You know what sucks? Laundry.
Doing laundry is awful because it is inevitable. You watch your pants, shirts, and socks pile up, preferably in but often around the hamper over the course of a week(s), and you just know what’s coming next. It’s a chore, but a necessary one because clean clothes feel like new ones.
We’re all guilty of wearing the same shirt twice or the same jeans for a week. It happens.
But in the end, we do the laundry.
Tanking, or, better yet,
rebuilding restoring, is a similar kind of necessary evil. Building an NBA team the right way in 2022 requires some strategic tanking. It doesn’t mean you have to go all #TrustTheProcess about it, but you have to commit to the suck.
Small-market teams that are relentless in their attempts to win just enough — ones who walk that “treadmill of mediocrity” that the Detroit Pistons spent so long on — are, frankly, destined to fail.
It’s no different than a lazy-laundry-doer who wears the same jeans all week, not realizing there’s a giant stain on them when they’re on a date in public. Not great.
Tanking is the laundry day of an NBA franchise, and the Pistons have finally refreshed their wardrobe after letting the clothes pile up for nearly a decade. Troy Weaver saw the hamper and said enough is enough. The third-year general manager knew it was time to wash the franchise of whatever stains and stale odor remained from the SVG and Blake Griffin eras.
It started with the sign-and-trade of Christian Wood to the Houston Rockets, then dealing Luke Kennard to the Los Angeles Clippers for the pick that became Saddiq Bey. Months later, it continued with Blake Griffin’s buyout and trading Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks.
Those moves set up what some called one of the greatest tank jobs of all-time last season.
Landing the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, and Cade Cunningham, was the ultimate prize. Adding Cunningham to the improving core of Bey, Isaiah Stewart and, more recently, Killian Hayes has really shifted this rebuild into high gear.
Now, with the best odds at the top pick for the second-straight season, the Pistons may be on the verge of striking gold once again.
Cade started slow, but blossomed in the latter half of the season. He’s as versatile as they come, the type of big guard with few holes in his game that any team would love to build around. He isn’t winning Rookie of the Year due to his slow start and suboptimal supporting cast, but he’s the real deal and could have the highest upside of any player in his loaded draft class.
Stardom is a matter of when with Cade, not if.
Bey showed all-around improvement and, after a rough start, had some incredible high points — like his 51-point game against Orlando. The lumps he took early trying to find his footing paid off late as he has scored 25 or more points 11 times this season.
Bey has gone from looking like a sure-fire role player to potentially more.
Unlike Bey, Stewart never took the big step many had hoped. However, he’s proven to be the most versatile defender on this team. He’s a valuable piece and, considering the Pistons’ roster needs, could find himself as a valuable contributor as either a starter or key reserve.
Thanks to his defense, Stewart has an important role on this team going forward. But it’s one that could grow if his late-season shooting (11-of-19 from 3 in his final 10 games) proves he is a legit stretch big man who can’t be left alone on the perimeter.
And, Killian Hayes, the beleaguered point guard, has taken a significant step forward.
His game improved as he adjusted to life as a secondary playmaker. The change in mindset paid off. His play over the final month and a half of the season — 10.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.2 stocks per game on 46% shooting — is really the first sustained stretch of play where Hayes looked like the guy Weaver envisioned he would be when he took him with the No. 7 pick in 2020.
Toss in the acquisitions of young talent like Marvin Bagley III (14.6 points, 6.8 rebounds per game in Detroit) and Isaiah Livers (42% from 3 on 3.4 attempts per game) and the Pistons have added good young talent to an already strong core.
Remember how former Pistons coach Larry Brown always talked about playing the right way? This is rebuilding the right way.
The Pistons are far from complete, but they’ve shown marked improvement while still knowing when (and how) to pull back and let this season come to an end as it... should.
Weaver and coach Dwane Casey have done their job — they’ve tanked their way to top lottery odds once again while seeing significant development from the core of the rebuild.
If all goes according to plan, they’ll add one of the three elite prospects in Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero or Jabari Smith, Jr. They’ll have the cap space to spend on more young talent this summer — maybe Deandre Ayton, Miles Bridges or Jalen Brunson.
Weaver has a real chance to turn this forgotten franchise around in the span of three years.
Most rebuilds don’t happen that fast, but the Pistons are on the precipice. They might be good enough for the Play-In Tournament next year and, hopefully, the playoffs after that.
The beauty of doing your laundry is, once you’re done, it feels amazing. Your clothes smell better, and you feel better. We’re approaching that point with this rebuild.
Tanking sucks. The past two years, despite bright spots from the young guys, have not been fun. There’s a generation of Pistons fans who only knew mediocrity and this and, finally, Detroit is getting away from wanting to just be good enough.
Now, they’re working toward being great great.
It’s yet to be seen if they’ll get there, but one thing is certain: it’s finally time to embrace a fresh outlook on the Detroit Pistons. The hard part is almost over.