Time for the Detroit Pistons' Rising Stars to graduate

Los Angeles Clippers v Detroit Pistons
Los Angeles Clippers v Detroit Pistons / Gregory Shamus/GettyImages

For the 5th straight season, the Detroit Pistons have at least one player in the NBA Rising Stars challenge. 

In 2020, Svi Mykhailiuk represented the World team in the event. He’s bounced around the league since, playing for OKC, Toronto, New York, Charlotte and now Boston, never fulfilling that early promise. 

In 2021, James Wiseman was in the event, though this is cheating, as he wasn’t on the Pistons. Wiseman is now a deep bench big who still plays like a rookie. 

In 2022, Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart were all in the event. Bey is no longer on the Pistons, traded for the aforementioned Wiseman. Cunningham has put up numbers on a historically bad team, but never sniffed All-Star consideration this season. Stewart is a role player who has yet to find his perfect niche. 

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Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren represented the Pistons in 2023 and 2024 and the newly acquired Quentin Grimes, who has yet to play for Detroit, represented the Knicks on the 2023 roster.

Both Ivey and Duren have made progress this year, though some of Ivey’s was thwarted by his coach and Duren is still a 50/50 defender. The good news is that Ivey has been very good since re-joining the starting lineup and Duren, who is only 20, has nights where he looks like one of the best centers in the league. Progress. 

While some teams have watched their Rising Stars turn into All-Stars, the Pistons are stuck in a seemingly never-ending rebuild that has given promise of a future that has not yet come to fruition. 

From Rising Star to All-Star 

Since 2020, 10 players have made the leap from Rising Star to All Star. Trae young, Luka Doncic, Zion Williamson, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, Tyrese Haliburton, Ja Morant, Scottie Barnes and Paolo Banchero. Some of these players are current MVP candidates and most of their teams are good. At least better than the Pistons. 

Tyler Herro and Michael Porter Jr are both key parts of good teams that have been to the Finals and in MPJ’s case, won a title. 

Meanwhile, the Pistons haven’t had an All-Star since the Blake Griffin Season, which is part of the reason their rebuild has stalled. 

The Detroit Pistons need internal growth 

No one should expect a player to be an All-Star before their 4th or 5th season, as the 10 listed above are more outliers than the norm. 

But the Pistons will need them to be soon if this team is ever going to be good. Regardless of how much cap space they have, Detroit can’t rely on free agency to save them. And there may be some available stars this summer, but do the Pistons have the trade assets to acquire one of them? It won’t be easy. 

The truth is that the Pistons are only going to go as far as their Rising Stars carry them, and they will need one or more of them to make that leap if they are going to put a winning team on the floor that is sustainable. 

Cade Cunningham has to stay healthy, care more about defense and adapt to the teammates around him as they are adapting to him. 

Jaden Ivey has to keep doing what he’s been doing on offense, getting to the rack and shooting efficiently from the outside, but he too needs to improve defensively. 

Jalen Duren has to evolve into a defensive anchor for the Pistons, a guy who blocks a couple of shots a game and can defend the pick-and roll. 

If these things don’t happen, it probably won’t matter what the Pistons do this summer, as they are building through the draft, meaning the guys they draft have to eventually turn into stars. 

The good news is that they are very young. 

But they won’t be forever, as Cunningham is already due a max rookie extension this summer and the Pistons are going to have to bet big money that he is the franchise player they’ve been waiting for. 

Ivey and Duren won’t be far behind, so the Pistons are about to have an expensive roster that is going to have to produce an All-Star or two if it’s going to work. Otherwise, we can look forward to more top-5 picks, more Rising Stars and more hope for a future that is always a few years away.