After falling well short of their 2019-2020 season aspirations, the Detroit Pistons could look a lot more hopeful next year.
The Detroit Pistons own the fifth worst record in the NBA. Although this season is a loss, reserve players are benefiting from expanded opportunities and roles. With so many variables still in play, here’s the best case scenario glimpse at the Pistons’ roster next season.
To start the beginning of the 2019-2020 campaign, Dwane Casey’s group wanted to push the envelope from playoff aspirations to playoff contenders.
However, the team never really got started the way it wanted. Blake Griffin didn’t look the part to begin the season, and was guided into his second knee surgery in a span of eight months.
Reggie Jackson flirted with back issues for the first half of the season, to then be bought-out and scooped up by the title-contending Los Angeles Clippers.
Since December 21, Luke Kennard has been battling knee tendinitis. Previously, it was portrayed that he would be available following the all-star break. However, Rob Beard last reported that Kennard is still a limited participant in practice.
With the season hanging in postponement, it’s ultimately likely that Kennard won’t see the floor until the 2021 regular season.
Not only have their been frustrations with injuries, but the front office ultimately decided to accept a foreseeable rebuild and emptied their best and longest-tenured player to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Toss in a buyout in Markieff Morris, who landed with the Los Angeles Lakers, and the Pistons have found themselves with a potential top three draft pick in this year’s draft.
The Pistons (20-45) have lost nine of their last ten games and emptied nearly all of their remaining assets.
Left are enticing players like Christian Wood, who is undoubtedly flourishing in the given opportunity. Wood, 24, is averaging 22 points, 10.2 rebounds and shooting 37 percent from deep in his last 12 outings.
This included career-highs of 29 and 30 points against top Western Conference opponents in the Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz. Wood is clearly proving the capability to become not only a dominant at times, but an essential part of the future for the Pistons.
A gifted 7’3 wingspan, Wood has been quite the journeymen in the league so far. Previously cut by the Philidelphia 76ers, Milwuakee Bucks and New Orleans Pelicans, he’s finally flourishing in his third season as a pro. A once previous blemish in his game, Wood is even shooting 81.7 percent from the charity stripe.
The youth movement is prominent and eminent for the Pistons success, and maintaining a player of Wood’s caliber would mold effortlessly into their projected outlook.
Wood should be the Pistons first priority during free agency as he’ll receive plenty of offers from top-tier teams around the NBA. The Pistons have a projected $35 million in salary cap space going into free agency and aggressively pursuing Wood would pay dividends down the road.
Certainly, the health of Griffin will be crucial in the rebuilding era not only for future youth assets, but for a climb back into playoff contention. When healthy, Griffin is still an All-NBA talent that only radiates positive beneficiary play around him.
He’ll be in Detroit for at least next season, and the $35 million he’s owed will desperately need to be used in solidifying the team for future success.
No longer a lob-city, high-flying power forward, Griffin has transformed his style into a methodical, post-up and physical approach while distributing the ball amongst his teammates.
He’s averaged over 20 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.4 assist per game in his career while shooting an efficient 49.8% from the floor.
Although highly unlikely, a potential trade containing Griffin could free up an abundance of room and create an enormous amount of opportunity for free agent acquisitions.
The Dallas Mavericks are once again back in playoff contention with young phenom Luka Doncic and newly added Kristaps Porzingis. Adding another star to a Mavericks team like Griffin would be inevitably difficult to resist for billionaire owner Mark Cuban.
Again, this is a best case scenario for the Pistons. This would have to involve at least one draft pick, and in this case a second round 2020 pick seemed the part. Detroit receives proven guards in exchange for Griffin as Tim Hardaway Jr. returns home and sharpshooter Seth Curry joins as well.
According to tradenba.com, this trade doesn’t necessarily make either team stronger. The Pistons unload a bloated $35 million in salary and receive Hardaway Jr. on a one year rental.
This gives Detroit extended flexibility to either resign Hardaway Jr. to a more feasible contract, or truly have maximum salary cap space to land free agents. Curry, in the first year of a four-year $32 million deal, is on a modest contract and adds a bit of veteran presence to an extremely young team.
