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On Monday morning, the NBA’s trade moratorium lifts. On Wednesday, the 2020 NBA draft will take place. And on Friday, free agency begins.
After about a month of offseason silence since the Lakers beat the Heat for the NBA title in October, the league will now see a flurry of roster moves over the span of a week. It’ll certainly be a busy week for the Detroit Pistons, who have both a high draft pick (seventh overall) and significant cap space (about $30 million).
Five months after joining the organization as general manager, Troy Weaver’s opportunity is finally here. He inherited a team that won just 20 games last season, and was trending toward a bottom-three finish before its season was ended by the COVID-19 pandemic on March 11.
The Pistons could pursue a number of options. They could swing a draft-day trade. They could stay put at No. 7. They could use their cap space to eat bad contracts as a means of gaining more draft picks and young players to build around. They could cash in on a free agent who could bring them closer to making the playoffs next season.
All options are on the table, but Weaver wants to compete without mortgaging the future of the team. That could be a hint of what the Pistons could look to accomplish this week.
“Nothing changes with being competitive,” Weaver said. “When that changes, then I won’t be around here. We try to be competitive without shortcutting our long-term future. We’re looking at both scenarios, for sure. I don’t know who you consider big free agents, but we plan on talking to guys that we’re very interested in for sure, and also leveraging cap space to get assets. It’s a balancing act, with being competitive at the forefront of that, tied into not leveraging the future.”
It’ll likely be several years before we can accurately judge how good or bad this offseason was for the Pistons. But in broad strokes, there are moves they can make that’ll positively impact their five-year trajectory.
For the Pistons to receive an "A" grade this offseason, here are some of the boxes they need to check this week.
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Nail the draft
This one goes without saying. The Pistons’ dicey drafting during the last decade is a major reason why they haven’t won a playoff game since 2008. They’ve had 10 first-round picks — six of those in the lottery — since their last playoff win, and only one — Andre Drummond — has logged an All-Star appearance. For a market that historically hasn't lured big-name free agents, that’s crippling. Even before Weaver was hired, the front office acknowledged how important it is for the organization to get this pick right.
The Pistons could look to trade this year’s pick. They could move down to pick up additional assets or move up to target a franchise player. Either way, they need to maximize the value of the pick.
Pick up additional assets
The Pistons are in better shape than they were three years ago, asset-wise. They have all of their future first-round picks and a small core of young players who have a chance to be foundational pieces of a playoff contender. Luke Kennard, Svi Mykhailiuk and Bruce Brown all showed improvement last season. Sekou Doumbouya still has to prove he can live up to his first-round pedigree, but the organization has spoken highly of his improvement and work ethic this offseason.
The Pistons should continue picking up assets. Weaver has already said they will look to acquire a second-round pick in this year’s draft. The trade market should create more opportunities for them to add picks and young players.
The Oklahoma City Thunder are reportedly planning to trade Dennis Schroder, the Sixth Man of the Year runner-up, to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for the 28th pick in Wednesday’s draft. That trade sets a blueprint for what the Pistons should look to do. There are several contending teams that lack the cap space to improve their roster via free agency. Can the Pistons accomplish something similar with Derrick Rose’s expiring contract?
Their $30 million in cap space could also be in play as a dumping ground for a big contract, provided it also brings a promising young player or future picks. The Pistons will consider it, Weaver said.
Retain Christian Wood, for the right price
After a breakout season that featured a run as an elite offensive big man toward the end of last season, Wood figures to be one of the hottest names in free agency. The Pistons are in position to re-sign him to a long-term deal, and they should — as long as it’s a number that won’t make it difficult for them to trade him down the line, if necessary.
Wood will certainly receive a massive raise, possibly in the double-digit millions. Weaver has signaled that the Pistons are interested in retaining him. Only he and the rest of the front office know what contract number would become too expensive for them to bring him back.
If it appears likely that Wood would prefer to sign elsewhere, a sign-and-trade is the next best option. As long as the Pistons don’t lose Wood with nothing to show for it, they should be able to find a favorable outcome.
Contact Omari Sankofa II at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: What the Detroit Pistons should do this week to earn an offseason 'A'