Cade Cunningham's absensce magnifying Detroit Pistons' struggles
On paper, the Detroit Pistons don't look much better than the Houston Rockets. They've got the second-worst record in the NBA, rank 28th in net rating, 26th in assists, and commit the most personal fouls of any team in the league.
But the big difference between the Rockets and Pistons is that while Houston has been at full strength for much of the year, Detroit has been without their best player for all but 12 games of the season. Cade Cunningham underwent season-ending shin surgery back in December, and it's impossible not to notice his absence from the team.
Without Cunningham, the Pistons don't have anyone who can effectively run their offense. Bojan Bogdanovic can pitch in from time to time, and Killian Hayes is doing his best to prove to people that he's not a bust, but they're not enough. Jaden Ivy can provide some playmaking help, but he was never supposed to direct Detroit's offense. A good chunk of why people thought he would be such a good fit in Detroit is because he could so seamlessly play off Cunningham.
On top of Cunningham being out of commission, the Pistons have used the youngest player in the NBA, Jalen Duran, as their starting center. It's no surprise they're giving up the second-most points in the paint when they've got someone that inexperienced holding down the fort.
It might seem like I'm making excuses for Detroit. And to some extent, I am. They're incredibly young, and a crucial part of their team -- their best playmaker and a guy who finished third in Rookie of the Year voting last season -- has been missing for most of the season. It's no surprise they're one of the worst teams in the league.
But the difference between Houston and Detroit is that someone like Jerami Grant hasn't come out and said that the young Pistons don't care. Cory Joseph doesn't look wickedly depressed every time you see him. Even if the results aren't what Detroit had hoped for, there's little here to indicate that they're going about things the wrong way.