2020-2021 Record: 20-52
Let’s be honest, the Detroit Pistons are currently a bit of a dumpster fire. But even dumpster fires can be beautiful. Ask anyone involved with the production of “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.” Side note: That only came out a year ago. I know, it feels like five years ago. We’ll never survive this, but I digress.
There’s actually plenty to like if you’re a Pistons fan for the long term with newcomer Cade Cunningham along with returning players Killian Hayes, Saddiq Bey, and Isaiah Stewart. They are going to have their growing pains no doubt, but they should be competitive in most games. They’ve been relatively competitive ever since Dwayne Casey was named head coach in 2018 and the front office has done a decent job giving the roster some sort of direction.
But how long will it take this young core to gel? Will they be interested in winning all season or turn on the tank in the end? And where the hell does Trey Lyles fit into all this?!?!
Killian Hayes struggled out of the gates last season before missing extended time with a partial dislocation of the hip. He sat out 41 games then returned, putting up modest stat lines with some nice assist totals. He finished well outside the top 150 last season due in large part to his inability to take care of the ball (3.2 turnovers per game) and terrible efficiency from the field (35.3% field goal percentage.) He’s not someone worth targeting at any point in the draft, but if you want to take a flier in the last round and stash him, go for it. He’s probably a better stash in 8-cat leagues though.
Behind Killian Hayes will be Saben Lee, Frank Jackson, and Cory Joseph. These three can be largely ignored, but you should keep Cory Joseph on your radar. He averaged 12 points, 5.5 assists, and 1.2 steals for the Pistons down the stretch last season on 50.6% field goal percentage. He probably won’t have as much opportunity with Cade in town and I wouldn’t burn a draft pick on him, but he’s someone to keep on the watch list.
Cade Cunningham is interesting and will likely be drafted too high in most leagues on name recognition alone. Tyrese Haliburton led all rookies in per-game value in 9-category rankings last season at 65th overall. He also led all rookies in total value at 61st. It’s not unreasonable to think that this is an achievable ceiling for Cunningham, but it’s definitely not the norm. Cade sports an ADP on Yahoo! of 71.5 at the time of the writing of this article, so you would be best served letting him fall to the eighth or ninth round before you get him. That means you probably won’t, but you’ll also save yourself some headaches, particularly at the start of the season when rookies typically struggle.
The truth is that if you take him in the sixth or seventh round, you’re leaving no space to get value on his ceiling. If he hits his ceiling, which is a big if, you got exactly the value of your draft pick. Make sense?
Josh Jackson and Hamidou Diallo will be backing him up at the shooting guard position. I love me some Hamidou but please don’t draft him anywhere. Josh Jackson was very intriguing last season as he put up some gaudy numbers from time to time, but with Cade in town he will likely be relegated to a bench role at best. He might not even see the rotation at all.
Saddiq Bey is certainly worthy of a roster spot on your fantasy team. His current ADP is 126.6 on Yahoo! which seems a touch low. If your team needs a three-point sharp shooter late in the draft with a touch of upside, Saddiq is excellent to snag as the late rounds start. He shouldn’t have a lot of competition for his starting role. One slight downside is that he might tank your field goal percentage, but it isn’t too bad. He just doesn’t contribute much outside of points and three-pointers, so don’t go crazy.
It’s not entirely clear how the backup small forward spots will get divided up, but the Pistons have Isaiah Livers, Rodney McGruder, and Chris Smith. It’s likely that Diallo or Cade plays some small forward, or that they shift up Jerami Grant to small forward at times as well. It’s a bit of a fluid situation but all the guys mentioned here aside from Grant aren’t worthy of a draft pick in pretty much any format.
Jerami Grant returns after a rather successful season in which he ended up 81st in per-game value and 91st in total value for fantasy players on the season. However, if your league has any bit of decency, you probably ended your season well before the Pistons engaged tank mode. There’s a prevailing sentiment around the fantasy world that Jerami Grant “ran out of gas” down the stretch, but I personally prescribe to the idea that the Pistons brass was hinting pretty hard to “lay off the gas.” They had every plan to tank the end of the season, and Jerami Grant sat out nine of their last 10 games anyways. Up until the All-Star break, Jerami Grant was a third round value in total value as well as per-game value. The play might be to draft him somewhere in the sixth round and try to trade him by your league’s trade deadline.
There is also the potential for the Pistons to start Isaiah Stewart alongside Kelly Olynyk in their frontcourt, which would push Jerami Grant to the small forward position. No matter where Jerami Grant plays, he should be relatively safe as a mid-round guy though I’m more comfortable letting him slip a little further with Cade Cunningham in town. His usage will likely get soaked up a bit.
Trey Lyles should see some time at power forward, but with the two talented bigs and Jerami Grant in town, he’s probably just bench depth for them. He had a few seasons where he had promising per-minute numbers with the Spurs, so I’d advise keeping him on your watch list, especially in deep leagues.
Isaiah Stewart is this year’s fantasy darling in Detroit, and a lot of experts are pretty high on him. Rightfully so for a guy who put up fifth-round total value after the All-Star break. Mason Plumlee was shipped out, but confusingly the Pistons added Kelly Olynyk to the mix. It’s a better fit next to Stewart as Kelly O can stretch the floor, so it should be interesting to see if they play them next to each other a lot. Stewart currently has an ADP in Yahoo! leagues of 98.2, but that’s definitely too low. In competitive leagues, guys are snagging him in the 5th or 6th round. If you’re in need of a center who will give you elite field goal percentage, blocks, and rebound numbers while chipping in an occasional three, feel bold enough to take him there. If you get him later, you’ve likely got a steal.
Olynyk was a fantasy dynamo last year but his fit with this new team is pretty much up in the air. His ADP on Yahoo! is too low at 123.8 and he can be safely targeted in the start of the late rounds if you’re in need of a big who contributes guard stats in assists, threes, and steals. Don’t sleep on Kelly O, but the uncertain situation gives us pause.
Luka Garza can safely be avoided in all leagues and formats.
- How will Cade Cunningham fit on an NBA team?
- The answer is likely: Very well. After watching him a bit in summer league, I think we can put to bed any bust conversation. Will he struggle like most rookies? Probably. It will be interesting to see how well he can do in his rookie season, but the future is certainly bright.
- Will they engage the tank?
- The tank potential for this team is real, even if things all go right for them. It’s hard to see them as a team on the cusp of making any postseason waves with their current roster. Will that mean they rest guys like Jerami Grant and Kelly Olynyk down the stretch? All signs point to this being likely, but nothing is certain in fantasy hoops just like in real life.
- What will be the starting lineup? Will it change?
- With the ability to go big with a two-center lineup that wouldn’t be terrible, it will be interesting to see if they employ this and whether or not they’ll switch who starts according to the matchup. If they do switch it up, it could mess with our fantasy expectations, sliding guys like Saddiq Bey to the bench potentially. Any guesses out there to Dwayne Casey’s rotations are speculative, at best.