Q&A with Pistons' Ed Stefanski: 'We’re trying to make the playoffs ... and develop'
Since taking over basketball operations of the Pistons last year, Ed Stefanski has put his imprint on the franchise, revamping the roster with several new pieces and building around the core of Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard.
He’s added a couple of nice second-round picks in Bruce Brown and Khyri Thomas in his first draft and followed with Sekou Doumbouya, Deividas Sirvydis and Jordan Bone this year.
More importantly, Stefanski has brought in some experienced veterans in Derrick Rose, Tony Snell, Markieff Morris and Tim Frazier to help bolster the depth.
In a conversation with The Detroit News’ Rod Beard, Stefanski spoke about the new faces on the roster, team expectations moving forward and developing young players, including rookie first-round pick Sekou Doumbouya.
Here are the highlights of our conversation. Some of the questions and responses were edited for clarity and context:
►Question: What were some of the biggest things you did in free agency?
►Answer: With what we were working with money-wise for free agency, we did really well, especially in solidifying the backup of the point guard position with Derrick Rose and Tim Frazier. Both of those guys will contribute and that made us stronger at that position. Getting Markieff, even though it was a one-year deal, hopefully he’s back to where he was two years ago. We’ll see how that all works out.
►Q: Was it a priority to get a veteran core to go with the young pieces?
►A: We’re trying to win and be a playoff team — and at the same time, we’re trying to develop, which is two difficult things to accomplish when you are trying to be a playoff team. So far, so good. We like our young guys and we’ve put a lot of time, money and effort into development.
So far, it’s paid off a lot with Bruce Brown, who was a 42nd pick and is now starting for us and is a big contributor. We’re happy with his progression and now we have to see with Khryi working hard and Svi — will they get an opportunity?
The big word is opportunity – it’s hard to get that opportunity when you do have a veteran club and coaches will tend to go with the veterans. Can we get these other guys to get some time on the court to see what they have?
►Q: Is load management the way things are going to manage and make sure stars are available when you need them?
►A: In a perfect world, I agree with that. I don’t know if there’s been enough years of evidence scientifically to know what is a perfect load-management situation. Everyone is going to point now to Toronto and what happened with Kawhi (Leonard). That doesn’t mean they have it scientifically figured out. A lot of good people in the NBA and sports itself say there’s not enough evidence to figure out the perfect scenario.
It’ll be trial-and-error with Blake because we’d really like to have Blake in the latter part of the season.
►Q: In a very generic sense, is it “playoffs-or-bust” for this roster, where you might have to make some sweeping changes?
►A: I wouldn’t speculate on that. We’re trying to do both simultaneously, which is a difficult task. We’re trying to make the playoffs and we’re trying to develop. Last year, making the playoffs and Bruce Brown developing into a nice player. Can we continue to go down that route? We didn’t have a first-round pick (in 2018) and now we have Sekou, who we’re high on but he has to learn. He’s not going to be 19 until Christmas. We have to just try harder with him and be patient.
That’s the hardest thing in the NBA — to be patient. With Sekou, we have to be patient. He shows glimpses in practice of “Wow!” and now can we get a consistency out of him? The coaching staff is working very hard with him on that.
►Q: How hard is it to be patient with a guy like Sekou? Do you have to have your feet in both buckets of planning ahead for the future and playing for now?
►A: As a front office, we’re always looking at the future and the big picture, trying to figure out where we will be in the next two or three years. The coaches are in a different wavelength — which they should be. They’re looking to win their next game and beat Indiana on opening night. It’s two different areas and we try to merge them.
We’re fortunate to have coach (Dwane) Casey, whom I have a longstanding relationship with and we can discuss things and work things out. We don’t always totally agree — which you shouldn’t — but we have good discussions.
With Sekou, when we drafted him, we said early publicly that he’s going to take time to come around and we didn’t put any timetable on it. We made a point that this year, early in the season, we didn’t expect him to be in that rotation. If he keeps playing well when February and March roll around, who knows? We’re not going to throw him to the wolves.