Most fans of the Detroit Pistons are quite pleased with the way the off-season has gone so far. However, one nationally prominent NBA writer rated Detroit as having an above-average summer, not a home run.
The Pistons have seemingly set themselves up for a major upswing in their fortunes, as general manager Troy Weaver made a number of seemingly shrewd moves. For a Cliff’s Notes version of the off-season:
- Trading Jerami Grant to Portland for a 2025 Milwaukee first-rounder
- Taking the Milwaukee first-rounder and parlaying it into the No. 13 pick in the draft, netting them 6-11 athletic freak Jalen Duren.
- Drafting electric guard Jaden Ivey of Purdue with the No 5 pick, netting a player most experts had going in the top four, and giving Cade Cunningham a great back courtmate.
- Setting the Pistons up to have a clean salary cap sheet for next off-season, basically allowing them to go after anyone in free agency.
- Getting veterans guard Alec Burks and center Nerlens Noel, as well as some second-rounders, from the New York Knicks in return for salary cap space.
We are not including the part of the Knicks trades where the Pistons got guard Kemba Walker. He is expected to be bought out, although for some reason it has not happened yet.
WIth training camp still a month-and-a-half away, there is plenty of time for Weaver to make more moves. Given the delay in the Walker buyout, the fact Detroit is currently carrying 16 guaranteed contracts (one over regular season limit) and that the roster is a bit unbalanced, it would not be surprising if there was more to come.
But most of the heavy lifting of the off-season has been accomplished. So, compared to the rest of the NBA, how did the Pistons do?
Detroit Pistons in top 10 of off-seasons, but not by much
David Aldridge is a long-time writer on the NBA. For The Athletic, (PAID SUBSCRIPTION NEEDED) he ranked the 30 off-seasons for every NBA team.
Now, these are not team power rankings, or how good a team will be in the upcoming season (FYI, betting sites do not think Detroit will be very good). Aldridge ranked the teams solely on their off-seasons.
Did the Pistons make the top 10? Yes, but that was it, Aldridge ranked them at No. 10. That makes them above average, but not much more then that.
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(Coming in at No. 1 was the Philadelphia 76ers, who picked up some good role players to aid Joel Embiid and James Harden for a title run, although the NBA is investigating how they pulled it off).
Aldridge praised the Pistons young core with the additions of Duren and Ivey; saying they could have the best under-25 talent in the league.
However, the fact Detroit did almost nothing to shore up one of its biggest weaknesses, three-point shooting (next to last in NBA last season) was a mark against them. Knicks guard Alec Burks is the only addition known for making ‘threes’. And since he plays the same position as Ivey, Aldridge wondered how much actual playing time Burks will get.
Yes, Isaiah Stewart has been working on his three-point shot (looked good in summer league), a healthy Kelly Olynyk would certainly help and Cade Cunningham should do better from beyond the arc this year, but none of that is a given.
The loss of Grant, and his 35.8% shooting percentage on threes, will hurt. Only Cory Joseph, among the regulars, had a better percentage.
Aldridge’s points are valid, although the 10th ranking seems a bit low.
That the Pistons were interested in collecting as much young talent as possible was obviously their No. 1 priority, and they did a great job of it. Tweaking the roster to improve for this upcoming season, was not as high on their list. If it had been, a sharp-shooting guard like Wayne Ellington might have been brought back.
Did the Pistons have a perfect off-season? No. Outside of the draft day trade to get Duren, there were no ‘Wow’ moments. But Detroit is set up for a bright future thanks to the moves they made this summer, and that should count for a lot.