How are the Pistons this bad? Blame bad management for Detroit’s historic losing streak, not Cade Cunningham

There have been plenty of bad teams throughout NBA history. Only one has the dishonor of being the worst ever.

This season’s Pistons squad is squarely in contention for that recognition. 

Detroit has already set the record for consecutive losses in a season. If it loses against the Raptors on Saturday, then it will also have the record for most consecutive defeats with 29 in a row.

The Pistons are on pace for six wins this year, which would shatter the all-time low of nine wins in an 82-game season set by the 1972-73 Sixers. They weren’t supposed to be this bad coming into the season. Sure, they were the worst team in the league last year, but they still won 17 games and were expected to improve with more experience, a full year of Cade Cunningham and a new coach.

According to SportsOddsHistory, Detroit’s preseason over/under win total this season was set at 28.5. How did it take such a massive step back? 

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How are the Pistons this bad?

Troy Weaver assembled a roster with no regard for fit

The Pistons do have some talent on their team. The problem is that none of it fits together. 

The modern NBA is built on having spacing for your star players to work with. This roster is very much a throwback in that regard, and they’re showing why teams have tried to have at least three shooters on the floor at all times. 

Eight Pistons have started at least 10 games this season. Of those eight, only two, Isaiah Stewart and Bojan Bogdanovic, have shot above league-average (36.5 percent) from 3. And Stewart is a low-volume shooter that only takes the open ones. 

The rest of Detroit’s shooters vary from poor to take cover any time the ball is in the air. The team is dead last in 3-pointers made, 29th in 3-pointers attempted and 29th in percentage. 

The Pistons also have a severe glut of big men, too many guards and not nearly enough wings. Of their four young big men in Stewart, Jalen Duren, James Wiseman and Marvin Bagley, only Stewart can shoot. Ausar Thompson is a wing who plays like a 90’s center. He can’t shoot either.

Lottery pick Jaden Ivey had been pushed out of the starting lineup for another worse lottery pick, Killian Hayes. One of their lone bright spots, rookie guard Marcus Sasser, can’t find playing time. 

It’s a jumble of a roster with a ton of overlap both in positions and player weaknesses, which makes it an almost impossible job to fit together. 

MORE: How Wingstop has become synonymous with Pistons’ historic losing streak

Bad luck with injuries

The Pistons have needed their veterans to step up. That hasn’t happened, partially through no fault of their own. 

Bogdanovic was the team’s best player last season — his shooting is also desperately needed on this roster — and he missed the first 19 games of the season. By the time he came back, the season was already lost. 

Alec Burks was another solid veteran last year. He missed a slew of games due to a forearm injury and hasn’t played well. Monte Morris has long been one of the best backup point guards in the league but has been out for the entire year. And Joe Harris, who was a solid defender and a great shooter in previous seasons, hasn’t looked the same since suffering a severe ankle injury last year. 

Crunch time issues

Nikola Jokic once said that “the good teams win even when they play bad, and bad teams always find a way to lose games, even when they’re up.” This Pistons team is proof of that second point. 

The Pistons have had some opportunities to win games. They’ve played in 14 clutch games, defined as being within five points inside of the last five minutes. Their record in those situations is an abysmal 1-13, and they’ve been outscored by an astounding 60.1 points per 100 possessions, per NBA Stats

To show you how bad it is, Cunningham’s 26.1 percent shooting from the field is the second-highest on the team of anyone who has taken more than three shots in crunch time. Ivey has hit half his shots, but his defensive miscues have made it difficult to keep him on the floor at the end of games. Everyone has been equally bad. 

Poor drafting history

This Pistons team should serve as a cautionary tale against trying to be in the lottery every year. It is tough to dig yourself out of that position. 

There were some opportunities for things to go another way if they had chosen differently in the draft. With the seventh pick in 2020, they chose Hayes over Tyrese Haliburton and had two shots at 16 and 19 to take Tyrese Maxey. Instead, they ended up with Stewart and Saddiq Bey. 

Cunningham is still looking like a decent pick taken first overall in 2021. Scottie Barnes, Evan Mobley, Franz Wagner or Alperen Sengun would have been better in retrospect. 

It’s still way too early to judge their selections of Ivey, Duren, Thompson and Sasser in the previous two drafts, but there have been some big disappointments among those picks. 

NBA REDRAFTS: 2001 | 2009 | 2011 | 2012 | 2014 | 2016 | 2018 | 201920202021

Cade Cunningham

Why Cade Cunningham is not to blame for Pistons losing streak

Cunningham might not go No. 1 overall in a redraft, but he’s still been a good player. He’s averaging 23.3 points, 7.1 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game. 

Cunningham has really turned it up in the team’s past six games, trying to will his team to one measly win. Over that stretch, he’s averaged 31.7 points and 7.2 assists on 57.1 percent shooting from the field and 46.4 percent from 3. The Pistons have been in four of those games, including a tough overtime loss to the Celtics. It hasn’t been enough. 

Cunningham has looked close to the verge of tears at the end of some of these games. Detroit needs to get him some veteran help because no young player in his position could do any better.

The league has become all about shooting, and this team has none of it. Bad teams can eke out a surprising win here or there by getting hot from 3. The Pistons can’t even do that because they don’t have enough guys on their team willing to shoot it from deep. They’re bad on paper, terrible in practice and have no chance in the math game.

Add it all up, and you have the worst team in history. 

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