DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Pistons seem to be on their way up from rock bottom, assembling a dynamic backcourt, acquiring a veteran scorer and keeping a nucleus of promising young players.
“It’s the most talent we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said coach Dwane Casey, entering his fifth season in Detroit. “It’s also the youngest talent that we’ve had.”
Cade Cunningham, who validated Detroit’s decision to draft him No. 1 overall in 2021, and speedy guard Jaden Ivey, the fifth pick in June, may provide a needed dose of hope for the franchise’s future.
And when Detroit general manager Troy Weaver traded last year’s leading scorer Jerami Grant because he didn’t want to give him a long-term contract, it led to the draft-night acquisition of center Jalen Duren, the 13th pick in the draft.
Then Weaver made a savvy trade last month to acquire Bojan Bogdanovic from Utah in exchange for spare parts, and kicked the team’s plans into another gear.
“We’re in another stage of our restore and rebuild by adding Bojan,” Weaver said of Bogdanovic, who averaged 18.1 points last season with the Jazz.
The Pistons were 23-59 last season, finishing ahead of just Houston and Orlando at the bottom of the league standings.
They have been struggling to gain traction for more than a decade, slipping so much during a series of rebuilding efforts that they had one of the NBA’s worst teams the previous three years.
Detroit has failed to win a playoff series since 2008, when it advanced to the conference finals for the sixth straight year during a remarkably successful stretch that included its third NBA championship.
“I don’t think you can just wake up one day and become a contender,” said Weaver, who is in his third season of retooling the roster. “I think there’s different phases you have to go through.”
BLINK AND YOU’LL MISS HIM
Veteran NBA players are used to the speed of the game, but even they have been impressed with how fast Ivey has been on the court.
“He’s a bullet out there,” guard Cory Joseph said. “He brings another dynamic as far as pushing the pace, getting into the open court, which we need to do more. I can see flashes of (Russell) Westbrook.”
The 6-foot-4, 195-pound Ivey, who can play point or shooting guard, averaged 17.3 points last season at Purdue.
“He’ll make it a lot easier for everybody because he has a great feel for the game,” Cunningham said. “He brings a different dynamic with his skill set.”
Ivey’s mother, Niele, played for three WNBA teams (including the Detroit Shock) and coaches Notre Dame’s women’s basketball team. His father, Javin Hunter, was a standout receiver at Notre Dame. And his late grandfather, James Hunter, started 77 games at defensive back for the Detroit Lions from 1976 to 1982.
DIAMOND IN ROUGH
Duren, the youngest player in the draft, will be an NBA player for about a month before he turns 19.
“He’s going to be a jewel for this city for a long time,” Casey said.
The athletic 6-11, 250-pound center averaged 12 points, 8.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 25.3 minutes per game last season as a freshman at Memphis.
Saddiq Bey, the No. 19 pick in 2020, broke the team’s single-season franchise record for 3-pointers last season and averaged 16 points. Center Isaiah Stewart, the No. 16 pick two years ago, averaged eight-plus points and rebounds. Marvin Bagley, the No. 2 pick overall in 2018, averaged 14 points after he was acquired last year and re-signed as a restricted free agent for $37 million over three years.
“I think the sky’s the limit for us,” Bey said.
Killian Hayes has averaged fewer than seven points a game in each of his two seasons, falling short of projections for a player drafted by Detroit at No. 7 overall in 2020.
The Pistons made two offseason deals with the New York Knicks, including a move that added veterans Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel to the front court. Burks averaged 11.7 points last season, starting a career-high 44 games. The 6-11 Noel averaged a career-best 2.2 blocks two seasons ago.
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