Pistons mailbag: What to make of early outings from new faces, returning players

Detroit News

Rod Beard
| The Detroit News

The Pistons probably aren’t going to win the NBA championship this year.

There. I said it.

Truth be told, they’ll probably have to have a lot of things work their way just to make the playoffs this year. That’s not exactly a hot take, but it seems like some Pistons fans think that there’s going to be some miraculous turnaround this season.

Consider what the Pistons are dealing with: Troy Weaver, the new general manager, basically flipped the entire roster in a matter of days, with only four returning players from last season. Blake Griffin only played 18 games last season, so he’s working his way back. Sekou Doumbouya spent a chunk of last season in the G League and after two weeks as a shooting star, he fizzled a bit to finish the season.

Right now, the roster is like a jumbled set of puzzle pieces and there’s a ton to figure out. There are only four preseason games — down from five or six in previous seasons — and all of the players are operating on a truncated schedule, with the rookies missing rookie camp, Summer League and many of the individual workouts. What would have been a four-month onboarding was squeezed into a couple of weeks.

Every team is going through the same trials. In the Pistons’ case, coach Dwane Casey is trying to spread the minutes out to give the rookies a good, long look as well as wanting to figure out how the veterans will mesh together and fit in his system.

It takes time — and that time could be most of this season. With an unforgiving first half of the schedule and little time to develop chemistry, the outlook isn’t very pretty. To use a poker analogy, the Pistons would need a favorable flop and good cards on the turn and the river to have the season that some fans think can happen overnight.

Not saying that it won’t happen — but it’s not likely.

This edition of the Mail Satchel looks at some of the surprises from training camp and the first two preseason games against the New York Knicks.

Question. Based on what you have seen, what performance(s) are you buying as real, and what one(s) are you selling as fake? — @devries_nick

Answer. It’s hard to make any overarching decisions on anything based on only two preseason games and some scattered clips from training camp.

From that limited sample size, I’ll say that I believe that Griffin will be what we’ve seen in the preseason. He looks completely healthy and although he isn’t jumping over people and dunking like years ago, his facilitating, 3-point shooting and cerebral play seem to be back. In both games, Griffin posted numbers that could be near a triple-double with regular minutes in a regular rotation. The same goes for Derrick Rose, who looked to be in midseason form.

Svi Mykhailiuk looks to be the real deal. He’s developed into a knock-down shooter and he showed flashes of that in the first exhibition. Like most shooters, that shooting touch is going to run hot and cold, but if he can be somewhere between what he was in the two preseason games, the Pistons will take that as a positive development.

The rookies all look to be the real deal. Killian Hayes, who struggled with his shot in both exhibitions, will improve in that area. It showed something that he stayed after Sunday’s game to work on his shot, a hint that he’s something of a perfectionist and just wasn’t happy with the shots that he missed.

Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey had encouraging starts and look to be taking advantage of their early looks. Saben Lee also got some good minutes that show that for a second-round pick, he could be a find.

Q. Is it too early to seriously be concerned about Grant’s ability to make plays and be successful in his new role? — @MotorCityHoops

A. Like the previous question, I’ll consider Jerami Grant’s preseason just a warm-up and I won’t read too much into the numbers: 3-of-19 shooting in the two games combined, including five turnovers on Sunday. Though he went 2-for-3 on 3-pointers Sunday, there’s not a lot to glean from either performance.

Grant played 20 and 22 minutes, respectively, in the first two exhibitions. The starters still are being stretched out on minutes and Casey wants to take a look at the rest of the roster, too. Grant’s role in the offense will be significant but trying to extrapolate anything from two preseason games is a bit premature.

I’m willing to wait until after the first few regular-season games to try to gauge what his addition actually will mean.

Q. What was Weaver’s thinking behind trading for Dedmon and Zhaire Smith just to waive and stretch them? — @TayshaunsBlock

A. The Dewayne Dedmon trade with the Atlanta Hawks was an effort to move the contracts of Tony Snell and Khyri Thomas. Dedmon’s three-year deal worth $40 million was structured in a way that by waiving him, the Pistons could stretch the $14.3 million owed to him over five years instead of the three they would have had for Snell and Thomas. They basically opened two roster spots for a small cap hit over the next five years.

In the deal with the Utah Jazz to get Tony Bradley, the Pistons got a second-round pick this year, which they used to select Lee. In the midst of gathering all the other big men in free agency, they decided they didn’t want Bradley, so they sought out another contract that could be waived-and-stretched over five years instead of just three.

It’s not an ideal situation, but clearing roster spots for the rookies and other players they wanted seemed to be more of a priority than trying to keep the players they traded for.


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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