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Offseason In Review: Detroit Pistons

Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team’s offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees and more will be covered as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.



  • None


Waiver Claims

  • None

Draft Picks

  • Stanley Johnson (Round 1, 8th overall). Signed via rookie exception to rookie scale contract.
  • Darrun Hilliard (Round 2, 38th overall). Signed via cap room for three years and $2.49MM. Second year is partially guaranteed for $500K, third year is non-guaranteed.

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Stan Van Gundy knew had to make a major roster overhaul when he took over as the Pistons’ head coach and president of basketball operations in May 2014. He realized that a team top heavy in big men and lacking shooters was not going to work in the current NBA landscape. It wasn’t tough to figure out that he needed to build the team around a budding superstar in center Andre Drummond by giving him space to operate, surrounding him with long-distance marksmen and finding a long-term pick-and-roll partner to get him the ball.

Detroit’s makeover began prior to last summer with two major moves. Van Gundy stunned the basketball world by eating the remaining 2 1/2 seasons on Josh Smith‘s contract via the stretch provision and waiving him last December, breaking up the jumbo frontcourt of Drummond, Greg Monroe and Smith that delivered just five wins by the holidays.

Van Gundy then added a major piece at the trade deadline with a blockbuster deal that netted point guard Reggie Jackson. The trade was partly motivated by a season-ending Achilles’ tendon tear suffered by Brandon Jennings the previous month, but moreso because Van Gundy and his staff believed Jackson was a better fit to run his offensive scheme.

When the Pistons’ season ended without a postseason berth for the sixth straight season, Van Gundy was ready to strike. He found the stretch four he was seeking within the division, trading for Ersan Ilyasova from the Bucks while only giving up two players who had no future with the team, aging forward Caron Butler and Shawne Williams. Not only did the Pistons view Ilyasova as a better frontcourt partner with Drummond, they also saw it as a low-risk move. Virtually all of Ilyasova’s contract next season is not guaranteed, allowing them to easily cut ties with him if they find a better option in the near future. Ilyasova has jumped right into the Pistons’ starting five, though Van Gundy has limited his minutes in the early going.

The next order of business was to improve the small forward spot that was manned during the second half last season by another player nearing the end of his career, Tayshaun Prince. They secured the player they had targeted in the draft when Stanley Johnson was still available with the No. 8 pick. While the Pistons took some heat for passing over Duke’s Justise Winslow — who slid to the Heat two spots later — they were enamored with Johnson’s versatility and winning pedigree. Johnson won four big-school championships in California during his high school career, then led a veteran Arizona team in scoring during his lone college season.

Johnson’s ability to both power his way to the rim and drain 3-pointers fits seamlessly into Van Gundy’s scheme, though he has gotten off to a slow start offensively. But he’s already become a valuable member of the second unit because of his defensive tenacity. Van Gundy believes Johnson can develop into an elite defensive stopper.

They secured another shooter in the second round of the draft in Darrun Hilliard, adding depth to the shooting guard spot. Hilliard made the opening-day roster, though he probably won’t crack the rotation and will likely get sent on assignment to the team’s D-League affiliate in Grand Rapids to improve his overall game.

Free agency didn’t go quite as the Pistons had planned. They were intent on signing a starting small forward, with DeMarre Carroll and Danny Green topping the list. They quickly struck out in their pursuit of both players, with Carroll signing with the Raptors and Green staying put in San Antonio. Detroit then immediately shifted gears and took advantage of a Suns front office looking to create cap space to sign free agent LaMarcus Aldridge. Phoenix forwarded the contracts of Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock and Danny Granger to Detroit in a salary dump.

The Pistons had no use for Granger and his balky knee but were thrilled to acquire Morris, whom they felt would establish himself as a consistent offensive threat if they gave him the green light to shoot. They also liked Morris’ toughness and defensive intensity, two qualities the Pistons were lacking last season. The early returns have been impressive, with Morris delivering big dividends at both ends of the floor.

Bullock was so impressive in preseason action that the club exercised its fourth-year option on him. He has a chance to be a rotation player with Jodie Meeks sidelined for approximately half the season with a foot fracture.

There was little doubt that restricted free agent Jackson would get the big contract and major role he craved, and that was realized when the Pistons signed him for five years and $80MM. The team’s success over the next few seasons will rest on whether Jackson, who had no chance of being a featured player with the Thunder, becomes an All-Star caliber floor and locker room leader.

The other big development in free agency was the player the Pistons chose not to pursue. They let Monroe walk, then filled the backup center spot with a mid-range shooter and rebounder by signing Aron Baynes. While the Pistons valued Monroe’s scoring and rebounding, the emergence of Drummond made him a poor roster fit. In contrast, Baynes was happy to gain some long-term security and become a second-unit anchor.

All that was left was to acquire some veteran insurance policies to fill out the roster. Uncomfortable with the notion of Spencer Dinwiddie serving as Jackson’s backup in the early going, the Pistons traded for Steve Blake. They also brought back Joel Anthony as the No. 3 center.

Detroit’s busy offseason didn’t yield the veteran small forward it coveted in free agency, though Morris’ play has erased any disappointment over failing to land Carroll or Green. Otherwise, the Pistons checked all the boxes on their shopping list. They overhauled the forward positions without breaking the bank and fortified the bench with proven players. Van Gundy’s vision of what the Pistons’ roster should look like when he was handed the keys to the franchise has come to fruition.

Eddie Scarito contributed to this post. The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of it.

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2 thoughts on “Offseason In Review: Detroit Pistons

  1. Chuck Myron

    Stan Van Gundy has his standard model, but now he has to soup it up, so to speak. It’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here. The Pistons don’t owe any first-round picks, though they have no extra first-rounders coming their way. I wonder if they’ll explore dealing one to upgrade if they’re still playing well at the trade deadline.

  2. Will Joseph

    I particularly like what Van Gundy did with his front office in shaping it in his image. years from now, people may marvel at how he completely rebuilt this franchise.

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