The Athletic rips the Pistons' young core: Are they right?

Detroit Pistons v Indiana Pacers
Detroit Pistons v Indiana Pacers / Emilee Chinn/GettyImages

For the last several seasons we've heard ad nauseam about the Detroit Pistons' young core and how they are the future of the team.

With nearly all of their veteran players out with injuries so far this season, we've gotten to see plenty of the young core, and while there have been some positives, the Pistons have now lost 13 in a row, and the reality is that they are not a good basketball team.

You wouldn't expect a team this young to make the playoffs or contend for a title, but no one expected this mess, even with all of the injuries. That's why some talking heads are asking tough questions about the core the Pistons have staked their future on.

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Given what we've seen from teams like the Pacers, Thunder and Rockets, it's hard not to wonder why the Pistons haven't been able to make similiar leaps. Is it because they just haven't found the right veterans, or is it because this young core isn't a great fit together?

Is the Detroit Pistons' young core a good fit?

In a recent episode of The Athletic NBA Show, host Sam Vecenie, discussed the Pistons' core and whether they complement one another.

He didn't hold back, saying, "This team has been incredibly poorly built from a core perspective," which is not what fans want to hear, as we've been placing all of our hope in the young players eventually being good together as the way out of this mess.

Vecenie started by conceding that the veterans being out has had a negative impact on the young players, especially when it comes to spacing in the offense, but also rightly pointed out that most of these guys won't be on the team next season anyway, so it's not as if players like Joe Harris, Monte Morris and Bojan Bogdanovic are long-term solutions.

The main thesis to his argument is that fit matters more than ever in the NBA, as the new CBA makes the superteam (unless you are Phoenix) a thing of the past, as it is far more punitive to go into the luxury tax and keep 3-4 superstar players together.

That makes building around your star player with complementary guys (like the Nuggets have with Jokic) even more important, and when you look at the players the Pistons have put around Cade Cunnningham, it's hard to say that they've done a good job.

While guys Jalen Duren, Ausar Thompson and Jaden Ivey have played well for the Pistons, it's hard to look at their respective games and say that they really complement Cade.

You can have multiple non-spacers on the floor (as OKC does with Giddey and Dort) if you have an elite one-on-one creator, but right now, Cade Cunningham is not that, as he needs screens to lose a defender and doesn't beat too many guys on his own.

That makes it easy for teams to play drop coverage when Isaiah Stewart, Ausar Thompson and Jalen Duren are all on the floor with Cade, as teams don't fear their shooting, and actually welcome it. It's either that or just swarm Cade and force him to pass with little worry that the other guys are going to make you pay.

If you watch how defenses have to play Tyrese Haliburton (who is surrounded by shooters) you see a drastic difference in approach to how they play Cade Cunningham, which is part of the reason Haliburton is leading the NBA in assists. Teams can't double him without leaving dangerous shooters open, which is not the case with the Pistons.

Vecenie made some solid points, but it's also fair to wonder how this might be different with a guy like Bogdanovic out there. I've said many times that Bojan Bogdanovic is not good enough to bridge the gap that exists between the Pistons (the worst team in the NBA) and the good teams, but he'd give us a better understanding of whether this core can actually work.

In today's NBA, it's hard to thrive without multiple knockdown shooters on the floor at the same time, and when you look at the Pistons' core, you have to wonder who those guys are going to be.

That doesn't mean it can't work, or won't work in the future, but Troy Weaver has to find more complementary players to put around these guys or we can see what the results are going to be. This might make it necessary to break up what he has built, not to start over, but to re-configure.

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