With free-agent additions, GM Troy Weaver works to shift Pistons culture, identity
Before the start of free agency, Pistons general manager Troy Weaver had his wish list and in the first few hours, he focused his attention on a select few to try to augment the roster. Weaver already had radically reshaped the roster with a slew of trades and three first-round picks in the draft.
The primary targets were two former Denver Nuggets: Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee. Also high on the list was athletic wing Josh Jackson, who grew up in Detroit.
Amid Weaver’s roster upheaval was a plan to establish a different culture and identity for the Pistons. It may take a while for the rookies to get there, but Grant already brings many of the qualities that Weaver covets, which is why he was the top priority.
“Jerami was the guy — he was No. 1 on the list to go after with his versatility, his growing, budding offense, but more importantly, what he brings every day to the Pistons,” Weaver said Wednesday via teleconference. “He's a guy who comes in and works hard; he's professional. He's a great teammate, all the things we want to embody.
“The Pistons had two iterations of great teams (The Bad Boys and Goin’ to Work teams) and Jerami could play on both teams. Josh as well.”
With Plumlee, 30, the Pistons got their starting center and a dynamic piece to add to their frontcourt. Weaver likes Plumlee’s communication, his athleticism and most of all, his ability to help the Pistons improve in the pick-and-roll.
That’ll be critical for the development of first-round pick Killian Hayes, Plumlee’s potential pick-and-roll partner, and establishing a consistent on-court presence in the paint.
Some have questioned whether Plumlee is worth the three-year deal for $25 million, but Plumlee’s fit with the off-court intangibles and the way he can help others be better made him stand out from other options.
“Mason is a very smart player, who's great in quick actions and great in pick-and-roll and he's got a great voice on defense,” Weaver said. “He's going to help the young bigs grow as well as the guards, Killian and the rest of the young perimeter players we have.
“He brings a wealth of knowledge to the game — high IQ, along with great size and a great motor. He's a welcome addition as well.”
With Weaver’s reputation as a talent evaluator, those two big names are the ones that have drawn the most focus, but some of the other new faces bring a level of intrigue to the new season and what the new roster can accomplish in the short time before the season starts during the week of Dec. 22.
Jackson, 23, has plenty more upside that he hasn’t reached yet in his first three NBA seasons with the Phoenix Suns and last season with the Memphis Grizzlies. Jackson, who was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 draft, hasn’t found the right fit in his first stops, but in a Detroit homecoming, he could find a different outcome.
“It means a lot to me to be a part of this organization,” Jackson said Wednesday. “I grew up going to Pistons games all my life — really around the time where they were really good, so I'm here with a mindset of just getting back to that, back to those games that I used to watch as a kid, and just winning games in my home city.”
One of the issues with getting through the initial trades and added draft picks and eventually getting the deals in free agency was the maze of roster moves, including waiving and stretching the contracts of Dewayne Dedmon and Zhaire Smith, which will be a small hit — about $4 million — on the salary cap for the next couple of years.
It seemed to be a casualty of getting the players that Weaver wanted, to take on that extra salary and then discard it.
“It's part of the deal. We wanted to get these players and construct this team a certain way,” Weaver said. “The stretching and dead money is just part of it, but it won't inhibit us in any way from moving forward and sticking with our plan.”
The Pistons also announced they had signed free-agent center Jahlil Okafor, wing Deividas Sirvydis and guard Wayne Ellington, who played with the Pistons in the 2018-19 season.