DETROIT — Year two of the Detroit Pistons’ restoration is in the books and it seemingly showed that they were heading in the right direction.
The Pistons won three more games than the year before, finishing the season 23-59 after injuries ravaged the team early in the year. But as players recovered and returned to the lineup, the Pistons finally got a chance to see what they could look like with a fully healthy roster.
The Pistons won 10 of their last 24 games after the All-Star break and look to head into the offseason with much more cap space and solid momentum to build off of. Here’s how each of the players was graded for their work over the course of 82 games.
Marvin Bagley III: B
Stats: 14.6 ppg | 6.8 rpg| 1.1 apg | 55.5% FG
The Pistons acquired Bagley at the trade deadline to give the team some athleticism in the frontcourt. Bagley delivered and showed some fast-developing chemistry with the team’s young point guards. He quickly adapted to the Pistons system putting up a double-digit game in his first outing in a Pistons uniform. His quick acclimation to the team allowed them to plug him into the starting lineup for eight games. After the All-Star break, Bagley showed just how much of a factor he could be by scoring 15 or more points in nine of his 18 appearances with Detroit.
Saddiq Bey: B+
Stats: 16.1 ppg | 5.4 rpg | 2.8 apg | 39.6% FG | 34.6% 3FG
The sophomore forward showed that he had what it takes to evolve beyond a three-and-D player. Bey ended the season nearly evenly split with 46.3 percent of his buckets coming from inside the arc, while 53.7 percent of his shots came from outside. He found a rhythm throughout the season that allowed him to be a bit more efficient throughout the year after he worked his way through a sophomore slump after the first six games of the season.
Cade Cunningham: A-
Stats: 17.4 ppg |5.5 rpg | 5.6 apg | 1.2 spg | 41.6% FG | 31.4% 3FG
The rookie came very much as advertised and proved to be a connecting piece for almost any rotation the Pistons rolled out. Cunningham had a slow start to the year but remained poised in numerous ways that garnered the respect of his teammates as well as the league. He often struggled from outside the arc but showed growing comfort in imposing his will on opposing defenses by getting to the rim or pulling up to fire off a shot from midrange.
Hamidou Diallo: B
Stats: 11 ppg | 4.8 rpg | 1.3 apg | 1.2 spg | 49.6% FG
Before a fractured thumb shortened Diallo’s season, he provided the Pistons with the right energy spark as a starter, as well as coming off the bench. Diallo proved his reliability in December and January when the Pistons missed several rotational players due to who entered the NBA’s health and safety protocol. But he ended the season with two 30-point games and started 29 of the 58 games he played this season.
Carsen Edwards: Incomplete
Stats: 5.8 ppg | 1.5 rpg | 3.5 apg | 30% FG
Edwards suited up for just four Pistons games this season after the team signed in the final week of the season. He had an electric start, scoring 13 points and doling out nine assists. But he never really got a ton of time to fully adjust to the team’s system.
Luka Garza: B-
Stats: 5.8 ppg | 3.1 rpg | 44.9% FG | 32.7% 3FG
Garza gave the Pistons everything he got whenever he stepped onto the floor. He had some trouble defending opposing players, especially those with a quick first step. But he gave the Pistons a solid offensive option when they needed it.
Jerami Grant: B
Stats: 19.2 ppg |4.1 rpg |2.4 apg | 1 bpg | 42.6%FG |35.8%3FG
The veteran forward had a slow start this season compared to the breakout year he had in the previous one. He opened the year making 41.4 percent of his shots from the floor and knocked down 33.1 percent of his attempts from three. But after he returned from a thumb injury at the beginning of February, he found his footing a proved that he, Bey and Cunningham could be quite the offensive threat. Grant’s efficiency picked up as he made 44.2 percent of his shots from the field and 38.6 percent of his 5.5 attempts from three.
Killian Hayes: C+
Stats: 6.9 ppg | 3.2 rpg |4.2 apg |1.2 spg | 38.3% FG
The 20-year-old seemed to gain more confidence toward the end of the season. It first became noticeable with a shift to the second unit then it became more apparent in the final 11 games of the season. Hayes scored in double figures in eight of them and had a five-game streak where he scored 10 or more points. He looked more comfortable initiating contact with opponents and was rewarded with a few more opportunities at the line.
Frank Jackson: C+
Stats: 10.6 ppg | 1.6 rpg | 40.2% FG | 30.8% 3FG
Jackson missed a lot of time this season and it seemed to disrupt any rhythm or momentum he built when he returned. He averaged career lows in shooting efficiency from the field and from three after becoming an offensive spark plug for the Pistons off the bench. Despite that, he still gave his all to get to the rim and averaged a career-high in points this year.
