AUBURN HILLS – Ed Stefanski intimated there were other offers on Reggie Bullock that would have netted the Pistons a few second-round draft picks. He took the offer from the Lakers that included one second-rounder and rookie Svi Mykhailiuk.
“Instead of getting two seconds, we got Svi and a second,” Stefanski said Friday as he discussed the two deals – the Pistons also got Thon Maker from Milwaukee for Stanley Johnson – the Pistons executed prior to Thursday’s trade deadline.
“We know he’s a prospect. We know he can flat-out shoot the basketball and we’re excited about seeing if we can develop him. The idea of putting a name to a player and getting a second-round pick was intriguing to us as opposed to bringing in two second-round picks.”
Getting Mykhailiuk and Maker on rookie deals to go with Luke Kennard and the fruits of Stefanski’s first Pistons draft – rookies Bruce Brown and Khyri Thomas – gives the Pistons five roster spots for next season with players on rookie contracts, a necessity to balance out the weightier deals of Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson and other veterans.
“We’re in a situation where we have very, very little cap flexibility,” Stefanski said. “We need friendly contracts. We’re not real friendly right now. … We now have five young prospects on favorable contracts that are really professional, hard-working kids and they are coachable. The coaching staff and coach Casey are thrilled with the two rookies we brought in this year.”
If the jury is still out on Brown and Thomas’ long-term impact, the early indications are promising. Stefanski makes the case to his coaches that getting young players in for four or five first-half minutes to get “a taste” is desirable – “I don’t think they can lose the game in the first half” – but says “Bruce has blown by that. Bruce has a lot of work this off-season we can do. Khyri is getting a taste. I think that’s great. They love Khyri and Khyri can shoot the ball.”
Stefanski saw plenty of Mykhailiuk over his four years at Kansas and had him earmarked as a prospect when he traded two future second-round picks for Thomas to select him 38th last June and then grabbed Brown with his own pick four slots later. Mykhailiuk went five spots after that, then was outstanding in Summer League. He’s flashed his 3-point shot and overall playmaking with the Lakers but it was his record in G League games that further elevated him to prospect status. In five G League games, Mykhailiuk averaged 29.2 points and shot 44.9 percent from the 3-point arc on 10 attempts a game.
Maker, the 10th pick in 2016, is in his third season but, like Mykhailiuk, is still just 21. Beyond their internal scouting, the Pistons had added insight on Maker from Casey assistants Sean Sweeney and Tim Grgurich, who were on staff in Milwaukee during Maker’s first two seasons.
“They love the kid,” Stefanski said. “We get a young prospect who’s got great size, shot blocker, can make a corner three. Great energy, which is what I like. Hard worker.”
Somebody else is enthused about the young Pistons talent, Stefanski said.
“Blake (Griffin) loves these guys,” Casey said. “He thinks Bruce and Khyri are going to be players. He’s very high on these two young men. I think they’re going to help Blake’s window next year. To get that extra star (alongside Griffin), we don’t have that flexibility. That’s not happening. But we’re starting it.”
Stefanski echoed Casey’s remarks that the two deals change nothing as far as the Pistons’ intentions for the rest of this season. As part of that, he said the Pistons are “looking hard at the buyout market to be a buyer.”
“We’re going for the playoffs. That’s (owner) Tom Gores from the top,” Stefanski said. “We’re a competitive organization. I preach to the guys, when you put that Pistons uniform on, you’re representing people. We’re going to try to win every game.”