Detroit Pistons: The playoffs show the importance of the NBA Draft

Killian Hayes #7 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Killian Hayes #7 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

As the Detroit Pistons spend another year watching the playoffs from home, in the midst of another extensive rebuild, and with hopes for a pick in the upper echelon of the NBA draft, this year’s playoffs have exuded a theme that Detroit’s near future will rely heavily upon: drafting well, developing talent, and finding ways to build around a young star that could possibly be found as soon as this summer.

Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Phoenix’s Devin Booker, Atlanta’s Trae Young, and Philly’s tandem of Ben Simmons of Joel Embiid have conveyed an important message for small market organizations in the super team era: It is indeed possible to to win through drafting a young player with star potential and building around them accordingly through drafts, free agency signings, and trades.

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While the ascensions of Phoenix and Philadelphia may seem far-fetched to Pistons fans, the rise of the Atlanta Hawks is a direct example of how quickly a franchise’s fortunes can change, and of how important it is to aggressively build around your young star.

Detroit Pistons: Learning from how Atlanta built around their star

Within four seasons, Atlanta has gone from the very bottom of the Eastern Conference, to being two games away from the Conference Finals. This turnaround consisted of drafting Trae Young, effectively building their entire offense around him, and utilizing their next few lottery picks to acquire pieces (John Collins, Cam Reddish, and De’Andre Hunter) that directly complemented his game, along with an important trade as well (Clint Capela).

This summer, however, was arguably the biggest leap for the Hawks, as they signed Bogdan Bogdanovic, Rajon Rondo (who they would later trade for Lou Williams), and drafted another young piece, Onyeka Okongwu.

With these pieces, and a new coach mid-season, the Hawks have been more reliant upon Young’s skills than ever. In the regular season, he led the entire league in pick and rolls, averaging 14.1 per game, and also scoring out of them more than anyone else, with an average of 13.9 points.

In an offense that is predicated on shooting, spacing, and a steady diet of pick and rolls, the Hawks had four players average over fifteen points a game, and nine players average in double figures, serving as a testament to Trae Young’s season average of 9.4 assists.

Young’s shooting, along with the addition of Bogdan Bogdanovic, has enabled Atlanta to space the floor on a consistent basis, leaving room for Young and Atlanta’s centers, John Collins and Clint Capela, to generate offense through an array of lobs, floaters, and threes.

While large market teams have been able to acquire the small number of superstars around the league for the time being, the Hawks are a clear indication that a superstar free agency signing isn’t the only way to cultivate a winning roster. Troy Weaver and his staff gave Detroit Pistons fans reason for hope in last year’s draft. With the right young star, and a few pieces around him through drafts, signings, or trades, an arduous rebuild with no clear ending can be expedited, much like the Hawks have been able to do.

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