With Ausar Thompson and Marcus Sasser, Pistons might have finally found their identity

Detroit Bad Boys

If the Detroit Pistons’ newest rookies can provide anything in their first year, perhaps the most valuable thing would be clarity. Ausar Thompson and Marcus Sasser have plenty you should love about their games, but they are far from perfect players or finished products. However, what they offer up from day one is a tenaciousness, an ability to defend, at a high level, and an insatiable desire to work.

Yes, the Pistons still need to add talent to their young roster, and truly taking the next step requires internal improvement from the majority of their players. But maybe, just maybe, the Pistons have what they’ve been missing for more than a decade now — an identity.

For Troy Weaver, these two rookies epitomize Detroit Pistons basketball better than any of his previous three classes.

“In drafting, unlike in trading or free agency, you get to show who you are,” Weaver said. To Weaver, Detroit is defense. It’s how they won their three titles, and it’s how they will get back into the playoffs. “To be the Pistons, we have to defend at a high level. These two young men will absolutely bring that at a high level,” Weaver said.

It’s easy to see where Weaver is coming from. Ausar boosters during the draft process pointed to his potential as a high-level defender as well as secondary playmaker as his biggest calling card. Sasser, meanwhile, was one of the defensive lynchpins of the stingiest defense in the country as a four-year member of the Houston Cougars.

It all goes back to defense, Weaver said. It’s why he made Monty Williams the highest paid coach in NBA history, and it’s why he drafted Thompson and Sasser.

“It’s all I think about, it’s all I want to talk about. Having that defensive mentality. I’ve never seen a team shoot their way to the top. It starts with defense. I’ve been saying it since I arrived, and I’ll say it till my last days here. It starts and ends with defense,” Weaver said.

There are many superlatives you could offer up Detroit’s draft class from the previous two years, but nobody eyed Cade Cunningham or Jaden Ivey as potential all-NBA defenders, and Jalen Duren was drafted so young and raw, it is hard to know what his future holds on that end.

With Ausar and Marcus, you can see their defensive abilities all over their tape. Both need to improve on D, but the building blocks are there for high-impact players on that end of the floor. Ausar was often compared to Andre Igudola, who has received All-Defense votes in 14 of his 19 seasons. Sasser is draws comparisons to Patrick Beverly, who sets the tone on defense for any team he is on.

For Monty Williams, who couldn’t attend most of Detroit’s predraft workouts because he was both hired late and was attending to his wife back in Phoenix, said he relied on Troy, but also made sure to be there for Ausar’s and Marcus’ workouts because he knew how highly the organization regarded both players.

“What I liked about that particular workout is that the young man [Ausar] brought energy to the gym. He had the coaches hyped up. Same with Marcus. .. When a guy can get into that environment and raise the level of the gym, that says something about him,” Williams said.

Both Ausar and Marcus thanked the organization and their families in their comments, and both expressed a desire to get down to work.

“I feel like the group can get out and run, I feel like we can push the pace, and I feel like we can really lock in on defense,” Thompson said. “There’s a lot of really long, long guys on defense [here].”

The 6-foot-2 Sasser said he was looking forward to fitting in and playing alongside Detroit’s stable of tall, multi-positional guards in Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey and Killian Hayes.

“I can just space the floor and really lock in on defense,” he said.

Thomson also had words for his twin brother Amen, who was selected one pick before him at No. 4 by the Houston Rockets. The two teams are slated to face off soon in Summer League in Las Vegas.

“My first thought is, we’re gonna kill him. … I know he probably wants to do the same thing, but it’s not gonna go that way,” Thompson said with a laugh.

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