Pistons

An Idealistic 2020 Pistons Offseason

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Can the Pistons make the 2021 NBA Playoffs?

No. They can’t. That’s the answer, thank you for reading the article.

I’m kidding– of course they can! In a league that saw Linsanity happen, Elgin Baylor average 38 points and 18 rebounds — while actively serving in the military and only being allowed to play games while on his weekend release — and successfully (so far) play quality NBA games in the midst of a global pandemic, it wouldn’t be the craziest moment in NBA history. So the obvious next question would be to ask “how can a 20-46 Pistons team with very little influence on the free agent market turn their trajectory around in one offseason?”. Well, a person with no experience on team building other than 2K MyLeague is here to play quarterback and examine a few options that could lead to team success.

Step 1: The Draft

While there is hope the Pistons can move up, we’re going to work through this assuming they won’t. One downside to this draft is that this is a notoriously weak draft class. All signs point to this class having very few impact players, especially franchise-altering stars. The 2K GM in me wants to trade this pick for an established player, but that seems like a cop-out so I’ll avoid doing that.

That leads me to selecting a player with professional basketball experience with this pick. LaMelo Ball, RJ Hampton and our pick, Deni Avdija all qualify. While relatively unknown, Deni is a 6’9” playmaking wing who has experience playing with Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Israeli Premier League. While Deni has his rough spots — like shooting 28% from three — he can handle the rock, shoot well inside the arc (60%), and rebound well for for his position at nearly seven per 36 minutes. Deni’s toughness and experience are what Detroit can look forward to most in this hypothetical scenario. Also, LaMelo, James Wiseman, Anthony Edwards, Obi Toppin will most likely be off the board by this time in the draft, so this was a choice between prospects I anticipate will be available.

Step 2: Free Agency

Now that we have Deni aboard, let’s look into possible free agent acquisitions. The Pistons are currently projected to have $34.9 million in cap space this offseason, which is great! Nothing a fan loves more than their team going into the free-agent period with that much cap space, right?

Conversely, let’s look at Detroit’s recent less-than-desirable free agent pick-ups:

  • Langston Galloway
  • Jon Leuer
  • Reggie Jackson
  • Ben Gordon
  • Charlie Villanueva
  • And of course, Josh Smith

So clearly free agency isn’t a strength of the Pistons in recent years, but that won’t stop us from trying.  We’re going to avoid the wishful thinking of “AD opts out from the Lakers and decides playing next to Svi Mykhailiuk and Luke Kennard is what he really wants to do” and focus on more “realistic” signings. This would include Detroit trying to sign Fred VanVleet for somewhere in the $18-$22 million/year range. Also, we could hope to round out our free agency with a Jerami Grant signing for $10-12 million/year.

Step 3: Review

So, what did I just do to the Pistons? Well, probably kept us in the middle of the pack, where they’ve been stuck at for years now. One of the worst places to be in the NBA is to be too good for a top-five pick, but too bad to be a legitimate title contender.

The exercise, however, was to propel us into the 2021 playoffs, and this may have accomplished that goal. Detroit’s new projected starting lineup is now Fred VanVleet, Luke Kennard, Tony Snell, Blake Griffin and Christian Wood. Our bench is made up of dynamic 6th man Derrick Rose, rookie Deni Avdija and Jerami Grant. This lineup certainly has the offensive fire power, with VanVleet’s playmaking ability, Kennard and Snell’s shooting, Griffin’s skill and newfound three-point stroke, Rose’s rediscovered form, as well as Deni’s ability to play meaningful minutes. 

Is there enough defense, though? Wood, Crowder, VanVleet and Grant are all above-average, switchable defenders that play hard every possession, so that’s a good start. Conversely, you can only hide players like Griffin, Gallinari, Kennard and Rose for so long.  It SHOULD work in the regular season, where matchup hunting isn’t nearly as prevalent as it is in the playoffs, where those defenders will be attacked through switches all night long.  

Step 4: Conclusion

So the lineup looks solid, the offense will be effective, and the defense looks passable. Was our goal accomplished? Will I be replacing Troy Weaver? Will I be hearing from Tom Gores soon? Well, I think we built a playoff team. A low-level, sixth-through-eighth seed contender.  Will this win us a championship? Probably not. Will this get me a GM job in the NBA? Even more unlikely. But did we succeed in turning the 2020 Pistons into a playoff team? Possibly. As always with a team whose core is made up of injury-riddled stars in Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose, health is going to be the x-factor. The most we can do as Pistons fan is to hope. We hope Christian Wood decides he loves playing in Detroit. And most of all, we hope we can find success and build on that moving forward.

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About Andrew Gregg

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