In the limbo of the suspended NBA season, the Pistons are looking to make some changes to benefit their future, both on the court and off it. They’re mired in a disappointing season with a 20-46 record, following a midseason roster transformation in which they moved many of their veterans and players with high salaries.
Next comes the front office.
The Pistons are opening a search for a general manager, league sources confirmed to The Detroit News on Tuesday. The franchise has been without a general manager by title, although Ed Stefanski has been leading the front office with the title of special adviser to team owner Tom Gores.
It’s an unusual organizational structure with no president of basketball operations or general manager, but Stefanski has associate general manager Pat Garrity and assistant general manager Malik Rose working on his staff.
According to a source familiar with the team’s plan for hiring a general manager, Stefanski would remain in a supervisory role, with the new hire reporting to Stefanski, who could continue with the title of senior adviser but would function as a team president.
The current front office has worked to help the Pistons through a difficult two years after inheriting an undesirable situation with the salary cap. With a payroll in the top 10 in the league, the Pistons have muddled in the lower seeds of the playoffs and missed the postseason three times in the past five seasons.
Stefanski joined the Pistons after the 2017-18 season, following the exit of Stan Van Gundy, who was the head coach and team president, and Jeff Bower, who was general manager. After Stefanski was hired, he brought coach Dwane Casey.
In his career, Stefanski has served as general manager with the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Nets and most recently was executive vice president with the Memphis Grizzlies and Toronto Raptors, where he had worked with Casey.
In his time with the Pistons, Stefanski has helped reshape the roster by trading Andre Drummond at the deadline this season and buying out the contracts of Reggie Jackson and Markieff Morris after the deadline. Stefanski has also headed two good drafts for the Pistons, getting Bruce Brown, Khyri Thomas and Sekou Doumbouya, along with a trade that brought Svi Mykhailiuk for an expiring contract.
The Pistons have been handcuffed by the salary cap, drawing perilously close to going into the luxury tax, but the front office has been diligent in making shrewd moves to fill out the roster without going into dire financial straits.
In the offseason, they’ll be one of the few teams with space under the salary cap, though they likely won’t use it to get pieces to build toward contending. Instead, they’ll likely look at options for bringing in assets in exchange for taking on bad contracts.
The Pistons are in position to have a top-five pick in the draft, though it’s unclear if and how the league will finish the remainder of the regular season.