Troy Weaver sent a message Thursday: Forget the lottery.
It’s time for the Detroit Pistons to get better. Let’s see if the play-in game is a possibility.
That’s the expectation now that the team’s general manger traded for veteran wing — and sharpshooter — Bojan Bogdanovic.
No, this isn’t a playoffs-or-bust ultimatum from Weaver or team owner Tom Gores. But it’s another reminder Weaver isn’t going to slow-walk the franchise’s “restoration,” as he calls it.
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Getting Bogdanovic from the Utah Jazz should make the Pistons better.
That’ll depend on the development of Cade Cunningham, primarily. But also, the development of Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey and Jaden Ivey and Marvin Bagley III.
If nothing else — and it’s not nothing! — the 6-foot-7, 33-year-old forward will give more space to the youngsters he’s here to help tutor. Though Bogdanovic does more than shoot 3-pointers.
He can pull up from mid-range, where he digs using the glass. He can attack the paint on closeouts, where he is a sneaky good finisher. He can make plays off the dribble, no matter how deliberate he might look doing it.
He has been an effective, well-rounded offensive player for a good team for a while. He has 47 games of playoff experience, too.
And while he likely won’t get to show off that playoff experience this season, the savvy and gamesmanship he has displayed in playoff runs over the years should help him educate the Pistons locker room in the ways of the NBA.
All this cost Weaver was Kelly Olynyk and Saben Lee, a solid backup big and a point guard who struggled to shoot. Oh, and some cap space this season.
The hit this year is $5 million or so. But next season, Bogdanovic’s salary of $19.6 million comes off the books, which will give the Pistons even more cap room.
One of the reasons Weaver wanted to acquire so much cap room over the past year was to take reasonable swings like this one, in which he absorbs nearly $20 million without worrying it will interfere with future plans.
If Bogdanovic stays healthy and makes 3-pointers — and other plays — as well as he has elsewhere (he shot 38.7% from beyond the arc last season), he raises the Pistons’ ceiling. His presence should also help the development of Cunningham, who will now have more options for kickouts on the wings.
Whether coach Dwane Casey starts Bogdanovic or not, he will surely align a chunk of Bogdanovic’s minutes with Cunningham and Ivey. Bey should spend plenty of time on the court with Bogdanovic, too.
It’s no secret that Weaver favors athleticism, speed and defense as tenets of his team building philosophy. Yet he’s not stubborn, either. And he knows his team has struggled to shoot over the past two seasons.
Casey will have more options to match up against teams. He could play small (relatively) by starting Stewart at center and Bey and Bogdanovic on the wings. Or he can go big with Bagley at center and Stewart at power forward.
And while Bogdanovic isn’t a plus defender and can be vulnerable on switches, he is a fighter, and that competitive spirit will complement what the Pistons showed late last season when healthy.
Will adding Bogdanovic cost the Pistons another high draft pick? It might. But so might luck.
Besides, franchises that perennially pick high in the lottery tend to stay in the lottery — ahem, Sacramento — as it’s no sure-fire way back to relevance.
Finding a difference-maker to tilt the floor, such as Cunningham, and then finding secondary difference-makers to surround him is the ideal way to build. Look at Milwaukee, or Boston, or Miami, or Memphis — all teams with lead actors and very, very good supporting ones.
The Pistons have their lead. They may have their co-star in Ivey. They have promising supporting players in Bey and Stewart, though it’s too soon to cap what they might become.
Bogdanovic will likely be long gone by the time this young core fully reveals itself. Yet if all goes well, the veteran shooter will have had a hand in the revelation.
At some point, young teams need to taste a little winning. And while Bogdanovic’s arrival isn’t going to push the Pistons to 50 wins, it could swing a half-dozen games this winter.
Those games matter. What also matters is that a team on the come-up has a general manager who knows how to make the kind of move Weaver made Tuesday.
Trading for Bogdanovic ahead of this season makes the Pistons more balanced and more competitive in a deep Eastern Conference. A similar move two or three years from now could push a team to a deep run in the playoffs.
With this trade, Weaver showed he’ll be ready when and if that happens.
Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter@shawnwindsor.