One of the wildest weeks in Detroit Pistons off-season history about to unfold
Steven Freeman (NBAE/Getty)
Brace yourself for what stands to become one of the most significant off-season weeks in Pistons history.
If that sounds hyperbolic, consider that it will start with Wednesday’s draft when the Pistons exercise the No. 7 pick – only the eighth time in the last 50 years they’ve had a pick that high or better. The last time the Pistons picked as high as seventh was 10 years ago when they took Greg Monroe at No. 7.
Less than 48 hours after the Pistons make that pick, free agency will open at 6 p.m. on Friday with the Pistons armed with $30 million in cap space – more than all but two other NBA teams. And since training camps will open 11 days after the gun goes off in free agency, expect moves to come fast and furious.
Of course, the Pistons could use a chunk of their cap space even before free agency opens. There could be trades made on draft night – or in the period just before the draft as teams push their chips to the middle of the table after months of chatter – that result in the Pistons taking on veterans with contracts teams need to move to enable their own free-agent strikes.
The Pistons made a similar move last year the night before the draft, sending Jon Leuer to Milwaukee for Tony Snell and receiving the final pick of the first round, No. 30, as enticement for taking on the extra year of Snell’s contract. It’s conceivable Snell, certain to pick up the option for the final year of his contract, could be used in a similar transaction this year for a player with more than one year left on his contract.
If the Pistons don’t execute that type of trade, then they might be one of the first to crack the door in free agency given that only four teams – Atlanta, New York and Charlotte in addition to the Pistons – will have significant cap space. Could they splurge on the biggest names? Troy Weaver isn’t ruling that out. At minimum, the Pistons would seem a candidate to spend above the mid-level exception – a projected first-year salary of $9.3 million – for players they expect to remain in their prime for the duration of the contract.
“Both things are on the table,” Weaver said last week. “We’re going to try to be competitive without short-cutting our long-term future. But we’re looking at both scenarios, for sure,” he said, meaning signing free agents of long-term value or executing trades that commit cap space in exchange for draft-pick or other compensation.
Because the Pistons are without their second-round draft pick this year and for the next three drafts – they own the 2021 Lakers second-round pick and two others in 2023 – Weaver expressed interest in obtaining additional second-rounders to bolster the assets drawer. Some teams could be interested in selling second-round picks this season or trading them, given the economic distress prevailing league-wide.
“Absolutely. We want to replenish our seconds,” Weaver said. “Definitely interested in picking up seconds in this year’s draft.”
While Weaver comes from a strong background as Oklahoma City’s second in command for the last decade, his perceived strength is the ability to gauge how unfinished prospects will improve with maturity and development. He doesn’t try to disguise his enthusiasm for the opportunity to add talent while overseeing his first draft as chief executive – and doesn’t fully buy the perception that this year’s draft is historically weak.
“I love the draft,” he said. “I love it every year, so I always look at the draft (as) glass half-full. You may not have a Zion Williamson or a Ja (Morant), but there’s guys we really like. People have come out and said different things, but I’m excited about it. I like several players in the draft.”
As he’s studied past drafts, Weaver finds one common truth: About two handfuls of future players that every team would love to have emerge eventually.
“Every draft, you go back historically, has 10 pretty good players,” he said. “Doesn’t matter where they get drafted, but usually 10 really good players in every draft and it’s on us to try to find those players wherever we draft – 7, 17, 27, 37, doesn’t matter. You’ve got to try to do your work.”
And in his first off-season in the first chair, Troy Weaver’s work is going to be put to a severe test in what figures to be one of the wildest weeks any NBA off-season has ever witnessed.