Pistons Should Continue to Trust the Stefanski Process


It is easy to react to a lost season emotionally.  Fans had expectations for this season with the Pistons, but too many injuries have thrown that out of whack.  This has turned a vocal portion of the fan base to turn to younger players on the roster for hope for the future.  This is not uncommon, as plenty teams have turned to tanking to jump-start their rebuild.  The most glaring example is the Process-era Sixers, but they are far from the only one.  That being said, it is not the only option that should be followed.

The governing brain trust of the Detroit Pistons, chiefly comprised of Ed Stefanski and Dwane Casey, seem to have chosen a different path for their rebuild.  Lately this is drawing the ire of some Pistons fans, but this may be misplaced.  The key questions are what are the objections and do they have a point?

The Issue at Hand

Currently looking toward the trade deadline, the Pistons have reportedly made every player on the roster available for the right offer.  This notion combined with an injury-riddled losing season have led some fans to wish for a full-on tank and send away most if not all of the veterans on the team.  This would be a mistake, plain and simple.  While giving the young players the opportunity to grow is an essential part of any rebuild, learning from veterans rather than being completely thrown into the fire is needed.  Many teams have attempted many years of losing to build a young core only to see them fail because they never had a stable culture to build winning habits.  The Knicks and the Kings have done a fantastic job over the years of providing a chaotic environment that makes it impossible for learning to occur.


Derrick Rose seems like he is turning into the consummate veteran leader in his role in Detroit and this is not something to rush to give away.  While he would have value for any team looking to pursue a title this year, the Pistons should not move on from him for just any offer.  If he could be around to continue mentoring Bruce Brown and a potential lottery-pick point guard this summer, that could mean much more for the teams long-term future than a second round pick from a top-tier playoff team.  While Reggie Jackson serves a similar function, few experts would argue that he is a better leader than Rose– even if he is underrated in that regard.

Options Still Exist

This is not to say that trades should not be made.  Listening to the market is the mark of a smart organization and Ed Stefanski has shown that he is patient and creative in terms of making moves.  Langston Galloway, Markieff Morris and Tony Snell should all be dangled as they are not part of the long-term future, especially considering Galloway as an expiring piece.  Shooting off the bench is always at a premium in the playoffs and may be able to net future assets similar to what is rumored to be offered for Andre Drummond and Derrick Rose.

While the previous section details why to keep Derrick Rose, a move is not without merit.  If the right package is presented it is worth moving on and trusting the mentoring to other veterans on the team.  Previous rumors indicated a possible swap of the polarizing young Laker, Kyle Kuzma.   Zhaire Smith from Philadelphia has also been mentioned.  If the Pistons get to take a swing on an intriguing young prospect it may be worth it.  For salary filler and a future second rounder, not so much.

The Big Elephant Still in the Room

Andre Drummond is still a member of the Detroit Pistons.  After the Woj Bomb last month indicating he was on the market, it did not seem like this was a possibility.  However, this was amended last week with the reports that the market has completely dried up.  While Andre has worn on some of the cynical fans accepting that holding him for the right move makes sense.  Reports that Atlanta would put no picks in a deal for Drummond makes any sort of trade with them untenable.

Drummond is not the perfect face of the franchise.  In fact, he may be far from it in today’s NBA.  But he is the rare star that likes being in Detroit and wants to win here.  Ditto for Derrick Rose.  While this does not make them unmovable by any stretch of the imagination, it is an important factor.  As a market that has struggled with free agents in the past having veterans advocate for the Motor City helps.

If the biggest issue with keeping Drummond is that he may walk for nothing, given the possible returns in the market for him this could be a blessing in disguise.  Many teams have used space to take back contracts with assets attached rather than pursuing free agents.  This is a long-term leverage play that may bore some fans but at the end of the day there are some harsh realizations that they have to come to in trusting Stefanski and Coach Casey.

Trust Our GM

It is easy to understand why the past decade has made it tough to trust the Pistons management team.  The end of the Joe Dumars era was marred by bad spending and a string of questionable coaching hires.  After Flip Saunders left, the Pistons employed Michael Curry, John Kuester, Lawrence Frank, Maurice Cheeks and John Loyer to end the Dumars tenure.  That illustrious list combined for a record of 179-297.  Then Van Gundy and Bower came to town and went 152-176 .  They also wasted most of their picks and hard-capped a team that only made the playoffs once.  So why trust now when this is the recent history?

Starting with Ed Stefanski, he has had little in the way of cap flexibility and picks since taking over– given that he has done an overall admirable job.  Bringing in Derrick Rose on a team-friendly deal is obviously a win.  Taking Bruce Brown in the second round has proved wise.  Getting a pick and Svi Mykhailiuk out of the expiring contract for Reggie Bullock last season is a clear win.  The jury is still out on Sekou Doumbouya obviously but it was an insightful pick.  Finally, making the unpopular choice nationally keeping Christian Wood over Joe Johnson was the right call.  Ed Stefanski will be going into his first off season with meaningful cap space this summer so it will be his first true test.

Trust Our Coach

Then there is Coach Dwane Casey.  Fans dislike the quick hook on the rookie, but this is misplaced.  Doumbouya came out of the gate strong once he became a starter but has looked lost since then.  The rookie appears to be getting into his own head.  Throwing him to the wolves is a quick way to ruin his confidence.  While the Twitter fans think they know the best way to develop players, Casey has a proven track record.  Whether it be his time in Toronto with Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and more or his tenure here it is promising.

Fans complained earlier this season with the way he coached Wood and benched him when he would make mistakes.  Now he looks like he has figured it out in the month of January.  Minutes are not guaranteed just because you were drafted early, even with a team that is struggling.  Teaching young players that they need to earn their minutes and have good habits is good coaching.  Ultimately, the coach is there to win games and develop for the future.

If Doumbouya has not shown the coaching staff in tape and at practice that he is ready for extended minutes, then trusting Coach Casey to develop him has basis.  Similar to football and loving the backup quarterback, NBA fans love the next young hyped young guy.  Once Christian Wood leaped over Thon Maker in the lineup everyone clamored for Doumbouya to be called up.  Once he came up — and before Reggie Jackson came back — there were screams for G-League standout Jordan Bone.  With Andre Drummond on the trade market, Louis King has become the next hyped target.  Just because the vocal fan base wants every young player brought up does not mean it is the correct path.

Down the Stretch

There are only 31 games left in Detroit’s season, unless they miraculously make the playoffs.  Fans will get the chance to see plenty of the young guys as they earn their minutes and get a little more run in Grand Rapids to build confidence and grow.  Those who wanted the tear-down and rebuild will likely have to get used to this.  The process will likely take a few years of lots of losing.  Doumbouya will be taking his lumps alongside whoever the team drafts this summer and beyond.  Stefanski and Casey have a proven track record of smart drafting and developing young players.  Give them a chance to show that here.  Trust their process.

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About Corey Rausch

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