It’s no secret that the 2010s have not been especially kind to the Detroit Pistons. With just two playoff appearances and not a single playoff win, the franchise has fallen off after representing one of the powerhouses of the Eastern Conference the decade prior.
However, that does not mean the Pistons have been without some great, or at least very solid, players throughout the decade. Whether it was poor coaching decisions, undesirable roster fit, or just being given up on too early, Detroit has flattened the potential of many players who became big contributors in different cities. Injuries have stunted what could have been great tenures for multiple players in the Motor City, many of which are on this list. Longevity with the team is also important when ranking the “top” players of the decade. The continued losing has also lead to heavy roster turnover during this time, short-circuiting things as well. In fact, only one player during the 2010’s has spent more than half of it with the Detroit Pistons: Andre Drummond.
It has been a bumpy ride, but it is still fun to reminisce on a group of players who sometimes made the Pistons look… not too bad!
10. Tayshaun Prince
Tayshaun Prince only spent parts of four of his 12 total seasons with the Pistons during the 2010s, most of which were after his athletic prime. “The Palace Prince” remained as the last member of the “Goin’ to Work” era and was slowly relegated to simply a valuable veteran presence and role player as we neared the middle of the decade. While the stats, longevity, and overall impact in games do not seem to warrant Prince a spot on this list, you’ll see that the Pistons have been carried by a few familiar faces most of the decade. His best season with Detroit during this span was the 2010-11 campaign, the last of what would be considered his best years in the league. During that season, Prince remained a valuable contributor and the team’s second-leading scorer (14.1 PPG), behind only…
9. Rodney Stuckey
Rodney Stuckey was a highly-touted prospect as an electric scorer coming out of Eastern Washington. He proved enough at the collegiate level for the Pistons to call his name 15th overall at the 2007 NBA Draft. He never truly became that game-changing talent, as the Pistons were still near the bottom of the league with Stuckey running the show. It wasn’t until the 2010’s when Detroit finally realized that Stuckey wasn’t a point guard, where he played and started for the four years of his career. The move to the two-guard allowed him to do more of what he did best – score inside the arc. He was no longer asked to serve as a primary distributor, a move that paid dividends. Stuckey became a veteran relied on simply for scoring off the bench once the new faces of the franchise stepped in. Nonetheless, he was a fan-favorite during his tenure with Detroit and provided plenty of highlights as well during the franchise’s darkest years:
8. Josh Smith
While his signing in Detroit and the beginning of the end of his NBA career seem to go hand-in-hand, “J-Smoove” is still, unfortunately, a top player of the decade for Detroit. Still touting above-average athleticism, impressive vision, and the ability to rack up stocks (steals/blocks), Smith looked like he possessed the talent to be elite. However, his high volume-low efficiency jumper, occasional selfishness, and a poor fit playing alongside Detroit’s two other bigs held him back. Maybe a better roster fit means Smith isn’t waived less than two years after signing a lucrative deal. Maybe not. Josh Smith will always live as an infamous name in the minds of Piston fans, but that doesn’t mean that his abilities were never put on display in the Motor City:
7. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the athletic 3-and-D two-guard selected over fan-favorite Trey Burke in 2013. Despite the disappointment from many fans on draft night, KCP has actually proven to be the superior NBA player of the two. That’s still not saying much, as Burke has under-performed and continues to bounce around the league. Caldwell-Pope, on the other hand, showed improvements in each season he spent in Detroit, enough to convince the front office he was worth $80 million and the future at shooting guard. He declined that deal, and has taken less money to play for the Los Angeles Lakers ever since.
He’s only 27 years old, but it seems that KCP’s most productive days will end up having been spent in Detroit. He never turned into a core piece for the team either, so that is a bit surprising. However, KCP turned in some exciting and productive minutes for a few years with the Pistons, and maybe could’ve flourished if he had decided to stay. Probably not though, let’s be honest.
