player will break out

Detroit Free Press

Free Press sports writers answer the burning questions and make predictions about the Detroit Pistons and the 2022-23 NBA season:

Omari Sankofa II

Optimistic, glass half-full view of rebuild and this season: Cade Cunningham makes a sophomore leap and receives strong All-Star consideration, Jaden Ivey has an encouraging rookie season and the supporting young players meet expectations. The Pistons win between 32-38 games — the sweet spot for building hype for the future and still being in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes.

Pessimistic, glass half-empty view: Cunningham looks more like a second banana than franchise player, and Saddiq Bey, Killian Hayes and Isaiah Stewart stagnate. Pistons fail to crack 30 wins, making the 2023 draft a make-or-break for the long-term health of the rebuild.

Breakout player: Stewart. He’s already one of the NBA’s better bigs at switching defensively. If his 3-point shooting is legit, he’ll be top three on the roster in minutes played.

Leading scorer, points per game: Cunningham, 22.7.

Most likely to be traded by deadline: Alec Burks. His 3-point shooting can help any contender and his contract ($10 million each for this season and next) should be movable.

Play-in tournament? Record and finish in East: They’ll miss the play-in and finish with a 31-51 record, 13th in the East.

Conference finals East and West: Milwaukee over Boston; L.A. Clippers over Denver.

NBA Finals: L.A. Clippers over Milwaukee in seven.

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Shawn Windsor

Optimistic, glass half-full view of rebuild and this season: Cade Cunningham takes a step, Jaden Ivey adjusts by the second half of the season, Isaiah Stewart hits corner 3s and the vet-youth combo morphs into a tough out most nights leading to a play-in push.

Pessimistic, glass half-empty view: Injuries, a lack of shooting and disconnectedness on defense leave them back in the low 20s for wins.

Breakout player: Jaden Ivey is the obvious answer, but Stewart’s 3-ball and pick-and-roll defense reveal a reliable modern big in the making.

Leading scorer, points per game: Cunningham, 19.

Most likely to be traded by deadline: Nerlens Noel.

Play-in tournament? Record and finish in East: No. 25-57. 15th, which isn’t as awful as it sounds — the East is deep.

Conference finals East and West: Brooklyn over Milwaukee, L.A. Clippers over Golden State.

NBA Finals: L.A. Clippers in six.

Carlos Monarrez

Optimistic, glass half-full view of rebuild and this season: It all clicks right away with the young roster additions. Jaden Ivey is the missing component, Cade Cunningham’s added strength makes him an All-Star and the Pistons squeak into the play-in tournament.

Pessimistic, glass half-empty view: Cunningham gets off to a slow start, which hurts his chemistry with Ivey, the much-needed 3-point shooting the Pistons are counting on from Isaiah Stewart falters, injuries abound and a dreadful start dooms the season.

Breakout player: It has to be Ivey, who showcased his speed and passing in the preseason and clearly looks like he not only belongs on the NBA floor but also like he’ll work well with Cunningham and in Dwane Casey’s system.

Leading scorer, points per game: Cunningham, 19.4.

Most likely to be traded by deadline: Bojan Bogdanovic is on an expiring contract and if the Pistons haven’t shown enough by the deadline to look like a contender — they won’t — then moving the veteran seems like a logical play.

Play-in tournament? Record and finish in East: No play-in appearance, but they take a big step with a 35-47 finish in the tough East.

Conference finals East and West: Golden State over Denver, Milwaukee over Boston.

NBA Finals: Golden State over Milwaukee in seven.

Jeff Seidel

Optimistic, glass half-full view of rebuild and this season: Everything gels, the Pistons young core learns to win together, Jaden Ivey wins Rookie of the Year and this team is fun, exciting and pushes for the playoffs (but doesn’t get there). Hey, you said optimism, so you’ll get a full glass.

Pessimistic, glass half-empty view: Injuries. That’s what can kill a rebuild and delay the progress of a young core.

Breakout player: Saddiq Bey.

Leading scorer, points per game: Bey, 20.

Most likely to be traded by deadline: Nobody. This team will show improvement and win just enough to avoid a dump-off but fade down the stretch. Yep, still in that optimistic mode and sick of trades.

Play-in tournament? Record and finish in East: No play-in tournament. 35-47, 12th.

Conference finals East and West: Milwaukee over Philadelphia in six; Golden State over L.A. Clippers in six.

NBA Finals: Golden State over Milwaukee in seven.

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