In many ways, the Oklahoma City Thunder are the team the Detroit Pistons are trying to be.
The Thunder have an even younger roster than the Pistons but managed to make the play-in tournament last season behind an All-NBA year from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
They made the kind of leap the Pistons want to make soon, so Detroit is hoping for a similar result behind a star turn from Cade Cunningham.
Both of these teams are loaded with young talent, so there will be some interesting matchups in tonight’s preseason game if they are all on the floor.
Best individual matchups in Pistons vs. Thunder
Jalen Duren vs. Chet Holmgren
Jalen Duren left the Detroit Pistons’ first preseason game with an ankle injury and we haven’t seen him since. He has been practicing without limitations but is still listed as day-to-day.
This should be an interesting clash of styles, as Holmgren is more of a finesse player and Duren still relies on athleticism and power. The Pistons don’t run many plays for Duren in the post, but he should get action as a roll man and it will be interesting to see if Holmgren can stay with him.
Holmgren is a crafty shot blocker who comes at you from strange angles, so Duren will have to go with authority when he does roll to the hoop. On the other end, Duren may have to step out on Holmgren, who can make long-range shots.
I’d love to see Duren dominate him on the boards, using his power to get some offensive rebounds and second chances. Mostly, I’d really just like to see Duren in the lineup.
Cade Cunningham vs. Josh Giddey
The same goes for Cunningham, as the Detroit Pistons need to get as many reps as possible with their young roster that has not played much together. Cunningham and Giddey are similar players and often get compared because of their size and ability to affect the game in a number of ways.
Cade needs to keep Giddey out of the lane and impose his will on the other end. The Duren/Cade pick-and-roll should play against Giddey and Holmgren, especially if Cade knocks down a couple of 3’s to keep them honest.
Ausar Thompson vs. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Ausar Thompson has accepted the challenge of defending the other team’s best player every night and he’ll have his hands full in this one. Thompson did a good job against Devin Booker at times and has the size and length to bother SGA as well. This is the advantage of putting Thompson in the starting five over Jaden Ivey, as he can defend pretty much anyone and can hopefully stop the other team’s star(s) from getting off early. The Pistons were horrible defensively on the perimeter last season, so I look forward to watching Ausar Thompson help to rectify that.