Big name or center by committee for the Detroit Pistons?

Toronto Raptors forward Precious Achiuwa (5) grapples for position with Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Toronto Raptors forward Precious Achiuwa (5) grapples for position with Detroit Pistons center Isaiah Stewart Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Pistons are going to have a busy offseason.

They have the most cap space of any team, will have at least a top-7 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft and have six players with team options that will need decisions.

Detroit will also have to decide whether to keep Jerami Grant and sign him to an extension or possibly move him. Power forward Marvin Bagley III will be a restricted free agent and the Pistons will have to decide how much they are willing to spend to retain him.

They are also going to have to make some decisions at center, as right now they have only Isaiah Stewart and Kelly Olynyk locked up for next season.

Many fans are hoping for the Pistons to pursue one of the top free-agent bigs this offseason, a list that includes restricted free agents Deandre Ayton and Mo Bamba and unrestricted free agent Mitchell Robinson.

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But the Detroit Pistons could decide to spend their money elsewhere and go with a “center by committee” approach for next season. Both options have some pros and cons.

Detroit Pistons: Center by committee approach

Many view centers in the NBA kind of like running backs in the NFL. Most are interchangeable and teams are reluctant to spend big money unless the player is elite.

If the Pistons decide to re-sign Bagley III, they could just go into next season with him, Stewart and Olynyk as their primary bigs, possibly add a lower salary guy for depth or choose one in the 2022 NBA Draft.

The advantages to this are that the Detroit Pistons wouldn’t have big money tied up in the center position and can invest their cap space elsewhere, specifically in scoring, as the Pistons are one of the lowest scoring teams in the NBA and one of the worst shooting teams overall.

Detroit can mix and match the bigs they have, using them in different scenarios, and all three have very different skill sets that complement each other, as Stewart is a banger who defends, Bagley III is an offensive post player and Olynyk does most of his damage from the perimeter.

If they added another low-cost rim runner/shot blocker to this group, they might be able to fill the center spot on the cheap.

You don’t have to have an elite center to be a great team and the Pistons could put more resources into the guard and wing positions, which are currently the most important in the NBA.

Detroit Pistons: Adding a big-name center

However, there are also some advantages to going after a guy like Deandre Ayton in free agency or trying to trade for a more complete center.

Grabbing a productive big would propel the restoration, as a guy like Ayton not only contributes at a high level but will also help the development of the guards, as he gives them a pick-and-roll option, lob threat and a guy to throw it up to in an emergency.

Even if they re-sign Bagley III, he is more of a forward, can play with centers and is better suited as a scoring option off the bench than as a starter at this point in his career.

Adding another big time center would also allow the Pistons to move Isaiah Stewart to the bench or possibly to a more hybrid power forward/center position if they do decide to trade Jerami Grant.

If the Pistons could get most of their production from one guy, it might allow them to move on from Olynyk, which would potentially set off the difference in cost.

There are definitely positives to both strategies and it will probably come down to who is available and how much it will cost the Pistons to acquire or retain them.

I could see Detroit making a run at a guy like Ayton, but I don’t think they are going to drastically overpay to get him, in which case they could choose to roll with the bigs they have, use the draft and low-level free agency to add depth and put their money in scoring.

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