The Detroit Pistons aren’t going anywhere this season, that we know.
Lose, develop, and lose some more – that’s the motto for the final stretch of games. But there’s always something else to play for, and with this team, it might be some seasonal awards.
It’s fair to wonder whether any member of this team has played well enough to earn one this season, after all, it’s tough to win any award (or make an All-Star Game) when you’re nursing one of the three worst records in the NBA.
Jerami Grant had a great chance early this season to claim the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
Upon his arrival in Detroit, Grant looked like a rising star, averaging 23.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game on .571 TS% in the 33 games before the break. Those numbers have dipped for a number of reasons — lacking complementary scoring, wearing down physically, general tanking strategy — as he’s averaged 20.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game in the 20 games since.
Grant has definitely been one of the most improved players in the league this season, there’s no doubting that. The problem is there are plenty of worthy contenders out there, and I think one player in particular has passed him by… it helps that he plays in the biggest market in the NBA, too.
Julius Randle’s rise, combined with the New York Knicks’ darling status this season, might be enough to push him above Grant. It would be deserved, Randle has been amazing with averages of 24.1 points, 10.4 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 2.2 threes per game, career-high numbers across the board.
Grant has been a big deal this season, even though it hasn’t felt like it with the Pistons in such no-man’s land. It just feels like his second half drop-off may cost him the award.
As for the rookies, neither Saddiq Bey or Isaiah Stewart are going to overtake LaMelo Ball or Anthony Edwards for Rookie of the Year honors. Those two have been in a class of their own, even with Edwards’ inefficiency and Ball’s injury.
Both Pistons, I think, have earned a spot on the All-Rookie First Team—and can solidify that over the final nine games. Bey has been one of the best rookie 3-point shooters we’ve seen recently, and his 11.3 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists with 139 made triples on 38% shooting has been big for the Pistons this season.
If Stewart had been given the opportunity to play as much as Bey, we might be looking at a serious Rookie of the Year run. His overall numbers — 7.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks on 57% shooting — are good on their own.
The rebounding number is best among rookies in 20 minutes a night.
But as a starter, those numbers jump to 13 points, 11.7 rebounds, 2 blocks on 69% shooting.
That’s not reality, though.
The NBA doesn’t necessarily require positions when it comes to those All-Rookie teams. It’s safe to pencil in three guards on the first-team: Ball, Edwards and Tyrese Haliburton. I would assume a pair of forwards/centers would follow, Bey being one and, potentially, Stewart the other.
The other contenders for the final first-team spot would be Houston’s Jae’Sean Tate, Golden State’s James Wiseman, Chicago’s Patrick Williams, and Orlando’s Cuma Okeke. As a pessimist who always expects bad things to happen, I’d be prepared for Wiseman, despite being injured and having a horrific impact on the court when he did play, to steal that last spot from Stew.
That’s about it for awards, though.
Coach of the Year doesn’t go to bad teams, and there’s no tanking job good enough to earn you Executive of the Year. The MVP and Defensive Player of the Year awards? HAHAHAHAA, nope. And 6th Man of the Year? Sorry Josh Jackson, maybe next season.
Point is, there will be things to look forward to after this season ends — these awards among them. I know it’s not as exciting as the NBA Draft Lottery… but hey, in a season as bad as this one, players earning awards like this is what makes it a little better.