Troy Weaver traded for James Wiseman with games like this in mind.
The Detroit Pistons GM wanted more size. He thought the team needed enough big men to hang with the elites of the east, like the Cleveland Cavaliers. With Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen patrolling the paint, the Cavs are zigging while most of the league zags.
Detroit, similarly, is fleshing out its front court and, on paper, has enough to throw at that twin towers with Jalen Duren, Isaiah Stewart, Marvin Bagley and Wiseman. Unfortunately, we won’t be seeing Weaver’s vision tonight as Duren and Stewart are among the Pistons sitting out with injuries tonight.
When: 7 p.m. ET
Where: Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit
Odds: Pistons +7
Being 16-point underdogs in the NBA is pretty wild.
It’s hard to say that it isn’t a fair handicap for this game, considering the injuries. Detroit will be without key cogs in its frontcourt — Duren, Stewart, and Bojan Bogdanovic — as well as its top bench player in Alec Burks.
Is it injuries or is it tanking? At this point, I don’t even know.
What I do know is during a lost season like this, it's easy to sit back and think “what if?”
Now, if you a regular reader here, you know I’m a staunch Cade Cunningham supporter. He is HIM and I’m convinced that once he gets healthy and has the right, winning roster around him, we’ll see him blossom into a star and, hopefully, a superstar.
But like I said, it’s hard to not allow your mind to stray in a season like this.
I’ve always wondered what would happen if the Pistons had made the right choice in 2020 and drafted Tyrese Haliburton at No. 7. He wasn’t perfect, but you knew he was going to be a legit contributor in some way. Weaver leaned into the long rebuild and went with the developmental prospect, Killian Hayes.
We know how that’s gone.
But I’ve always told myself, “it sucks but it’s ok because Bad Rookie Killian was a big part of landing Cade!” That’s true, the 2020-21 team was really bad. Fun, but bad. It would have been more fun with Haliburton, though.
But the true “what if” is where this rambling story makes sense regarding tonight’s game.
What’s a better outcome for the Pistons: Killian and then Cade Cunningham at No. 1 in 2021 or Tyrese Haliburton and then Evan Mobley at like #3 in 2021? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I don’t know the answer. We won’t know the answer for 10 years because we have no idea what Cade’s ceiling is right now.
It’s just a scenario that bounces around my head every once in awhile.
You know, on those nights where Haliburton has 16 points and 14 assists and Mobley piles up 24 points and blocks 3-4 shots while Killian shoots 3-of-11 and Cade claps a lot from the sidelines in yet another loss.
In the end, it’s all just hypothetical. A fun way to talk about a game where the Pistons are probably going to get beat. Detroit has lost six-straight games and 19 of its past 25. They’re playing better lately, but still finding ways to lose late.
Facing those two big men in Cleveland, plus their All-Star backcourt in Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland, does not give me confidence that they’ll break that streak tonight.
We’ll never know what it’s like to have Haliburton and Mobley instead of Hayes and Cunningham, but we can watch tonight’s game and dream a little about the future Pistons.
The Cavaliers were a disaster just three years ago. Now, they might be the favorites to win the Eastern Conference. Things can change fast in the NBA.
Hopefully, that same luck befalls a healthy Cade and the Pistons sooner than later.
Cleveland Cavaliers (39-26)
Darius Garland, Donovan Mitchell, Isaac Okoro, Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen
Detroit Pistons (15-48)
Killian Hayes, Jaden Ivey, Rodney McGruder, Isaiah Livers, James Wiseman
Question of the Day
What do you want to see from James Wiseman against arguably the best big man duo in the NBA tonight?