The NBA’s trade moratorium lifted Monday, and after six days and a whirlwind of transactions, the Detroit Pistons’ roster is nearly unrecognizable from where it was a week ago.
Only four players — Blake Griffin, Svi Mykhailiuk, Derrick Rose and Sekou Doumbouya — remain from the 2019-20 roster. The Pistons added four rookies on draft night and acquired 10 other players through free agency and the trade market. The roster is expected to see more changes before training camp opens Dec. 1.
For the most part, the acquisitions made by Pistons general manager Troy Weaver followed a consistent approach. He values athleticism, size and defensive and positional versatility. He found players who fit those attributes. But it will take time to get an accurate sense of what he accomplished over the last week.
The Pistons made so many moves — some of which appeared contradictory to each other — that it’s tough to make broad conclusions about where they currently are as a team, and how they’ll look next season.
Pistons general manager Troy Weaver said when clearly isn’t gun-shy in his approach toward remaking the roster. When he was hired in June he promised a ‘"restoring,"’ rather than a rebuild. He said he wanted the Pistons to be competitive, rather than to embrace a tanking. The goal is for the Pistons to contend sooner rather than later, he said, eventually, and he appears to view the draft, free agency and trade market as equal means to the same end. To this point, he has stayed true to his approach.
“We’re going to attack the draft, we’re going to attack free agency, we’re going to attack everything,” Weaver said after Wednesday’s draft. “I said coming in, this was going to be a restoring of two iterations of the great Pistons teams. That was their mentality. They were aggressive, they were on the attack and we want to follow suit. That’s the mantra and we’ll hopefully continue to be aggressive.”
It doesn’t appear the Pistons have committed to any particular direction, other than establishing a roster that fits the tone and system Weaver wants the franchise to embrace. After being active during the draft and adding rookies Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey and Saben Lee, Weaver opened Detroit’s wallet Friday and handed out $85 million combined across three seasons to Jerami Grant ($60 million) and Mason Plumlee ($25 million). He also signed Josh Jackson and Jahlil Okafor.
Those additions came at the expense of Luke Kennard, Christian Wood and Bruce Brown, who were all fan favorites and considered potential franchise cornerstones. All three now are on new teams. In addition, Weaver both acquired and gave away future draft picks through his five trades. He paid Plumlee and Grant more money than most would’ve guessed, a sign that Weaver had to pay the small-market/bad-team tax to attract players he liked, or simply valued them more than the average general manager would’ve. Perhaps it's a combination of both.
The Pistons entered last week with $30 million in cap space. They spent just about all of it and will waive-and-stretch Dewayne Dedmon — whom they acquired after trading Tony Snell and Khyri Thomas to the Hawks — to create enough room for Grant’s contract, a league source confirmed. Stretching Dedmon, in a cap space-saving tactic that allows the Pistons to remove him from the roster and spread the money owed to him over several years, will create a $2.9 million cap hit through the next five seasons, eating into their financial flexibility for a half-decade. After exhausting nearly every mechanism they had available to reshape the roster, Detroit is left with a team that doesn’t quite fit together.
Including Dedmon, the Pistons have five centers, including the two they signed on Friday: Plumlee and Okafor. They drafted one — Stewart — with the 16th pick Wednesday. Dedmon and Tony Bradley were acquired via trade. Even after parting ways with Dedmon, Detroit will be bucking every trend by quadrupling down on what has become the league’s least-valued position while still having roster holes elsewhere. None of the aforementioned players have proven track records as full-time starters.
The Pistons also are loaded at the forward positions. Jackson and Dzanan Musa, who they acquired from the Nets after trading Brown on Monday, have predominantly played both small and power forward during their short careers. This is also true of Grant, who is now making $20 million annually. Doumbouya and Griffin, two returnees from last season, are natural power forwards. Head coach Dwane Casey will have to be creative in getting Detroit’s supersized roster to work.
Looking past the logjam at the center and power forward positions, there’s a lot to like about the current roster. Paying big money for Grant, who emerged as one of the Nuggets’ best role players last season, was a surprise. But Grant was due for a raise following a standout performance during the NBA playoffs. He’s one of the NBA’s most versatile defenders, capable of defending all five positions, and is coming off consecutive seasons of making close to 39% of his 3-pointers. Forwards with his skill set are hard to come by. It’s why the Nuggets were reportedly willing to match Detroit’s offer to keep him.
The Pistons can offer Grant an expanded offensive role compared to what he had in Denver. He’s a valuable player in today’s NBA and raises Detroit’s floor.
Many NBA analysts consider his contract an overpay, considering he hasn’t proven he can be a lead offensive player. His skill set could be considered a luxury for a Pistons team that isn’t yet contending. But he’s a good player who fits Weaver’s vision for the roster, and Weaver clearly believes his contract will be a positive asset.
Jackson, the fourth pick in the 2017 draft, had a rough first two seasons in Phoenix, but he flourished toward the end of last season with the Grizzlies. In March, he averaged 16.6 points, 2.8 assists, 2.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals and one block in 20.9 minutes per game while hitting 38% of his 3-pointers. He’s a young player who appears to have some untapped upside.
Killian Hayes is Detroit’s point guard of the future and was considered one of the top guard prospects in the draft. Saddiq Bey was one of the best two-way players in college basketball last season for Villanova, and was considered a steal at the 19th overall pick. Weaver likes Stewart, who as a strong, energetic center with long arms and good touch, embodies several of the qualities he wants in a player. They give the Pistons three promising building blocks as a starting point for their retool.
And still, it will take time to weigh the impact of some of the Pistons’ other moves last week.
Wood, who established himself as one of the best free agents on the market, signed a 3-year, $41-million deal with the Rockets — less than what the Pistons gave to Grant. Kennard and Brown may not have fit what Weaver values in players, but they were good players. Detroit attached Justin Patton and four second-round picks in the trade ofKennard, who shot nearly 40% from 3 last season and showed improvement as a playmaker. Brown was Detroit's best wing defender last season and made strides as a point guard, but his trade only returned Musa, an unproven scorer, and a 2021 second-rounder.
Notably, Griffin and Rose remain on the roster. The sense is that it'll take time for a trade market to build for Griffiin, who played just 18 games last season after earning All-NBA honors in 2018-19. If and when Griffin is traded, it'll relieve much of the logjam that currently exists. Rose was a Sixth Man of the Year candidate last season, and theoretically has more trade value as an expiring contract. But he hasn't been moved yet.
It’s clear Weaver is building the Pistons on his terms. He took several gambles and wasn’t afraid to buck expectations. And his offseason plan isn’t quite over yet. He has a vision, and time will tell how it all comes together.
Contact Omari Sankofa II at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Pistons had busiest week in recent memory: What it all means