The Detroit Pistons have tanked for the last three seasons and have come out ahead because of it. With Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, the Pistons were a play-in tournament caliber team at best and were destined to lose a lopsided series in the first round if they made it at all.
In recent seasons, the Pistons have opted to tank, lose on purpose, and reaped the rewards. And the bag has been mixed. Cade Cunningham is an emerging superstar. Saddiq Bey is already a quality wing and could reach All-Star status. Isaiah Stewart is a solid starting power forward/center, and Killian Hayes hasn’t yet lived up to the hype.
Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren should be solid players in a year or two, and Marvin Bagley III has shown that he can be a solid contributor. With plenty of young talent already on the roster, the time to win could finally be here.
Detroit Pistons: It’s time to give up on tanking, or else
The time to tank is no more. In years past, teams that have drafted the best player in the draft found themselves improving more often than not. The 2004 Cavaliers turned it around after drafting LeBron James, the Mavericks won nine more games after adding Luka Doncic, and the Grizzlies made the play-in after drafting Ja Morant.
Cade Cunningham is just as good as those guys were his rookie season, but to be fair, most of those players had better supporting casts.
That is not the case anymore. Bey and Stewart have gotten a lot better, and the Detroit Pistons have built a capable roster around Cade entering year two. Granted, the East is loaded. The Bucks, Heat, 76ers, Celtics, Raptors, and Hawks will all be better than the Pistons, and the Knicks and Nets will probably be better. This puts Detroit at the ninth seed, just barely making the play-in games if all goes well. Fans may want the team to keep tanking, but it’s time to win games.
And let me tell you, Detroit should be hell-bent on making that soft postseason. Sending Cunningham the message that he isn’t good enough to lead a team and they need to tank for more young players will not keep the young man happy. Sure, he wants to be in Detroit right now, but what if the team continues to lose without showing improvement? That will sour him on the franchise, and rightfully so. Detroit will have a ton of cap space next summer, meaning the Pistons can pick who they want to target and sign. Cunningham should be a big piece of that process, but he and the team need meaningful experience.
The Detroit Pistons have not played a game that really mattered since 2019. It’s a harsh reality, but that’s how tanking goes. If Detroit really got their return on the losing, then it’s time to turn this ship around and try to win games. It will keep young guys happy and make them even better, now that they have something to play for.