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Future not very bright for Detroit Pistons in ESPN’s Future Power Rankings

Detroit’s three-year trajectory among the worst in the NBA

Chicago Bulls v Detroit Pistons Photo by Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images

Detroit Pistons fans are surprisingly optimistic, outside of some expected doom and gloom surrounding the upcoming NBA Draft Lottery. New GM Troy Weaver has radically transformed his roster during his inaugural season, he seems to have hit on two of his first four draft picks in Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey, with plenty of glass-half-full optimism left over for lottery pick Killian Hayes and second-rounder Saben Lee.

The finances have gone from the worst in the league bar none to some decent immediate flexibility next year and major relief once Blake Griffin’s dead money comes off the books.

All that optimism, however, doesn’t seem to be translating in ESPN’s Future Power Rankings (Insider) exercise. ESPN’s Bobby Marks and Kevin Pelton project the overall expectations for each franchise over the next three seasons, and the Detroit Pistons come in at a lowly 26th overall. That actually represents a three-spot jump from least year’s Future Power Rankings. Yayyy (i guess???).

This represents a few fundamental truths for Detroit Pistons fans — 1. Nothing means nothing for any rebuilding franchise until they get that star player worth building a team around. 2. There is so much unknown for every rebuilding team that there are always reasons to be super optimistic.

ESPN’s rankings project “on-court success” over the next three seasons and rank teams in the following categories: Players, Management, Money, Market, Draft. The only teams to rank lower overall were the Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic, Minnesota Timberwolves and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Players account for 58.3% of the total score with management taking up 16.7% and the rest splitting 8.3% apiece.

If Detroit Pistons fans, or, more specifically, if I had a major problems with the rankings it would be in their assessment of management. There is plenty to quibble about away from Little Caesars Arena regarding Tom Gores, but he’s always trusted his guys (to a fault) and spent money. Dwayne Casey is a good enough coach and works well with young players. And Troy Weaver seems like he has a plan, is aggressive in execution and has a keen eye for talent that will serve him well up and down the draft and in poaching developmental players.

That all sounds pretty damn good to me. Yet Detroit somehow ranks 25th in management, per Pelton and Marks. Detroit is better than the Wizards, Kings, Wolves, Rockets and Cavs, which, yeah, sure. But they are listed right below the Magic, Bulls, Pelicans, Pacers, Hawks, Spurs and Blazers.

To put it simply, I don’t really get it. The Magic are just about to embark on the total teardown Detroit went through last season, but have major player development questions and their books are not pristine, especially considering the long-term investment in Markell Fultz.

The Bulls just went all in on a core that might or might not pan out and the early returns have been rough. The Pelicans have Zion Williamson but the front office and head coach don’t seem to be winning over any skeptics this season. The Pacers, especially from a management perspective, seem to be in a tailspin and could be forced into a major reset sooner rather than later.

I’ll take Troy Weaver and keep praying to the lottery gods, thanks.

Where would you slot the Detroit Pistons over the next three seasons? Is it Cade or Mobley or nothing, or is there a way to keep building without landing a seemingly sure-fire star?

ESPN’s Future Power Rankings

  1. Brooklyn Nets
  2. LA Clippers
  3. LA Lakers
  4. Denver Nuggets
  5. Philadelphia 76ers
  6. Milwaukee Bucks
  7. New York Knicks (Biggest gain at +20 spots)
  8. Utah Jazz
  9. Phoenix Suns
  10. Dallas Mavericks
  11. Miami Heat
  12. Memphis Grizzlies
  13. Toronto Raptors
  14. Boston Celtics
  15. Golden State Warriors
  16. Atlanta Hawks
  17. Charlotte Hornets
  18. San Antonio Spurs
  19. Oklahoma City Thunder
  20. Indiana Pacers
  21. New Orleans Pelicans
  22. Portland Trail Blazers
  23. Chicago Bulls
  24. Sacramento Kings
  25. Washington Wizards
  26. Detroit Pistons
  27. Houston Rockets
  28. Orlando Magic
  29. Minnesota Timberwolves
  30. Cleveland Cavaliers