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DBB on 3: What to watch for down the stretch for the Pistons

Sure, the Pistons’ season is basically over, but there’s plenty to watch for in the final games

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

There are eight games left for the Detroit Pistons. Depending on the day, that’s either a bummer or a relief. These late-season games in a lost season can be tough to watch. The stakes are low, the quality of play is lacking, I get it.

But all of us — the DBB staff and the DBB loyalists — are the degenerates who tune in and watch through the (little) good and the (lots of) bad. So, if your interest is waning, we’re here to give you a few reasons why we’ll be tuning in down the stretch:

1. With just a handful of games to go, what are the two biggest reasons you’ll be watching the Pistons down the stretch?

Lazarus Jackson: Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren hopefully continuing to improve, mostly defensively. Ivey, in particular, has looked much better to me from a technique AND an effort perspective after the All-Star Break; I hope that continues and is something the two rookies can bring with them into the next season. This team isn’t going anywhere until this team can defend consistently.

Ben Gulker: Jalen Duren and James Wiseman, the biggest of the big reasons, pun intended.

Brady Fredericksen: Buddy Boeheim and Jared Rhoden, of course. I’m kidding. I agree, it’s Jalen Duren and James Wiseman. We need to figure out if these big men can play together — especially when there’s a good chance the Pistons draft another big man in Houston’s Jarace Walker if they fall out of the top three spots in the lottery.

Justin Lambregtse: You are really making this one difficult by expecting two, haha. The first one is the game-to-game play of James Wiseman. We are pretty much watching a rookie learning how to play, so I just want to see improvement in the little things, as we know he has skill. Number 2 is probably the continued development of Jaden Ivey. He has shown me more this season than I was expecting and has gotten a lot better the last couple months. He needs to build on that momentum and take it into the Summer.

Ben Quagliata: The main reason I’ll keep watching is I’m a sicko with nothing better to do and I like watching the Pistons play basketball no matter how depressing the season gets. The other reason is to see how Wiseman keeps developing with a steady diet of minutes, especially on the defensive end.

Wes Davenport: The obvious answer is James Wiseman, and he is a large part of why I look forward to these games. He’s shown enough to be intriguing moving into the offseason and (potentially) beyond. But I think the more fun answer is Jaden Ivey. After coming out blazing after the all-star break, his counting stats have largely regressed to the mean. To my eye, he is still playing better basketball and has found ways to more consistently impact the game when he isn’t scoring. Watching his continued growth and development keeps me excited about Pistons basketball as the season winds down.

2. Who has the most to gain and the most to lose in these final games?

Lazarus Jackson: The most to gain is easily Eugene Omoruyi, who could (COULD) parlay this last run of the season into another NBA contract next season. That contract could come in Detroit or elsewhere, but that’s a guy who is looking to turn a life outside the NBA into a life inside the NBA, that’s the most to gain. The most to lose? Maybe R.J. Hampton, who is on a similar contract as Omoruyi but has not made the loud impact that Eugene has. Someone would probably pick up RJ, who is still only 22, but if you’re going onto your fourth NBA team at 22, that’s not a GOOD sign for a former first-round pick.

Ben Gulker: Eugene Omoruyi could play himself into an NBA contract, or at least the chance to earn himself one this summer, with potential implications for himself and possibly Hamidou Diallo. I have to think the clock is ticking for Killian Hayes. With Troy Weaver committed to two big man lineups that seems to require shooting and spacing from the 1-3 positions and Killian’s ongoing inconsistencies, how much more time will he have to prove himself?

Brady Fredericksen: I think Killian Hayes fits both. He’s developing a real knack for stuffing the stat sheet in these meaningless late season games. That shows what he can do, but I don’t see a future for him on this team — or any serious NBA team — if he can’t shoot (24.8% from downtown since Jan. 1, 2023) and is only able to be a contributor when he’s starting games in a primary playmaker role.

Justin Lambregtse: The most to gain is probably Eugene Omoruyi. I expect he will at least get signed for the rest of the season, but if he can continue to show what he has so far, he can be a useful big-bodied defensive wing next season on a guaranteed contract. Marvin Bagley probably has the most to lose because he very well could be the odd man out if the Pistons get Wemby. Playing well might not change that, but playing bad will make him untradeable and probably forced to get DNPs next season. He is probably untradeable either way, but playing well might make a team take a chance on him.

