Detroit Pistons grades: Why some deserved A’s despite awful 2022-23 season

Detroit Free Press

Everyone on the 17-65 Detroit Pistons deserves a failing grade on the proverbial report card, right?

Well, not quite. Things clearly didn’t go according to plan this season, but Cade Cunningham’s early shin soreness, and eventual season-ending surgery, hampered hopes of putting a competitive team on the floor. The Pistons had an opportunity to move up the rung and join fellow rebuilders in the 34-win Orlando Magic, 35-win Indiana Pacers and 40-win OKC Thunder. Instead, they sank to the bottom.

Individually, several players met or exceeded expectations and were graded accordingly. Here’s the 2022-23 Pistons report card.

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Marvin Bagley III: C

Stats: 12 points, 6.4 rebounds, 52.9% shooting, 28.8% from 3, 55.4 Effective Field Goal Percentage

Injuries marred what was otherwise a routine season for Bagley, 24, who provided his usual mix of athleticism, inside-the-arc efficiency and inconsistent rim protection. A variety of injuries, including a sprained right MCL and metacarpal fractures in his right hand, limited him to 42 games. It was his fourth straight season playing fewer than 50.

Bojan Bogdanovic: B+

Stats: 21.6 points, 48.8% shooting, 41.1% from 3, 57 eFG%

There was a lot of fanfare from the front office following Bogdanovic’s arrival in late September. He did not disappoint with a career-high in points as the leading option. Bogdanovic turns 34 next week, but remains a focal point on a team desperately looking to leap forward.

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Alec Burks: A-

Stats: 12.8 points, 43.6% shooting, 41.4% from 3, 54.4 eFG%

After missing 13 of the season’s first 14 games as he recovered from foot surgery, Burks reclaimed his role as one of the league’s best bench scorers. Through his first 38 games, he shot 45.7% overall and 45% from 3 — functioning as the primary thrust behind a Pistons bench that was one of the league’s best second units through the first half of the season. Despite going cold late, this was Burks’ most efficient at age 31. He exceeded expectations.

Cade Cunningham: Incomplete

Stats: 19.9 points, 6.2 rebounds, 6 assists, 41.5% shooting, 27.9% from 3, 45.3 eFG%

A stress fracture in Cunningham’s left shin — and eventual surgery — ended his sophomore season after 12 games. Outside of a hot four-game stretch, Cunningham, 21, struggled to find his rhythm. He had been playing through pain, and it might’ve been a factor behind his poor efficiency — he shot 30.6% overall and 21.7% from 3 in four preseason games, 38.6% overall during his first four regular-season games, and 33.3% in his final four games. That remaining hot stretch, in which he averaged 27.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.5 assists on 49.5% shooting, reminded of how electric he can be.

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Hamidou Diallo: B

Stats: 9.3 points, 57.3% shooting, 58 eFG%

The fifth-year wing honed in on his strengths and delivered his most efficient season. Diallo, 24, filled a needed role as a spark plug and athletic interior finisher who created scoring opportunities without the ball. He’s a unique player, and his lack of perimeter spacing and consistent defense will factor into his market as an unrestricted free agent this offseason.

Jalen Duren: A-

Stats: 9.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 0.9 blocks, 64.8% shooting

We entered the season wondering if Duren would spend parts of his rookie season with the Motor City Cruise. The NBA’s youngest player (don’t remind him of that) started 31 games and was an instant contributor, giving the team a needed lob-catcher and offensive rebounder. That, along with his flashes of strong rim protection and floor vision, suggest the 19-year-old has a bright future ahead.

R.J. Hampton: C+

Stats: 7.3 points, 36.5% from 3, 51.6 eFG% (with Pistons)

The former 2020 first-round pick played 21 games in Detroit after being waived by Orlando. He provided some scoring, and his 3-point percentage would’ve been the best of his career if maintained over a full season. Hampton, 22, didn’t stand out elsewhere, with as many turnovers as assists and inconsistent defense.

Killian Hayes: C

Stats: 10.3 points, 6.2 assists, 37.7% shooting, 28% from 3, 42.6 eFG%

Hayes, 21, didn’t make the leap he needed to make in his third season. His shooting splits were almost identical to his career averages, and he was again the league’s least efficient player. But he put together his best playmaking season, setting a career-high in assists and keeping his turnovers low (2.3). He had a 32-game stretch from early November into January that saw him average 12.4 points, 6.5 assists and 1.4 steals on 43.2% shooting and 36.3% from 3. Then he slumped.

Jaden Ivey: B+

Stats: 16.3 points, 5.2 assists, 3.9 rebounds, 41.6% shooting, 34.3% from 3, 47.7 eFG%

The fifth overall pick looks like a franchise cornerstone and closed his rookie season strong. Ivey’s athleticism translated immediately — he was the fastest player on the floor almost every night. Defenses had to account for him, especially after Cunningham’s injury. It took Ivey, 21, time to adjust to the attention, but he averaged 17.3 points and 6.3 assists while knocking down 36.3% of his 3-pointers after Jan. 2. His in-season improvements as a playmaker and shooter could position him to make First-Team All-Rookie.

