Beard: Pistons’ youth brings hope, reminder that road to contending can be crooked

It’s not going to be a straight line to success for the Pistons…

Beard: Pistons' youth brings hope, reminder that road to contending can be crooked 1

It’s not going to be a straight line to success for the Pistons and general manager Troy Weaver. There will be no waving of a magic wand to make everything better and to turn a mountain of losses this season into wins.

Weaver has touted the Pistons’ plan for restoring the franchise to its successful past in the next couple of years. He never said it was going to be a quick restoration, but for some fans, it’s just not quick enough. This season’s 18-43 record was somewhat expected, but there seems to be some impatience with how the Pistons are approaching the rebuild.

Some want Killian Hayes to start every game, along with fellow rookies Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart. They want Sekou Doumbouya to play a ton of minutes and to see a perfect mix of young players such as Hamidou Diallo, Josh Jackson and Frank Jackson.

It’s not quite that simple.

There are going to be some bad losses along the way — and the Pistons haven’t had very many of those — along with plenty of entertaining games. They’ve had their share of those, too.

Hayes isn’t going to play back-to-back games, and the past couple of weeks since his return have been full of them. There’s a craving to see what he can do, especially since he missed three months because of a hip injury.

He’s going to have games where he posts 12 points and nine assists, as he did against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and other games in which he goes scoreless with five assists and five turnovers, as he did Saturday against the Indiana Pacers.

It’s not going to happen all at once. It didn’t for the No. 1 pick, Anthony Edwards, for LaMelo Ball, or for any of the other can’t-miss prospects in the draft. Even Bey and Stewart, who have had their share of success this season, have had their ups and downs.

Where does Jerami Grant fit into all of the losing and projected winning? He chose this path with his decision to be the Pistons’ foundation after leaving the contending Denver Nuggets in the offseason. He’s been through some of the losing early in his career with the Philadelphia 76ers, but the Pistons’ rebuild doesn’t resemble what he went through with the Sixers. 

“It’s not the same; it’s a lot different. It’s not a rebuild — it’s not three or four years into the future; we’re looking forward to doing something big next year.”

That’s a bold statement, and some glimpse into what the expectations will be in the coming years. There will be some departures from this roster and a presumed addition that could be a top-five pick in the draft. There might even be other pieces in free agency that help.

The goal doesn’t look to be to do everything next year, but to take a step forward. Coach Dwane Casey has said that this summer is very important for the rookies to take a big jump in their development. The Pistons should have a loaded Summer League roster if all of their young players take part.

That could provide some needed playing time and more reps for the young players to get some of their mistakes out and to get timing and chemistry down. It’s another step, but it’s not the winning that most fans want to see.

With some patience, the Pistons could be the Detroit pro sports franchise that’s closest to truly contending. There’s a clear plan in place with Weaver at the helm, but the path to contention weaves a bit and will include a lot more attrition on the roster.

Part of the good work in the last offseason was acquiring contracts that can be moved somewhat easily if needed, so that after a season of assessing the roster, they can make the right additions through the draft and in free agency.

This summer will provide another opportunity to tinker with the roster and get more players who can complement the rookies and to fortify the bench. The first-round pick — along with whatever Weaver chooses to do with the Pistons’ three second-round picks — will be a big step in that direction.

It just won’t be the last big move on the road to success.

Pistons vs. Hawks

Tipoff: 7 p.m. Monday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: BSD/97.1 FM

Outlook: The Hawks (33-27) have won 10 of their last 13 games and are in the hunt for a top-4 seed and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Pistons (18-43) start a string of nine home games in their final 11 games of the season.

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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