This was the season the Detroit Pistons were supposed to be watching the playoff standings instead of the lottery odds, but they are once again the worst team in the NBA.
It was an easy decision to tank last season once Cade Cunningham got hurt, but the Pistons missed out on prospect Victor Wembanyama anyway and didn't seem to have a plan B. Ausar Thompson is going to be a very good player in the NBA, but Wembanyama would have given the team far more hope and direction, as well as another star to build around.
Instead, they are back to the bottom of the league, but this year there is not even hope of a Wembanyama waiting at the end of the season.
NBA Draft Rankings: More projects for the Detroit Pistons
We never really know what an NBA Draft will be, as some "weak" drafts have produced a lot of good players while some "strong" drafts have been full of puzzling busts. The 2020 Draft is the perfect example, as we heard for months that it was the deepest, strongest draft in ages and three of the top five picks were busts.
So we have no idea what the players in the 2024 NBA Draft will ultimately be, but if you look at ESPN's recent rankings (SUBSCRIPTION), it's easy to see that none of them are going to help the Pistons, at least not right away.
Here are the top-5 players as currently ranked by ESPN:
- Alex Sarr
- Zaccharie Risacher
- Cody Williams
- Ja'Kobe Walter
- Nikola Topic
I'm sure this won't end up being the top five, and I'm also sure that there will be good players not listed here, but these are five players that might not sniff the top 10 in some drafts.
Sarr is an 18-year-old defensive specialist, who could end up being another Chet Holmgren type on defense, but the Pistons already have a 20-year-old center.
Risacher is also 18 and also playing on a good pro team like Sarr. Could this 6-foot-10 wing from France end up being this draft's star? Maybe, but it won't be for a while, as he is nearly as skinny as Wembanyama, so we are still talking about a major project.
Cody Williams is currently hurt, which shows you just how thin this draft is. He's the brother of the Thunder's Jalen Williams, which probably helped his standing. But this is what Jeremy Woo had to say about him
"...he is still raw in some areas, without a polished scoring arsenal and consistent jump shot."
Ah yes, exactly what the Pistons need, another player who can't shoot!
Ja'Kobe Walter is a one-dimensional scorer with limited athletic ability who projects more as a role player. The Pistons certainly need those, especially ones that can score, but you'd hope for more star upside with a top-5 pick.
Nikola Topic is a 6-foot-7 point guard. Sound familiar? He'll also be one of the youngest players in the draft at 18 years old and young point guards don't tend to make an immediate positive impact in the NBA.
So three of the top five prospects right now are barely 18 years old and all would be considered long-term projects. There is also a lot of crossover talent with young players the Pistons already have.
This isn't to say the Pistons can't or won't find a star in the 2024 NBA Draft, but there are a lot of projects and unknowns in this one, even for an event that is largely a crapshoot in the best years.
At least last season we had the hope of Wembanyama dangled in front of us as some potential payoff for all of the losing, but this year there is no savior coming and it seems just as likely that the Pistons trade their pick.