Reviewing the 2021 Detroit Pistons

July 4th, 2021

By Alan Lu

The Pistons were not expected to contend for the title this year, and sure enough, they were one of the worst teams in the NBA this season as they finished at 20-52 this year.

There were some bright spots, though.  The Pistons had signed Jerami Grant away from Denver, and Grant averaged over 22 points per game, and he was a candidate to win the Most Improved Player award.  They also had strong production out of their rookies, especially from Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey.  In a lost season, there were signs of hope for the Pistons to build off of for the future. 

Detroit Pistons’ forward, Jerami Grant had a very good season, as he reached his personal bests in points scored, and points per game in a single season this year.
(Photo:
Raj Mehta/USA Today Sports, via Freep)

F Jerami Grant
2021 (DET): 54 GP, 22.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.1 BPG, 43 FG%, 35 3PT%, 85 FT%, 16.9 PER, 56 TS%, 3.2 WS, .083 WS48

Jerami Grant had really expanded his role, and he was the go-to scorer for the Detroit Pistons this season.  He has a good chance to win the Most Improved Player award, and he has excelled as a shooter, scorer, and facilitator this year.  He will still need to improve his rebounding and be more a consistent defender, but he is a solid, athletic player that is now a core piece of the Pistons’ franchise.

2021 Season Grade: B+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starter on the Detroit Pistons
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2.5 stars

Detroit Pistons’ forward, Saddiq Bey had a very good rookie season, and he made the 2020-21 NBA All-Rookie First Team this year.
(Photo:
Rick Osentoski/USA Today Sports, via The Athletic)

F Saddiq Bey
2021 (DET): 70 GP, 12.2 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 1.4 APG, 40 FG%, 38 3PT%, 84 FT%, 12.6 PER, 57 TS%, 3.3 WS, .082 WS48

Saddiq Bey excelled as a shooter and scorer, and he also was fairly effective as a rebounder in his rookie season with the Pistons.  He had a solid rookie season, and he could be a key player for them for years to come.

2021 Season Grade: B+
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starter or good bench player on the Detroit Pistons
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars (3 star potential)

C Mason Plumlee
2021 (DET): 56 GP, 10.4 PPG, 9.3 RPG, 3.6 APG, 61 FG%, 18.7 PER, 64 TS%, 5.1 WS, .164 WS48

Mason Plumlee had a solid season, as he excelled as an inside scorer, rebounder, and interior defender for his team.  He gave his team quality minutes when he was on the floor, and he was a solid veteran presence that helped make the Pistons competent in NBA games.

2021 Season Grade: B
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Detroit Pistons
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

G Wayne Ellington
2021 (DET): 46 GP, 9.6 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 1.5 APG, 44 FG%, 42 3PT%, 80 FT%, 12.2 PER, 63 TS%, 1.9 WS, .088 WS48

Wayne Ellington is a veteran combo guard that excelled as a sharpshooter and as a scorer in his role for the team this year.  He will still need to improve his rebounding and defensive skills, but his strong ability to space the floor will enable him to hold down a rotation spot in the NBA.

2021 Season Grade: B
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

Will be an impending unrestricted free agent (UFA) at the end of the 2020-21 season.

G Cory Joseph
2021 (SAC/DET): 63 GP, 8.2 PPG, 3.4 APG, 2.5 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 47 FG%, 34 3PT%, 82 FT%, 12.5 PER, 56 TS%, 2.1 WS, .069 WS48

Cory Joseph struggled during his time with Sacramento, but he played very well for Detroit when he got traded there.  He provided solid all-around skills for the Pistons, but over the course of the season he was inconsistent with his shot and on the defensive end.

2021 Season Grade: C (D with SAC, A with DET)
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

Has a non-guaranteed contract for the 2021-22 season, and it is uncertain if the Pistons will pick it up.

Detroit Pistons’ big man, Isaiah Stewart also had a very good rookie season, and he made the 2020-21 NBA All-Rookie Second Team this year.
(Photo: Brett Davis/Associated Press, via The Rookie Wire – USA Today)

F-C Isaiah Stewart
2021 (DET): 68 GP, 7.9 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.3 BPG, 55 FG%, 33 3PT%, 70 FT%, 16.4 PER, 60 TS%, 4 WS, .132 WS48

Isaiah Stewart excelled as an inside scorer, rebounder, and defender this year, and he did a very good job as an interior player for is team this season.  He surpassed expectations this year, and it is clear that he is a skilled big man that has a bright future ahead of him.

2021 Season Grade: A-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Starter or good bench player on the Detroit Pistons
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars (3 stars potential)

G-F Hamidou Diallo
2021 (OKC/DET): 52 GP, 11.6 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.9 APG, 48 FG%, 34 3PT%, 64 FT%, 14.3 PER, 54 TS%, 1.6 WS, .063 WS48

Hamidou Diallo is a very athletic swingman that showed an improved jump shot, as well as strong rebounding and solid playmaking skills.  He will still need to trust his outside shot more and continue to hone his defensive skills, but he had a fairly solid year this season, and he especially played well in Detroit.

