Pistons head to free agency with some money to spend after two days of drafting and dealing
In a couple of weeks, when the Pistons players arrive for the first day of training camp, it’s going to resemble the first day at a new school for even the team’s veteran players.
There will be plenty of new faces on the court, and some of them will be meeting for the first time — and that’s not just the rookies.
After a whirlwind day of dealing, climaxing with Wednesday’s NBA draft, Pistons general manager Troy Weaver has turned over more than half of the roster that finished last season with a dismal 20-46 record in March.
It’s been an extended summer vacation — and nametags might be needed for the newcomers. After Weaver made five trades this week, the longest-tenured Pistons player is Blake Griffin, acquired in a trade in January 2018. Only Griffin and Svi Mykhailiuk remain from the 2018-19 roster.
From last season’s roster, only Griffin, Mykhailiuk, Derrick Rose and Sekou Doumbouya remain under contract. The Pistons still have a decision to make on whether they want to re-sign big man Christian Wood, one of their most promising players when the season ended.
With their pick in the draft, the Pistons selected 19-year-old point guard Killian Hayes with the No. 7 overall pick. The trades set the stage for a wild week that only increases in intensity Friday with the opening of free agency. Teams can negotiate with free agents but can’t sign new deals until Sunday.
The consensus was that the Pistons needed to reshape the roster and with a projected $30 million in cap space, the focus seemed to be on improving primarily through free agency, with some small moves in the draft.
Weaver’s strategy turned out to be invading all aspects of the offseason.
“It was important to me that we really attack the draft. We're going to attack free agency; we're going to attack everything,” Weaver said following the draft. “I said this was going to be a restoring. In two iterations of the great Pistons teams, that was their mentality. They were aggressive and they were on the attack, and we want to follow suit.
“That's the mantra and hopefully we continue to be aggressive and set the tone.”
Here’s a breakdown of the moves that Weaver has made this week to reshape the roster:
Draft and trades
The new additions on draft night included Hayes, as Weaver bypassed another top prospect at point guard, Tyrese Haliburton, to get the player they wanted. The reasoning provides a glimpse into the profile of players that Weaver seems to prefer — and how the rest of the roster may be assembled.
“Size and physicality. (Hayes) has got great size, he's physical at the point of attack on offense and defense, so his physicality and size stood out,” Weaver said.
Three other trades brought two more first-round picks: Washington center Isaiah Stewart (No. 16) and Villanova forward Saddiq Bey (No. 19), along with Vanderbilt guard Saben Lee (38th) in the second round.
Because the Pistons started the week with about $30 million of space in the salary cap, they were able to take on some veterans in the trades, with forward Trevor Ariza in the deal with the Houston Rockets and the 16th pick, guard Rodney McGruder and the 19th pick coming from the Clippers in the trade for Luke Kennard and center Tony Bradley and the 38th selection from the Utah Jazz.
Thursday, Weaver made another deal, sending Tony Snell and Khyri Thomas to the Atlanta Hawks for center Dewayne Dedmon. That trade created another roster spot and gave the Pistons a little more cap room to work with.
The frenzy started Monday, with the Pistons sending Bruce Brown to the Brooklyn Nets for Dzana Musa and a 2021 second-round pick.
With the trades and players added, the Pistons cut into their cap space, with adding Dedmon ($13.3 million guaranteed), Ariza ($8 million), McGruder ($5 million), Bradley ($3.5 million) and Musa ($2 million).
When free agency kicks off Friday, the Pistons are projected to have about $9 million available, but they can make some additional trade to help clear cap space. A league source indicated that Thursday’s trade was made to create more space, which could mean that Dedmon could be dealt again.
The Pistons’ primary focus will be on Wood, who is regarded as one of the top available free agents on the market. Because Wood is an unrestricted free agent, he can go to any team for any price. There are only a few teams — including the Knicks, Hornets and Hawks — that had enough room to sign Wood outright.
More teams have the midlevel exception available, which could make the starting price around $9.3 million. Some pundits expect Wood’s raise from his minimum salary of about $1.7 million last season to get to at least $10 million to $12 million.
If the Pistons are unable to re-sign Wood, they also could negotiate a sign-and-trade deal to be able to get Wood a bigger deal and to get some assets.
Given the roster construction following the slew of trades, the biggest positional needs seem to be shooting guard and small forward. Depending on where they end up with Wood, they could look to bring back Langston Galloway, who made $7.3 million last season. They could also pursue Garrett Temple ($4.8 million last year), Wesley Mathews ($2.6 million) and others in that price range.
At small forward, some of the options include Josh Jackson ($7.1 million) and Rodney Hood ($5.7 million), among others.
Judging by the attrition that’s happened in the early part of the week, there still can be much more that changes before the weekend is done.
Here’s a look at the Pistons’ roster after two days of deals:
► Guards: Derrick Rose, Killian Hayes, Svi Mykhailiuk, Rodney McGruder, Saben Lee, Jaylen Hands.
► Forwards: Blake Griffin, Sekou Doumbouya, Trevor Ariza, Saddiq Bey, Louis King.
► Centers: Dewayne Dedmon, Tony Bradley, Isaiah Stewart.