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Detroit Pistons End of Season Grades

Detroit Pistons Young Core

Pistons fans: 2023 was not your year.

Not yet, anyway.

The Detroit Pistons capped off the 2022-23 season with a 103-81 loss to the Chicago Bulls, finishing with a record of 17-65 and a winning percentage of 20.7%. The Pistons had not ended the season with a lower winning percentage since the 1979-80 season, when a Bob Lanier and Bob McAdoo-led Pistons squad went 16-66 and took home a winning rate of 19.5%, according to Basketball Reference.

Detroit has not earned a winning record since the 2015-16 season, when a Reggie Jackson, Tobias Harris and Andre Drummond-led Pistons team won 44 games before being swept in the first round of the NBA playoffs by the giant-slaying Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Pistons have been through just two head coaches since then. The team parted ways with Stan Van Gundy after four seasons before moving Dwane Casey to a front-office role earlier this month.

As the Pistons search for a new head coach following Casey’s departure and a potential last piece before they make a push for the playoffs, one can’t forget the path Detroit took to get to this very offseason.

Did the Pistons live up to the expectations placed upon them? And where can they go from the several rebuilding seasons they have faced since their last playoff appearance in 2019?


This year was never meant to be the year of the Piston.

Whether they were expected to be a contender for the Play-In tournament, or end with one of the league’s worst records, the Pistons were still waiting to tap into the sky-high potential of its young core.

Detroit seemed to finally have the stability at the point guard spot they desperately needed since Reggie Jackson was bought out by the Pistons in 2020. Former Oklahoma State star Cade Cunningham seemed to have everything Detroit needed to spark a resurgence in hope for a rebuilding squad after he was taken with the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.

The Pistons placed 24th in the NBA’s August Power Rankings, taking spots ahead of the Utah Jazz, the San Antonio Spurs and a Central Division rival in the Indiana Pacers. Every other Central Division team, including the surging Cleveland Cavaliers, took spots ahead of them by season’s end.

The Eastern Conference and the Central Division continued to grow around the Pistons as they pieced together a young team for the future.

The Milwaukee Bucks continued their streak of excellence with forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and a team built to amplify his strengths while making up for his weaknesses. The Chicago Bulls went all in for veteran talent to spark a playoff push for the first time since the 2016-17 season with decisive gambles in 2021. Cleveland’s young core received a massive boost with the trade for Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell, who helped push Cleveland to its first 50-win season since 2018, the last season LeBron James was on the team. 

Indiana’s youthful backcourt duo of Tyrese Haliburton and Bennedict Mathurin led the team to its highest wins total since Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo led the Hoosier state-based franchise to 45 wins in a first-round exit to the Miami Heat in the 2019-20 season.

Every one of those teams finished with a better record than Detroit. Two of them reached the playoffs. One of them fought for a spot in the Play-In.

But, if everything goes the Pistons’ way, Detroit could walk away with the last laugh.


Detroit’s offense was nothing to write home about, but there were some bright spots to keep things interesting.

The Pistons ranked 28th in offensive rating with 109.9 points per 100 possessions, taking spots ahead of the Spurs and Charlotte Hornets. The Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic and Miami Heat took the three places directly before them.

Forward Bojan Bogdanovic, who was once tied to the Cleveland Cavaliers in NBA trade rumors, led the team in scoring with 21.6 points per contest on a 48.8% shooting percentage. A sharpshooter for the young Pistons, the 34-year-old forward splashed home 41.1% of his 3-point attempts while taking six shots per game.

Though guard Cade Cunningham missed most of the 2022-23 season after having surgery on his left leg, he ended his second year in the league with 19.9 points and six assists per game in 12 games, good enough for second place on the team in both categories. Guard Jaden Ivey, a scoring guard who nearly led the Purdue Boilermakers to a Big Ten Tournament title in 2022, finished the season with 16.3 points and 5.2 assists per outing in 74 games played and 73 started.

Ivey’s speed caught the eye of Memphis Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins, who saw Ivey play during a 126-111 win over the Pistons during a preseason matchup in October.

“I think Jaden’s pace of play is just going to be a tone-setter,” Jenkins said, via “A couple of games we’ve watched, his ability in transition, to break down a defense one on one, pick and roll as well, getting a piece of the paint, unlocks so much.

“You’re going to have to pick your poison a little bit.”

Detroit’s younger options showed signs of competence when they took on the Hornets and the Spurs, finishing 141 and 138 points in two overtime matchups in December and February. Guard Killian Hayes led the team in scoring against the Hornets in December with 25 points, while Bogdanovic spearheaded the team’s offense with 32 points against San Antonio in February.

The Pistons’ young guns may have provided some bright spots on offense, but how did they perform on the other side of the court?

Final Grade: C-


Detroit’s defense was terrible last year.

At one point, the Pistons had the worst defensive rating in team history at 118.5, taking the second-worst spot in the league following a 135-106 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers in January. Both of Detroit’s starting forwards at the time in Bogdanovic and Saddiq Bey each had defensive ratings of 121.5 and 119.4, according to Detroit Sports Nation.

Detroit ended the season with the 27th spot in the NBA with a defensive rating of 117.8. It took places ahead of Portland, Houston and San Antonio while finishing behind the Pacers, the Dallas Mavericks and the Sacramento Kings. Detroit finished with the 24th-best defensive rating in the league the year before with 113.3, 0.1 points worse than the Bulls and 0.3 higher than the Washington Wizards.

They allowed as many as 150 points in a 20-point loss to the Bucks in January and as few as 95 in a 4-point loss to the Toronto Raptors in February.

But fear not, Detroit fans. What didn’t kill the Pistons can ultimately make them stronger.

Final Grade: D-

Overall Grade

You love it when a plan comes together.

Even in what seems like an NBA franchise’s worst season in recent memory, there will always be a silver lining. And if there were one chance for the Pistons to aim for a final young piece, it would be this year.

Metropolitans 92 forward Victor Wembanyama, the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, officially entered his name into the draft pool on Friday.

“Declaring for the draft…it’s something crazy I’m not realizing yet,” Wembanyama said in an interview with NBA Today Host Malika Andrews. “I realized pretty young I wanted to play in the NBA, but it becomes a reality more every day.

“I’m so lucky to have this dream within the reach of my hand.”

The Pistons have the top spot in the NBA Draft lottery, but are tied with Houston and San Antonio for the chance to compete for one of the highest-rated prospects in recent memory.

Detroit’s search for its next head coach won’t have the same level of certainty.

During his opening remarks, Pistons general manager Troy Weaver laid out some of the qualities he expects his team’s next head coach to possess, according to Detroit Free Press Pistons Beat Writer Omari Sankofa II.

“We have the coaching search coming up,” he said. “That’s going to be, for me, I know what this team needs is simple — discipline, development and defense.

“That’s going to be the call for the next coach.”

The Pistons are nearly there.

Should they hit their next head coaching hire out of the park and complete their talented young roster with the addition of the 7-foot-2-inch French phenom, then all of the previous seasons will have been worth it. This includes a 80-222 record since they last made the playoffs in the 2018-19 season, the rotation between win-now trades and rebuilding seasons, and competing in last-place spots in the Central Division since the 2020-21 season.

But if not, don’t fret, Pistons fans.

The other top-5 selections will be great too.

Final Grade with Wembanyama: A-

Final Grade without Wembanyama: C+

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