READ MORE: Jaden Ivey already taking the NBA step critics questioned

Cory Joseph: B+

Stats: 6.9 points, 3.5 assists, 42.7% shooting, 38.9% from 3, 52.7 eFG%

Joseph, 31, is as reliable as they come. For the third season in a row, he provided efficient playmaking and strong outside shooting. He has been a security blanket for a young Pistons roster, and the team must decide on his future in unrestricted free agency.

Isaiah Livers: B-

Stats: 6.7 points, 36.5% from 3, 54.5 eFG%

Livers, 24, regressed in some ways compared to his 19-game rookie season. His outside percentage dropped from a scorching 42.2%. He was merely an average 3-pointer shooter, rather than a great one. He remains the most instinctive perimeter defender on the roster, and one of the team’s best communicators. Livers showcased a more diverse game inside of the arc and maintained his efficiency at the rim (23-for-30). There’s a lot to like about his game, and he was one of Detroit’s most effective players on both sides of the ball.

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Rodney McGruder: B

Stats: 5.7 points, 42.3% from 3, 54.3 eFG%

McGruder, 31, was outside of coach Dwane Casey’s rotation for most of the season, but led the team in 3-point percentage. Other than his floor spacing, his best skill is his consistency. In three seasons in Detroit, he knocked down 41.2% of his 3s.

Eugene Omoruyi: Incomplete

Stats: 9.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 29.3% from 3, 48.9 eFG% (with Pistons)

Omoruyi, 26, appeared in 17 games after arriving in March, but made an impact and earned an end-of-season deal with an option for next season. Provided energy and hustle, and can make plays on defense. Only knocked down 17 of 58 3s.

Isaiah Stewart: B

Stats: 11.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, 44.2% shooting, 32.7% from 3, 51.8 eFG%

Stewart’s first full season playing power forward delivered promising results, though there’s needed growth as well. Stewart, 21, started the season hot as a shooter, knocking down 38.1% of his 3s through his first 29 games. But he slumped to 25.3% during his final 21. Defensively, he showed he can handle a variety of assignments and remained one of Detroit’s best rebounders. Next season, he’ll have to prove he can maintain the outside touch he showed early this season.

James Wiseman: C

Stats: 12.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, 53.1% shooting, 53.7 eFG% (with Pistons)

In three seasons, Wiseman has played a total of 1703 minutes — 33 more than the 1670 minutes Duren played as a rookie. It highlights how early Wiseman, 22, is in his NBA education. He had highlight moments where his athleticism and coordination as a 7-footer stood out, but he has a ways to go adjusting to NBA pace and embracing responsibilities on defense. Played 24 games with Pistons post-trade.

Dwane Casey: C

The deck would’ve been stacked against any coach in Casey’s position this season. Even with perfect health, playoffs were a longshot for this roster. Gregg Popovich, one of the most accomplished coaches ever but leading a rebuild, coached the San Antonio Spurs to 22 wins this season. With Cunningham in street clothes, the talent gap between Detroit and the rest of the NBA became more pronounced.

Even so, Casey wasn’t able to outplay the hand he was dealt. Before All-Star weekend, the Pistons had the league’s third-worst net rating at minus-7.3. From a player development standpoint, Casey consistently deferred toward allowing players to learn through experience. Ivey started 73 of 74 games, and Duren started 31 of 67. His final season as head coach was a table-setter for the success the Pistons hope to have in the near future.

Troy Weaver: C+

This season was preceded by a series of good moves by Weaver. He got the better end of the Bogdanovic trade, made strong draft picks in Ivey and Duren and turned cap space into a reliable sixth man in Burks. But drafting Cunningham first overall is the most significant move of Weaver’s tenure, and Cunningham barely played because of injury. It robbed us of the opportunity to get an accurate read on the rebuild’s progress. But the Pistons are well-positioned this offseason, with a top-five pick and at least $25 million in cap space as Cunningham nears 100% health.

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This grade may seem too high for a general manager who just presided over the second-worst record in franchise history. My counterpoint: There are teams that won more games than the Pistons this season that have bleaker futures. The Pistons have an electric young backcourt, two high-scoring veterans, an intriguing potential franchise center in Duren and financial flexibility. This season was derailed early. There’s still a lot to like long-term.

Listen to “The Pistons Pulse” every Tuesday morning and on demand on or wherever you listen to podcasts. Out latest episode, above, reacts to the change at head coach and discusses potential candidates to fill the vacancy. Catch all of our podcasts and daily voice briefing at

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

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