Detroit Pistons: 5 big questions for 2021-22 NBA season
The Detroit Pistons had an atrocious 2021-22 campaign, but the silver lining is they had the opportunity to select the number one overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. The Pistons decided to choose Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham as draft experts compare his game to Slovenian superstar Luka Doncic. Cunningham is nursing an ankle injury to begin the season, but his potential is outside the roof.
Even with their abysmal record, Detroit had some positives from their season as Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey were brilliant steals from the 2021 draft because of their instant production on both sides of the floor. These two youthful individuals could complement the impeccable playmaking and floor general skills of Cunningham. Dwane Casey and his men are expected to have another underwhelming season for Detroit, but here are five looming questions then can look to answer in the process.
Five Pistons questions for 2021-22 season
Is Cade Cunningham a franchise-altering star?
The hype and buzz for Cunningham entering the season is really high because of his vast amount of abilities. He is not just limited to facilitate or score, but he could do all these at a fantastic level. Cunningham has the stature to see over the other guards that will try to defend him in the NBA, similar to Doncic.
The major question mark for Cunningham is how his game will translate at the NBA stage. The physicality and speed at the professional level is vastly different from AAU or NCAA matches as Cunningham must adjust to fit in with the tougher and rugged opponents. As Detroit pins their hopes on Cunningham, their future seems bright as they have building blocks to possibly reach playoff contention again.
Is Isaiah Stewart going to take the next leap?
Stewart is the prototypical starting big man in this generation because of the slew of skills he possesses offensively and defensively. Despite starting the season as a backup to Mason Plumlee, Casey altered his rotation and inserted him to the first unit in the latter part of the season.
As a Detroit center, he is learning numerous lessons from defensive genius Ben Wallace to further enhance his defensive awareness and positioning. Stewart does not lack in hustle and energy as he positions himself for any rebound or loose ball. Moreover, he intends to expand his offensive abilities by developing a consistent outside shot.
Can Killian Hayes and Cade Cunningham co-exist?
Killian Hayes was the seventh overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, but he was not able to showcase his talent last season because he sustained a hip injury that kept him out till the last few games of the sseason. Playing at the professional level in Europe for a few years is an enormous edge for Hayes, but he still needs to work on his efficiency and shooting prowess.
With Hayes trying to find his footing as the main ball handler of Detroit, Cunningham also excels by orchestrating the offense and creating shots for others. Thus, their ability to co-exist and play together as the backcourt tandem of Detroit may pose a challenge for Casey. Instant success and ascension is not expected for this duo, but they must gradually progress as one of the prominent young guards in the league.
How can Dwane Casey replicate his success from Toronto?
Casey’s squad in Toronto were composed of individuals that did not receive success right away at the NBA level. The development his stars from DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry to his role players in Pascal Siakam or Jonas Valanciunas has been very evident, thus making it a possibility for him to evolve the game of men, such as Bey, Stewart or Hayes.
Even the Detroit core is still far from All Star caliber level, Casey does not have the pressure of leading them to a deep playoff run in the next few years. The previous Raptors iterations were not as talented to other their counterparts, but their chemistry and camaraderie were impeccable. With these characteristics, Casey may try implementing these in the Pistons culture as well.
Who will mentor the Pistons youngsters?
With the massive free agent signings of Jerami Grant last season and Kelly Olynyk this season, they are the veterans that have experienced some playoff success in their career. Even if they have not been integral pieces in a championship contending franchise, Grant and Olynyk are the individuals expected to guide the core of Detroit.
Grant and Olynyk will be playing over 25 minutes at the beginning of their campaign, but the ironic move is when they start benching their veterans after the All Star break. The continuity and chemistry of their team will be derailed if the veterans only decide to play in some games. Even if the plan is to increase the minutes of the youth, there must still be a balance of veterans and youthful players on the rotation.