DJ Bakker

Central Notes: Williams, Gueye, Pacers, Bucks

After signing the most lucrative head coaching contract in NBA history, new Pistons head coach Monty Williams has his work cut out for him in reshaping the rebuilding team. Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (subscription required) unpacks five big issues regarding the club’s current personnel that Williams must tackle.

Most pressing among these questions is how Williams will use 2021 No. 1 draft pick Cade Cunningham, who missed most of his sophomore NBA season with a shin injury. Sankofa also wonders how Williams will balance Cunningham’s touches with the looks afforded 2023 All-Rookie Second Teamer Jaden Ivey, how the club’s new coach will juggle his frontcourt, and more.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • The Pacers continue to search far and wide for intriguing young prospects. Today, the team is hosting Washington State forward Mouhamed Gueye for an individual workout, per Indiana possesses five draft picks this year, including three first-round selections, beginning at No. 7. The team also announced that it will work out two shooting guards, G League Ignite’s Mojave King and the New Zealand Breakers’ Rayan Rupert, on Saturday.
  • Because the Pacers have so many selections in this year’s draft and team president Kevin Pritchard assumes he will trade some of them, the team is making sure to assess all levels of prospects to prepare itself for a variety of different scenarios, according to The Indianapolis Star. Many of the young players who have auditioned for Indiana thus far have enjoyed the experience. “When you can get guys like this in the gym that are competitive and good guys, iron sharpens iron,” UCLA point guard Tyger Campbell said. “You’re going to leave this place better than you were when you came in.”
  • New Bucks head coach Adrian Griffin continues to build out his staff. A source informs Eric Nehm of The Athletic (Twitter link) that Griffin is bringing in Raptors assistant coach Nate Mitchell and Pistons assistant coach DJ Bakker to help fill out his bench. Nehm reveals that Griffin also intends to keep former Mike Budenholzer assistant Josh Oppenheimer. Nehm adds (via Twitter) that another former Budenholzer assistant, Vin Baker, will also return to the fold under Griffin.

Eastern Notes: Bakker, Wizards, Markkanen, Bulls

DJ Bakker has been named the head coach of the Pistons’ new G League franchise, the Motor City Cruise, according to a team press release. Bakker has spent the last three seasons as an assistant and player development coach under Dwane Casey and served as the Pistons’ summer league coach in 2019. Bakker has also worked for the Raptors, Bulls, Mavericks and Magic. Detroit’s previous G League franchise in Grand Rapids, MI will now be the Nuggets’ affiliate.

We have more on the Eastern Conference:

  • On paper, the Wizards have improved their 3-point shooting this offseason, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington notes. Rookie Corey KispertKentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma should all upgrade Washington’s perimeter prowess, along with the return of Thomas Bryant from his knee injury. However, Washington still has a number of subpar 3-shooters in its projected rotation.
  • The Bulls are driving a hard bargain for suitors of restricted free agent Lauri Markkanen, demanding a first-rounder and no burdensome contracts in return for proposed sign-and-trades. However, Chicago might be better off dropping its asking price and moving on, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago opines. The Bulls created a lot of positive momentum with their offseason moves, so it may not be prudent to bring back a player who has made it clear he’d prefer a fresh start.
  • In the same piece, Johnson suggests the Bulls might carry 14 players on the roster — one below the limit — because they have a $5MM trade exception from the Daniel Theis sign-and-trade with the Rockets that they could use during the course of the season. Alternatively, the 15th player could be on a non- or partially-guaranteed contract.

Eastern Notes: Pacers, Magic, Nets, Pistons

While the Pacers should enter July with the flexibility to explore free agency, president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard doesn’t sound like someone ready to pursue the top players on the open market. While a foray into free agency is possible, Pritchard could also use Indiana’s cap room to accommodate the acquisition of an impact player in a trade, as J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star writes.

“Where we really get better is July 1,” Pritchard said of the Pacers. “I’m not saying we’re going to sign a guy. I think there could be uneven trades. A lot of things can happen with that. We preserved that (space).”

Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:

  • After putting together a roster full of athletic players with long wingspans in Milwaukee, Magic GM John Hammond appears to be doing the same thing in Orlando, says Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype.
  • Although the two international prospects drafted by the Nets on Thursday have plenty of long-term promise, neither Dzanan Musa nor Rodions Kurucs is expected to make an immediate impact in the NBA, as Brian Lewis of The New York Post details.
  • Dwane Casey continues to fill out his new staff in Detroit, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of, who reports (via Twitter) that DJ Bakker is heading from the Raptors to the Pistons to become Casey’s player development coach.
  • Speaking of the Raptors, they offered Sarunas Jasikevicius an assistant coaching job on Nick Nurse‘s staff, but he has elected to remain in Lithuania, per Jonas Miklovas (Twitter link). The Zalgiris Kaunas coach interviewed for Toronto’s head coaching vacancy before the club promoted Nurse.