‘We were going to be aggressive in changing the mindset and mentality’ – Weaver’s Pistons makeover leaves just 4 holdovers
Garrett Ellwood (NBAE/Getty)
Troy Weaver didn’t know how much he’d be able to turn over the roster once the NBA fired the starting gun on transaction season, but if you’d have told him in mid-summer that less than a week after the trade embargo was lifted Nov. 16 that only four players would remain from the 2019-20 Pistons he ...
Would not have been surprised. Nor disappointed.
“We were going to be aggressive in changing the mindset and mentality,” Weaver said Thursday. “We wanted to change the mentality. Things fell in place so we were able to change 70 percent of the roster. It wouldn’t surprise me that we got here this quickly.”
Two of the holdovers are acknowledged superstars Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose, still among the NBA’s most irrepressible scorers. A third is Sekou Doumbouya, the NBA’s youngest player a year ago and still only 19. The fourth is Svi Mykhailiuk, who ended 2019-20 on a high and, at 23, gives the Pistons elite shooting.
Weaver maneuvered on draft night to turn one pick into four, taking Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey in the first round and landing Saben Lee in the second. He traded for Jerami Grant, Delon Wright, Dzanan Musa and Rodney McGruder and signed Mason Plumlee, Jahlil Okafor, Josh Jackson and Wayne Ellington in free agency.
Weaver loves size and athleticism, but if there are common traits to the additions they’re more about makeup than playing style. Above all else, Weaver wanted elite competitors and team-first players.
The result is a mostly young team – Ellington, Rose, Griffin and Plumlee are 30 or older – with three teens and 11 players 24 and under, a number that includes 20-year-old Deividas Sirvydis, the 2019 second-round pick signed this week after spending last season in Europe.
Weaver has resisted calling the Pistons a “rebuilding” team, preferring instead to say he’s embarked on a “restoring” mission. He had zero interest in assembling a roster of misfits whose primary mission was to lose enough games to ensure a high lottery pick – but also zero intent to chase wins at the expense of a promising future. For this season, the aim is to infuse the locker room with players of championship character and build from that.
“The expectation is to be competitive,” Weaver said. “We don’t know – shortened season, dealing with the pandemic. But the goal is to put a competitive team on the floor that the city and community could be proud of. That’s the goal. We’ll let the chips fall after that. We want a team with an identity that fits Detroit and I think we’re headed in the right direction. That’s step number one.”
Weaver extolled the character of the two big men added in free agency, Plumlee and Okafor, in introducing them to the media Thursday. And Plumlee, for his part, said in just the few days of limited interaction with players possible while training camp is limited to individual workouts – the first full team workout comes Sunday – he’s picked up the vibe Weaver intended to create.
“Seems like from just a couple of days at the practice facility, guys love to hoop,” he said. “Any time you have that, the locker room conversation is about basketball and that’s the environment I thrive in.”
It’s not just a roster that fits Weaver’s philosophy, it’s also one that suits Dwane Casey’s mentality of establishing an unyielding, discipline defense and sharing the basketball on offense.
“We wanted to change the mentality and we were able to do it a little faster,” Weaver said. “We were just trying to be aggressive and it yielded so many new players. Being aggressive, that was the outcome. It could have been only three or four new players, but it ended up being a lot more. We’re happy with where we are and moving forward.”