Even though it hasn’t translated to wins, most would agree that Troy Weaver’s time as GM of the Detroit Pistons has been a success so far.
He took over a team with little talent, no assets and a bloated payroll, and though they are still horrible, there are signs of relief on the horizon. He hopefully has his franchise player in Cade Cunningham, has exciting pieces in Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren and players like Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart and Killian Hayes, who should at least be rotation players in the NBA for a long time (though the book is still out on that one).
He certainly hasn’t been perfect, but he’s done the job that he was hired to do, which was to start a rebuild in earnest for the first time in modern franchise history. It has been painful at times, and patience with losing won’t last forever, but the Detroit Pistons are at least on the right path.
But there is one move that didn’t make much sense at the time, and looks even worse in hindsight and that was the contract of Marvin Bagley III.
Detroit Pistons: A great trade undone by a bad contract
One of the strategies Troy Weaver has used in his time as the GM of the Detroit Pistons is to go after players who had perceived high-ceiling talent but had yet to reach it. He went after Dennis Smith Jr, Josh Jackson, Marvin Bagley III and most recently, Kevin Knox, all players who were high draft picks that had yet to blossom on the teams that drafted them.
These were classic, buy low and hope deals where the Pistons hoped to strike gold on a guy who cost them little to acquire. It hasn’t really worked out so far, but going after Bagley III was a smart risk considering it only cost the Pistons Josh Jackson, Trey Lyles and a couple of second-round picks.
Taking a flyer on MBIII was worth it, as this is a player who had shown big-time talent in stretches and may just have needed a change of environment. Most fans had no problem with that trade and were excited about the possibility.
That was right up until Troy Weaver decided to sign Bagley III to a three year extension that paid him $37 million guaranteed. We tried to justify it by saying it “could” be a bargain if he stayed healthy and continued to improve, but “could” was doing some heavy lifting there.
MBIII hasn’t played more than 48 games in a season since his rookie year and has missed substantial time again in this one. He could return soon, but has only played 25 games so far, so the Pistons are paying premium money for a guy who has yet to be able to stay on the court.
Injuries happen, so this isn’t some character attack on Bagley III, but until he shows he can play a full season (or at least most of one), the injury-prone label is going to follow him.
But the worst part about this contact is that it seemed like Troy Weaver and the Detroit Pistons were bidding against themselves, as no other team had been attached to MBIII at that point. A two-year deal for less annual money probably would have gotten it done considering Bagley III needed to prove that he could stay on the court, be a productive player and not be a problematic bench presence as he was sometimes accused of being in Sacramento.
At the very least, that third year should not have been fully guaranteed, as there likely wasn’t another team in the NBA willing to make that offer.
I really hope it works out, as MBIII is an exciting player at times and clearly has the talent to be a quality backup center, but right now he is just an expensive waste of a roster spot that the Detroit Pistons could have used for an upgrade this offseason.
Troy Weaver took a gamble and so far it has not paid off.