The last time the Detroit Pistons picked in the top three of the NBA Draft, they made one of the most infamous picks in Draft history. Darko Miličić became a Piston second overall in 2003 ahead of would-be Hall of Famers Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. Miličić became the first of the illustrious 2003 Draft Class to win a championship, but to say that he did not contribute much to the cause is an understatement. Still, Detroit looked to the future and saw potential in Darko, believing he could bring the versatility of Pistons big men Rasheed Wallace and Mehmet Okur. Fate would not have it, and Darko soon bounced around the NBA and into his retirement from the game of basketball.
In 2021, the Pistons selected a player that many believe to be the most complete prospect ever to enter the Draft in Cade Cunningham. Detroit's selections from the past few years have been Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, and Saddiq Bey are all destined to become quality NBA players, but Cade is the kind of player that can turn things around for the Pistons in a hurry. He is a star, can play multiple positions, and is known for his work ethic - the kind of player that you want to lead a core of young stars trying to find their place in the NBA with a franchise that has struggled for most of the past decade. At 6'8, Cade has the size to play the wing or even slide to the power forward position, a perfect complement to Killian Hayes as the young Frenchman figures out who he is on the NBA floor.
Barring any significant injuries, this Pistons team will be the next young threat in the Eastern Conference, similar to the Atlanta Hawks' past two seasons. Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey provide scoring from inside and out while possessing the athleticism to be elite defenders to help support the star guard duo. Look for Detroit to be in the market for veteran players that can help accelerate the growth of their young core from now on, as the Pistons now have a starting five for the future that they need to work hard to support and develop.
Starting Five: Killian Hayes, Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Jerami Grant, Isaiah Stewart.
Jerami Grant burst onto the scene during the 2020 NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida. Grant had fantastic performances in each of the playoff rounds the Denver Nuggets played in, proving he was much more than an athletic wing defender. Jerami then got his payday last offseason when he signed with the Pistons, signifying the first significant move towards what hopes to be a successful rebuild in the Motor City.
Despite Cade's talents, success will not come to Detroit right away. The East is also getting stronger as the seasons go by, especially with a team like Chicago signing Lonzo Ball and Demar DeRozan, looking to make a giant leap from bottom-dweller to a playoff team. Expect the Pistons to continue to struggle to string wins together, but buckle up for many flashes of what this team can become in the next three to five years.
The Pistons will likely be in the lottery again next year, with an opportunity to either add more young talent or flip picks for a star that is ready to come in and take the young core to the next level. Whichever Detroit decides to do in the near future, Pistons fans should be excited and expect to be back in the Playoffs in the next few seasons.