Detroit Pistons

The Detroit Pistons are one of the oldest franchises in the NBA, having been formed in 1941 as the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons. They’ve had an up-and-down history, with three NBA titles and several seasons outside of the playoffs. The team entered to this campaign having missed the postseason for the last two years, and the franchise hasn’t won a playoff game since the 2008 postseason.

The selection of Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 draft has brought some hope to the team. Cunningham and a solid crop of rookies from the 2020 draft has the franchise and the fan base hopeful that a return to the playoffs is imminent.

Detroit Pistons History

The Pistons had great success early in the franchise’s history, reaching the National Basketball League championship series in each of their first four seasons of existence and winning the title in both 1944 and 1945. The team also had success in the early years of the NBA, reaching the NBA Finals in 1955 and 1956 but falling short each time.

The team won just three playoff series in the 25 years that followed, but things started to turn around when the Pistons selected guard Isiah Thomas with the No. 2 pick in the 1981 NBA Draft. Thomas made an immediate impact as a scoring point guard that could control a game at just 6-1.

The team continued to build a nucleus, drafting players like Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman, and John Salley and adding others through trades like Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn. A gradual climb through the Eastern Conference culminated in the team’s appearance in the 1988 NBA Finals, though they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games.

A season later, the team known as the “Bad Boys” for its physical defense finally won the ultimate prize, sweeping the Lakers in the 1989 Finals for the title. The Pistons repeated as champions the following season, defeating the Portland Trail Blazers in the final round.

The Pistons had their troubles in the 1990s, but the early 2000s brought a new group of defensive-minded players that came together to win the 2004 NBA title, defeating the Lakers in five games. That same group made the NBA Finals in 2005 but lost to the San Antonio Spurs in seven games.

After three straight losses in the conference finals, the team’s nucleus was broken up, and the Pistons are still looking for their next title-contending team.

Detroit Pistons Championships

The Pistons have won three NBA championships, including back-to-back titles in the late 1980s. Detroit made the NBA Finals in three consecutive seasons from 1987-88 to 1989-90, coming out on top in the last two appearances.

The 1988-89 team swept the two-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals for the title. The following season, the Pistons beat the Portland Trail Blazers in five games for the championship.

Detroit advanced to the NBA Finals in back-to-back seasons again in 2003-04 and 2004-05, winning the 2004 NBA Finals by stunning the Los Angeles Lakers in five games. The Pistons came up just short the following season, falling in seven games to the San Antonio Spurs.

The Pistons have won 11 division titles over the years, with all but two of them coming since the 1987-88 season. The team won the Central Division title four straight seasons from 2004-05 to 2007-08 but haven’t won one since.

Important Team Events

The Pistons had the No. 2 overall pick in the 1981 NBA Draft that featured several players set to be long-time pros. Detroit decided to go with a small point guard at a time when big men ruled the NBA, and that decision brought great benefit to the franchise.

Isiah Thomas arrived in Detroit and immediately took the leadership mantle as the point guard, scoring and passing the ball and making the team much better. He eventually would help the team to back-to-back NBA titles and ended his career as the franchise’s all-time leading scorer.

As good as Thomas was, the decision by management to bring in Chuck Daly as head coach in 1983 after he’d won just nine of his first 41 games as a head coach in the NBA with Cleveland was also a game-changer.

Daly coached nine seasons with Detroit and reached the playoffs in each of them, including taking the team to three consecutive NBA Finals appearances and two NBA titles.

Another big coaching move was made in the 2003 offseason when Pistons management let head coach Rick Carlisle go despite the team appearing in the Eastern Conference finals.

Carlisle’s departure led to the hiring of Larry Brown, the well-traveled coach who paid immediate dividends, leading the Pistons to the NBA championship in his first season. Brown also took the team to the 2005 NBA Finals, but because of his public flirtation with other teams for possible jobs, the Pistons bought out his contract in the 2005 offseason.

Detroit Pistons Top Players

There have been a lot of great players in the history of the Pistons franchise, as 24 players who spent at least a season with the team are currently in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. But there is little question who the greatest player in Detroit Pistons history is, as Isiah Thomas would be the consensus selection.

Thomas is still the franchise’s all-time leader in points, assists, and steals, and he was named to 12 All-Star Games and earned first-team All-NBA honors three times.

Grant Hill looked to be on his way to being the greatest in franchise history, but he left via free agency after six years with the club. In each of his seasons with the team, Hill was an All-Star and is still the franchise’s all-time leader in triple-doubles. Hill was named co-Rookie of the Year in 1995 (along with Dallas’ Jason Kidd) and earned first-team All-NBA honors for the 1996-97 season.

One of the greatest defensive players in league history was Ben Wallace, and the long-time Pistons big man was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2021 despite averaging just 5.7 points per game for his NBA career.

Wallace was the anchor for the defense of the Pistons teams that reached the 2004 and 2005 NBA Finals, and he earned NBA Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2001-02, 2002-03, 2004-05, and 2005-06.

Wallace also led the NBA in rebounding in 2001-02 and 2002-03.

Top Coaches

Chuck Daly helped turn the Pistons from a team happy just to make the playoffs to a perennial title contender in his time with the team, finishing his nine seasons as the team’s head coach with a franchise record 467 regular-season victories. Daly also won 71 games in the postseason, helping the team to three straight NBA Finals appearances and two NBA titles.

His tenure in Detroit wasn’t long, but Larry Brown made the most of his two years on the Detroit sideline, leading the team to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 2004 and 2005. Brown won 108 regular-season games in his two seasons and helped the team to their third NBA title in his first season in 2003-04.

Flip Saunders has the highest winning percentage in the regular season of any coach in Detroit Pistons history, winning 71.5 percent of the games he coached in from 2005-06 to 2007-08.

In each of his three seasons, Saunders got Detroit to the Eastern Conference finals but was unable to get past that round, losing in six games to the Heat, Cavaliers, and Celtics. If you love sports and want more sports betting information follow us as @InsidersBetDig on Twitter and sign up to our mailing list for free betting picks.

Detroit Pistons FAQs

Isiah Thomas scored 18,822 points during his 13 seasons with the Detroit Pistons, the most in franchise history.

The Pistons have selected No. 1 overall in the NBA draft twice, selecting Bob Lanier in 1970 and Cade Cunningham in 2021.

The Pistons have been NBA champions three times, winning back-to-back titles in 1988-89 and 1989-90 and a third title in 2003-04.

Chuck Daly had 467 regular-season victories during his nine seasons as head coach of the Pistons.

Two players have won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award for the Pistons: Dave Bing (1966-67) and Grant Hill (1994-95).

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