Beard: To new Pistons GM Troy Weaver — let's get down to brass tacks
With a few notable exceptions, Pistons fans aren’t accustomed to getting stars. Most of the time, the additions are out of the blue, and the fans take a wait-and-see approach to what comes next. It was that way when the Pistons traded for Blake Griffin, signed Derrick Rose in free agency and when they hired coach Dwane Casey.
The next in that line could be Troy Weaver.
By most accounts, in the search to stock their front office, the Pistons made Weaver their No. 1 target, and closed the deal, announcing him as their general manager on Thursday.
Weaver, 52, is highly regarded around the league for his ability to identify talent, as he helped the Oklahoma City Thunder become one of the pillars of the Western Conference over his 12-year career there. As an assistant coach at Syracuse, he also helped recruit Carmelo Anthony — and the two had a reunion with the Thunder as well.
In their several iterations in recent years, the Thunder have shuffled former MVPs Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden to other teams, but have weathered the storm and the Thunder still are a strong presence in the West.
Most credit Weaver, in addition to general manager Sam Presti, with making that happen.
As Weaver takes the day-to-day reins of the Pistons franchise — which last won a playoff series in 2008 — there is much more work to do. Even in the Eastern Conference, where a .500 record often could have yielded a No. 7 seed, the Pistons have finished with a winning record just once in the past dozen years.
Here’s a welcome note for Weaver, with some notes about the initial challenge he faces as he moves into the big office and joins the Pistons:
Sorting things out
Of course, you’ve already examined the Pistons roster, so you have a good idea of what you’re dealing with. It’s something like sorting laundry — some things will go together and there will be some odd socks that don’t have a match. Figuring out which one is which is your challenge.
Coach Dwane Casey stressed that point guard is the most important position. Isiah Thomas isn’t walking through that door. Well, he could — because he’s been spending more time around the team recently — but even if he does, he’s 59 and he’s done playing.
The best two players, Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose, are in their 30s and the big question will be how much longer they’ll be Pistons. Griffin has two years and $75 million left on his contract and Rose, who had an eyebrow-raising season, is owed $7.7 million in his final season. Finding a trade for Rose will be a lot easier than getting one for Griffin, but how all that shakes out will shape how the rest of the roster fits together.
After that, there’s looking through the young talent to find matches. Luke Kennard is a very good shooter and has shown that he can be a key piece when he’s been healthy. Svi Mykhailiuk and Bruce Brown were low-risk, second-round draft picks, and when given ample opportunity, they’ve been good.
That tall guy is Christian Wood. He’s been good this year, but he’s a free agent, so pay him whatever the market dictates — and even a few dollars more, if that’s what it takes to keep him. Sekou Doumbouya is quiet, but you’ll like him; he’ll figure it out sooner than later. Khyri Thomas, when healthy, can be a player also. You can’t get rid of the whole roster, but you can’t keep everyone, either.
Your new job comes with a perk — a likely top-five pick in the draft. You remember what that’s like, because the last two times you had such a high pick, you selected James Harden third in 2009 and Russell Westbrook fourth in 2008.
Going 3-for-3 in top-five picks would be an easy way to endear yourself to the fans and put your stamp on the franchise right away. This draft doesn’t seem to have that level of talent on first blush, but I know you’ve already done your homework.
You’ve broken down all the positives and negatives for LaMelo Ball, for Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and others. Rookie point guards often take a while to adjust to the NBA, so you don’t have to make that the pick, but you’ve had excellent guards in OKC, so you obviously know what you’re looking for.
This could be the most important pick this team has had in the last 10 years and that they will have in the next five years. You can’t mess it up — but you know that already. The fans send constant reminders on Twitter about that quite often, so this is just passing the message along. Seeing that you don’t have a Twitter account, it’s already apparent that you’re a smart man.
Free agency isn't safe
That smile on Ed Stefanski’s face isn’t because you have the No. 1 pick in the draft — not yet, at least. It’s because they successfully maneuvered for two years through a salary-cap maze and with that, you stand to have about $30 million in available space this summer. You won’t spend it all in one place, but whether you choose to acquire assets along with bad contracts or just sit on some of the money like Scrooge McDuck is your choice.
You’ve likely already made a decision on Wood, but you also might want to look at keeping Langston Galloway, who’s a pro’s pro and is coming off one of the best seasons of his career. Three-point shooting is a premium asset — and he brings it.
If there’s a chance that you stashed Nerlens Noel in one of the moving boxes, he’ll satisfy the need for a center — because you don’t have one under contract for next season.
More than half of the roster could be gone in free agency, which means half of them can be new faces in a new place, just like you. They don’t have to be stars, but it wouldn’t hurt if they are — or will be.
No one is looking for it to turn around quickly, but you’re the new guy in town.