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Detroit Pistons: Searching for the Fountain of Youth

Throughout the 21st century, Detroit Pistons have never sought for their organizational success through the draft. After Grant Hill, Detroit looked for success through trades and free agency, and while this blueprint worked for them in 2004, one could only imagine how much longer the Pistons could’ve had success if they had chosen the Carmelo Anthonys, Paul Georges, Kemba Walkers, and the list goes on. Or if they had committed to developing their picks to maximize their talent, like Khris Middleton or Spencer Dinwiddie. Of course, there’s plenty of factors that play into these decisions, but today’s Pistons are making a commitment to maximize their selections to build for the future.  

Detroit is quietly using Dwane Casey’s developmental approach (similar to what was done with the Raptors) with their young players and using the G-League to prepare their youth for their moment. Let’s take at look at who Detroit has next-up.

G Luke Kennard – After two years of showing flashes of his scoring potential, he began to find his stride within the Detroit Pistons’ offense as a scorer and playmaker. Many are taking notice of Kennard as he could be an underdog candidate for Most Improved. He’s had a dip in his numbers since the start of the season but depending on how the rest of the season goes, Kennard could be looked at to carry more offensive load later on. 

Stats: 15.8 pts, 4.1 asts, 3.5 rebs, 39.9% 3FG%

G Bruce Brown – Surprised many by starting 56 games as a rookie defensive specialist. This season, the goal was to begin to round out his offensive game. It was already known he has some PG skills and he was the full-time floor general during summer league. This season he’s attacking the rim and finishing stronger and he also made a sharp focus on the corner 3 shooting 32% from three (up from 26% last season). By year 4, Brown could have tremendous combo guard skills with high level PNR instincts, varied rim attacks (layups, dunks, floaters), and league average spot up shooting numbers. He could be a triple-double threat on a nightly basis if he continues his combo guard upward growth

Stats: 8.6 pts, 4.4 rebs, 3.8 asts

F/C Christian Wood – His production in the G-League and the end of last season with New Orleans was no fluke. He has the ability to affect the game with his energy. This season, he’s been well known to produce in the limited minutes he’s been given. While Wood has to work on his team defense and decision-making, he definitely could be a building block for the Detroit Pistons’ future at just 24 years old.

Stats: 9.4 pts, 5.1 rebs, 58.2% FG% 37% 3FG

F Sekou Doumbouya – Sekou is showing lots of promise this season in the G-League, posting 16.5 pts, 5.3 rebs, on 48% shooting from the field and 38% in 15 games and displaying a soft touch around the rim. He’s also showing high-level three-point shooting on moderate volume and some nice isolation moves to get to the basket or the arc. The best thing is although Sekou has only played basketball for 6-7 years, he’s been able to gradually produce on each level he’s been on.

With the surgery to Blake Griffin and injuries around the rest of the roster, it’s opened up minutes for Doumbouya to get some real NBA minutes. So far, he looks like he projects into a very solid NBA player at the very least. He’s been a very instinctual cutter on offense, finding openings from 3 or easy looks around the rim. On defense, he’s been tasked with some tough assignments like Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James and has shown he can compete with the top of the league.

He has plenty that he can work on, but for a guy who just turned 19 a few weeks ago, the Detroit Pistons have a player on their hands. They want to bring him along like Pascal Siakam and through proper grooming, it’s not impossible. 

Stats (in 5 NBA starts): 12.0 pts & 5.8 rebs

F/G Svi Mykhailiuk – Mykhailiuk had some well-deserved hype from Lakers fans after his 2018 Summer League performance, but due to a mid-season trade, Pistons fans are seeing what makes him intriguing. His three-point shooting is the skill that got him drafted and he’s been putting it on display since he’s received consistent minutes with the Pistons, but the coaching staff thinks they can unlock more. He’s been put in more pick-and-roll situations to develop his playmaking and what keeps him on the floor is his effort on defense. Finishing at the rim is still something he should look to improve but at his surface, Mykhailiuk’s outside shooting will continue to be useful for this team.

Stats: 7.4 pts, 1.6 asts, 42.4% 3FG%, 80.8% FT

G Jordan Bone – While many eyes go straight to Sekou when looking at the Grand Rapids Drive, their leader has been Jordan Bone. Posting 18 pts and 7.7 asts in 18 games, Bone has looked like his 3 years of college experience has done him well and he’s looked very poised with the transition to a professional paced game. He also tested as one of the most athletic players in last summer’s NBA Draft Combine, so he should have no problem dealing with the strength and speed of the NBA. It won’t be long before the Pistons utilize him as their PG off the bench. Think Fred VanVleet’s path.

G-League Stats: 18.2 pts, 7.7 asts, 3.7 rebs, 39% 3FG% in 18 games

F/G Louis King – The second two-way player after Bone, King was a one-and-done player with solid potential to become a starting caliber wing. Detroit has sorely lacked long, athletic wings over recent years and grabbing King was another way to collect and catch up to the wing heavy league in the future. 

G-League Stats: 15.5 pts, 5.1 rebs, 36.4% 3FG% in 16 games

G/F Deividas Sirvydas – The third Pistons draft pick from June 2019 has been kept in the euro leagues to continue to mature his body for the NBA. He’s a 6’8” shooter/playmaker archetype that could have a very good fit in today’s NBA. I’d expect Sirvydas to be a two-way player for Detroit/Grand Rapids Drive next season. 

While Detroit may not have the star-power in their youth yet, this group of eight players is who they’re taking into the future. They’re putting the pieces together for what their core team may look like in 3-4 years, and in my opinion, this doesn’t look bad. Of course the next question is, will they end up with a top 10 pick to add to this group this year? Will they trade veterans to add more youth? Or will they continue to pursue a mix of win-now veterans along with these developmental players to push to the playoffs?

A coach like Dwane Casey will expect to win, and in any case, isn’t that the kind of development you want, instead of deliberate tanking to 10-win seasons? We should have some answers to the rest of the season by the February 6th trade deadline, but don’t expect a fire-sale and don’t think there’s no future when it’s right before your eyes.

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Blake "BlzyHoops" Hairston
Contributor Scouting Intern for the Pro Basketball Combine Sports Business Classroom Alum Follow me on Twitter @BlzyHoops

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