2021 Season Grade: C+ (C with OKC, B with DET)
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on an NBA team
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars (2.5 stars potential)

Will be an impending RFA at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

F Josh Jackson
2021 (DET): 62 GP, 13.4 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.3 APG, 42 FG%, 30 3PT%, 73 FT%, 12 PER, 52 TS%, 0.1 WS, .004 WS48

Josh Jackson was able to get a lot of playing time with the Detroit Pistons, but he didn’t shoot the ball well, and he also struggled with his on-ball defense.  On the plus side, he is a very athletic forward that was able to grab some rebounds, showed some passing skills, and was active as a help defender, but he didn’t really do enough to suggest that he would continue to get minutes if the Pistons become a better team in the future.

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Backend roster player, possible backend rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2.5 stars potential)

G Frank Jackson (Two-Way)
2021 (DET): 40 GP, 9.8 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 46 FG%, 41 3PT%, 81 FT%, 13.3 PER, 60 TS%, 1.2 WS, .076 WS48

Jackson had a relatively solid season as he exceeded expectations.  He shot the ball very well, and he proved that he can shoot and scorer at the NBA level.  He also improved his rebounding.  He still needs to significantly improve his playmaking and defensive skills, but his jump shot could enable him to be a regular rotation player on Detroit’s team next season.

2021 Season Grade: B-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Backend roster player, possible backend rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2.5 stars potential)

G Saben Lee (Two-Way)
2021 (DET): 48 GP, 5.6 PPG, 3.6 APG, 2.0 RPG, 47 FG%, 35 3PT%, 69 FT%, 13.8 PER, 54 TS%, 1.5 WS, .091 WS48

Saben Lee played very well in his rookie year as he surpassed expectations, and he excelled as a scorer, playmaker, and defender for his team.  He really took advantage of playing time, especially when Killian Hayes went down, and Lee looks to be a fixture on this team for years to come.

2021 Season Grade: A
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Rotation player on the Detroit Pistons
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2.5 stars potential)

G Killian Hayes
2021 (DET): 26 GP, 6.8 PPG, 5.3 APG, 2.7 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 35 FG5, 28 3PT%, 82 FT%, 5.3 PER, 42 TS%, -1.1 WS, -.081 WS48

Killian Hayes excelled as a facilitator, but he didn’t do much else well in the NBA this season, as he really struggled with his jump shot, and he also did not defend very well at this level, either. 

He seemed to be overmatched early in the year when he was given the starting point guard job, and he missed considerable time due to injury, but Hayes’ playmaking skills could allow him to be a serviceable role player in the NBA.

2021 Season Grade: D
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Backend roster player, possible backend rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2.5 stars potential)

G Dennis Smith Jr.
2021 (NYK/DET): 23 GP, 6.7 PPG, 3.3 APG, 2.4 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 40 FG%, 33 3PT%, 73 FT%, 13.6 PER, 49 TS%, 0.6 WS, .070 WS48

Dennis Smith Jr. was dealt early in the year to the Pistons, and he progressed slightly to be a capable backup point guard in the NBA this year.  He still struggled with his jump shot, but he showed that he can capably defend and run a team at the point.  He’s still a long ways off from showing that he can be effective as a starter in this league, but Smith starting to show that he can play in this league again.

2021 Season Grade: C- (F with NYK, C+ with DET)
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Backend roster player, possible backend rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

Will be an impending RFA at the end of the 2020-21 NBA season.

G Rodney McGruder
2021 (DET): 16 GP, 5.7 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 53 FG%, 46 3PT%, 75 FT%, 16.1 PER, 62 TS%, 0.5 WS, .121 WS48

McGruder did a good job of shooting and scoring the basketball, and he also passed the ball well in his role on the Pistons’ team this past season.  He didn’t rebound nor defend as well, but he showed that he can be a solid rotation player in the NBA.

2021 Season Grade: B
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Fringe roster player, possible backend rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars

Has a non-guaranteed contract for the 2021-22 season, and it is uncertain if the Detroit Pistons will pick it up.

F-C Tyler Cook
2021 (BRK/DET): 32 GP, 4.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 67 FG%, 49 FT%, 12.8 PER, 66 TS%, 0.8 WS, .090 WS48
2021 (G-League): 8 GP, 20.8 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 4.4 APG, 60 FG%, 22.8 PER, 66 TS%, .115 WS48

Tyler Cook was very efficient as a scorer this year, but he didn’t really do much in the other facets of the game.  He’s a backup big man that can provide scoring, if nothing else more.

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Fringe roster player, possible backend rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating:  1.5 stars (2 stars potential)

Has a non-guaranteed contract for the 2021-22 season, and it is uncertain if the Detroit Pistons will pick it up.

C Jahlil Okafor
2021 (DET): 27 GP, 5.4 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 62 FG%, 71 FT%, 13.1 PER, 64 TS%, 0.6 WS, .082 WS48

Jahlil Okafor also excelled as a scorer off the bench this year, but his other numbers were down across the board.  He struggled to rebound and defensively this past season with Detroit.  He’s a backup big man that can provide inside scoring, but he doesn’t do much else to suggest that he should get much playing time in the NBA.

