The Pistons made an important step forward in their summer to-do list by hiring Dwane Casey to be their next coach. They had gone more than a month without a head coach and after signing Casey, they will move to the next steps in their summer process.
Casey takes over a roster that he says is ready to win now, but there’s plenty more skill development and body maintenance that will need to be done over the summer months.
That includes filling out their front-office staff, preparing for the draft, free agency and summer league. Because of issues with the salary cap and potential to hit the luxury tax, the Pistons won’t be as busy as some other teams, but they have plenty to do before training camp begins in the fall.
Here’s a look at some more items on the Pistons’ offseason to-do list:
Casey will begin his first week looking to build relationships with some of the current Pistons. Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Stanley Johnson and Luke Kennard are among the players who do offseason workouts in Los Angeles and Casey will visit with them this week.
It’s a good start for Casey, who is regarded as a players’ coach, to start making so inroads with the nucleus of the team, to impart his vision for the path forward. Getting buy-in from Griffin, Drummond, Jackson and Johnson could go a long way in winning over the rest of the locker room before the season starts. Casey will build his own individual ties to players, but it doesn’t hurt to start with a small group first.
Casey also will have to build a coaching staff, which won’t just be the same group he had in Toronto. One of his assistants, Nick Nurse, agreed to terms Tuesday to become the Raptors’ head coach and it’s possible that some of Casey’s staff could be split between staying in Toronto, coming to Detroit or looking elsewhere.
The plan is to introduce Casey formally next week at a press conference, giving him time to finish some of the other tasks. Presumably, some of the delay is coming from coordinating schedules with Pistons owner Tom Gores and some players to join Casey at the presser.
Running the show
Besides hiring Ed Stefanski as senior advisor to Gores, there is no new executive staff in place. The current assistant general managers, including Pat Garrity, remain and are helping with their preparation for the draft. Stefanski will ramp up the search for a general manager and that process could be completed in the next week or two.
Stefanski has front-office experience, so the Pistons were able to move the coaching hire ahead of a new general manager. Stefanski, who has a three-year contract, could end up shedding that title and become the head of the front office, whether the title is team president or general manager. More likely, he will bring on a younger apprentice to mentor and who will take on a bigger role for the long term.
Draft and free agency
Barring a major trade, the Pistons won’t be very active during the draft or during free agency. They have no first-round selection in the draft on June 21 — their No. 12 pick was sent to the Los Angeles Clippers in the Blake Griffin deal — and they likely won’t find an impact player with their second-round pick (42nd overall). They will pick up the team option on Reggie Bullock for $2.5 million by July 15 and they’ll have to make decisions on whether to fully guarantee the contracts of Eric Moreland ($1.8 million) and Dwight Buycks ($1.6 million).
They’ll also have three more roster spots to fill with only a small budget, including the midlevel or bi-annual exception. The budget crunch could lead them to trade a mid-sized salary in order to bring Anthony Tolliver, one of their most productive players last season, back with a modest raise.
Given those constraints, the Pistons likely won’t be big players in free agency, unless they move some big salaries in the trade market somehow.
The Pistons are moving from their familiar summer home in Orlando with only eight teams to the big enchilada, with all 30 teams playing in Las Vegas. That begins on July 6 and the Pistons will be led by Luke Kennard and presumably Henry Ellenson, plus some other potential end-of-the-roster options who could be potentials for a minimum salary.
It will be a big opportunity for Kennard to move into a bigger role heading into training camp, possibly challenging Johnson for more minutes in the rotation. The same goes for Ellenson, who was behind Griffin, Tolliver and Jon Leuer at power forward. Casey’s arrival may portend more playing time for Ellenson, but the proving ground will be under the lights and in front of the big crowds for a minimum of five games in Las Vegas.
The Pistons likely will be looking for more wing help, so if their second-round pick isn’t a wing, look for a potential free agent — such as Derrick Williams, who participated in a free-agent workout this month.
The summer months will bring some change, but in the Pistons’ case, likely not a complete overhaul with the roster as it has been with the coaching staff and front office.