Beard: Pistons' rebuilding process is still in the boarding phase

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
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Pistons general manager Troy Weaver doesn’t come across as a man who likes to lose. Not in basketball, not in a video game, not in a foot race.

Probably not even in solitaire.

When he took the job this summer, Weaver took over a roster that had finished just 20-46 last season and after dealing Andre Drummond at the trade deadline and parting with Reggie Jackson, Markieff Morris and a few other veterans, they were well on their way to a roster reshaping.

Detroit Pistons rookie guard Killian Hayes won't be under the magnifying glass as much as other first-year players with a surrounding cast that includes veterans like Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin.

Weaver hastened the makeover when he first had a chance, executing a flurry of trades and deals that brought additional first-round picks and augmenting a young roster with some veterans. The moves were quick and somewhat shocking, sending some of their most promising players, such as Luke Kennard and Bruce Brown and trading them away for seemingly nothing.

What’s more, they didn’t bring back Christian Wood, one of their best players late in the season, and instead letting him go to the Houston Rockets in an eventual sign-and-trade. When the smoke cleared, the Pistons had just four remaining players from last season — and with a short preseason and an even shorter training camp, several question marks remain.

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Four preseason games have provided some insight into how things could look once the regular season starts on Wednesday, but already, fans have done plenty of head-scratching after some of Weaver’s moves.

Why did they trade the young pieces? Why pay Jerami Grant $20 million per year and not Wood? Why trade for some players, only to waive them and stretch their salaries over the next five years?

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“We wanted to get these players and construct this team a certain way,” Weaver said this month. “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 premature criticism is akin to hiring a contractor for a major renovation and then demanding certain materials be used. And then telling the contractor which tools to use to do it. And then standing over the contractor’s shoulder while the work was being done.  

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According to FiveThirtyEight.com,  the Pistons are projected to go 18-54 and have the NBA’s worst record. No matter what Weaver did with the roster he inherited, the Pistons probably would have been hard-pressed to make the playoffs this season

Turning the roster and starting the rebuild is what some fans said they wanted after being on a treadmill of mediocrity for years. Well, this is what it looks like to come out of that mediocrity. Things probably are going to go down a bit before they go back up. Weaver and coach Dwane Casey have talked about creating a new culture, which means tearing up some things in the rebuild and discarding some things of value to bring in the things they want.

It’s not always going to be pretty — as anyone who has had a home renovation can attest — but the Pistons are a long way from the finished product.

Trying to judge anything about the Pistons at this point is an exercise in futility. They haven’t played a regular-season game yet. They haven’t had a chance on the court to surprise or disappoint.

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Give it a season. Heck, give it a couple of months, at least, before drawing a hasty conclusion. There is more evidence in Weaver’s history with the Oklahoma City Thunder, a franchise that consistently flipped its roster through the eras of James Harden, Kevin Durant, Paul George and many more, the Thunder remained a playoff team.

Pistons fans would take that over what they’ve been through for the past decade.

The Drive takes a look at some takeaways from the preseason:

►  Killian Hayes is going to be fine: There were some naysayers after his first preseason game, when he had seven turnovers and looked like he was trying to do too much with his passes. He settled down in the last three games and reeled in his turnovers and was in the flow of the offense. He never looked like he didn’t belong on the court, and he didn’t look lost on defense.

► Some gambles pay off: Weaver took a chance on Josh Jackson, who looks to be one of the highlights of the preseason. He has developed into a quality player on both ends of the court and could be a critical piece that provides some of the defense that Brown brought, while also adding some needed offense. The former top-five pick came home to Detroit and could be in line for a resurgent season. The same could be coming for Jahlil Okafor, who was signed to a minimum contract and has had some fumbled passes but has had some good plays in the post.

► The bench will be good: Derrick Rose was a given, but the development of Svi Mykhailiuk and Sekou Doumbouya, along with Jackson and Okafor, could provide the backbone for a solid second group. Casey has said the rotation is still in flux, but there will be fluctuations in minutes and not necessarily in personnel. Rookies Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart also will seek time.

► Griffin looks ready: Blake Griffin hadn’t played since last December because of knee surgery and after he went through rehab, he looked fine in the preseason. That was one of the biggest questions coming out of the offseason and it looks as if Griffin will be more of a facilitator than primary scorer, with Grant taking on some of that scoring load. Griffin has resisted a minutes restriction, but he won’t get ramped up too quickly.

► Roster flexibility: The Pistons will be able to play different many different styles because of their roster. They can go big with 6-foot-9 Grant as a small forward, they can go small, with Grant or Doumbouya at center, and they can plug in different lineups to go small with three ball-handlers: Hayes, Rose and Wright. It’s the structure that many teams are going to in the new NBA.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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