3 Pistons who should be benched or fired after disastrous start to the season

3 pistons who should be benched or fired after disastrous start to the season

3 Pistons who should be benched or fired after disastrous start to the season

The Detroit Pistons are 2-18, with 17 straight losses on their ledger. Expectations weren’t exactly high for Detroit, but there hasn’t been a more disappointing team in the 2023-24 season. Rather than noticeable progress under highly touted (and very expensive) head coach Monty Williams, the Pistons have regressed. The on-court product is difficult to watch, and it’s hard to express any measure of confidence in the current young core.

Detroit has been blatantly tanking and rebuilding since 2019-20. Cade Cunningham was the No. 1 overall pick in 2021. The franchise has been stuck in the mud for years. It’s time for the Pistons to shake it up — maybe even blow it up.

As the Pistons trend toward a much-needed reset, here are the folks most to blame for the NBA’s No. 27 offense and No. 24 defense.

3. Killian Hayes continues to disappoint as starting point guard

The Pistons burned the No. 7 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft on Killian Hayes. He was beloved in some draft circles, often pitched in the same tier as Anthony Edwards or LaMelo Ball. Yours truly watched the 6-foot-5 Frenchman torch defenders with step-back 3s and elegantly navigate pick-and-rolls enough to rank him No. 2 overall.

We all miss sometimes.

Detroit was lauded for the Hayes pick, but we are far enough along to extinguish any lingering faith in Hayes as the Pistons’ point guard of the future. He still flashes tantilizing upside here and there, but the shooting is too inconsistent, and the decision-making is too erratic.

Hayes is averaging 9.7 points and 4.3 assists on .425/.321/.677 splits in 26.9 minutes. He has started in 16 of 20 appearances for Detroit this season. The 22-year-old deserves credit for limiting turnovers (0.9 per game), but until Hayes can meaningfully threaten defenses as a scorer, a concrete ceiling will remain on his playmaking acumen. The 3s don’t fall enough and he’s a strikingly poor finisher at the rim.

The Pistons continue to start Hayes, often at the expense of better prospects like Jaden Ivey and Marcus Sasser. Detroit’s problems extend far beyond Hayes, who has made noticeable improvements in his fourth NBA season, but it’s hard not to partially blame the Pistons’ failed rebuild on the French lefty.

2. Monty Williams has not lived up to his reputation

The Pistons were supposed to take the next step under Monty Williams. He was brought in to establish a winning culture in the locker room, in practices, in games. Instead, the Pistons are on the worst losing streak in franchise history with no end in sight. Even the return of Bojan Bogdanovic has done little to elevate the Pistons’ collective execution.

Williams signed a historic six-year, $78.5 million contract in the offseason. The Pistons moved heaven and earth to convince him to sign in Detroit. He’s not getting fired any time soon, and he probably deserves more than 21 games to gain his footing. But, a lot of Detroit’s struggles can be tied directly to Williams’ often maddening decisions, both schematically and in terms of rotations.

The Pistons began the season starting Jalen Duren, Isaiah Stewart, and Killian Hayes around Cade Cunningham and Ausar Thompson. Spacing has been a chronic problem for the Pistons, often for self-inflicted reasons. Cunningham’s inefficient shooting has been a major topic of debate, but it’s hard to blame the Oklahoma State product when Detroit has actively surrounded him with ill-fitting pieces who don’t shoot a high volume of 3s or make quick decisions on offense.

Bogdanovic has returned, which should lead to more balanced lineups. But, Williams continues to toy with the confidence of key players, moving Thompson — probably the Pistons’ second-best player, all things considered — to the bench and not bringing Jaden Ivey into games until the second quarter. Ivey flashed exceptional upside as a rookie, but Williams has buried the 21-year-old on the depth chart and punished him for natural mistakes of youth. Marcus Sasser has been one of Detroit’s few bright spots, but the rookie’s role continues to fluctuate.

There is no excuse for Detroit continuing to hammer the two-big starting lineups. Duren has been extremely inconsistent on defense. Stewart has been trending in the wrong direction as a shooter. Williams has to commit to one, move the other to the bench, and field a more balanced, skilled offensive lineup around Cunningham.

Williams can only do so much with such an inexperienced group, but the Pistons weren’t this bad even last season. Maybe there’s a reason the Phoenix Suns felt Williams couldn’t get them to the mountaintop. Williams is a good human, and a guy teams love to have in the locker room. He hasn’t exactly handled the adversity of his new job well, however, publicly throwing players under the bus. He hasn’t been around such an harsh rebuild in a while, and his history of getting out-coached in important games can’t be overlooked. The Pistons aren’t executing, the lineups are a mess, and it’s exceedingly difficult to peg down what exactly Williams’ priorities are.

If Detroit goes an entire season like this… how long can Monty stick around, truly?

1. Troy Weaver sunk the Pistons with poor personnel choices

The Pistons named Troy Weaver general manager in 2020. Since then, Detroit has consistently ranked among the worst teams in the NBA. The progress isn’t even marginal — it’s non-existant. Detroit is worse now than when Weaver started, in large part due to obvious missteps in the personnel department.

Weaver nailed a few picks in a vacuum — Jalen Duren and Ausar Thompson were spot-on, and Marcus Sasser looks stupendous — but the Pistons’ draft history has become alarmingly hit-or-miss. Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, and Killian Hayes were all more or less consensus picks, but that doesn’t absolve Weaver of blame. If following the consensus consistently blows up in your face, it’s time to pick a better, bolder strategy.

Detroit’s roster construction is a complete mess. The Pistons rank 28th in 3-point attempts per game and 23rd in 3-point percentage. Cunningham has been a whiff of a No. 1 pick to date, but he’s also constantly suffocated while operating as the primary focus of every opposing scouting report. Maybe we start to see marginal progress with Bogey back in the lineup, but given the Pistons’ non-competitive status… why is Bogey still around? Weaver reportedly could have swapped Bogdanovic for two first-round picks last season. Now, the 34-year-old is in possibly the final year of his contract and the Pistons won’t even engage with interested suitors. That’s just shoddy asset management.

The desire to improve the product on the floor is understandable, and the Pistons do need to place their young pieces in a more favorable environment for development. But rather than clinging tightly to a 34-year-old in the NBA’s basement, the Pistons need to place a premium on young, affordable shooters in future drafts or via trade. Swap Bogey for another shooter at half the price, potentially one several years his junior.

Weaver’s commitment to size has long been laughable. The Pistons drafted Duren and Stewart, on top of pursuing the likes of Christian Wood, Marvin Bagley, and James Wiseman. The Pistons are constructed to succeed in 2001, not 2023.

Even Detroit’s best moves can be reflected through negative prism. Ausar Thompson is a star on the rise — maybe the Pistons’ best prospect — but the overlap with supposed franchise cornerstone Cade Cunningham is noticeable, and Thompson can’t shoot a lick. Not to mention Jaden Ivey, another iffy shooting guard from last year’s lottery. If the Pistons are going to select a bunch of downhill guards with spotty 3-point shots, then why the insistence on non-shooting bigs? It defies comprehension.

There’s a way out of this mess, but there’s no reason to believe Weaver is the man to guide the Pistons to greener pastures. He shouldn’t be around much longer at Detroit’s current trajectory.

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