Now with Luke Kennard on the team, the Pistons might’ve just found a better option at shooting guard. Nevertheless we can still appreciate KCP’s most electrifying moments during his time with the franchise – like his career-high 38 points in 2017:
6. Brandon Jennings
Brandon Jennings looked like a star early in his career with the Milwaukee Bucks, and Detroit acquired him hoping that he would finally reach that potential. He never became that top-10 floor general that the franchise had hoped. Regardless, Jennings still proved to be one of the team’s best players, despite being an inconsistent shooter and, at times, careless with the ball. Before tearing his Achilles in 2015, which forced the Pistons to trade for his replacement in Reggie Jackson, it was Jennings who served as the electrifying pick-and-roll partner with Andre Drummond. Jennings was also the catalyst of Detroit’s “post-Smoove” winning streak, including this glorious game-winner against the defending champion Spurs in 2015:
5. Tobias Harris
In Stan Van Gundy’s premier trade fleece, the Pistons acquired Tobias Harris from the Orlando Magic for the aforementioned Jennings (post-Achilles tear) and Ersan Ilyasova. Both Jennings and Ilyasova were off the Magic by that summer’s free agency while Harris began to flourish in Detroit. One of the team’s few acquisitions that have actually improved with the Pistons, Harris began his rise to consistent 20-plus scoring nights as Detroit’s number-one option.
His ability to catch fire at any moment while also remaining a deadly scoring threat even when it’s someone else’s night made him a coveted player. So coveted, in fact, that the Pistons wanted a star player just to consider moving him – despite a massive contract extension inevitably on the horizon. They got that player in All-Star forward Blake Griffin, and he’s provided some memorable moments of his own during his tenure, no doubt. You have to wonder, though, how Detroit would look today had they kept the sweet-scoring forward – he’s not the player Griffin… was… but the Pistons might be in better shape with Harris (and their 2018 first-round pick).
4. Greg Monroe
Greg Monroe seemed like the Pistons’ true heir at center to Ben Wallace during the early years of his career. With the offense flowing through Moose’s post game, he was able to take advantage of being the best player on a bad team. Luckily for him, this was right before the NBA started to move away from grind-it-out, back-to-the-basket big men. When this era was ushered in however, the Pistons realized that Monroe’s game wouldn’t thrive in today’s league and correctly held on to Andre Drummond over him. Had Monroe played even a decade earlier, his soft touch, crafty post moves, and superior rebounding skills likely would’ve landed him a starting gig for years to come. Instead, he bounced around the league before finally opting to make the move overseas.
3. Reggie Jackson
There was a time when Reggie Jackson was playing close to All-Star level – less than just four seasons ago. His explosive scoring bursts, game-clinching clutchness, and seamless chemistry with Andre Drummond made Jackson look like the future at the point guard position. Coming from Oklahoma City as a backup to one of the league’s best in Russell Westbrook, Jackson arrived in Detroit with a chip on his shoulder. He wanted to prove he could be a starting point guard in the NBA, and he was… until the injuries.
Love him or hate him, you have to credit Jackson for his incredible drive to get back to the court after constantly getting knocked down by injuries over the last three years. Detroit’s Jackson-led playoff run in 2016 seemed like the beginning of something, but his array of physical issues have almost single-handedly halted that hope. With Jackson likely in the midst of his last season with the Pistons, his name will unfortunately always bring up the thought of “what if?”
2. Blake Griffin
Yes, Blake Griffin’s 2018-19 campaign was great enough by itself to catapult him to this spot in the list. Brought in as a last-ditch effort by SVG, Griffin didn’t even see his best year with Detroit under the man that traded for him. It can’t be overstated what Griffin did for the Pistons last season – at times he was the entire team. An all-time great season that only culminated in a first-round sweep at the price of Blake being able to do much of anything on the court afterwards.
The contrast between this year’s Blake and last year’s is stunning and one of the more troubling stories of any player. Griffin finished as an All-NBA forward and played in his sixth All-Star game, likely his last, in 2019 en route to one of the greatest individual seasons in franchise history. Unfortunately, this looks like the best we will see of Blake, as his recent health issues seem to have done a number on him. Another swing and a miss by the Pistons’ front office, and we’ll now have to hope Griffin will somehow be able to turn his dire situation around.
1. Andre Drummond
Where to start with Andre Drummond. Well, he’s been here awhile. Over the seven-plus seasons the All-Star big man has spent in Detroit, he’s elevated his game to new heights, as much as some people love to dispute it. Initially nothing more than a rim-running rebounder, Dre has improved substantially as a rim protector, free throw shooter, playmaker, and help defender. Consistent effort (an outdated knock on him, for the most part) and the lack of an outside shot have been what many people view as his most prominent downfalls. Despite proving to be an elite all-around defender as of late while continuing his historic rebounding pace, the national spotlight will never shine on Drummond while he’s in Detroit.
Maybe he’ll be brought back, maybe both sides will move on. If the latter is true, and Drummond latches on to a bigger market franchise, the world will realize what made Andre Drummond the Pistons’ top player of the decade: