When Ed Stefanski arrived in Detroit 2½ years ago, the Pistons roster was low on wings with any appreciable size and devoid of wings with both size and athleticism. He took a swing at remedying the situation in the 2019 draft by taking Sekou Doumbouya, who believes he’s ready to take off after enduring a bumpy road as the NBA’s youngest player a year ago.
Troy Weaver had to wait nearly six months from his June hiring as general manager to further address the situation, but he wasted no time once the NBA lifted the trade embargo, held its draft and opened free agency in short order last month. In a 48-hour span, Weaver drafted Saddiq Bey and came to quick agreements in free agency with Jerami Grant and Josh Jackson and – presto! – the Pistons suddenly got much bigger and more athletic on the perimeter.
Grant and Jackson, in particular, give the Pistons two high-level wing defenders that will allow them to match up infinitely better most nights than they’ve been able to do in several seasons.
“Two guys we really sat on from the outset to really go after hard,” Weaver said Wednesday in introducing Grant and Jackson. “Both tremendous young men. Bring exactly what we needed for this team – long, versatile athletes that can play multiple positions. That’s today’s NBA.”
Grant quickly agreed to terms on a reported three-year contract despite multiple reports that Denver was willing to match the terms of the deal he took to leave the Western Conference finalist for the rebuilding Pistons.
While Grant admitted it “wasn’t a no-brainer” to leave the Nuggets, his relationship with Weaver – which predates even their time together in Oklahoma City – and the opportunity to spread his wings won the day.
“It was the belief that Troy had in me,” Grant said. “And the belief I had in myself. I knew this would be a challenge and I’m open to challenges. It definitely was a tough decision, but at the same time I think I made the right decision.”
Jackson – who grew up in Southfield and played his first two high school seasons at Detroit Consortium, leading the school to the Class B state title in 2014 with 23 points and 14 rebounds in the title-winning game – cited similar reasons for picking the Pistons after his strong finish with Memphis last season.
“Just right from the beginning, I just felt that (Weaver) believed in me as a player just as much as I believed in myself,” he said. “He also – just like me – feels I have a lot to prove. I feel like just from the beginning, we had an understanding of each other and it felt right to me. It was really easy for me to make that decision.”
Grant, 26, and Jackson, 23, come to the Pistons with the primes of their careers ahead of them. Grant is likely to start at small forward opposite Blake Griffin, but he can just as easily slide to power forward to play in tandem with Doumbouya or Jackson – or the rookie, Bey, who is perhaps most ready of Weaver’s four draft choices to compete for playing time.
Together, they give Dwane Casey options beyond his reach when he came to the Pistons a little more than two years ago.
“Having these two guys here gives us the chance to have an excellent defense and a versatile offense,” Weaver said. “They’re the type of player we were looking for as we restore the Pistons.”