Despite their 20-52 record, the 2020-21 season was a memorable one for the Detroit Pistons. All four 2020 draft picks — Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey and Saben Lee — showed promise. Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee, Detroit’s two offseason splashes in free agency, delivered the best seasons of their careers. Several of the newcomers, particularly Hamidou Diallo and Frank Jackson, also had strong seasons and have positioned themselves well entering restricted free agency this summer.
The season ended in undramatic fashion on Sunday, and now all eyes turn to the NBA draft lottery. The Pistons fell to the Miami Heat, 120-107, and secured the NBA’s second-worst record and second-best draft lottery odds. It means they have a strong shot at their highest draft pick since they selected Darko Milicic No. 2 overall in 2003, in a draft that’s talented at the top.
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Saddiq Bey led the Pistons with 22 points and hit four 3-pointers, giving him an NBA rookie-high 175 this season. Josh Jackson added 17 points off of the bench, and Hamidou Diallo scored 15 points and grabbed five rebounds. Precious Achiuwa led the Heat, who were without Jimmy Butler, with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
Pistons secure second-best lottery odds
The biggest interest for most fans on Sunday was certainly the lottery standings. The Pistons needed a loss to secure the second-best odds, and they did just that. It gives them an 80% chance of selecting in the top five, and a 52.1% shot at a top-four pick.
A No. 1 overall pick, of course, would be the best outcome, and the Pistons will have a 14% chance of drawing that. The Houston Rockets, the worst at 17-55, and the Orlando Magic, at 21-51 and No. 3, will also have a 14% shot at the No. 1 pick. Oklahoma State star Cade Cunningham is almost universally considered to be the best prospect in the draft and would be the Pistons’ most talented draft pick since Grant Hill in 1994.
But any pick in the top four would be a major win for the organization. USC big man Evan Mobley, Gonzaga point guard Jalen Suggs and G League Ignite wing Jalen Green all have star potential, and would give Detroit’s youth movement a major talent jolt.
The NBA draft lottery will take place on June 22. The Pistons can fall no farther than sixth in the draft, and that’s only a 20% chance, with a 27.8% chance of falling to fifth.
Cold first quarter dooms Pistons
Remove the opening period, and Sunday’s game would’ve gone down to the wire. The Pistons had one of their worst opening quarters of the season, scoring just 13 points on 4-for-18 shooting. (Only their 13 points on 4-for-20 shooting in the first quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 13 was worse this season.)
The Heat, on the other hand, started the night strong. They led by 19 points after the first and hit 13 of 19 attempts. The deficit expanded to 22 early in the second quarter, when Max Strus hit a 3-pointer at the 11:30 mark.
Detroit looked much sharper in the second quarter, making seven of their first eight shots to cut the deficit to 14. They couldn’t keep the momentum going, though, and fell behind by 25 points at halftime.