Detroit Pistons’ moves benefits youngsters

AUBURN HILLS, MI - MARCH 28: Andre Drummond
AUBURN HILLS, MI - MARCH 28: Andre Drummond /

The Detroit Pistons have had a whirlwind of unexpected moves in the last 24 hours, and these moves clearly benefited one group of players–the youngsters, that is, Stanley Johnson, Henry Ellenson, and Luke Kennard.

The Detroit Pistons had planned on retaining Kentavious Caldwell-Pope this offseason, but when push came to shove, the Pistons were unwilling to offer Caldwell-Pope the max, and apparently, Caldwell-Pope and his agent were unwilling to accept a lesser offer.

Instead of paying more than he was willing to, Stan Van Gundy elected to make a trade to replace Caldwell-Pope, a trade that netted a better player in Avery Bradley, who came by way of the Boston Celtics, along with a second round pick, in exchange for a Van Gundy favorite, Marcus Morris.

That leaves the Pistons depth chart looking something like this:

Point guard: Reggie Jackson, Ish Smith, Langston Galloway
Shooting guard: Avery Bradley, Luke Kennard
Small forward: Tobias Harris, Stanley Johnson
Power forward: Jon Leuer, Henry Ellenson
Center: Andre Drummond, Boban Marjanovic, Eric Moreland

For perspective, here’s what the roster looked like at the conclusion of the 2016-17 season:

Point guard: Reggie Jackson, Ish Smith, Beno Udrih
Shooting guard: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Darrun Hilliard, Reggie Bullock
Small forward: Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris, Stanley Johnson
Power forward: Jon Leuer, Henry Ellenson
Center: Andre Drummond, Aron Baynes, Boban Marjanovic

Because of Morris’ and Harris’ positional versatility, 2015 first round pick Stanley Johnson was forced into minutes at shooting guard (sporadically), and 2016 first round pick Henry Ellenson spent most of his time in the G-League (formerly known as the D-League).

With Morris and Harris on multi-year deals, and Caldwell-Pope likely to be retained, many wondered what the path to playing time would be for the Pistons’ youth, a problematic issue considering the team was struggling to contend for a playoff spot in the weaker conference in the NBA.

Whether you have liked the offseason moves or not, one thing is clear–the Pistons no longer have to worry about finding minutes for their former first round picks.

Finally, the Pistons can see what Johnson looks like in a full fledged roll in year three, which is often considered a pivotal year for young talent.

Moreover, Ellenson and Luke Kennard should have clearly defined roles off of the bench, and will get the trial by fire development that can be so critical for young players, who often need to get a feel for the speed of the NBA, and how their skills match up–something that Johnson didn’t get much of last season.

In the end, it could be a total train wreck, but at least the Pistons will have the opportunity to evaluate these young players based on real NBA competition, instead of relying primarily on projections.

And if these young players take off, the Pistons will have a nice young core that will develop together on affordable contracts to pair with their other long-term players in Jackson, Harris, and Drummond.

The only downside to these offseason moves is the lack of security surrounding Bradley, who will be an unrestricted free agent next season, and therefore could leave Detroit on his own free will–a particularly concerning thought if Kennard looks completely lost this season.

Still, the pros likely outweigh the cons as Van Gundy and Jeff Bower now have an excellent opportunity to evaluate what they have in a landscape where they likely aren’t going to compete anyway for the next couple of years, with the Golden State Warriors core, and LeBron James in likely the final years of his prime.

Next: Why the Detroit Pistons’ Morris-Bradley deal is beneficial

This is a good spot to be in.