The aftermath of a long losing streak is always ugly. Any prolonged failure in the social media era will result in plenty of bad jokes and a constant reminder of what is going wrong. The Detroit Pistons are now entering the recovery stage after beating the Toronto Raptors on Saturday to halt their losing streak of 28 games.
For young fans, the Pistons have been a long-running joke, having only made the playoffs twice since the 2008-09 season. But long-time NBA fans remember Detroit’s reputation as the “Bad Boys” of basketball. The Pistons won two championships in the late 1980s with rough play and similarly found success in the early 2000s.
But those days are long gone. Detroit is now mostly known for incompetence and an inability to assemble a strong roster. After the Pistons tanked for several years, Black sports news shows Detroit was able to add Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 Draft. Cunningham has developed into a solid player, but the Pistons don’t have much around him.
Veteran Coach Hasn’t Been Able to Right the Ship
Monty Williams didn’t seem like a coach that should have been on the market. During four years in Phoenix, Williams nearly helped guide the Suns to their first-ever NBA title during the 2020-21 season. However, Phoenix flopped in the 2021 NBA Finals.
The Suns took a 2-0 lead over the Milwaukee Bucks but lost four straight games to lose the series. What got Williams in trouble was the next two seasons. Guiding a roster that featured Chris Paul, Devon Booker, and Kevin Durant in his final season, Phoenix went back to the playoffs.
However, each subsequent trip ended with a loss in the Western Conference semifinals. Williams was let go by Phoenix after last season and came to Detroit. He had experience working with a young roster, as he coached the New Orleans Pelicans from 2010 to 2015.
Thompson Still Needs Seasoning
When the Pistons drafted Cunningham with the top pick, he made an immediate impact as a double-digit scorer. Detroit’s 2023 first-round pick, Ausar Thompson, showed he still has a long way to go. Thompson didn’t play in college and decided to play in the NBA’s G League instead.
Thompson, a 6-foot-6 forward, is only 20 years old but hasn’t made quite the impact Detroit was hoping for during his first season. He can’t stretch the floor and only shoots 15.3 percent from the 3-point line. Thompson has been a capable rebounder but has a long way to go offensively to help make Detroit a contender.
Ivey Has Regressed in Year 2
Detroit point guard Jaden Ivey, who was selected with the fifth pick in last year’s draft, had ample opportunity to prove himself last season. Ivey started 73 games and had a solid rookie season. The Pistons hoped to see him shoot 3-pointers better and become a more efficient player overall.
But Ivey’s season hasn’t gone that way. His outside shooting has declined. Ivey has had a more challenging time cracking the starting lineup, only playing as a starter in 12 of his 28 appearances this season. His scoring average fell by nearly four points a game.
Tank is Driving Out of Control
After going 41-41 and reaching the playoffs during the 2018-19 season, the Pistons decided they were going to tank. Many NBA teams in less-appealing free-agent markets do this to try and bring in top talent. Executives initially weakened the roster, and the Pistons hoped to do well in the NBA Lottery to accumulate top talent.
Getting Cunningham has turned out to be a good selection for Detroit. But the Pistons have little else to show during this period. The jury is still out on Ivey and Thompson as to how their careers will turn out.
When teams “tank,” the hope is, much like the Houston Astros in baseball, that they will emerge on the other side of several years of horrific losses by winning a championship. However, things don’t always work out that way.
76ers “Process” Largely Flopped
The Philadelphia 76ers were in the same spot as the Pistons a decade ago. They were stuck in a rut toward the middle of the standings and decided they needed to try and get to the top of the draft to get the best players. 76ers General Manager Sam Hinkie told players, fans, and coaches to “trust the process” when rebuilding the team.
Hinkie traded All-Star player Jrue Holiday before the 2013-14 season and drafted Nerlens Noel in the first round. Noel was recovering from an ACL tear and couldn’t play for a year. Philadelphia went through a few seasons where it didn’t try to fill the roster with competent veteran players.
The 76ers responded with three consecutive seasons winning 20 or fewer games. Philadelphia’s low point was when the 76ers went 10-72 during the 2015-16 season. The 76ers were able to acquire future MVP Joel Embiid during this period.
Hinkie, however, wouldn’t see out the process. He resigned under heavy pressure in 2016. Philadelphia would make it back to the playoffs during the 2017-18 season and has made it every year since. However, the patience of 76ers’ fans hasn’t been rewarded yet. Philadelphia hasn’t appeared in the NBA Finals, let alone won one.
What Lies Ahead for the Pistons
Beating the Raptors won’t solve any of Detroit’s problems in the short term. Rumors are swirling that Williams may already be on the hot seat in his first season. The Pistons will likely be headed for another top-five pick in next year’s draft. But there isn’t a clear-cut top choice.
USC point guard Isaiah Williams is viewed by many as the No. 1 prospect for now, but there are several international players threatening to crash the party. Getting Detroit’s next draft pick right will be important for the Pistons. Patience is running thin with the fanbase in the Motor City. Detroit would like not to have to tank for much longer.
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