Best case scenario, the Pistons are able to deal Griffin to have a completely clean slate.
The 2020 free agent market isn’t jaw-dropping, but with so much flexibility, the Pistons could very well make a prudent splash, setting themselves up for the future and the loaded 2021 free agent class.
The main rumor in the mill that has been linked to Detroit has been Casey’s former prodigy, Toronto Raptor’s guard Fred VanVleet. A former Wichita State standout, VanVleet broke out as a freshman and helped the Shockers to a Final Four appearance in 2013.
After an illustrious career in Wichita, Kansas, VanVleet turned down two offers to play in the NBA Development league. He went on to play for the Toronto Raptors summer league team, and consequently made the teams 15-man roster that fall.
In each of VanVleet’s four years in the NBA, he has improved immensely, including posting over 17 points and six assists per game, along with shooting over 40 oercent from the field. He’ll be on several teams’ radars, but with ties to Casey, VanVleet would fill seamlessly into a back court that already includes Derrick Rose.
With the departure of Drummond, the Pistons will still need all the help they can get in the front court. Another intriguing piece could be the electrifying Montrezl Harrell.
Harrell’s a player that brings utmost energy and a defensive prowess that the Pistons desperately need. In 2019-20 campaign, Harrell has boasted over 18 points, 7 rebounds and a block per game while only playing 27.8 minutes.
Every team will be chomping at the bit to bring in Harrell, but the Pistons very well could entice him with an extended role, weaker Eastern Conference competition and a young, raw roster with playoff aspirations.
With the additions of Hardaway Jr., Curry, Harrell and re-signing Wood, would leave the Pistons with four available roster slots left.
It might not be a well-liked idea, but re-signing Thon Maker to a reasonable deal could further solidify the front court. Maker, just 23 years old, has played well since the departure of Drummond. Even bringing back Maker on a one year deal would give the Pistons a much needed fourth true big man next season.
Donta Hall or a veteran-minimum salary player could further stabilize the center and power forward positions.
Finally, arguably one of the most important focuses of this off-season, the NBA Draft. According to Tankathon.com, the Pistons averaged likely draft position will be at number five. However, Detroit does have a 10.5% chance to receive the first pick in the draft.
In this scenario, the Pistons win the luck of that draw and receive first dibs at this year’s draft.
Even adding VanVleet, the Pistons still are in desperate help of a true floor general for the future. Although there’s been swirling speculation on his future in the next level, LaMelo Ball is truly the best talent in the draft.
His shot selection and decision making can be erratic at times, but since playing overseas, he’s immensely matured and more than proven he can be a future all star. At 6’6, Ball has great size and length for his position.
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He’s a stingy defender and jumps passing lanes with ease to start instant offense. He’s willingly unselfish and his passing ability is the best in the class.
Since watching Ball chuck up 40 footers on YouTube in previous years, he’s mastered his shot making in the half court. A threat on the catch and shoot or off the dribble, Ball forces defenses to guard him tightly.
He’s wonderfully skilled in a slew of areas but Ball’s court vision is his premier attribute. Just like his older brother, he has a uncanny sense for where his teammates are and delivers strikes with precision.
The Pistons are in need for a spark to open up the floor and Ball can most certainly deliver. Ball could gel well with young pieces in Doumbouya, Brown and Kennard. With the addition of Ball, the Pistons roster could be a true sleeper for a surprising 2021 campaign and future years to come.
So, with additions like VanVleet and Harrell, here’s what a potential 2021 Pistons roster could shape up to be:
- Derrick Rose
- Fred Van Vleet
- LaMelo Ball
- Bruce Brown
- Svi Mykiliuak
- Luke Kennard
- Seth Curry
- Christian Wood
- Thon Maker
- Makur Maker (2nd round selection from Mavericks)
- Montrezl Harrell
- Donta Hall
This could leave the Pistons with a potential starting lineup of; Ball, Kennard, Doumbouya, Wood, and Harrell.