What the off-season’s big moves might say about where the Pistons feel they are on their timeline
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
The most scrutinized off-season addition for the Pistons, hands down, will be their lottery pick exercised July 29. And if the June 22 lottery graces the Pistons with a top-four pick – of which there’s a 52 percent chance – then that will be doubly true.
But the move that will be more telling relative to where Troy Weaver and his inner circle feel the Pistons are on their timeline will come with their other major move – whether that’s their foray into free agency or via trade.
Weaver’s made 10 trades since the shackles were taken off last November with the lifting of the trade moratorium, drafted four players and signed five free agents. He’s picked up Frank Jackson off the waiver wire and plucked Tyler Cook from the G League. In all of them, his focus has been on upgrading the talent base of the roster while adhering vigilantly to the litmus test he and Dwane Casey hold for character and competitiveness.
The thing Weaver hasn’t been particularly concerned about is roster fit. And that’s what makes the biggest move he’ll execute this summer other than exercising his lottery pick so telling. Does he feel he’s pushed the ball far enough downfield on talent acquisition that he can now exercise a move that makes the team more whole?
Was there a clue in Weaver’s response when he was asked last month, after the season ended, what to expect in the second phase of what he’s termed the “restoration” of the Pistons? “Double down. We’re going to double down. We’re not going to change anything. We’re going to continue to bring in like-minded people. Won’t get cute. You lay the foundation and then you try to waver or go astray or look for what’s popular or what’s cute – we’re not going to do that. We’ll double down on our foundation.”
Maybe Weaver was strictly talking about the makeup of future Pistons and not skill set. Weaver clearly zeroes in on players who bring athleticism, length and a defensive disposition to the equation. The ninth of his 10 trades, coming just ahead of the March trade deadline, sent arguably the team’s best 3-point shooter, Svi Mykhailiuk, to Oklahoma City for Hamidou Diallo, who arrived as an infrequent and inefficient 3-point shooter, though Diallo hit 39 percent from the arc in his 20 games with the Pistons.
At some point, Weaver knows the Pistons will have to shoot 3-pointers at the NBA league average or better to make a meaningful move up the standings. They finished 23rd in 3-point accuracy last season and 16th in 3-point attempt rate even in a Dwane Casey offense geared toward producing triples. But he’s not going to make short-term deals to impede long-term goals just to better balance the roster before it’s prudent to do so.
The Pistons won’t have many roster openings this off-season. Weaver acknowledged that much when he said, “I would say maybe one or two additions from the outside, but the assets for the Pistons moving forward are all in house. It’s internal development and growth and that will be our focus this summer.”
Weaver is in the camp that believes 3-point shooting is something that internal development is capable of addressing. Frank Jackson stands as a shining example of the ability of young players to take marked leaps in 3-point proficiency. A 32 percent 3-point shooter with New Orleans in his first two seasons, Jackson hit 41 percent for the Pistons and emerged as a rare and invaluable weapon – a consistent bench scoring threat.
The Pistons aren’t looking for quick fixes. There is no playoffs-or-bust mentality heading into 2021-22. But from the outside looking in, Weaver did a lot of work to lay a foundation in his first year on the job. Enough to inspire confidence that the next big addition’s standout trait would be 3-point shooting? The first real clue will come in how Weaver’s front office chooses to allocate resources for their major off-season acquisition.