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Fringe roster player, possible backend rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1.5 stars

F Sekou Doumbouya
2021 (DET): 56 GP, 5.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 38 FG%, 23 3PT%, 70 FT%, 6.9 PER, 46 TS%, -0.2 WS, -.012 WS48

This season was a major setback in Doumbouya’s development as an overall player, and I’m having significant doubts on if he can be an effective player in the NBA.  His numbers were down pretty much across the board, and he shot the ball poorly and didn’t defend well.  For the positives, he showed an improved ability to pass the basketball, and he was an active rebounder this year.

On the downside, he still has a long way to go before he can become an effective role player in the NBA, and there’s a good chance that Detroit may decide to abort the Doumbouya project in a year or two, and if he doesn’t improve significantly, he could be headed back overseas sooner than later.

2021 Season Grade: F
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Fringe roster player, possible backend rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 1 star (2 stars potential)

G-F Deividas Sirvydis
2021 (DET): 20 GP, 2.1 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 35 FG%, 36 3PT%, 50 FT%, 5.7 PER, 48 TS%, 0.0 WS, -.010 WS48

Sirvydis didn’t play much as he received sparse playing time in his rookie season with the Pistons this year.  He really struggled at first, but his play started to pick up at the end.  In the NBA, he’s shown that he can shoot threes and rebound the basketball, but his poor shot selection and below average playmaking and defensive skills will make it tough for him to earn minutes next season.

2021 Season Grade: D-
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Fringe roster player, possible backend rotation player in the NBA
Projected 2022 NBA Rating:  1 star (2 stars potential)

Head Coach: Dwane Casey
2021 (DET): 20-52, did not make the playoffs
Coaching Career: 454-446, 21-34 in his playoff career

The Pistons were expected to be one of the worst teams in the NBA, and they were precisely that.  They managed to win even less games than their projection, and this was basically a lost season for them. 

On the plus side, they did manage to develop their younger players well, and Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey, and Saben Lee all shined in their respective roles.  Jerami Grant was a reliable go-to scorer for them, so from a developmental perspective, the Pistons have to be excited that their rookies are mostly developing well, and they will likely get a high draft pick in the 2021 draft.

2021 Season Grade: C
Expected 2022 NBA Role: Head Coach of the Detroit Pistons
Projected 2022 NBA Rating: 2 stars

A Brief Summary of the 2020-21 Detroit Pistons’ Season:

Much like Houston this year, this was a lost season from a wins perspective, as the Pistons were expected to be a bad team, and they were a bad team in the NBA this past season.

From a developmental perspective though, it was mostly a success.  Jerami Grant took on the lead role of go-to scorer and handled it well, and their rookies Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey, and Saben Lee all played very well in their roles this year.  Rookie point guard, Killian Hayes struggled though, but it was good to see that most of their young players flourished this past season.  That’s a good sign, especially since the Pistons have great odds to land a top 5 pick in the upcoming draft.

The 2020-21 Detroit Pistons’ Season Grade: D+

The Detroit Pistons’s Projected 2021-22 NBA Rotation

Projected Starters:
C Mason Plumlee
F Isaiah Stewart
F Jerami Grant
G Saddiq Bey
The 1st Overall Pick of the 2021 NBA Draft

Key Reserves:
G-F Hamidou Diallo (RFA)
F Josh Jackson
G Killian Hayes
G Frank Jackson (Two-Way)
G Saben Lee (Two-Way)

Others competing for a spot in the rotation next season:
The 37th Overall Pick of the 2021 NBA Draft
The 42nd Overall Pick of the 2021 NBA Draft

Other players that are currently projected to be on their next season’s roster:
C Jahlil Okafor
F Sekou Doumbouya
The 52th Overall Pick of the 2021 NBA Draft

Impending Restricted Free Agents:
Hamidou Diallo – Expected To Return
Dennis Smith Jr. – Not Expected Back

Impending Unrestricted Free Agents:
Wayne Ellington – Not Expected Back

Players on a Non-Guaranteed Contract:
Cory Joseph – Not Expected Back
Rodney McGruder – Not Expected Back
Tyler Cook – Not Expected Back

Projected Players Cut From Next Season’s Roster:
G-F Deividas Sirvydis

Projected Offseason Plan for the Pistons:
It is unsure as to how much cap room they will have, but if they do have cap space to work with, they should then look to add wing players, and also maybe a starting caliber point guard if they don’t intend to select one in the draft.

Mostly, the Pistons should continue to build through the draft.   They will look to build around Jerami Grant, Isaiah Stewart, and Saddiq Bey, so they will likely take a point guard in this draft, but they could also go with the best player available.


The Detroit Pistons’ Expected 2022 Win-Loss Record:
28-54, 14th in the Eastern Conference

Expected 2022 Season Outcome:
Surprisingly, the Pistons may project to finish a little bit better than expected, but I still think they’ll be near or at the bottom of the standings next season in 2022.

I used Basketball-Reference and No Trade Clause for research. There will be 29 more NBA team reviews over the next couple of weeks leading up to the 2021 NBA Draft. Thanks for reading.

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