Ben Quagliata: To me a guy like RJ Hampton has a lot to gain in these last eight or so games. He’s a known quantity on defense, and that hasn’t really changed, but he’s also been pretty aggressive attacking the basket and has been able to hit his threes at 45% on 2.4 attempts per game. He could be a guy that parlays the rest of this year into a low end spot on the roster next year as Weaver continues to hoard. I don’t think anyone really has a lot to lose over the last few games. These are the garbagest of garbage games, mainly open gym level empty minutes. Maybe Marvin Bagley could end up looking average and cost himself a main role next season but that seems unlikely.

Wes Davenport: I’m not sure that these final games will be make or break for anybody on this roster. Omoruyi’s 10-day just expired, it’d be great if he were signed for the rest of the season but he’s already proven he’s a fringe NBA talent. The final few games won’t lift him beyond that unless he’s averaging something ridiculous. I think Hayes is on the hot seat, but that envelope feels sealed at this point. We’ve seen hot stretches from Killian before, would another one really change how evaluators view him? Perhaps if Cory Joseph and Rodney McGruder continue their level of play they’ll strengthen their argument to stick around as the 14th and 15th man next season.

3. Has your outlook on the future of this team changed after this disaster of a season?

Lazarus Jackson: Sort of? I still believe in Cade Cunningham as the engine of a very good Detroit Pistons team, Jaden Ivey has won me over with his in-season improvements, and Jalen Duren has looked like everything you could reasonably ask for from the youngest player in the league. But I thought this year would be the stepping stone year and next year would be the big jump; this year, the team just missed a step and kinda went splat on their faces. They can bounce back, but it’s going to take roster improvements / acquisitions that I am not sure it’s reasonable to expect. I remain hopeful, but after this year, I am going to need more than just faith that Troy Weaver will work it out.

Ben Gulker: I still think they are several years away rather than 1-2 years away. I have been pleasantly surprised by Wiseman’s individual skills, and if his team offense and defense develops, he raises the ceiling, but I think that level of development is likely on a longer rather than shorter timeline as well. Without major roster changes, I expect another bottom tier season next year before the kids really start to turn the corner. Hopefully, tanking ends this season, but real winning chances are a few years away.

Brady Fredericksen: I’ve definitely moved on from being patient, but not enough to demand win-now moves. The Pistons in the midst of the longest tank job in NBA history. We’re four years in and it feels like they’re lightyears way from being a non-play-in-playoff-team. I think next year needs to yield some tangible success. The “oh golly gee, we suck again!” era is over. That said, the 14.3% chance they land Wemby remains the ultimate trump card for Troy Weaver. Cade is Cade, but they still need a Future Changing Acquisition and lucking into the No. 1 overall pick is the only possibility I see right now.

Justin Lambregtse: I don’t think it has really changed because of how much time Cade missed. Any optimistic projection was based on Cade growing on what he did down the stretch last season, which didn’t happen. I don’t think the team is as bad as their record shows, but I also don’t really see a path to any kind of contention next year, but I don’t think I did even when I thought we would have a fully healthy team this year. Ask me this question after we fall to 6 in the draft, though.

Ben Quagliata: A little bit but not a lot. I thought the ceiling this year would be fighting for a play in spot at best, and that obviously hasn’t materialized. It’s almost impossible in my mind to accurately judge the projections moving forward given a wasted year of Cade’s development alongside Jaden Ivey and a lot more Killian Hayes than we bargained for. I’m still cautiously optimistic because I think Cade is still absolutely THAT guy, but the timeline may have been pushed back a year.

Wes Davenport: It hasn’t. The injury luck has been awful and that’s not something that can be controlled. I’m not convinced this season would have been this much of a disaster if Cade, Bagley, Bojan, et al had been healthy. Probably 2 years away from true playoff contention status (read 3-5 seed), with next season stepping toward the play-in tournament still feels like the timeline to me.

As always, let us know what you think in the comments!

1. With just a handful of games to go, what are the two biggest reasons you’ll be watching the Pistons down the stretch?

2. Who has the most to gain and the most to lose in these final games?

3. Has your outlook on the future of this team changed after this disaster of a season?