If you’re looking for franchises the Detroit Pistons should model their own rebuild after, you could do much worse than the Oklahoma City Thunder. Of course, the Thunder had one important element that the Pistons couldn’t take advantage of — assets. The Thunder decided it was time to move on from Paul George and Russell Westbrook and start over. Through various maneuverings and machinations, both were sold off and the returned assets were sold off and eventually OKC found themselves with the most enviable stockpile in the NBA. Not only do they have 13 first-round picks between now and 2027, they have Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, one of the best young guards in the NBA.
When the Pistons decided to shed itself of Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin, well, they didn’t exactly get that kind of return. In fact, they got as close to nothing as you could possible get — a second-round pick, all told.
But the Thunder haven’t even used hardly any of its surplus draft assets yet, so its a good picture into a solid rebuilding plan, even accounting for some things not quite working out. They have potential rookie of the year in Jaylen Williams and Josh Giddey in the backcourt, and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Lu Dort at forward, with Chet Holmgren ready to make his debut down low next season.
The Poku move hasn’t really worked, Tre Mann has yet to develop, and you can run hot or cold on Darius Bazley. But they do smart things like pluck Isaiah Joe off the waiver wire and have a great developmental system. Sometimes it is as simple as that.
Cade Cunningham could be a Shai equivalent on a time-deferred basis, and we’re already seeing the Jalen Williams vs. Jaden Ivey battle play out in real time this year (early advantage to Williams, but both have had super promising rookie seasons). The Pistons have Jalen Duren down low ala Chet, and even their own version of Poku in Killian Hayes. If only Detroit’s roster had a modicum of the defensive upside of OKC’s tertiary players.
When: 8 p.m. ET
Where: Paycom Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit
Odds: Pistons +11
Detroit Pistons (16-59)
Killian Hayes, Jaden Ivey, Isaiah Livers, Marvin Bagley, James Wiseman
Oklahoma City Thunder (37-39)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Lu Dort, Jalen Williams, Jaylen Williams