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Pistons vs. Raptors preview: No better model for Detroit’s hopeful future than Toronto

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Expect many “let’s go Raptors” chants to descend on Little Caesars Arena

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Toronto Raptors v Detroit Pistons Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images

The time has come again, Detroit Pistons faithful. The Raptors are visiting and that means Little Caesars Arena will likely see Toronto’s team extremely comfortable in its home away from home. In fact, I’m not even sure if more Raptors fans are reading this than Pistons fans.

Hey, all. Great team you have. Big Tim Horton’s fan, but their danishes have really gone down hill in the past couple of years. Anyway, don’t do too much dancing on Detroit’s grave on Friday night.

I’ve been trying to think of big upcoming games that can excite and engage the fan base, and this one is a logical choice ... if only everything about this franchise wasn’t so damn sad.

The Pistons team looks very close to having quit on the season with only the NBA Trade Deadline available to shake the cobwebs off and, while losses will keep coming, at least some semblance of joy would be nice to see.

Game Vitals

When: 7 p.m. EST
Where: Little Caesars Arena, Detroit, Michigan
Watch: Fox Sports Detroit
Tickets: Get your tickets via StubHub

Analysis

The Toronto Raptors are what Detroit fans must hope the Pistons can become. The Raptors have always prioritized internal development for young players, and they have seen a lot of success.

Pascal Siakam leads that pack as an unlikely low first-rounder who looks like he could become a bonafide franchise player. If Sekou Doumbouya can’t be a superstar like Siakam, it’d still be great if he could be another OG Anunoby.

Then there is that next tier of players who are great complementary pieces who seem to keep growing. Fred VanVleet who has gone from undrafted to expecting a big payday this offseason.

The team has also hit on players such as Jakob Poltl (used to obtain a real star in Kawhi Leonard) and Delon Wright.

The Pistons are hoping that Dwane Casey picked up a few tricks about what was working with Toronto’s development program, and the Pistons can instill some of those principles in Detroit.

With the aforementioned Doumbouya headlining the list of developmental pieces, the Pistons’ cupboard is by no means bare. Bruce Brown has shown a lot of promising early returns and Luke Kennard has been everything as advertised and more on the offensive end. The Pistons also want to keep adding responsibilities to the plate of Svi Mykhailiuk to see if he can round out his game beyond his already lethal 3-point shooting.

There is also an old young player like Christian Wood who has bounced around the NBA but looks like a legit player who can still grow as a 3-point shooting, shot-blocking big. He just needs to learn some consistent defense. Heck, I’m even seeing things to like about two-way player Louis King, who has started to eek out some minutes with the Pistons lately.

When you have a strong development program, long-term success and winning with veterans and free agent signings, even when they are not marquee names, is truly possible. Kyle Lowry was nobody’s idea of a top-5 point guard when he landed in Toronto, and Marc Gasol is long past the peak of his career. Even after losing a superstar in Leonard the Raptors just keep on winning. They are doing things right.

The next, first, step for Detroit is to actually give these guys some minutes. The Pistons have lost five of their past six games, but even worse than the losses is who is seeing the most playing time.

Andre Drummond (35.8), Derrick Rose (33.1), Tony Snell (29.1), Langston Galloway (28.6) are the minutes leaders for Detroit. I don’t necessarily expect the team to bench players like Drummond or Rose, but we have to admit that when they play a combined 69 minutes per night, guys like Christian Wood (21.5 and Bruce Brown (26.5) are losing out.

The trade deadline might clear up this issue if Detroit can find a suitable return for Drummond (seemingly in low demand), Rose (seemingly in high demand but a piece the team could use next season). You never know what team might want to take a flyer on a player like Galloway as a 3-point shooter off the bench on an expiring contract — the Pistons traded Reggie Bullock for Svi Mykhailiuk and a second-round pick in the same scenario last season. And a team that’s been depleted by injuries could do worse than Markieff Morris if they’re looking for reinforcements.

In those scenarios that means more future second-round picks, more open playing time for the young guys on the roster, and a future first round pick, hopefully quite high in the draft, to join a core of Doumbouya, Brown, Kennard, Mykhailiuk and Wood.

Not all those guys will stick but the more good players you develop, the more good players you fit into your roster or trade away for other pieces.

It’s the Raptors way, and the Raptors have been winning for an awfully long time. That’s why LCA is going to be filled with a bunch of diehard Toronto fans. I hope everyone has a great time, and we get to see some young guys on the floor.

Projected Lineup

Detroit

Derrick Rose, Bruce Brown, Tony Snell, Sekou Doumbouya, Andre Drummond

Toronto

Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol