Las Vegas — The Pistons were going to make some changes to the roster. That much was clear after a 41-41 finish last season and a first-round sweep from the playoffs.
With several players becoming unrestricted free agents, the need to get more scoring from the second unit and potentially to upgrade the starting group were priorities but entering free agency over the salary cap and little maneuverability limited what the front office, led by senior adviser Ed Stefanski, could do.
Adding point guards Derrick Rose and Tim Frazier in the first 24 hours signaled that the Pistons prioritized that position. Along with small forwards Tony Snell and Sekou Doumbouya, they have four new players to revamp the roster.
As they begin the Las Vegas Summer League this week, they’ll look to get more indications about how their younger players, including Bruce Brown, Khyri Thomas and Svi Mykhailiuk, might be able to help in the rotation next season.
News & Views takes a look at what some of the Pistons’ moves in free agency and the draft and the outlook in summer league can help shape their view in the summer.
News: The Pistons agreed to terms with Rose and Frazier to strengthen their backcourt.
Views: They’ll replace Ish Smith and Jose Calderon, which looks to be an overall upgrade. Rose (18 points per game) is a more adept scorer than Smith (8.9 points) and is a better overall shot creator, hitting 48 percent from the field and 37 percent beyond the arc, which in itself will help the second unit.
Rose has some injury concerns, playing only 51 games last season. His minutes will have to be monitored and the Pistons would be prudent to have restrictions on his minutes, to maybe increase his effectiveness. He could play shorter minutes on back-to-backs or in games after he’s played heavier minutes. Getting the most out of Rose will be critical to their success, with a possible goal of having him play 65-70 games.
Frazier was an important choice because given the injury histories of Reggie Jackson and Rose, the Pistons will need someone who can give them more than just spot duty. Frazier, 28, played 59 games each of the past two seasons and averaged 5.3 points and 4.2 assists last season with the Pelicans and Bucks. That’s more than adequate for the role he’ll likely have.
Last season, Rose played 27 minutes per game, which could be a little more than the Pistons will need, with a healthy Jackson and Frazier as other available options. Ideally, the training staff would figure out a happy medium that could see Rose play around 20-25 minutes, which could translate into him playing more than 51 games.
News: Ish Smith agreed to a deal with the Wizards for two years and $12 million.
Views: There are tough choices to make in free agency and the Pistons had to bid adieu to Smith, who was a favorite of fans and teammates because of his down-to-earth demeanor. He was a solid backup for three seasons, the longest he spent with one team in his career.
He saluted Detroit fans Monday on Instagram.
“Detroit has been more than a team for me, it has been a family. I appreciate the welcoming arms of the fans, and the support and encouragement from the coaching staff,” he wrote. “I will miss the strength and boldness of the city, and most importantly, my teammates!”
He steps into a likely bigger role, with the Wizards’ John Wall possibly missing the entire season because of an injury. It’s the 11th team he’ll don a jersey for in his 11 pro seasons.
News: Rookies Sekou Doumbouya and Deividas Sirvidis are on the Pistons’ summer league roster.
Views: It’s a surprising turn for Sirvydis, given the likely scenario that he’ll end up either in the G-League or back in Lithuania next season. At 6-foot-8, he’s a good prospect and seeing him against NBA-caliber talent will give a good gauge about what he’ll specifically need to work on next year — and possibly where he’ll do that work.
He’s valued for his shooting at that size, drawing some comparisons as a taller Luke Kennard, as both are lefty shooters.
Fans should keep expectations low for Doumbouya, given that he’s only 18 years old and isn’t accustomed to the NBA style, having played in Europe for the past couple of years. He has an NBA build, but getting used to the speed, physicality and flow will take some time.
The Pistons seem content to let Doumbouya develop slowly, rather than throwing him into the fire of a starting role immediately. If he picks things up quickly, it could be a big plus, but making that an expectation could be a little unreasonable.