Pistons-Spurs should be mandatory viewing for fringe prospects

What If I told you that we’re almost at the halfway point of the NBA season and two teams with two of the best young players in the league don’t have 10 wins between them? And what if I told you that tonight’s matchup between Cade Cunningham’s Detroit Pistons and Victor Wembanyama’s San Antonio Spurs should be a game that every player with hoop dreams should be required to watch on NBA League Pass?

When a three-win team (Detroit) hosts a five-win squad (San Antonio) it’s destined to be a game that NBA TV, ESPN and TNT have all passed on. But I’m here to make an argument that Adam Silver should strong-arm ABC into swapping out the Warriors/Pelicans game that will air tonight for Pistons/Spurs — despite Cunningham being out due to injury. Because, while it would probably break a rule, contract or precedent, it would be the best thing for the future of the league.

If you’re going to highlight the best/most popular teams, you must show the worst ones, too. The league’s future deserves to see what many of them are in for. Look around, the lack of veterans has hurt the NBA’s product in more ways than one. And the league’s youth explosion has led to too many sorry teams with talented, raw players who aren’t being properly developed.

Youth is wasted on the young, and NBA locker rooms lack vets who can show young guys the ropes of professional basketball.

Despite how they may be viewed by some, you can’t tell me that Wembanyama wouldn’t be even better with a Dwight Howard or a DeMarcus Cousins at the end of the bench. Things can be learned by getting first-hand accounts of other’s mistakes, especially when an older teammate can tell you what all comes with being the face of a franchise before you can buy a drink. Michael Carter-Williams won Rookie of the Year in 2014. Do you mean to tell me Cunningham couldn’t learn anything from him? And it’s not like the Pistons have a ton of talent on the end of the bench that they need to keep that would be more valuable than someone giving wise counsel to their star.

According to a 2020 report from the NCAA, the estimated probability of competing in men’s college basketball from high school is 3.5 percent. The estimated probability of competing in men’s professional basketball like the NBA from college is 1.2 percent.

Every year — even with the benefits of NIL, the G-League Ignite team, Overtime Elite, and the ability to play overseas — we see countless players keep their names in the NBA Draft in a rush to “make it to the league” with the hopes of getting to their second contract as fast as possible, as that’s the one that comes with generational wealth. But if you’ve watched college basketball long enough, you can easily create a list of players off the top of your head who should have stayed in school for one more year or went to college instead of opting for a different route that’s led to them never gaining the NBA stardom that many thought they’d achieved.

Here’s a link to the players in the NBA G League. It’s a list full of guys who were drafted or were All-Americans or all-conference in college. Take a look at it, I’m sure you’ll see plenty of names and faces you’re familiar with who fell off the map.

There’s nothing wrong with chasing your dreams or not having a Plan B because Plan A is the only option. But there is something to be said about how good decision-making skills are the best trait a person can have. Despite how great Cunningham and Wembanyama are projected to be, for now, they’re stuck on two of the worst teams this league has ever seen due to being surrounded by talented young guys who are still learning the game.

And if you think things will eventually get better for the Pistons and Spurs, you should proceed with caution. Detroit and San Antonio will place each other again in their season finales, in which both teams will more than likely be jockeying for the best odds to land the No. 1 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft — in which one of them will add more youth and inexperience to a roster full of youth and inexperience.

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