The 2020 Detroit Pistons: What Now?

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The 2020 Detroit Pistons: What Now?

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The Detroit Pistons season concluded with them going out on their backs. The Pistons fought through a rocky season to make the playoffs in their, “Playoff Push,” being led by All-Star, Blake Griffin. Griffin carried the weight of the 2018-19 team on his back until his knees buckled, literally. Putting up outrageous stats, averaging 24.5 Points Per Game, 7.5 Rebounds, and 5.4 Assists, Griffin had a resurgent season that proved he was still a force to be reckoned with in the NBA. Griffin wasn’t able to carry the team into the playoffs, however, as the season was winding down, Blake started missing games with, “knee soreness,” Griffin would return though playing in spurts. The Pistons were slated to finish 6th prior to Griffin’s injury, however, by the end of the season, they found themselves limping into the NBA Playoffs as the eight seed finishing  41-41. Finishing eighth meant the Pistons had the challenge of playing the 1 seed, Milwaukee Bucks (who had the best record in the NBA at 60-22).  The Pistons ended up getting swept (as most predicted they would) though they did fight valiantly. Blake Griffin would return to an ovation when the series went back to Detroit and he would average 24.5 points for both games in a Herculean performance that becomes even more impressive now that we know that Blake had a torn meniscus during this series.

The Pistons off-season began with a draft with many questions around it. There was plenty of talks the Pistons would trade their first-round pick in a package for Memphis Point Guard, Mike Conley. So when Pistons fans got an Adrian Wojnarowski Tweet notification prior to the draft, it wasn’t the trade they were expecting. The Pistons managed to trade Jon Leuer (and his contract) to the Milwaukee Bucks for 3 point specialist, Tony Snell, and the 30th overall pick. At the draft, the Pistons selected 18 year old forward from France, Sekou Doumbouya, with the 15th pick. The Pistons would trade their 30th overall pick (Kevin Porter Jr.) to the Cavaliers for a handful of second-round picks and cash considerations. With their second-round picks, the Pistons would select forward, Deividas Servidas from Lithuania and Tennessee Point Guard, Jordan Bone.

Aside from picking up the team option on now second-year SF Svi Mykhailiuk’s team option, they re-signed none of their expiring contracts this summer. These departures from the squad include:

  • Ish Smith (Signed with WSH)
  • Glenn Robinson (Signed with GSW)
  • Zaza Pachulia (Retired)
  • Jose Calderon (Unsigned)
  • Wayne Ellington (Signed with NYK)

With all of their Free Agents gone, the Pistons still didn’t have much money to work with, only having the mid-level exception (roughly 10 million dollars) to spend. Ed Stefanski and company managed to stretch that MLE as far as it could go, as their very first signing broke headlines when free-agent point guard Derrick Rose (after a comeback season) had decided to sign with Detroit Pistons on a two year, 15 million dollar contract. With the remaining money the Pistons signed:

  • Markieff Morris (Forward)
  • Tim Fraizer (Point Guard)
  • Christian Wood (Forward/Center)
  • Joe Johnson (Guard/Forward)

So that brings us to now.

Given all of the moves, draft picks, and signings (especially when compared to last year’s team) Pistons fans should have a lot to be excited for. Right?

Well…it’s complicated.

Let’s start here, the Detroit Pistons have improved (some would say significantly) in an Eastern Conference, and honestly, an NBA where there’s no presumed title favorite. However, the Detroit Pistons may be the team with the single most question marks, and variables. So, I’ll be breaking down what to (realistically) expect, who the key factors on this team are, who they should target, who they should try to move, and how this franchise finally moves forward.

 

So, What should I Expect From This Team?

For now, it’s safe to realistically expect roughly the same type of season as last year’s, possibly slightly better, or possibly slightly worse. The Pistons did make some improvements, and though they could be helpful, it’s most likely not enough to push them into the realm of contention. For now, their realistic ceiling is most likely a 6th seed, possibly 45 wins, and (hopefully) a Playoff win to end the decade long drought. Many want this team to either go all in,or tank. The Pistons owner Tom Gores has openly opposed the latter, so that means the Pistons are trying to be in a, “win now mode.” For the Pistons to exceed and become a contender (not just a playoff team), everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) has to go above expectations. Their key factors would include Derrick Rose staying healthy and being an All-Star again, Luke Kennard would have to have a breakout year worthy of the Most Improved Player award, Blake Griffin would have to continue his production from last year while staying healthy, Sekou Doumbouya would have to have his progression kick-started, Andre Drummond would have to expand his game and do it remarkably well, and the Pistons would have to win a lot more basketball games. Can some of these things happen? Absolutely. Though, it’s incredibly unlikely all of these things happen. The best way for the Pistons to truly be a, “win now,” team is via trade. It would have to be a trade that would, using Tom Gores’ vocabulary, “move the needle.”

But, Who Would Move The Needle For Us?

This is where the fun lies. The Pistons have a lot of contracts expiring after this season in Langston Galloway, Reggie Jackson, Josh Smith (yes, he is still getting paid), and if he declines his player-option like he’s indicated he will, Andre Drummond. Expiring Contracts are valuable trade pieces, as are first round picks. Ideally, the Pistons would trade away one of these players and a pick without having to give up Luke Kennard who seems to be poised for a very important season.

So who are the players that would move the needle and put the Pistons into contention?

Bradley Beal, SG 

This would be Pistons fans dream scenario. For months talks have been heating up about Bradley Beal not wanting to commit long-term to the rebuilding Washington Wizards. Beal would be a perfect fit on this squad, a fantastic overall player who put up great stats last season at 25.6 Points Per Game, 5 rebounds, and 5.5 assists. Beal is a solid defender and would compliment the All-Star frontcourt of Drummond and Griffin. This would be a legitimate big three, and would certainly push the Pistons towards contention. However, there’s a couple of big questions around this acquisition.

