By Aadit Jain (‘23)
The 2020-2021 NBA season will commence on December 22, 2020. For the Detroit Pistons, it has now been nine months since they have played an NBA game, following the suspension of the 2019-2020 season in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And now that the NBA Draft and free agency have concluded, the Detroit Pistons are a completely different team with regards to their roster. But the departure of Christian Wood, Luke Kennard, and Bruce Brown has left fans wondering – what does this season hold for the team? Here are my predictions for the upcoming season:
The Young Talent Will Outperform the Expectations
The Pistons made some exciting moves in this year’s draft, acquiring Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey, and Saben Lee. With these transactions, the team’s focus this season will be on developing the young talent on this team. My prediction is that the rookies will impress and even outperform the expectations set. Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey, and Saben Lee are all players who have found success early in their careers. They were all draft picks, and certainly do have the drive necessary to be a force in the league. In fact, general manager Troy Weaver and head coach Dwane Casey have praised the young prospects for their competitive spirit. Not only that, but veterans like Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin have expressed their excitement to guide the players throughout the season.
There are additional things to look forward to over the course of this season, one being the play of 19 year old Sekou Doumbouya. Last year, Doumbouya had a stretch in which he was scoring in double figures, while playing against stars like Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, and Draymond Green. The rookie impressed the coaching staff and the fans with his play, even scoring 24 points against the Boston Celtics. Unfortunately, this was followed by poor offensive play from Doumbouya, and as a result, lost minutes in the rotation. This season, Sekou Doumbouya will bounce back as he plays with an increased role and more confidence. Doumbouya is also friends with Killian Hayes, who was drafted this year with the seventh pick, and it will be interesting to see how the two develop chemistry on the court.
The Team will Explore Trades for Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin
There is no doubt that Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin are fan favorites. The two players are great on offense and bring leadership and NBA experience to the team. However, new general manager Troy Weaver has not been afraid to make changes. Earlier, he unexpectedly traded Luke Kennard and Bruce Brown, both of whom had been on the team for years. I do not think he will hesitate to do the same for Rose and Griffin if given a good offer.
The general manager’s job is to improve the team, while considering many factors. For example, Derrick Rose is on an expiring contract, and after this season, he will become a free agent. It is uncertain whether or not Rose will resign, and the Pistons may want to trade him to avoid losing him for nothing. Rose has also received lots of attention from championship contending teams. In fact, there were rumors last season that the Los Angeles Lakers were looking to trade for him. Of course, these are just rumors, but it’s no secret that Rose can provide a boost of offense off the bench (or even on the starting lineup). For the Pistons, who are rebuilding and acquiring young talent, it makes sense to trade a veteran for draft picks and other young players. While Rose may not be traded, Troy Weaver will likely look into some trades and possibilities.
Blake Griffin’s situation is different from that of Rose. In 2019, Blake Griffin became a fan favorite when pushed the Detroit Pistons to the playoffs, doing so despite his injuries. However, last season, Griffin could only play 18 games due to his injuries, after which he decided to get season-ending surgery. Blake Griffin is a great player, and I believe that he will be able to return to his all-star level play. However, the Detroit Pistons must consider whether they want to continue to pay Blake Griffin his huge contract (around $35,000,000 per season). For a team that is not going to be a championship team anytime soon, Troy Weaver might explore trading an all-star player like Griffin for expiring contracts and draft picks. Playoff teams will want to trade for Griffin since he can still score the ball, play defense, and serve as a leader for a team. While his huge contract and recent injuries will make it more difficult for the Pistons to find a suitable offer, we will likely hear some rumors about him being traded throughout the season.
The Pistons Will Win Less Than 25 Games
Even as an optimistic Pistons fan, I cannot see the team winning more than 25 games this season. The team has lost key players like Luke Kennard and Christian Wood, and that will hurt them on the offensive end. Additionally, the team has acquired a lot of new players, and it will take time for the players to develop chemistry on the court. And as many of the new players are rookies, they will likely have their ups and downs throughout the season. While the Detroit Pistons will not finish with the best record this season, there certainly is a lot of potential for the future of this team.