Much of the attention in the offseason will be on the Pistons’ draft pick and whether it lands in the top four after the lottery. That could determine the Pistons’ immediate future as much as anything, but free agency still will play a role.
General manager Troy Weaver has some decisions to make about the roster construction, and he’s already hinted he wants to keep much of the roster intact, with only a couple of changes, including that draft pick. Without much wiggle room around the salary cap, the Pistons likely won’t make a big splash like they did last offseason.
The Pistons have a slew of potential free agents who they need to make decisions about, but some of that will depend on how the draft goes on July 29.
This week’s mailbag breaks down some of those decisions and how they could impact the rebuild.
► Question. With Cory Joseph potentially being waived for cap savings, do you see any scenario where Troy keeps him at the 2021/2022 $12.6m cap hit for backup PG/potential trade packaging as they look towards the 2022 offseason when Blake’s dead money falls off? — Graham Miller
► Answer. There’s a chance Cory Joseph stays, especially with the season he had. He was a steadying influence on a young team that needed it frequently, and he turned out to be a better scoring option than many had envisioned. Joseph’s 12 points and 5.5 assists with the Pistons eclipse his career highs, and there was just something about his presence on the court that clicked with the young players.
The money is a key lever, but the draft could be a bigger indicator of their direction. If the Pistons end up with Cade Cunningham or Jalen Suggs, they might have too many point guards to take another. If they get Evan Mobley or Jalen Green, it could make sense to keep Joseph, just for his experience and leadership.
Joseph is guaranteed $2.4 million if he’s on the roster past Aug. 1, and the full $12.6 million in the final year of his contract isn’t a tough pill to swallow for everything he brings. I would guess that it’s a little above 50-50 he stays, but it’s completely understandable if the Pistons go in a different direction.
► Q. Am I crazy to think with a top 3 pick (aka Mobley), this team competes for a playoff spot? I feel like this thing can finally turn the corner. — @bteezer27
► A. You’re not crazy, but a bit optimistic. It’s easy to see how Mobley could fit in the lineup and provide some needed rim protection as well as some offensive versatility. Mason Plumlee was good this year, so that’s no slight on him. It would probably involve moving Isaiah Stewart to power forward and some other adjustments, but if Mobley lives up to his projections, he could change a lot of things for the Pistons’ outlook.
Vying for the playoffs involves moving up five spots ahead of teams like the Magic, Cavaliers, Raptors, Bulls and Hornets. Certainly, where the Pistons end up in the draft will dictate how aggressive they may be in free agency. General manager Troy Weaver said he didn’t foresee a lot of roster attrition, but he showed last fall he can make significant moves in a short timespan if the need is there.
► Q. Your honest random guess if you HAD to place a bet. What pick do you think the pistons get on the lottery? — @bigdogpistons
► A. If I had to guess, I think they end up with the No. 1 or No. 2 pick. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, but those numbers do happen to be right in the middle of their pick odds: 14% for the first pick and 13.4% for second. Most people would guess the Pistons will end up dropping — and the numbers support that — but they need to get some good fortune at some point.
Maybe I’m setting everyone up for failure with optimism. But maybe they actually catch a break this time and end up with a franchise-changing pick. For what it’s worth, any of the top four picks would be good for them, so as long as it’s not No. 5 or 6, they’ll be fine.
► Q. There will be people pounding the table for Jalen Suggs if the Pistons don’t land one of the top two picks. How would he fit into the backcourt in Detroit? — @iamnoahsall
► A. Suggs is a talented lead guard, but he’s not quite the shooter that you’d ideally want. Then again, neither is Killian Hayes at this point. Cade Cunningham blends both of those skills well, which is why he’s the likely No. 1 pick.
For what it’s worth, Jalen Green might be the pick if the Pistons end up with the No. 3 pick — and some would say if they get No. 2. What’s as important as which pick the Pistons get is which teams are in front of them. Some combinations could have them get the player they want at pick No. 4 or even No. 5, though it’s not as likely.
I’ll maintain that if they land in the top four, they will get an immediate-impact player.