Pistons analysis: Weaver remakes Pistons roster before even passing Go

Detroit News

Rod Beard
| The Detroit News

In the board game Monopoly, there are many strategies to try to win.

One popular tactic is for players to buy every property they land on during the first couple of trips around the board. Given that there are a finite number of properties available, the sound strategy is to make trades to get the right combinations and then buying houses and hotels is the best path to winning.

To some degree, that seems to be Pistons general manager Troy Weaver’s plan in his first offseason on the job. He’s tasked with improving the roster he inherited, which finished 20-46 last season. So far, through the draft and the first part of free agency, his path forward has been fruitful.

Weaver hasn’t needed to go around the board a few times to get things done. In the first week of remaking the roster, he’s made some surprising trades to not only add talent to the roster, but create a blend of precocious prospects and capable veterans.

There’s a clear direction for the Pistons: they might not be a playoff team immediately, but on a three-year timeline, they can build around their rookies and mold them into a potential contender. The veterans aren’t on unwieldy contracts and if there are changes needed along the way, none is on a deal that is impossible to move.

Here’s a look at the potential fits for some of the moves the Pistons made in free agency this week:

►Jerami Grant: At 6-foot-8, Grant has the versatility to play either forward spot and looks to be the starting small forward alongside Blake Griffin. He’s expanded his 3-point production to about 39% in each of his last two seasons and he brings a defensive presence to guard either forward spot. Grant carved out a nice niche for himself with the Denver Nuggets, who made the same offer of three years and $60 million, but Grant opted for the Pistons in order to have an expanded role on offense. It’s the biggest financial commitment the Pistons made in free agency and they got a solid player who can be insurance in case Griffin is injured again.

One of the big questions is why the Pistons didn’t commit the same money to Christian Wood, who reached a deal with the Houston Rockets for three years and $41 million. One read on that is that Grant is a more proven commodity in his six seasons and although Grant’s numbers haven’t been as solid as Wood’s were last year in a smaller sample size, the Pistons were more comfortable spending that money on Grant’s potential in their building plan.

The Pistons did continue to negotiate to try to get Wood, but when the number got above their comfort level, they worked to get a sign-and-trade with the Rockets to make it work. Wood might turn out to have an outstanding next three years, but Grant seems to fit their path forward and they paid the extra price for it.

►Mason Plumlee: This was the first deal that was announced Friday and it was a head-scratcher: $25 million for three years. After getting Tony Bradley and Dewayne Dedmon in draft-night trades and taking Isaiah Stewart in the first round, there didn’t seem to be a glaring need for Plumlee, 30, especially at that price. In his seven-year career, Plumlee has been good in the pick-and-roll, which could be a clear benefit for Derrick Rose and rookie Killian Hayes.

Plumlee isn’t an elite-level rebounder, but he could get the job done. I’m not a huge fan of his addition, but they’re yet to shake out all of how the center position will work, so I’m willing to wait and see on this one.

►Josh Jackson: Weaver’s prototype for a wing is tall and a long wingspan. Jackson fits the bill at 6-foot-8. The former Detroiter hasn’t found the right fit in the NBA after starring at Kansas and becoming the No. 4 overall pick by the Phoenix Suns in the 2017 draft. Last season with Memphis, Jackson had to prove himself in their G League program and in 22 games with the Grizzlies, he went for 9 points, 3 rebounds and shot 32% on 3-pointers. Jackson’s deal is only for two years and seems to be a very reasonable gamble, on a high-upside player who just needs the right situation around him. Maybe coming home will help some of that, but given what their wing situation was, it’s worth a look.

►Delon Wright: In moving the Trevor Ariza contract from the draft-night trade, the Pistons got a nice asset in Wright, a 6-5 point guard. This fills a few needs, in that it gives them size in the backcourt and another veteran to help Hayes in his transition to the league. If Derrick Rose is traded at some point in the season, Wright is very capable of handling the position. Wright was solid with the Dallas Mavericks and with a crowded situation at point guard, Wright became expendable.

►Jahlil Okafor: This addition made a little more sense. For a veteran’s minimum deal of $2.3 million ($1.6 million counts against the salary cap), the Pistons are taking a low-risk gamble on Okafor, 24, a former No. 3 overall pick in 2015. Okafor had a good stretch with the Pelicans last season, posting 8.1 points and 4.2 rebounds and is looking for a resurgence. He likely won’t be the starter, but he can be a solid piece with a good offensive skill set in the paint to get things done.

►Dewayne Dedmon: From all appearances, the Pistons made the deal with the Hawks for Tony Snell and Khyri Thomas because of the structure of the deal. They’re able to waive Dedmon and stretch his guaranteed salary of about $15 million over five years. It’s a reasonable cap hit to take in order to clear space to make the other moves.

►Rodney McGruder: The 6-4 guard was a nice addition in the deal that sent Luke Kennard to the Clippers. At first, the strategy seemed to be that his contract would be waived-and-stretched as well, but after the Pistons made the Wright deal, they preserved some cap space and might be able to retain McGruder. He had his most productive seasons with the Miami Heat, but he played in 56 games last season with the Clippers, including four starts, and posted 3.3 points and 2.7 rebounds. His role remains unclear but with $5 million due next season, the Pistons have options to move him or waive-and-stretch.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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