CLEVELAND, Ohio – The Detroit Pistons just need to start over.
They had first-round playoff exits in 2019 and 2016, and now they have had sub .500 records in nine of their past 11 seasons, including this season.
The league’s Board of Governors approved a format Thursday where 22 teams will go to Orlando to play eight regular season games for seeding and then start the playoffs, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Pistons will not be one of the 22 teams in Orlando. The league is slated to resume play July 31.
Per Wojnarowski, the draft lottery is now scheduled for Aug. 25; the draft will take place Oct. 15.
Detroit was hampered by six-time All-Star Blake Griffin missing the majority of this season due to a lingering left knee injury; he had surgery on the knee in January. With the Pistons at 19-34 after Feb. 5, they traded center Andre Drummond to the Cavaliers.
With Drummond off the books, the Pistons are set for their rebuild and won’t have to worry about paying his $28.8 million player option for the 2020-21 season.
But the Pistons currently have the league’s fifth-worst record, and they have a 10.5% percent chance at earning the No. 1 overall pick as it stands. Let’s look at how they might approach the draft, and how it might affect the Cavs.
2019-20 record and conference standing: 20-46, 13th in the Eastern Conference.
Where they might pick: The Pistons can pick no lower than ninth overall, per Tankathon.
Starters right now: Svi Mykhailiuk, Tony Snell, Christian Wood, Brandon Knight, Blake Griffin.
Key free agents: Brandon Knight, John Henson, Langston Galloway, Tony Snell (player option), Christian Wood, Tim Frazier, Jordan McRae
Team needs: The Pistons are already in the basement of the East, but with a plethora of players heading into free agency, this offseason could dictate the future of Detroit’s rebuild.
Galloway and Snell are two of their best shooters, with Snell shooting 40.2% from the 3-point line this season and Galloway shooting 39.9%.
A four-year player, Wood has had his best season so far. Before the season was suspended, he was averaging a career-high 13.1 points per game. He had also recorded career highs in field goal percentage (56.7%) and 3-point percentage (38.6%).
McRae was another player who bloomed this season, as he averaged a career-high 11.5 points a game while playing for the Pistons, Washington Wizards and Denver Nuggets over the course of the season.
Bottom line: The Pistons are going to need one of the draft’s best players to help replace what they might lose in free agency.
According to Tankathon, though, their best odds are currently at the seventh pick. The Pistons should look at selecting a dynamic hybrid forward such as former Dayton star Obi Toppin. If the Pistons end up having the seventh pick, Toppin might already be gone – but if he isn’t, the Pistons should snag him.
How the Pistons’ needs affect the Cavs
The Cavs need talent just like the Pistons, but they’re not in a position to lose as many players in free agency.
Presuming Drummond picks up his option, Matthew Dellavedova, Tristan Thompson and Ante Zizic will be the only players becoming unrestricted free agents over the summer.
The Cavs could use help down low, particularly if Thompson decides to go elsewhere. Big man isn’t their top need, though – the Cavs need a playmaker and solid defender on the wing.
According to Tankathon, the Cavs’ highest pick odds are at the fifth pick. That’s right around where Deni Avdija and Isaac Okoro would be available – both would be solid pickups.
Much like Cedi Osman, Avdija is a capable playmaker – but his defensive potential seems higher. He uses his length well to stick with opponents. Avdija is currently playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv in the EuroLeague. During the 2019-20 season, Avdija was averaging 4.0 points and 2.6 rebounds in 14.3 minutes a game.
Okoro is a more proven defender, with his stocky 6-foot-6, 225-pound frame helping him be versatile. Along with his quality defense, Okoro could also help the Cavs have more dribble penetration from the wing.
He drives the lane well and can finish at the rim. In his freshman season at Auburn, Okoro averaged 12.8 points per game on 51.2% shooting, along with 4.4 rebounds and 2.0 assists a game.