The Detroit Pistons have tanked for three straight seasons, hoping to reset their franchise with top draft picks that turn into stars.
They are following the blueprint of “The Process” 76ers, who tanked away for years to try and get elite talent at the top of the draft.
It eventually worked, though they missed on pretty much every draft pick, and the 76ers are now one of the league’s best teams and have been in the title hunt for several seasons.
They’ve yet to win a title, so many would call “The Process” a failure but Philly eventually achieved what they set out to do, which is get an elite talent to build their team around and go from there.
During their four worst seasons (2013-17), Philly won 19, 18, 10 and 28 games, about the same pace the Pistons are currently on for total wins over this four-year stretch.
The miraculous thing about Philly, is that they went from 28 wins to 52 in one season, when “The Process” started to pay off. So what changed and how can the Detroit Pistons do the same?
The 76ers “Process” vs. the Pistons “Restoration”
After their four-year stretch of futility, the 76ers made a huge leap and have been good for the last six years and counting. No, they haven’t won a title, but they’ve at least been in the mix for one, something any Pistons fan should want after not winning a playoff game since George W. Bush was president.
So how did the finally make the leap?
The first and most obvious way was drafting Joel Embiid and finally getting him healthy. The 2017-18 season was the first that Embiid was fully healthy, so getting a future MVP back in the rotation was obviously the big reason they got better.
Their second-best player that season was Ben Simmons (yep, that one) who had an amazing all-around season, and one was one year away from a run of three straight All-Star appearances.
So by year 5, the 76ers had identified their two stars and had a clear plan to build around them. They added shooters like Robert Covington, JJ Redick, Dario Saric, Marco Belinelli, Jerryd Bayless and TJ McConnell. None of these players were stars, but role players who fit around the shooting-challenged Embiid and Simmons, as all of them shot at least 36 percent from long range.
So the 76ers found their cornerstone, found him a running mate and filled the rest of their roster with veteran role players that complemented them.
Could the Pistons do the same?
Detroit has at least one of their stars in Cade Cunningham, though I’d be very surprised if he’s ever an MVP. But who is the second player? We thought it might be Jaden Ivey, but now it looks more like Ausar Thompson, but there is no sure thing.
The next step will be finding the right complementary players to put around them. To be fair, Troy Weaver had the right idea with guys like Bojan Bogdanovic and Monte Morris, but blew $20 million on Joe Harris, and other than Alec Burks, the Pistons don’t have any veterans to complement their young stars.
Detroit would be lucky to win 28 games this season, so they are already behind “The Process” and don’t currently have the players in place to make the kind of leap Philly made in year five.
The good news is that they have a star player (I’m not worried about Cade when this roster is so bad around him) but they still haven’t identified that second guy, nor any of the veterans that can help them make the type of leap that Philadelphia made in year five of their rebuild.