After underachieving and missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, the Detroit Pistons returned to the postseason last year. Sure, they were booted out quickly at the hands of the Milwaukee Bucks, who swept them in four games, but it is progress. It was a season of new beginnings for the Pistons under the leadership of Dwane Casey, and a foundation being built around a healthy and motivated Blake Griffin. They finished 41-41, 8th in the Eastern Conference, but could have been the 6th seed had they not lost Griffin for the final games of the regular season to a leg injury.
Now Detroit is back for another run. They kept their core intact of Griffin, Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, and Luke Kennard. Many believed they would try to move Jackson and potentially Kennard to try to add another all-star level player, but senior advisor Ed Stefanski is standing pat on that front, at least for the time being. Stefanski recently took to the airwaves to basically confirm that Jackson will begin the season with the team. In a recent interview with the Pistons’ flagship station, 97.1 The Ticket, Stefanski stated:
“Reggie, we’ll see what kind of year he has. He’s excited about the year. It gives you all different options. But if Reggie gets it rolling and we’re playing well, I see us trying to roll the dice and go as far as we could.”
“But again, all players that get into the last year of their contract and are playing at a good clip, you have options that you can look at.”
Instead of adding a big name, Detroit, who was cash-strapped for money anyway, had to get creative in order to upgrade their roster.
Their offseason began when they were able to steal forward Tony Snell and the 30th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft from the Milwaukee Bucks for Jon Leuer. Snell will likely start for the Pistons at small forward. He was a key member of the Bucks’ rotation last season, and even started 12 games before suffering an injury in late March. He returned in the playoffs, but never was inserted back into the rotation. For a team in need of shooting, Snell, who hasn’t shot worse than 39.7% from the 3-point line in the past three seasons, is a huge addition for Detroit.
As they were prior to the draft, Detroit was busy during it as well. Sekou Doumbouya, a projected top-ten pick from Guinea, fell to them at pick 15. Doumbouya, 6-foot-9, gives Detroit another forward, an area they needed help in heading into the offseason. He is the youngest player in the league and, therefore, his time on the court may be limited. But the Pistons feel they have something special in Doumbouya.
They ended up trading the 30th pick in the draft for four second round picks, which they then packaged to take Deividas Sirvydis, who will be stashed overseas next season. Detroit also moved cash late in the draft to the Philadelphia 76ers so they could draft Jordan Bone, a spry point guard from Tennessee.
After somewhat of an awkward draft, the Pistons used free agency to add depth to a team in desperate need of it. Their first and most important signing of free agency was the addition of Derrick Rose, who they signed to a two-year deal. Rose gives the Pistons a quality backup point guard, and is an upgrade over Ish Smith, who had backed up Jackson for the past three seasons. Rose averaged 18 points and 4.3 assists per game last season. The concern with him lies in his health, as he played in just 51 games last season.
Detroit also added Markieff Morris and Tim Frazier on guaranteed contracts. Morris is a backup bigman, who can play either power forward or center, but he struggled with injuries last season as well. Frazier will be Detroit’s third strong point guard, but is an important signing for them considering their injury concerns with Jackson and Rose. The Pistons took a swing from the Big 3 as well by signing Joe Johnson, who may provide some scoring punch on a team that at times failed to have a guy who can create when Griffin was not on the floor. This is the first time a player from the Big 3 has made his way back to the NBA.
The Pistons are the youngest they have been in quite some time. Including their two-way players, Detroit has nine players that are 23-years-old or younger on the roster. Kennard and Bruce Brown, two of their most prominent young pieces, are set to compete for the starting shooting guard spot, while Svi Mykhailiuk, Khyri Thomas, and Doumbouya will all fight for rotation minutes off the bench.
The biggest question for the Detroit Pistons heading into next season is health. Can Griffin, Jackson, and Rose stay healthy? All have a shaky injury history. Griffin was very good last season, some would even say he had the best season of his career. He played 75 regular season games, the most he’s appeared in since the 2013-2014 season. He averaged a career-high 24.5 points and shot 36.2% from deep. But by late March, Griffin started to break down after bearing such a heavy workload. He then missed the first two games of the playoffs.
But the Pistons expect growth. The team is adamant that Andre Drummond has another level to reach. They’ve shown their faith that he will reach that level by promoting that he’s been in the gym more than ever before this offseason. Their young guys, especially Kennard, Brown, Mykhailiuk, and Thon Maker, should be better than ever next year. Jackson has also stated his confidence in improving after having a healthy offseason for the first time in three or so summers.
That being said, the Pistons ceiling wasn’t raised that much in the offseason. Drummond and Griffin are a dominant duo, but it doesn’t appear that they have enough surrounding talent around them to win a playoff series, unless the growth from their young guns is significant and a prospect like Doumbouya is ready to play and succeed right away. They should win more games, and they should make the playoffs, but it’s tough to see them moving onto the second round of the playoffs.
In due time, we’ll see if that’s the case. But leveled ceiling and all aside, the Detroit Pistons are better than they have been in a long time.