The Pistons are entering year two of their most promising rebuild in years and Troy Weaver’s recent offseason moves have earned the franchise some high praise from a former NBA sharpshooter.
On Friday’s episode of the “The Old Man & the Three” podcast, which features ESPN analyst JJ Redick and co-host Tommy Alter, the former 15-year NBA veteran told Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso that Detroit’s up-and-coming roster could become contenders in the Eastern Conference over the next few years.
At the 22:15 mark of the podcast, Alter read a question from a fan: “Which team with a young core are you most excited to see based off the summer going into next year?”
Caruso instantly said he’s looking forward to seeing the Houston Rockets, especially with his young core of Jalen Green, the No. 2 overall pick in last year’s draft, Kevin Porter and this year’s No. 3 pick, Jabari Smith Jr.
Redick then countered and said he was going to pick the Pistons—one of the Bulls’ divisional rivals—and Caruso said he felt it coming. Redick’s reasonings centered around Detroit’s emerging young core of Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart and their first-round picks this year, Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren.
“Troy Weaver has done an outstanding job and I don’t know if it’s next year that they take an Oklahoma City Thunder leap — where all of a sudden they’re a playoff team and then the following season, a contender — but I’ m excited to see them play over the next two or three years because I think … they will be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.”
“That’s a big statement,” Caruso responded.
Redick, who’s successfully transitioned into his new role as media personality on multiple ESPN shows, said the Pistons’ success is dependent on if Cunningham becomes “a true No. 1 franchise-level player.”
Caruso did not play against Cunningham in any of the four meetings last season between the Pistons and Bulls (Chicago swept the season series, 4-0). Cunningham missed the first four games of his rookie year due to injury and couldn’t suit up against the Bulls, which were back-to-backs to begin the 2021-22 season.
When Cunningham was finally healthy toward the end of the season, Caruso was bit by the injury bug and missed both games, on Jan. 11 and March 9.
“I haven’t actually got to see him in person — see how big he is, see what his skillset actually looks like in real speed,” Caruso said. “That’s something I’m interested in seeing because I’ve seen him make a couple of moves and finish at the rim. He can shoot over you.
“(Cunningham) and Saddiq Bey are both big players. They’ve got good frames, can play in the post, can shoot, so I understand what you’re saying. I guess that’s why you work at ESPN, you gotta make some bold takes.”
The Pistons finished 23-59 last season, third-worst in the league. A jump from the depths of the East to conference contenders won’t happen overnight, but Detroit is showing promise with its previous two draft classes and offseason additions.