When Ed Stefanski was hired two years ago to lead the Pistons’ front office, most expected there would be another move coming soon thereafter, with the naming of a general manager.
Stefanski had three assistant general managers but never filled out the front office with a general manager. It was a strange configuration, with no clear second-in-command, and the unusual front-office structure lasted for two years before the Pistons hired Troy Weaver last week.
In the interim, Stefanski and his staff were able to keep the Pistons afloat, navigating through the salary cap and staying away from the luxury tax. They also added a couple of young pieces in the draft and through shrewd trades to buoy their future hopes.
“Ed has come in and done a great job of stabilizing our front office and cleaning some things up,” team owner Tom Gores said this week. “We just felt it was time to go big or go home. Let’s just go get the best. We have a great coach ready to go. Dwane (Casey) and Troy have a great chemistry that they’ve built — that was important to me.”
The synergy between Weaver and Casey will be just one of the key connections that the front office will tap into. Gores’ strategy for rebuilding the front office two years ago was built on collaboration between the key big pieces: Stefanski, vice chairman Arn Tellem, Casey and their direct reports.
When Gores targeted Weaver, it was with the understanding that he would fit within the existing structure and utilize the experience and feedback from the key stakeholders. Weaver brings the eye for talent, but working with the other key pieces helps to solidify everything and ensure everyone is going in the same direction.
“There’ll be a nice divide-and-conquer coming in and again that's why I trust Troy to come in as someone smart enough to leverage resources,” Gores said. “At a high level, we’ll work all this out in the detail. Really, Troy, and Ed and Dwane will work on a day-to-day basis with each other, and Troy will have normal — and even higher than normal — GM responsibilities and he’s got a lot to learn.
“He’s going to get on the ground and know each player well and connect with (Casey) and so on and then as it bubbles up to ownership, Arn and I — if there's big decisions that need to be made — we’ll all gather.”
Tellem has a keen sense of the NBA landscape because of his experience as a former super-agent. His connections have benefited the Pistons in some deals, including getting Derrick Rose, who cited the relationship with Tellem as one of the reasons he chose the Pistons last summer in free agency.
Although Tellem runs the team’s business operations, he wears multiple hats, including representing the Pistons on the NBA’s Board of Governors and consulting on some of the major basketball decisions.
With Weaver in place, the Pistons could have a more traditional structure for the first time since 2018, with plenty of input from the other involved parties. It meant making room for Weaver’s expertise and agreeing to work collaboratively to make it work.
“They all had reasons not to like this, because we're bringing in a very powerful person in Troy,” Gores said. “Troy's got a lot of responsibility and power in this team. I'm just really happy that he's going to leverage all the resources, but at the end of the day, I think Troy will work with Ed on a day-to-day basis and coach, and as things bubble up that need Arn and I, obviously we'll, you know, we'll step in there.”
The first tests will be in the draft and free agency, where the Pistons could make a big splash with a potential top-five pick and in how they might use the bulk of their approximately $30 million in cap space.
In addition to aligning the front office, Weaver also will have a decision to make in adding at least one assistant general manager, after the departure of Malik Rose, who joined the NBA league office this week as a vice president of basketball operations.