Ed Stefanski’s first full season with the keys to the Detroit Pistons ended in a sweep in the first round against the Milwaukee Bucks. He executed small moves such as trading Guard Reggie Bullock in exchange for Svi Mykhailiuk and a 2021 second-round pick. This led to the Pistons signing Wayne Ellington, on a deal that landed Ellington in Detroit for the remainder of the season, and the playoffs. Stefanski would go on to trade Stanley Johnson for Thon Maker, and Jon Leuer for Tony Snell and the 30th pick in the 2019 draft. These moves were all fairly minimal, and this year’s trade deadline was the first real test for the new Pistons’ front office.
That was then, this is now:
The Pistons went into the February 6th deadline this season at 19-34, sitting in 10th place in the East. Blake Griffin is most likely done for the season, following arthroscopic knee surgery. The Pistons went into the deadline presumed as sellers and were looking for young pieces and first-round picks. What the Pistons left the deadline with was: 28-year-old Brandon Knight, 29-year-old John Henson, and a 2023 second-round pick.
What did Detroit give up? Andre Drummond. Their franchise center. It was common knowledge the Pistons were shopping Drummond, amongst other Pistons. Drummond’s name initially came up in talks with Atlanta, which ultimately went nowhere. The Pistons also reportedly were in talks to send Luke Kennard to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Elie Okobo, Javon Carter, and a first-round pick. The talks reportedly came to a halt because the two sides could not come to an agreement on protections on said first-round pick. Markeiff Morris was also in talks to be traded, but only his twin brother was sent out.
Many fans expectations were something along the lines of trading the veterans for young players and picks. Trading Andre for salary filler and (a basically nonexistent) 2023 second round pick, was the only trade the Pistons made amongst all the leaked rumors, and trade talks.
Disappointing? Absolutely. Confusing? You bet. Much of the Pistons reported reasons for trading Andre in the fashion they did, was Drummond possibly opting in to his $28.7 million player option. If Drummond opted in, the Pistons could’ve still traded him. If Drummond opted out, the Pistons would not have been able to execute a sign and trade. So, from some aspects, the trade makes some sense, disappointing as the return may be.
The biggest problem with the Pistons deadline is the lack of moves. Keeping Markieff Morris, Tony Snell, Langston Galloway, and Reggie Jackson in a clear rebuilding process makes little to no sense. Galloway and Morris’ names were connected to multiple contending teams and seemed to be sure-fire trades. None of the names mentioned above were moved. Moving those veterans for young players, even ones contending teams had given up on, makes a lot more sense for a team seemingly trying to rebuild.
Having players like Snell, Morris, and Galloway taking minutes away from young players such as Louis King or Jordan Bone is a head-scratcher. Head coach Dwane Casey has repeatedly shown he was more willing to give the veterans meaningful minutes, rather than rookie Sekou Doumbouya. Whether this changes anytime soon is yet to be seen.
The Pistons have not added any young talent, and the only hope they can look for is the draft and free agency. Currently, the Pistons are looking at no shortage of cap space going into the 2020 off-season. What they decide to do with that money will indicate if the Detroit truly wants to go for a full rebuild or a short retool and try to push for the playoffs again next year. The Pistons, if they want to look at the latter, will look to free agents such as Fred Van Vleet, DeMar DeRozan, and Danilo Gallinari. However, if they’re looking to go for a full-on rebuild, they could look at taking on bad contracts for draft compensation. If the Pistons are going to go for a full rebuild, it won’t be much like the one the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder are experiencing currently. Ironically, the situation will be similar to the Cleveland Cavaliers. A veteran, former All-Star Power Forward (Blake Griffin), stuck on a middling team with no real hope for success in the near future.
The few positives Pistons fans can pull from the trade deadline is opportunity. With Drummond gone, Christian Wood has a massive opportunity to become the Pistons center of the future. The entire team should play completely differently without a set playbook built around Andre Drummond. The hope is, Casey gives the young guys the biggest bulk of the minutes and development occurs.
What the Pistons do from here will determine what they look like for the foreseeable future. It will define Ed Stefanski, and the current Pistons’ front office’s legacy. Free Agency and the draft will be the determining factors of what lies ahead for the Pistons. A playoff push, or a complete tear-down.
I talked about what the Pistons shouldn’t do (and ultimately did) at the trade deadline, and used Uncut Gems (2019) to explain.
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