A look at the Detroit Pistons in previewing the Eastern Conference teams competing with the New York Knicks.
Detroit may be Motown, but their basketball team is The Who. Troy Weaver was hired to change the fortunes of the now lowly Detroit Pistons. Fans couldn’t ask for a better resume. Three years as Executive VP and eight as Assistant GM with Oklahoma City, while working for one of the most skillful basketball executives in the business, Sam Presti.
Weaver has retained former Coach of the Year Dwane Casey. This is a formidable management team.
Detroit has two holdover All-Stars in Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin. Neither player is a building block for the Pistons’ rise to respectability. If healthy, Weaver will probably find new homes for them by mid season. The new GM also let Christian Wood go in a sign-and-trade. Along with some of his other transactions, the effect of these deals will not be clear for a while. We will stick to analyzing the future of the team Troy Weaver has assembled.
Before examining the influx of new young talent, the exits of Luke Kennard (24), Christian Wood (25), and Andre Drummond (26) should be considered. These three young men looked to be the base on which the new Pistons would be built. Obviously, Troy Weaver is not looking to the immediate future, so he decided to avoid big, long-term contracts, preferring the rookie pay scale for the next four years.
The Isaiah Stewart pick at 16th overall in the recent draft to replace Christian Wood at PF was a reach, according to every mock. At 6′ 9″, with a 7′ 2″ wingspan and a solid 250 lb. frame, the 20-year-old Stewart is an excellent, powerful inside player with a nice touch. His liabilities are on defense and his ordinary agility. What he gets at one end, he may give up at the other. Since Dwane Casey values defense very highly, Weaver may know something about Stewart’s D that is not in the scouting reports,
To replace Luke Kennard, the Pistons traded for the 19th pick and chose Saddiq Bey. That Detroit took Stewart ahead of Bey is another indication that Stewart may bring more to the game than advertised. Bey is a complete player out of Villanova. He scores on multiple levels and defends, defends, defends. His impact will more than make up for the loss of Kennard.
At #38, Troy Weaver again surprised everyone by reaching for Saben Lee. In such an even draft, perhaps there is no such thing as a reach. Immanuel Quickly was taken in the first round at 25. Both are excellent shooters with many of the same qualities. With NBA type of talent, the players with the stronger will, the greater determination are the ones who excel.
Killian Hayes was the centerpiece of Detroit’s draft. This 6′ 5″ 20 year old is Derrick Rose heir apparent and will get plenty of burn to display his potential. He was the only highly-touted overseas player with any positive comments regarding his defense, and players who are dedicated to D are dedicated to Ws.
Other changes in the Pistons line up are 3-and-D Jerami Grant (27), a solid addition for a long time to come, that is an NBA long time. Jahlil Okafor and Dzanan Musa were added, but they lack the attitude that would contribute to the team Weaver and Casey are building. Maturity could be around the corner for them. Never say never.
Please allow a change in that very first sentence, Detroit’s basketball team should be called the Weavers. There is no doubt that GM Troy Weaver has a team identity in mind, and he is shaping it player by player.
It is up to Leon Rose and company to stay the course and build in the same way as the Pistons. Today, the Knicks’ youth is superior to the Pistons’. Mitch and RJ are established NBA rotation players who have only started to scratch the surface of their talents. Ntilikina’s improving shot and his elite D are also rotation worthy. The rest of the young Knick and Piston players, including Musa and Okafor, have yet to establish that they are legit.
Until Rose and Griffin play limited minutes or are gone, New York may be looking up at Detroit in the standings. Leon Rose has a head start on the Pistons rebuild, and it is up to Knick management to increase that lead.