Pistons relying on Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose to build up young pieces, culture
More than half of the players on the Pistons’ roster have four years or fewer of NBA experience. Only two, Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose, have been named All-Stars.
Four rookies entered the picture this year and the roster was flipped almost completely with more new faces than they had last season.
That’s not the formula for a playoff-contending team, but the Pistons are following general manager Troy Weaver’s blueprint for restoring a championship-level mentality. That means not completely gutting the roster with young players but providing a balance of veteran experience and young talent that will create a new culture.
It’s not going to happen overnight, but with some patience, the hope is that the Pistons can have the core of a winning team in a couple of years when the rookies start to take the reins from Griffin and Rose.
“There are two different ways to rebuild. We took the lesser of the two routes,” coach Dwane Casey said. “Some teams tear it down to play all rookies. My philosophy, Troy's and Tom (Gores’) is if you tear it all the way down and then try to do that, it's years and years before you build it back up because those rookies are learning bad work habits and bad winning habits, and it's hard to get that out of your locker room.
“Our philosophy is to build up with the young guys, plus some veteran teachers and mentors, guys who still are productive and very good players, where they can help.”
It’s an unusual mix of having high-caliber players like Griffin and Rose while also having 19-year-olds like Killian Hayes and Sekou Doumbouya as the future of the franchise. The 76ers had their “Trust the Process” plan and other teams have chosen for a slow build. Weaver has indicated that he wants to be somewhat competitive and to have a watchable product on the court.
That’s what led to adding veterans Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, Wayne Ellington and Delon Wright in the offseason to augment the roster and provide that leadership. Griffin and Rose are the centerpieces and though they’re nearing the back ends of their careers, they still have significant value in building a culture and helping the young players.
“Any time you have an All-NBA player — I've played with a couple of them — they make the game easier for everybody,” Plumlee said. “The game plan is going to focus on them defensively. They're going to give you a base in scoring, 20-plus a night, and it's a luxury for young team to have.
“So, playing with Blake is great, as is D-Rose. I put those guys together and it's a privilege to play with them and I'm looking forward to it.”
It’s not an affront to say that the rookies are the core of the team. Griffin, 31, and Rose, 32, aren’t the same types of players that they were in the twenties and what they can provide in their wisdom, expertise and teaching can be more valuable in the long term than their on-court production.
“These (young) guys are the future of this franchise,” Griffin said. “Derrick and I talk about it all the time. It's our job to bring them along.”
Their mentorship roles have provided a rookie for each of them to connect with. For Rose, it’s Hayes; for Griffin, it’s Saddiq Bey; and for Plumlee, it’s Isaiah Stewart. They help out with some of the other young players as well, but having direct contact starts the chain of continuity and allows them to develop closer working relationships.
Bey worked out with Griffin in Los Angeles and Hayes and Rose have been spending considerable time together in training camp. For Stewart, the time with Plumlee has been very helpful, too.
“He's had an incredible attitude and probably the best attitude of any young player I've been around. He wants to be good, he wants to work and he wants to listen,” Plumlee said of Stewart. “He's going to have a very long career in the NBA. I think he's going to help us this year, too. I'm excited for Isaiah.
“I'll throw him things here and there but his overall approach to the game, to practice, to training camp has been excellent. It's been one week; it's early, but we want to make sure that he still has the same approach come February, March and into the season.”