Pistons mailbag: Where does state of rebuild rank among Detroit's pro teams?

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Detroit — What’s wrong with Saddiq Bey?

It’s been one of the lingering questions in the Pistons’ miserable season so far. After all, wasn’t Bey supposed to make another progressive jump from his All-Rookie first-team selection last season?

That’s not how basketball works — not for everybody, at least.

Saddiq Bey — Stats: 16.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 35% 3FG in 82 games. Age: 23. The highlight of his second season was the 51-point game, but the big takeaway from Bey’s season was that he added so many facets to his game and became a threat off the dribble, at the 3-point line and in the post. He has the motivation to improve his game even more, though he also needs to take some time off to rest his body. If he makes another big improvement like this year, he could be in the All-Star conversation. Grade: A-

It’s similar to some followers who seemed to have buyer’s remorse on Cade Cunningham after a small sample size in his rookie season, thinking that he wouldn’t live up to the billing as the No. 1 pick.

Cunningham’s production in his first 14 games was concerning, but like most things, it just takes time. His shooting has picked up, and he’s shown that not only does he want the ball in the final minutes of close games, but he can deliver in those moments too.

Bey is averaging right around the same numbers he did last season, except he notably is shooting lower on 3-pointers, down from 38% to 30%. He’s doing more within the offense and he’s certainly higher on the opposition’s game plan, which takes some adjustment for young players.

This week’s mailbag examines the Pistons’ rebuild and how general manager Troy Weaver should be assessed, along with comparing the Detroit teams’ rebuilds.

Question: The Pistons top 2 players next year should be Cade and whomever they pick in the draft (top 3). Do you think the Pistons third-best (most important) player is currently on the roster? — @IlirLajcaj

Answer: In looking at the longer term, that presumption could be true, that the two most important players are Cunningham and the presumed top-three pick. There’s another presumption in there as well — that the Pistons will trade Jerami Grant before the draft.

That’s where things can get a little sticky. There are multiple reports that the Pistons are open to trading Grant, whose contract goes through the end of the 2022-23 season, with a very reasonable $21 million on the books for the final year. I’m not sure what the Pistons could get back in return in a trade for Grant, but it would have to be something palatable, such as a young player with an attractive contract and high upside.

Grant has embraced Detroit and he’s looking to help build a homeless shelter in the city. He has a good relationship with coach Dwane Casey and Weaver. I just don’t see them parting ways with him unless they bring in a younger, comparable talent. I’ll go the conservative route and say that Grant stays through this season, with the caveat that a stark offer could change their minds.

More: Slowly but surely, Cade Cunningham growing into Pistons' star of the future

Q: How long until Troy Weaver has to begin showing results? — @jbrandimore

A: As long as he needs. There’s nowhere in the multiverse where Weaver is on any kind of hot seat. He was coveted for his skills as a talent evaluator and to build a roster. He revamped a middling roster before last season and brought in several good draft picks and free agents who have achieved beyond expectations.

Rebuilds take years, and he’s made significant progress in a little more than a year. He should have gotten some votes for executive of the year, but that’s typically reserved for execs of franchises that completely turn around and make the playoffs. This roster is still a work in progress, and there’s plenty more talent that will come and go before any declarations are made about what he’s done.

No one expected the Pistons to be a contending team this year — and likely not next season either — so just building the foundation to the rebuild with Cunningham, a likely top-five pick in this year’s draft and the second-year players is a solid enough beginning for Weaver to get good grades in his progress.

Q: Ranking them 1 to 4, where would you relate the Pistons ongoing progress in their rebuild to the other three sports teams in town? One being the best? — @SFHCommish_1

A: It’s clear that the Lions’ rebuild is No. 4. They got some draft picks for Matthew Stafford and their best player is running back D’Andre Swift. They still will need a long-term quarterback, some receivers and several pieces on defense.

I’ll go with the Pistons at No. 3, because they’re still in the early stages of getting their pieces in place. Cunningham looks to be the foundational piece, but there are several others that need to be added before anything starts translating to significant wins and contending. They have plenty of young prospects, but there’s still a filtering process and learning how to win before they start accelerating the rebuild.

The Wings are at No. 2 and the Tigers are at the top of the list. It took some time, but the Tigers’ pitching prospects finally have made their way through the minor leagues and they’re ready to contribute. The Tigers added Javier Baez in the offseason and they’re ready to make a push for the playoffs, if they add maybe another piece or two.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

Pistons at Pacers

Tip-off: 7 p.m. Thursday, Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Indianapolis

TV/radio: BSD-Plus/950

Outlook: The Pistons (4-22) have lost 12 straight games and will be without two of their best big men in Jerami Grant (thumb) and Kelly Olynyk (knee) against the imposing frontline of Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner.