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Offseason Outlook: Detroit Pistons

Tim Fuller / USA Today Sports Images

Tim Fuller / USA Today Sports Images

Hoops Rumors is looking ahead to offseason moves for all 30 teams. We’ll examine free agency, the draft, trades and other key storylines for each franchise as the summer approaches.

Re-signing Drummond

The Pistons’ long climb back to respectability began when the previous regime drafted Andre Drummond with the No. 9 pick in the 2012 draft. Owner Tom Gores labeled Drummond as a “max player” a year ago and, for the most part, Drummond lived up to that billing this past season. He made his first All-Star appearance while leading the league in rebounding and displaying a much-improved low-post game.

Drummond decided not to sign an extension prior to the start of the season, knowing he could get a much bigger contract in restricted free agency this summer. There has been no hint that Drummond will shop his services, considering the Pistons are willing to pay top dollar to retain him.

There were some uneasy moments between Drummond and head coach/president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy as the season wore on, due to Drummond’s woeful free-throw shooting. Drummond’s playing time decreased as Van Gundy often kept him on the bench during crunch time rather than allowing opponents to employ Hack-A-Dre strategies.

However, Drummond has expressed willingness to try different approaches to his biggest flaw instead of allowing it to be a divisive issue.

“We all know it’s an important thing — Andre more than any of us — and he’s pretty open to anything,” Van Gundy said during his postseason press conference. “There’s a lot of ways to attack this problem, and we’ll all have a hand in it.”

It’s likely that a contract agreement will be reached once free agency begins, with Drummond holding off on signing it while the Pistons use their salary-cap space to pursue free agents and trades. Any other outcome would be a major surprise.

Upgrading The Bench

Van Gundy improved his starting unit by acquiring starting forwards Marcus Morris and Tobias Harris in trades and signing point guard Reggie Jackson to a long-term contract last summer. The Pistons led the league with 27 games in which their starters all scored in double figures. The flip side was that they were over-reliant on that group because of an unimposing second unit. That group was weakened by the Harris swap with the Magic, as backup point guard Brandon Jennings headed to Orlando. Aging Steve Blake wound up running the point when Jackson rested.

They were also thin at the forward spots, with journeyman Anthony Tolliver in the rotation most of the season. The Pistons seemingly resolved that problem by dealing for Donatas Motiejunas from the Rockets but days later rescinded the trade because of long-range concerns how his back would hold up after he underwent surgery last spring.

Free Agent Targets

If the Pistons make a splash in free agency, it will come in the form of a tall power forward with an outside stroke. Acquiring that type of player remains a high priority, either as a main reserve or even to supplant Harris or Morris in the lineup. Both of the current starters are undersized by power forward standards.

With approximately $64.5MM in guaranteed salary commitments, the Pistons have the flexibility to make a run at a top-tier free agent, even when adding Drummond’s $8.18MM cap hold to that figure.

A trio of names leap off the page regarding unrestricted big men. Ryan Anderson, a 6’10” power forward and career 37.7% 3-point shooter, would be an ideal fit in Van Gundy’s system. Marvin Williams, who shot 40.2% from long range while starting every game for the Hornets, is another player who would seemingly thrive in that role.

The Pistons could go for an even bigger prize and make a spirited run at Al Horford, who has developed into a respectable 3-point shooter. They were linked to Horford over the winter and value his leadership skills.

There are also plenty of free agent point guards the Pistons could pursue to head their second unit, including two players that Van Gundy traded, Jennings and D.J. Augustin. Jeremy Lin, who has a player option, would also be a consideration along with other proven veterans like Aaron Brooks, Mario Chalmers and Ish Smith.

Potential Trades

Van Gundy has overhauled the roster mainly through trades, knowing that Detroit wasn’t a desirable free agent option during the rebuilding process. The Pistons’ situation is much more attractive now with the team on the upswing but Van Gundy isn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a deal if free agency doesn’t go his way.

Draft Outlook

  • First-round picks: 18th
  • Second-round picks: 49th

The Pistons were willing to give up a non-lottery pick to acquire Motiejunas, and they’ll be willing to deal their pick again to acquire a rotation player. If they retain the pick, they could go the draft-and-stash route. They could also take a point guard if there’s one they believe can run their second unit immediately. Demetrius Jackson and Tyler Ulis would likely head that list if they slide out of the lottery.

Other Decisions

Veteran center Joel Anthony has a $2.5MM non-guaranteed contract and the Pistons would like to keep him around as insurance. Van Gundy soured on reserve point guard Spencer Dinwiddie and is unlikely to pick up his non-guaranteed salary. Shooting guard Darrun Hilliard has a partially guaranteed contract and showed enough promise during his rookie season for the club to keep him around. Blake won’t return, and unless Tolliver accepts a reduced role and salary, don’t look for him to be back, either.

Final Take

The Pistons still have work to do roster-wise to progress from a fringe playoff team to a true contender. Some of the improvements must come from growth by young players already on the roster. The rest will come from Van Gundy’s desire to get another impact player in the frontcourt and a much better option behind Jackson at the point.

Guaranteed salary

Player options

  • None

Team options

  • None

Non-guaranteed salary

Restricted Free Agents (Qualifying Offers/Cap Holds)

Unrestricted Free Agents (Cap Holds)

Other Cap Holds

  • No. 18 pick ($1,420,100)

Projected Salary Cap: $92,000,000

The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

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4 thoughts on “Offseason Outlook: Detroit Pistons

  1. Jeremy

    I haven’t heard this anywhere but I think the Pistons need to try to trade for Boogie Cousins. Offer either of our two starting forwards plus this year and next years first round picks and probably Stanley Johnson. I think that Sacramento would have to consider that. I think that Stan might be able to teach Boogie how to be a man, and how to be a team player. He would be our number one scoring option and he and Dre would fill the paint!

    • Jeremy

      That would deplete the bench further, but I think that they would be able to sign free agents to play behind that starting squad.

      • Dana Gauruder

        I have heard people suggest that the Pistons trade Drummond in a package for Cousins but I couldn’t see having both of them together. It’s really tough to use a Twin Tower alignment the way the game is currently played, with the emphasis on the 3-point shot. Teams would constantly go small on them and they wouldn’t be able to guard the perimeter. We saw some of that when Monroe was there with Drummond.

  2. I think Ryan Anderson and Tyler Ulis would be a perfect additions. Very nice compliments to their counterparts, and would vastly improve the bench. Bring in another vet point guard to compete, and stash a foreign big man with that 2nd pick, Pistons should be improved.

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