Pistons have ‘more than enough to compete,’ won’t shop in free agency

By Kurt Mensching
Special to The Detroit News
Blake Griffin

Auburn Hills – This probably will not be the most exciting offseason in Detroit Pistons history.

After making their big splash in January when they acquired superstar Blake Griffin from the Los Angeles Clippers, the team doesn’t exactly have a lot of wiggle room when the NBA’s 2018-19 year officially begins on Sunday. In fact, they’ve only got about $5 million in luxury tax space to work with and seem unlikely to spend any extra.

“With the limited funds, we’ll be in the background,” Pistons senior adviser Ed Stefanski told The Detroit News on Thursday. Stefanski has been guiding the Pistons’ vision since being hired from the Memphis Grizzlies in May.

He expects to talk to agents and look for players falling through the cracks, hoping to add at least another wing to the roster after adding a pair of rookies last week at the NBA draft, Khyri Thomas and Bruce Brown. But he doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of needs beyond that, right now, guided by a core of big men in Griffin and Andre Drummond, as well as point guard Reggie Jackson.

More: Pistons picks Thomas, Brown getting up to speed on NBA game

“I like where our team is right now,” he said. “We have more than enough to compete.”  

One player to keep an eye on is 3-point specialist Anthony Tolliver, who’d like to remain in Detroit but may not be able to. Stefanski says everyone loves Tolliver, who averaged 22 minutes and nine points mainly coming off the bench this past season, but it’s too early to say whether he’ll fit into plans. Tolliver earned $3.29 million last season on a one-year deal.

“It’s all going to depend on what kind of money’s out there,” Stefanski said.

It’s a little too early to talk about extending guard Stanley Johnson, too, Stefanski said. Johnson is entering the final year of his rookie contract, coming off a disappointing 2017-18 campaign of 8.7 points in 27 minutes a game.

The team is yet to officially pick up the $2.5 million option on shooting guard Reggie Bullock, either. He averaged 11 points on about 28 minutes.  

For now, Stefanski would just like to wait and see what Thomas and Brown can do. They have been working out and learning the ropes at the team’s practice facility in Auburn Hills since Monday, and will soon head west for summer league play in Las Vegas next week.

“Really, really strong personalities. Good basketball IQs. Professional,” Stefanski said. “They’ve worked hard. The test will be when they get on the basketball court and how they perform. And we have our arms around (21-year-old forward Henry) Ellenson and Stanley Johnson, working with them. Development is really important to us as we’ve talked over and over.”