The Detroit Pistons started their rebuild from scratch, tearing down their roster to build it back up "the right way."
Troy Weaver made his first mistake calling this complete teardown a "restoration," which has become ironic at this point, as the Pistons are worse than they were when he took over 3+ seasons ago. He tried to harken back to the Bad Boys and Goin' to Work groups only to put a team on the floor that does not defend, compete much, and according to their coach "struggles with adversity." They are the antithesis of the championship teams that made Detroit proud.
Like the Process era 76ers, the Pistons hoped to tank their way to elite talent in the NBA Draft and build from there and they have gotten some nice players this way. But we are now in the 4th season and the elite talent is still eluding the Pistons.
Detroit Pistons in The Ringer top 100 players
The Ringer recently updated their top-100 player rankings, and as you would expect, there weren't many Pistons on it.
In fact, after all of this losing and "talent acquisition," the Pistons have exactly one player ranked in the top 100, Cade Cunningham, who came in 63rd on the list.
Here are some of the names ahead of Cade Cunningham that stood out for various reasons:
-Jalen Williams (61): A 2nd-year player who went 12th in the draft
-Jerami Grant (60): Remember him?
-Franz Wagner (52): Start of a theme
-Chet Holmgren (44): Took him 19 games to surpass Cade
-Paolo Banchero (43): Part of the reason Orlando is good
-Alperun Sengun (42): The 16th pick from the draft where Cade went 1st
-Evan Mobley (41): More than 20 spots ahead of Cade
-Desmond Bane (39): The Pistons chose three players ahead of him in this draft, Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey
-Scottie Barnes (35): Yet another pick from Cade's draft
-Tyrese Haliburton (12): Part of the Holy Trinity of draft misses for the Pistons
So it's not just established veterans who are ahead of Cade, as this list includes plenty of guys from the 2021 NBA Draft. It also shows how badly the Pistons blew the 2020 draft, as they could have had both Haliburton and Bane. Ouch.
This isn't Cade Cunningham's fault of course, as he's not played with a coherent roster yet, and doesn't have a single teammate in the top-100, but you would hope that by now the #1 pick might have separated himself from the guys in his draft.
Former Pistons in the top 100
While the good teams were busy putting quality role players around their stars, the Pistons spent $60 million over the last three offseasons and have Monte Morris, Joe Harris, Alec Burks and a couple of second-round picks to show for it.
Meanwhile, many of their former players are ranked in the top 100. Jerami Grant (60), Tobias Harris (65), Bruce Brown (98) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (99) are all players who would help the Pistons now, but were practically given away. The trade of Grant did help land Jalen Duren, but it was more about the Pistons' willingness to take on the Knicks' salary dumps that did it. If there hadn't been a team desperate to shed money, the Pistons would have gotten little from that Grant trade.
So after four years of historic losing, the Pistons have one top-100 player to show for it and a bunch of question marks. It's far too early to judge Jaden Ivey, Jalen Duren, and Ausar Thompson, who could all be on this list at some point, but the Pistons blew the 2020 draft, and as much as Troy Weaver gets heralded for being a great talent evaluator, Detroit has painfully little to show for it when it comes to elite talent.