The Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons have, until recently, followed similar rebuilding trajectories. Then the two franchises took diametrically opposed paths heading into this season. The Rockets decided to spend huge sums on quality veterans and role playing depth. They sacrificed any flexibility in their immediate cap sheet and easy playing time for its stable of young players. In their place were vets like Dillion Brooks, Fred VanVleet, Jeff Green, and Jock Landale.
Without much reservation, you have to say it worked just as intended for the Rockets. They enter play today with a 15-15 record, stability up and down the roster, still armed with multiple pieces worth building around in Alperen Sungun and Jabari Smith Jr. In Jalen Green they have a player who is struggling, but they are no longer hitching their entire future on a player who might not pan out. If he figures it all out, that’s just the cherry on top of their Sunday. You could say the same about Amen Thompson and Tari Eason.
Detroit, meanwhile, decided to run it back with its 17-win roster. They prized maximal flexibility going forward instead of overpaying for veterans who could not be clear No. 1 options on a championship team. Without any reservation, you have to say it has been a total failure. The Pistons finally ended their 28-game winning streak in 2023’s final contest, but they have nothing but question marks staring at them in the face. Questions about their young players and how they fit, questions about their head coach and if he is the man to lead a young team back to relevance, and questions about the GM and owner who put it all together.
Personally, I still believe in Ausar Thompson, though his shine has dimmed a bit as he has been relegated to the bench and his lack of offense is even more exposed. Thompson gets to face his twin brother Amen in a professional basketball game for the first time. Houston, fighting for a play-in future, and Ausar fighting to escape the bottom of the NBA standings.
When: 8 p.m. ET
Where: Toyota Center, Houston, Texas
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit
Odds: Pistons +9.5
Detroit Pistons (3-29)
Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Bojan Bogdanovic, Kevin Knox, Jalen Duren
Houston Rockets (15-15)
Fred VanVleet, Jalen Green, Jae-Sean Tate, Jabari Smith Jr., Alperen Sengun