Known as one of the toughest franchises in the NBA, the Detroit Pistons appear to be rebuilding. After making the playoffs just two times in the last decade, Detroit needs to go through a proper rebuild instead of trying to take shortcuts to relevance.
However, can the Pistons front office make the right moves?
Detroit has spent the best part of a decade dealing with the repercussions of buyers remorse. The Pistons strangely penned Josh Smith to a four-year, 54-million-dollar deal in 2013. Just one season later, the franchise elected to waive Smith and stretch his remaining 26-million over 5 seasons. Smith’s dead money finally came off the books this year but that remains one of the dumbest decisions seen in the NBA.
Welcome to Motor City Troy Weaver
Change appears to the on the horizon in Motor City with the Pistons hiring former Oklahoma City Thunder Vice President of Operations Troy Weaver. The 52-year-old spent 12 years in the Thunder’s front office and was heavily involved in forming the Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka era.
He famously pushed for the Thunder to select Westbrook ahead of the 2008 NBA draft after many expected OKC to take Jerryd Bayless, Eric Gordon and Joe Alexander. In an interview with Kevin Durant, Erik Horne of The Athletic wrote about how Weaver was primarily responsible for the Thunder selecting the future Hall of Famer.
Durant is a student of the game, so he naturally reveled in Weaver’s storytelling, trying to soak up as much information from him as possible. A portion of Durant’s basketball mind was built off of Weaver telling him stories… and how he figured out Russell Westbrook was the right fit for the Thunder…
“He (Weaver) told me he was going to a workout and Russ was there two hours early, sleeping in his car,” Durant said. “He was like, ‘Yeah, this is the guy.’
Weaver and the scouting team in Oklahoma City did a tremendous job putting together one of the most successful franchises over the past 10 years. In his first press conference, Weaver said Detroit will not be entering a rebuild but restoring. ESPN’s Eric Woodyard reported on the conference.
Troy Weaver: "This isn't a rebuild, this is a restart." Says they're not trying to reinvent the wheel, but install it back and says "The Motor City deserves a consistent winner."
— Eric Woodyard (@E_Woodyard) June 22, 2020
While this sounds like Weaver is looking to retool the roster, he is a disciple of OKC Thunder GM Sam Presti. With the current roster, it appears more likely Weaver is angling for a rebuild.
Here are three things Detroit must look to do leading up to next season.
Trade Blake Griffin
The Blake Griffin-Detroit Pistons experience has run its course and now it is time to move the All-Star off the roster. With over $76-million remaining on his contract, moving the 30-year-old could be a challenge.
Teams like Charlotte, Golden State and Utah are teams who might take a look at Griffin given their current situations. Charlotte have been in cap hell for the past five years and Michael Jordan is always hungry for a star. The GOAT has shown to be a terrible owner thus could be conned to take on the All-Star.
Golden State’s cap situation is a huge mess.
Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins are due close to $100-million a-piece over the next four seasons, essentially handcuffing the franchise. Rumors suggest the Warriors will chase Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2021 free agency thus trades will need to happen to create space.
Utah, on the other hand, is in a weird position. All-Stars Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell appear to be at odds over Gobert’s behaviour prior to Corona Virus outbreak. The big man mocked hygiene rules enforced by the NBA then became the face of the league’s suspension by contracting the virus. Mitchell’s test returned positive and expressed dissatisfaction toward Gobert.
The Frenchman mentioned in an interview with NBA Central that he and Mitchell have since spoken.
Rudy Gobert acknowledges he didn’t speak to Donovan Mitchell ‘for a while’ but they spoke a few days ago
“It’s far from perfect, but at the end of the day we are on the same team.” pic.twitter.com/pJGEMzyXlN
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) April 12, 2020
Detroit need to monitor all situations and these three should interest them at the minute.
This works in conjunction with the first point of trading Griffin but the Detroit Pistons must trade all its vets and take part in as many multi-team trades as possible to accumulate assets. As it stands, the Pistons own all of its future first round picks and three second-round picks from 2024-26.
The Pistons draft captial over the next 7 lotteries.
2020 – 1st, 2nd to SAC
2021 – 1st, 2nd (LAL), 2nd to NYK
2022 – 1st, 2nd to WAS/CHI/MEM
2023 – 1st, 2nd (CLE/GS), 2nd (POR), 2nd to LAC
2024 – 1st, 2nd
2025 – 1st, 2nd
2026 – 1st, 2nd
They are projected to pick no.5 in 2020. pic.twitter.com/zrTYGObPjx
— NBA Buzz Feed (@NBAbuzz5) June 13, 2020
Luke Kennard, Derrick Rose and Tony Snell are the Pistons most valuable trade chips and could acquire decent draft capital. Detroit would be foolish to accept anything other than a future first-round pick for Kennard while Rose and Snell should fetch a second-round pick each.
Additionally, Detroit can renounce it’s free agents and have more room on its books.
With the salary cap likely to decrease due to the Corona Virus pandemic, the Pistons will have plenty of leverage. Philadelphia, Houston, Sacramento and Chicago are ball clubs with bad contracts and should be targeted in the off-season.
Do not overpay Christian Wood
The Detroit Pistons are notorious for handing out bad contract. One player set to receive a considerable pay rise is 24-year-old Christian Wood.
The power forward has been a shining light for the Pistons, averaging 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds on 56.7 percent shooting and 38.6 percent from three. In his last 10 games before the NBA suspension, Wood was a statistical beast averaging 24.2 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks on 57.8 percent shooting and 37.5 percent from three.
In one of his best performances this season, Wood posted 29 points and 10 rebounds in a loss to Oklahoma City.
🔵 Career-high 29 points
🔵 Five three pointers
🔵 10 rebounds
— Detroit Pistons (@DetroitPistons) March 5, 2020
Every NBA team is looking for a power forward that can rebound and stretch the floor. With most teams battling with salary cap restraints next season, the Pistons have an opportunity sign him to a team friendly deal.
The Pistons don’t have many options and would be best to reset the roster. Contrary to beliefs, Detroit do not need to attach any assets to move Griffin. Is his contract bloated? Yes but he is an All-Star that has dragged the Pistons to the playoffs.
Asset accumulation needs to be the objective this off-season. The Pistons will be one of a few teams with cap space this summer and need to take advantage of a tight market. Absorbing deals and trading veterans is a start toward acquiring draft capital or young players.
In order for the Detroit Pistons to fully exploit teams, they must not over pay Wood. He’s had a great season but one year is not enough to predict he can maintain his play. He will turn 25 next season so he’s likely close to his overall ceiling.
A rebuild is coming to Detroit so why not start now.