Are The Wizards ready to let him go?

I would like to believe they are in order to move forward with their organization, fully embrace the rebuild, and start over. Beal is costly to keep on their roster for essentially no reason. Their new starting Point Guard (who, on most teams would be a backup), Isiah Thomas injuring his thumb and looking and looking at 6-8 weeks for a recovery period. This isn’t a good sign as Thomas has had his career plagued with injuries. So, all signs point towards the Wizards ultimately accepting the inevitable and begin looking for a new home for Beal. However, he wouldn’t be traded here without a significant price tag.

What would the trade look like?

Most likely, the Pistons would have to give up Reggie Jackson, Langston Galloway, Luke Kennard, and one or two first-round picks. This would give the Wizards a chance to restart as, after the season is over they’ll have Jackson, Galloway’s contracts off the books. The extra first-round picks would be helpful to their overall goal of hitting the reset button, and the Pistons would benefit from having another All-Star to help them try and contend.

                                         

                                                                      Demar Derozan, SG/SF

Demar Derozan has a big chip on his shoulder. Derozan was traded from the Toronto Raptors in the summer of 2018 and it’s safe to say it’d be justified if he held some resentment. Another departure from the Raptors that season was long-time head coach, Dwane Casey (now the head coach of the Detroit Pistons). Both men were getting used to their new teams as the Raptors thrived with their new head coach, Nick Nurse, and superstar Kawhi Leonard. The Raptors would win the NBA Championship, and it’s safe to say Demar and Dwane would like to know the feeling. Teaming up with Griffin and Drummond would create an interesting dynamic that may not be a sure-fire shot at contention, but would certaintly put them in a better spot than they’re in currently. Derozan is also an expiring contract, and his value isn’t as high as a Bradley Beal, so the cost would not be as steep.

What would the trade look like?

This trade would resemble something along the lines of:

San Antonio receives: Jackson, Galloway, Svi, Khyri Thomas, 2020 1st round pick, 2020 2nd round-pick, 2021 second-round pick

Detroit receives: Demar Derozan, Chimeizie Metu

This trade would be a big risk, however taking a big risk paid off for the Toronto Raptors, where, in that trade many had thought the Raptors had given up too much for Kawhi Leonard. Though, that perception changed dramatically after the 2019 NBA Finals.

 

                                                                     D’Angelo Russell, PG 

D’Angelo Russell is a star in the making. The Brooklyn Nets let him go this off-season in a sign and trade that let the Warriors’ Kevin Durant leave while still getting something in return. When Klay Thompson returns from injury it’s hard to imagine the big three of D’Lo, Steph Curry, and Klay working. So, since Russell became a member of the Warriors many have concluded his time there will be brief. That being said, if he does become available the Pistons would certainly jump on the opportunity to acquire the 23-year-old All-Star. The Pistons, when compared to other teams, may have the perfect trade piece for Russell.

Andre Drummond.

The expiring contract of Drummond would let him be able to shine in an offense meant for an elite rebounder like himself. This scenario would let the Pistons move on from the big man while still getting something they need in return. This would also give the Warriors the chance to have an All-Star Center on their team for the first time in the, “Splash Bro’s,” era. Meanwhile, Russell would pair magnificently with Rose, Kennard, and Griffin. The Pistons would have a young, elite Point for the first time since Chauncey Billups’ time as a Piston.

The trade details are hard to figure out but my guess would be something like this:

Warriors receive: Andre Drummond, Svi Mykhaliliuk, and a 2020 1st-round pick with a lottery protection.

Pistons get: D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Poole

This trade would also lead to the Pistons moving Jackson for a starting-caliber Center to fill the Dre-sized-void as Thon Maker or Christian Wood getting the starting job would not be ideal for a team trying to contend.

                                                 Dark Horse Candidate:   Gordon Hayward

Twenty-Nine year old Gordon Hayward has had a rough go of things in Boston. Upon his arrival in Boston alongside Kyrie Irving, the Celtics were slated to be a championship contender. The results, were far from championship contention. Hayward’s career as a Celtic started with a snap. His ankle broke in the season-opener against the Cavaliers, and he would miss the rest of the season. Since then, Hayward would return to a hostile and fractured locker-room in Boston. All the while, Hayward was just trying to get used to the game again and find himself on the court. Hayward didn’t have a bad season, he just had one that wasn’t up to par with what many had come to expect. His contract isn’t favorable either as he’s owed 76.5 million dollars between the next two seasons (assuming he picks up his player option).

There is a bright side though, as Hayward could still very well have a resurgent season as this off-season he was completely healthy, and able to focus on his game. When he’s good, he’s great. Hayward would fill the wing problem the Pistons have and his shooting would go hand in hand with Luke Kennard.

The trade itself wouldn’t cost the Pistons too much, as it’d most likely look like this:

Boston recieves: Reggie Jackson (can backup Kemba Walker, and is an expiring contract for the Celtics), Langston Galloway, and a lottery protected 2020 first-round pick.

Detroit recieves: Gordon Hayward

This would let the Celtics get Hayward’s contract off the books and still get a valuable piece in Jackson and a first-round pick (which happens to be valuable to Celtics’ GM Danny Ainge).

The Pistons have an interesting season ahead of them, and the moves they make this season will determine what the future of this team looks like, and if they’ll be able to capitalize on the prime of their biggest star in decades.

Want more Pistons content? 

Check out this 2019-20 Pistons hype video (by yours truly)