It may not take much for this offseason to be deemed a successful one for the Detroit Pistons.
Troy Weaver did most of the dirty work last fall, and aggressively pieced together a talented young core the front office believes will bring the franchise back to being a playoff contender.
With the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s draft, three second-round picks and only a handful of glaring roster needs, this offseason likely won’t be as busy. But if the Pistons nail the draft and retain the key roster pieces they acquired last season, it should propel them into next season with some momentum.
MUM’S THE WORD: Pistons still won’t commit to picking Cade Cunningham No. 1
Here are four things the Pistons need to do to earn an “A” offseason grade:
Take Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 pick (or trade down for a treasure trove)
No rebuilding team in the NBA has a better situation entering Thursday’s draft than the Pistons, who own the first overall pick in a draft that’s very strong at the top.
Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Green and Jalen Suggs all would’ve gone first in last year’s draft. They can keep the pick and take Cunningham, or move down a couple spots and acquire additional assets to take a player they believe will be just as good down the road.
MORE FROM SANKOFA: Taking Cade Cunningham in NBA draft should be easy decision for Pistons
But the keep-or-trade Cade debate will likely continue to dominate the conversation around the draft until the selection is in. Cunningham is considered to be a transcendent talent — one of the most offensively gifted players to enter the draft in recent memory. Mobley, Suggs and Green each possess All-NBA potential. It’s possible that one of those three, rather than Cunningham, will end up being the best player to come out of the draft. As Weaver reiterated on Tuesday, the Pistons will leave no stone unturned in their bid to maximize the value of the pick.
Use the second-round picks wisely
The No. 1 pick has captured most of the attention leading into the draft, but the Pistons also have three second-round picks (No. 37, No. 42, No. 52). The Pistons don’t have the roster spots to add four additional rookies, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them package their last three picks to move up the draft.
But even if a trade doesn’t materialize, the Pistons can make good use of the picks. They can fill one or both of their vacant two-way roster spots or select a draft-and-stash option, as they did with Deividas Sirvydis in 2019. The best outcome could be parlaying the picks into an additional first-round pick, but that’s easier said than done.
Add shooting in free agency
It’s tough to predict how active the Pistons will be during free agency next week. They’re not positioned to have a significant amount of cap space. Nearly the entire roster consists of players Weaver signed, drafted or traded for within the last nine months. There won’t be nearly as much turnover this time around, and Weaver has signaled that there may only be a handful of new faces on next year’s roster.
If they prioritize anything on the free agency market, it must be shooting. The Pistons were a below-average team in 3-point volume and accuracy last season, ranking in the bottom-10 in both categories. The best shooter on last season’s roster, Wayne Ellington, is an unrestricted free agent. If they want to make a legitimate playoff push, they will need much better spacing.
Retain Hamidou Diallo, Saben Lee and Frank Jackson (for the right price)
The Pistons have five pending free agents, but Diallo, Lee and Jackson are positioned to be long-term pieces. Diallo was acquired from Oklahoma City ahead of the trade deadline, while Lee and Jackson outperformed their two-way contracts. Diallo is the most established of the three and flourished toward the end of last season, showcasing his elite athleticism and two-way ability. But Lee provided solid production as a rookie backup point guard, and Jackson was one of Detroit’s best shooters.
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