A state known for facing adversity in many forms, Michigan has seen many battles defending its heart and soul: The auto-industry bailout many years ago, poisoned drinking water, seeing Justin Verlander naked, and of course being a Pistons fan the last decade. But all is not lost! (Probably?) With an encouraging offseason cap outlook, the NBA Draft fast approaching, and some healthy returning pieces (you know who you are), the Wolverine State may finally see their basketball team contend for, well, something other than not the playoffs. That is, of course, the most optimistic view in the midst of this rebuild process, but I guess it can’t get worse than this past season. (Probably?)

 

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2019-2020 Review

Depth Chart

Role PG SG SF PF C
Starters D. RoseB. L. Kennard T. Snell B. Griffin C. Wood
Rotation Brown, Jr. L. Galloway S. Mykhailiuk S. Doumbouya J. Henson
Rotation B. Knight J. McRae C. Wood T. Maker
Limited J. Bone K. Thomas L. King J. Patton

Top Performers

Player GP MIN PTS REB AST STL BLK TOV
Derrick Rose 50 26 18.1 2.4 5.6 0.8 0.3 2.5
Andre Drummond 49 33.8 17.8 15.8 2.8 2 1.7 3.6
Reggie Jackson 14 27.2 14.9 2.9 5.1 0.6 0.1 1.6
Luke Kennard 28 32.9 15.8 3.5 4.1 0.4 0.2 1.5
Blake Griffin 18 28.5 15.5 4.7 3.3 0.4 0.4 2.2

Draft Rights Retained

Player Pos Pick Nationality
Deividas Sirvydis  G/F 2019 Rnd 2 Pick 7 Lithuania

Free Agent Rights Retained

Player  Pos Type Nationality
Jose Calderon G (U) Non-Bird Spain
Kalin Lucas PG (U) Non-Bird United States
Zaza Pachulia C (U) Non-Bird Georgia
Isaiah Whitehead SG (U) Non-Bird United States
Jameer Nelson G (U) Non-Bird United States

Notable Free Agents: Langston Galloway, John Henson, Brandon Knight, Jordan McRae, Christian Wood, Thon Maker (RFA), Tony Snell ($12,178,571 player option), Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk ($1,663,861 team option), Khyri Thomas ($1,663,861 partially guaranteed salary), Justin Patton ($1,824,003 non-guaranteed salary), Bruce Brown ($1,663,861 non-guaranteed salary), Jordan Bone (two-way RFA), Louis King (two-way RFA).

 

2020-2021 Outlook

While the Pistons produced another subpar season, going 20-46, losing five straight before Covid began killing our hopes and dreams of being within six feet of people, there were some bright spots among the Blake Griffin spots, but the shedding of Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, and Markieff Morris have created interesting cap space implications for this upcoming offseason.

“We’re going to try to be competitive without short-cutting our long-term future, but we’re looking at both scenarios for sure. I don’t know who you consider big free agents, but we plan on talking to guys that we’re very interested in, for sure, and also leveraging cap space to get assets. It’s a juggling act, a balancing act with being competitive on the forefront of that, tied into not mortgaging the future.” – Troy Weaver.

While probably not to be confused with The Process, for the sake of all, Weaver and Dwane Casey seems to recognize that the next couple seasons are potentially 35-45 win journeys of futility, but with 30 million dollars in cap space, a piece or two could definitely affect that trajectory. I’m of the opinion that if you perform that projection of around 40 wins, just a little bit of something going some way, a few close wins here, an unexpected performance every other weeks, well, just a little push will put you into the playoffs conversation. And from a fantasy perspective, locating a team that has some minutes up for grabs, a potential infusion of young talent, and some useful pieces at the right value because of either age, injury, or both could be exactly what we’re looking for as we move closer to opening day.

 

Key Factors

While touched on a little above, I’d be remiss not to hammer the point home that while Blake Griffin is not the same player that was part of the heralded “Lob City” era of the Clippers, he still has enough talent and skill to be a stable if not spectacular producer. While knee injuries can be hard to deal with, another important ripple to think about is the fact that ESPN’s Zach Lowe has stated that teams around the NBA are keeping an eye on the six-time All-Star. And while a potential bum knee on a 31-year-old may not be worth much, even slightly better numbers over last season’s 15.5/4.7/3.3 effort would go a long way.

While coming off a surprising rebound of a season, I’m still not sure that Derrick Rose can bring starters minutes and production at the point guard position. While Luke Kennard can handle those duties in a pinch, it’s probably fate that this specific draft class has a plethora of talent at the position, and while LaMelo Ball might not fall to their spot, an intriguing selection would be Killian Hayes. Tyrese Haliburton and Tyrell Terry might also be possibilities.

Andre Drummond. Yes, I know he’s gone, and that’s the point. The Pistons need a big man to build around, and while it was never going to be Griffin, there was at least some hope that Drummond would fill that role. And again, just like the PG position, the Pistons have a chance to build through the draft in potential picks like James Wiseman or Onyeka Okongwu. Personally though, I wouldn’t mind keeping Christian Wood and seeing what happens.

 

Conclusion

As I said in the lede, I like this team for what it is. There’s some combination here of wily veterans, burgeoning talent (depending on the draft), and plenty of minutes to spread the love. I like the fact the team is willing to try and stay competitive during this rebuild, and am interested to see what pieces they add through trade and free agency, but this is a team that may not attract much interest, which means there’s plenty of value to be had. And hopefully soon, some clean drinking water.

 

 

Jay is a longtime Razzball everything who consumes an egregious amount of Makers Mark as a vehicle to gain wisdom and augment his natural glow. Living in the D.C. area, he also likes spending time visiting the local parks and feeding lettuce to any turtles he encounters, including Mitch McConnell. You can follow him @jaywrong.