Are the Pistons looking at a logjam at center?

Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Pistons were short handed in the middle for much of the season. However, with new additions, better health, and an upcoming draft filled with talented big men, could Detroit end up with too many centers?

Remember the games when the Pistons were so short at center, they had to play 6-foot-9 Trey Lyles there? Those were the days … of many losses and no rim protection. It really wasn’t Lyles fault, he is a natural power forward, but with Kelly Olynyk, Isaiah Stewart and Jerami Grant out with injuries or due to health protocols, coach Dwane Casey had few alternatives.

Flash forward to the present, Casey now has options galore. Looking to the future, he will probably have even more. If things break a certain way, Detroit may be in the same situation it found itself in the pre-seasons of 2020 and ’21, with a good chunk of its roster taken up by centers.

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Let’s take a closer look at Detroit’s current big men, and then potential future additions at that spot.

The Detroit Pistons centers of the present

  • Isaiah Stewart: The incumbent starting center. What looked like a bad injury suffered against Atlanta has turned out to be just a bone bruise. He will be back before the end of the season. ‘Beef Stew’ is tough and hustles his tail off. However, his offensive game is limited and, at 6-8, one wonders if he has the size to be a championship-level center.
  • Kelly Olynyk: The Pistons big free agent signing of the off-season. The 6-11 Olynyk has suffered through a lot of injuries. A veteran with a nice outside shot, he is a difference maker when he is on the floor. However, he has been a solid backup throughout his career, never thought of a main cog in a starting lineup.
  • Marvin Bagley III: Take him away from the Kings, and the pressure of being the guy picked before Luka Doncic and Trae Young, and you have a pretty good, young big. The 6-10 Bagley is averaging 14 points, seven rebounds and giving the Pistons its first genuine lob threat since Andre Drummond. His defense needs work. Bagley is also a restricted free agent at the end of the season, so he might not be around for next year.
  • Luka Garza: The 6-11 Iowa-product has played in 30 games and averaged 5.2 points. As advertised, he can score but defense is something he needs to work on. For a late second-round pick, Garza is a steal. However, he has only started five games despite the other centers being out at times. Still in the project phase.
  • Jerami Grant: He only weighs 210-pounds but the 6-9 Grant has been used as a small-ball center. He is not much of a shot blocker or rebounder, but Grant in the middle does give solid one-on-one defense, and a player on offense the opponents have to worry about. He has one year left on his contract but rumors swirl about Grant being traded.

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Importantly, all of the above players are under contract for next season,  except Bagley. So Detroit could be set at center for the immediate future, except, looking at the Pistons record, an upgrade in talent could be order if the Pistons want to become true contenders.

The two most talked-about future options at center for Detroit Pistons

One center in the draft and one free agent are obvious standouts to become Pistons:

  • Mitchell Robinson: He is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and reports are that he and the Knicks are not seeing eye to eye. It is reported that the Pistons tried to get him at the deadline, but the Knicks  balked. He does not have the offensive skills of a Bagley, but he is a rim protector and a fine rebounder. It also looks like his best days are ahead of him.
  • Chet Holmgren: the top pure Center in the upcoming draft. The Gonzaga 7-footer can do it all, except weigh over 200 lbs. Of course, they said Evan Mobley was too thin last year, look how that worked out. If Detroit draft’s high enough to have a shot of him, it will be an interesting discussion among Pistons management.

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While the three-point shot may be king, most of the top title contenders also have a dominant big man. The last two NBA champions, Lakers and Bucks, both had high-quality post players.

Center is a position that, despite all the bodies, the Pistons may look to upgrade in the offseason. Coach Casey will certainly have some alternatives.