Why the Detroit Pistons should be happy they got Kelly Olynyk, Cory Joseph in free agency

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Pistons had two glaring needs entering free agency, which began Monday with the ability for teams and players to agree to deals. The first was for a center, as last week’s Mason Plumlee trade left them thin at the position.

They were also in dire need of outside shooting; the Pistons were below-average last season and lost their best 3-point marksman, Wayne Ellington, who agreed to sign with the Lakers on Monday.

But general manager Troy Weaver addressed both needs in one swoop with his first and biggest move in free agency, agreeing to ink Kelly Olynyk to a three-year deal worth $37 million.

They followed that with two smaller moves — re-signing point guard Cory Joseph to a two-year, $10 million deal and inking forward Trey Lyles to a two-year, $5 million contract.

Here’s what they will bring to the roster:

Kelly Olynyk

Olynyk is an offensively-gifted big man who should make life a little easier for Cade Cunningham and the rest of Detroit’s playmakers on that end of the floor. He’s a career 36.7% outside shooter who averaged 13.5 points, seven rebounds and 2.9 assists per game last season. That included a 27-game stint with the Houston Rockets that saw his numbers increase to 19 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game while shooting 39.2% from 3 and 54.5% overall.

He’s a proficient spot-up and post-up scorer. Synergy ranked him in the 93.5th percentile as a spot-up shooter with the Rockets last season, and in the 79.9th percentile with the Miami Heat a season prior. It’s a significant spacing upgrade in comparison to the Pistons’ center rotation last season, as rookie Isaiah Stewart’s efficiency fell as his volume increased late in the year. Neither Plumlee or Jahlil Okafor are outside shooting threats.

[ We asked Pistons fans to grade their 2021 draft class. They gave a resounding A ]

Olynyk’s biggest weakness is on defense, as he isn’t a strong rim protector, shot-blocker or defensive rebounder. But he can play both power forward and center, and gives the Pistons a lot of flexibility on offense. He can also play next to Stewart.

Trey Lyles

He hasn’t quite lived up to being a lottery pick in 2015, but Lyles’ ability to space the floor will be useful. He’s a career 34.1% 3-point shooter who ranked in the 91.4th percentile in spot-up shooting last season, per Synergy. He’s also 6 feet 10 with a 7-3 wingspan, giving the Pistons additional size and length.

Lyles also had his most efficient season at the rim last year according to Cleaning The Glass, making 76% of his attempts (87th percentile among bigs). He’s a good defensive rebounder, but he joins a crowded frontcourt that also includes Jerami Grant and Sekou Doumbouya.

Cory Joseph

It was tough to see the Pistons finding a veteran free agent point guard better than Joseph, who averaged 12 points and 5.5 assists in 19 games with the Pistons after arriving at the trade deadline. He shot 50.6% overall, 36.8% from 3 and embraced being a voice in the locker room and mentor to rookie point guard Killian Hayes.

Joseph is a good all-around guard who competes on defense and can play both backcourt positions. The Pistons waived him last Saturday to save $10.2 million on his partially-guaranteed $12.6 million contract, and he reportedly has a player option for the second year of his contract. Re-signing him on a cheaper deal is a win for the Pistons.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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