Detroit — After two seasons as Pistons general manager, Troy Weaver still has the mentality that he’s a builder and that the roster is still under construction. Sure, the main pieces are in place, but there are still additions that have to be made to get them where they want to be.
Weaver has had the blueprint, and though the Pistons’ record this season showed only 23 wins, there was plenty of good to take away from it, especially in the final 25 games, when they went 11-14.
“I liked the resilience that we showed. We struggled early on, trying to find our way, and injuries set in and COVID, and it was rough waters for a while,” Weaver said Tuesday in his season-ending press conference. “But as we got healthy and the group started to come together, and then after the All-Star break, we started playing some really good basketball.”
That final stretch included wins over the Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors and two over the Atlanta Hawks, all of whom finished with winning records. It also included Saddiq Bey’s 51-point masterpiece, some excellent games from rookie Cade Cunningham, and vast improvements for Killian Hayes and Isaiah Stewart.
Those four comprise the Pistons’ core of their rebuild, and those are key takeaways as they head into a summer of workouts and preparation for what could be much more than another disappointing 23-win season.
Pistons team owner Tom Gores gave coach Dwane Casey a huge endorsement last week, and Weaver credited Casey with helping to create a culture and environment that allowed the young players to flourish and continue in their development.
“I think early on, everybody was just trying to find their way. Early on, we had new starters and we had guys in and out, so we bounced back, but to finish the season the way we did was very encouraging going into the summer,” Weaver said. “All it did was let us know how much work we need to put in. I think the group really understands what it takes to win now and how hard it is.
“Coach (Casey) has been drumming that message all year, and now they understand how hard they need to work this summer — individually and collectively — to continue to move us forward. We’re looking forward to a big offseason of work.”
The players talked Monday about the work to be done in the offseason to help prepare for next year, and this year was a prelude in many ways to what could be unveiled next year, when the Pistons presumably will add another top-five pick through the draft and some veteran help through a trade or free agency.
Among the big jumps the players made was Stewart, who showed his 3-point range toward the end of the year and also distinguished himself as an outstanding perimeter defender, which Casey noted.
“Isaiah Stewart has done a great job — not a good job, but a great job — defending the perimeter. If you had told me and the staff that last year, we wouldn’t have known that,” Casey said. “He showed he can do it. Statistically, he’s one of the guys in the league to be able to switch, and he’s done a great job. A lot of stuff that you saw this year was putting guys in position to see if they could do it.”
Internal improvements will be a critical part of the gauging the Pistons’ success this summer.
“The expectations are going to be what they are, but we’re going to stay true to our building process and I would never put a cap on our team,” Weaver said. “In this process, we’re going to stay with our core values and get the right people in here.
“We have some money (in free agency) this summer, and like everything else, we’re going to be aggressive and turn over every rock to improve the team. I don’t want it to be ‘the year’ — I want it to be an arrival; I don’t want it to be a flash in a pan, no Milli Vanilli here. When we get there, we want to stay there. We want to be built to last.”