The Detroit Pistons will get their training camp started in less than month and there will be plenty at stake for a roster that is mostly fighting for minutes and roles.
There are really only two locks for the opening night starting five with Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey, with everything else likely to be determined by how guys look in training camp, practice and the preseason, as well as how they fit with the rest of the puzzle.
This is especially true at center, where the Pistons have five players who can play the position. I don’t envy coach Dwane Casey, who has to figure out how all of these disparate parts fit.
Isaiah Stewart, Marvin Bagley III, Kelly Olynyk, Nerlens Noel and Jalen Duren will likely all log time at center next season, with Stewart, MBIII and Olynyk likely to lead the way in minutes in that order.
Those three players can all play power forward as well, so coach Casey will be mixing and matching guys until he finds a combination that works. There are several interesting battles brewing within the center group that will be worked out over the course of the season.
Detroit Pistons’ training camp: Battle of the big men
Jalen Duren vs. Nerlens Noel
Noel came over as part of a trade with the Knicks and Duren was drafted 13th overall by Detroit in the 2022 NBA Draft. The two are at opposite ends of their careers, as Noel is a 28-year-old journeyman on his 5th team and Duren is the youngest player in the NBA at just 18-years old.
Noel is also on an expiring deal so is not expected to be part of the long-term plans, while Duren is already considered part of the Detroit Pistons’ young core.
Duren is still very raw, so Noel would probably have more to offer at this point in their careers, as he is an established shot blocker and defender in the NBA, but that is only if the Pistons actually care about wins next season.
I think it’s possible that both players will start the season out of the rotation, but Noel could see minutes early only to be supplanted by Duren later in the season if it is clear that Detroit is out of it.
This s a classic hope vs. veteran situation and if I had to guess, hope will win out in the end.