Cory Joseph: B
Stats: 8.0 ppg | 2.7 rpg | 3.6 apg | 44.5% FG | 41.4% 3FG
With the Pistons still in the process of restoring, Joseph proved to be the steady veteran the team needed. He was a solid mentor to Detroit’s young guards and provided the Pistons with a reliable scorer when he was called upon to do so.
Braxton Key (TW): Incomplete
Stats: 8.6 ppg | 5.3 rpg | 1.1 apg | 45.7% FG | 30% 3FG
Another recent addition to the team, Key gave the Pistons a solid defensive presence on the floor. He was tasked with guarding some of the top offensive players but typically averaged one steal per game, as well 1.2 blocks per game. He grew more comfortable as his time with the Pistons progressed and it netted him a two-way contract with the team.
Saben Lee: C
Stats: 5.6 ppg | 2.4 rpg | 2.9 apg | 39% FG | 23.3% 3FG
It was an up and down year for Lee who had to compete with a pretty crowded guard room. He spent much of this season with the Motor City Cruise but played 37 games with the Pistons and took a step forward as a defender. But offensively Lee seemed to take a step back as a scorer as well as a facilitator, averaging 2.9 assists per game.
Isaiah Livers: B
Stats: 6.4 ppg | 3 rpg | 1.1 apg | 45.6% FG | 42.2% 3FG
The rookie forward missed much of the season rehabbing a foot injury he sustained while at Michigan. But when he cracked the Pistons rotation down the stretch he showed that he could be a valuable piece of this team moving forward. In his final six games of the season, he averaged 9.7 points on 54.3 percent shooting from the floor and 54.5 percent shooting from three.
Rodney McGruder: B+
Stats: 5.4 ppg | 2.2 rpg | 0.9 apg | 43.6% FG | 39.7% 3FG
McGruder embodied what his teammates and coaches called him on a nightly basis. As a pro’s pro, McGruder gave the Pistons a spark plug off the bench on several nights regardless of when his name was called. McGruder particularly gave the Pistons that boost from long range, knocking a series of threes to get them back in their matchups.
Kelly Olynyk: C
Stats: 9.1 ppg | 4.4 rpg | 2.8 apg | 44.8% FG | 33.6% 3FG
It wasn’t an ideal season for Olynyk, who suffered an MCL sprain 10 games into the year. He got off to a strong start averaging 12.5 points per game on 45.1 percent shooting. But the injury knocked him off his rhythm and he had some trouble finding it again until his final 20 games this year when he knocked down 54.1 percent of his shots from the floor and 42.9 percent of his 2.5 attempts from three.
Jamorko Pickett (TW): Incomplete
Stats: 3.8 ppg | 2.5 rpg | 0.5 apg | 36% FG | 33.3% 3FG
Pickett spent much of this season with the Pistons G League affiliate, the Cruise and appeared in just 13 games with the main club this season. Pickett began to show signs that he could be a knockdown shooter for the Pistons toward the end of the year.
Isaiah Stewart: B+
Stats: 8.3 ppg | 8.7 rpg | 1.2 apg | 1.1 bpg | 51% FG | 32.6% 3FG
The 20-year-old big man really began to come into his own as the season progressed and continued to flash his potential to stretch the floor. But Stewart continued to show his powers on defense, becoming what his teammates have called the heart of the defense as the team’s best rim protector. He also continued to grow into a solid perimeter defender adeptly handling switches onto smaller guards.
Dwane Casey and coaching staff: B
For the second year in a row, Casey was tasked with developing young talent. He doubled down by pivoting toward a coaching staff that focused more on player development versus the X’s and O’s to help bring the team’s young players along. They also added John Beilein to the fold, who could help the player development staff focus on helping the young players get back to basics.
The start to the season was far from ideal, with the Pistons going 5-28 in their first 33 games before they opened 2022 with back-to-back wins over the San Antonio Spurs and Milwaukee Bucks. Detroit really found its stride though right before the All-Star break when a team meeting allowed the team to put everything on the table and hold each other accountable.
When the Pistons returned from the break, it seemed as though they had begun to turn a corner. They went 5-5 in the first 10 games back and ended the second half of the season 10-14.
Troy Weaver and front office: B+
The Pistons front office did not have a ton of cap space last summer and made sure to focus on retaining talent to help with the restoration of the franchise. But the team also made sure to address at least one of its needs in its trade for Bagley. But it’s hard to argue that Weaver knocked it out of the park with the drafting of Cunningham in the draft and what looks like could be a solid pick in Livers.
Pistons 2020-21 season grades: High hopes but plenty left to do in franchise restoration