The Detroit Pistons, by all accounts, are having a great rebuild. So far General Manager Troy Weaver has offloaded players and contracts that don’t fit into the long term plan, filled the roster with young prospects and low-risk high reward type of players, all while building a strong culture that’s in line with the Pistons of past and the city they represent. Weaver proves that you can always make a move no matter how bad the situation a team is stuck in. But while most individuals in the Detroit Pistons circle are aware of this successful rebuild, mainstream media does not know how to properly assess this team or any team that isn’t a contender for that matter. All throughout the offseason, and regular season people have been questioning all of Troy Weaver’s moves; calling the Pistons directionless, questioning the talent that’s been brought in, and claiming that they’re stuck in the bottom of the league. All of these misconceptions have either been made because of either a lack of understanding of what’s going on or just because it’s funny and popular to joke about Detroit’s basketball club. But what are these misconceptions, and how do we understand a rebuilding team? You must start with the moves that were made ahead of the draft.
From the start, the media hasn’t understood the direction of the franchise. It’s clear that trying to compete for the past 2 seasons wasn’t working so Troy Weaver turned the direction towards a rebuild/retool, and the talent that was left here before Weaver took over wasn’t built for the long term. So a reshuffle took place before and during the draft. Luke Kennard, Bruce Brown, and Christian Wood were all fun players who fans really gravitated to, but unfortunately they don’t fit the timeline. They’re all 24-25 years old and make really good pieces to competing teams who need guys like them off the bench or to be the 3rd or 4th best player on the team. Weaver turned this core into assets that through the draft nabbed them 18-19 year old’s who have high upside who’ve all already have churned out good numbers this season. But turning older players into younger players who fit the timeline of the team was ignored by the mainstream to instead cover that the Pistons just gave up on the previously mentioned players and set the team back by years. Troy Weaver clearly has a vision and wants to fill the roster with his type of guys which he seems to find in Killian Hayes, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart, and Saban Lee. Weaver has either added young players with upside and strong character or low-cost, high-upside value. Most rebuilding teams would be satisfied if they got one of these guys in the first year of a rebuild, and Detroit has 4 of them. The accomplishments of these young players cannot be overstated. And that is why Weaver saw it fit to totally convert the roster.
The roster turnover this year has been nothing less than insane. There is currently one player (Sekou Doumboya) standing from the previous season. Through trades and signings the Detroit Pistons have acquired Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, Wayne Ellingtion, Corey Joseph, Josh Jackson, Jahlil Okafor, Tyler Cook, Hamidou Diallo, Frank Jackson, Rodney McGruder, and Dennis Smith Jr. – all while dumping Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin, Tony Snell, Svi Mykhailiuk, Delon Wright and the core that was mentioned at the start. There is a clear lack of understanding when it comes to how Weaver has managed this Pistons’ team assets. He took a team full of old talent and made sneakily good moves that require more than a knee-deep assessment. This is especially true when it comes to the buyout of Blake Griffin. A shallow assessment would conclude that the Pistons gave up Griffin for “nothing”. Off the bat, while Detroit didn’t exchange Griffin for any feasible asset, what the move did accomplish was free a log jam at the power forward position. There are a ton of bodies at the forward positions so it only opens up more minutes at the four. The move also opens a roster spot which led to the recent addition of Tyler Cook, who has broken out, and is a very underrated propsect. Recently it’s shown to be important that teams handle their players like people and not like assets. This is most evident with how the Boston Celtics handled the Isaiah Thomas trade. Due to the fallout of that trade players have steered away from Boston despite the winning culture that has been built there over the years. The Pistons have actually been able to draw players to the organization, in particular two names worth spotlighting.
As mentioned before, Detroit has a lot of new few faces this year. And the players that are here didn’t just end up here by accident. All of the free agents and ones brought in are aware of the current climate and culture of the team. Any one of them can come, show out, and earn a spot in the rotation, starting role or even the future of the team. Jerami Grant is the perfect example of this. Grant declined to stay with the Denver Nuggets who are definitely capable of making a deep playoff run. So why did Jerami choose a rebuilding team stuck in “poverty”?Grant chose culture and opportunity that Detroit presented towards him. Grant wanted to be the main option for a team and, despite being offered the same amount of money from Denver that he got from Detroit, he would not get the role he wanted. Also as James Edwards of the Athletic reported this year, playing for a black General Manager, coach and city were all very important to him. Another player of interest is Josh Jackson. Jackson’s numbers have been up and down but he’s the type of player that is perfect for this team. A formal fourth overall pick from only four years ago, he comes in as someone with everything to prove and nothing to lose. A Detroit native himself, he wanted to leave everything out on the court and play his hardest and prove he can be a productive player despite the league seemingly giving up on him. It’s just important to remember, if Detroit is swinging on a player, do not sleep on him.
A lot of sports media get wrapped up in where a franchise currently is and only seem to focus on the fruits a team can bear now. If it’s because there’s past contracts still affecting the cap, old stars that haven’t been producing, or young players not developing; it seems that everyone seems to forget that a move can always be made. General Manager Troy Weaver’s mentality and moves prove this mindset. It’s easy to get wrapped on a recently basis, and the NBA does tend to move fast. But it’s important to look at all teams with a lens of realism, and correctly assess them. When fans and the media alike correctly understand a team it becomes clear what to expect and everyone has more fun overall.