Detroit Pistons Say This Is Important To Figure Out Now
While the Detroit Pistons season winds down, the real fun is about to begin. This coming draft and free agency is the most pivotal in over a decade, which could bring real change. Troy Weaver may be ready to hit the gas pedal on the “RESTORE”, despite the losses during his tenure as Pistons GM.
Though the Pistons recognize the losing, Weaver refuses to let that distract from the main goal of the restoration. Which is to produce sustainable winning, rather than emulating the last three Pistons teams swept from the playoffs. That painful history brings back memories of post season boos serenading the reality of no hope for the future.
“Of course there’s time you want to short-cut the process to get there a little faster,” Weaver said. “But is that going to be sustainable? I try to stay principled and make sure we’ll build a sustainable model.”
Like with Weaver, there’s a sense of purpose and consistent refrain from players and coaches. That this season isn’t a waste despite the number of things that went south this winter besides the birds.
If we’re keeping count star Cade Cunningham had season ending shin surgery, and Saddiq Bey got traded. Through 75 games Isaiah Stewart has played 50, and Marvin Bagley only 37 for a duo they had high hopes for. Former Michigan Wolverine and second year Piston Isaiah Livers has gotten run in 48 games, and could continue this injury trend down the roster.
And then there’s Killian Hayes who has struggled with consistency, despite some steps forward. The overwhelming feeling from observers is the flashes of potential are just not enough. And they hope to see winning soon, instead of just hearing about the coming glory.
Blue Colored Shades On
There are more threads of what went wrong observers can pull at, but the Pistons have blinders on for several reasons. At times it seems coach Dwane Casey, Weaver and the players are only looking through Pistons blue colored lenses. But do they have a valid argument to believe in what’s to come, despite repeated finishes in the NBA Draft Lottery?
It was most important to see positive developments from rookies Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren this year. Not next season, or in a few years, but the freshmen dynamic duo had to show this season how they could be depended on.
Ivey has answered the questions of if he could be a playmaker, a three point shooter, and is an improving but capable NBA defender. He also leads all rookies in assist per game, and has shot over 36% from three the last 40 games. He’s had teachable moments on the defensive side, but Ivey has improved over the season. Even after scoring a career 32 points against the Bucks March 27th, coach Dwane Casey was exited about Ivey’s defensive growth.
“I liked his defense. Everybody’s going to look at his offensive output, which we needed every bucket he got, but I thought his defense was pretty good on the pick and roll,” he said. “He’s doing a better job of getting into the ball and impacting the ball to get over screens. He was a pest. He had two deflections in a row towards the end of the game. He’s going to be able to score the ball, but I was impressed with his defense.”
What more can you ask of the thirteenth pick in the 2022 NBA Draft? He came into the season with some observers wondering if a trip to the G-League was a prerequisite. No one knew quite what he was offensively, and defensively showed potential but nothing concrete. The organization acknowledged the glimmers of a bright future, but cautioned patience with Duren as he learns.
“I don’t want to put too much pressure on him, but he reminds me of a guy I recruited since he was 14, Shawn Kemp,” Casey said. “They’re raw the same way, still got to learn the game, but have everything you can’t teach, the athleticism, the power and the jump, the lob threat.”
Duren proved quickly he belonged in the NBA, and will never see the G-League unless it’s for a rehab stint. Once given consistent time he passed the big man triage of active defense, pick and roll, and rebounding with ferocity. “I told him there’s three ways he gets on the floor,” Casey said. “Run his butt off in transition, offensively and defensively; defend his behind off, and then rebound.
Jalen Duren turned in his team-leading 16th double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds (six offensive) tonight against Milwaukee.
He has the most rebounds (522, 8.7/game) and offensive rebounds (203, 3.4/game) through 60 games played in franchise history. pic.twitter.com/NIwf8CdO4W
The Pistons have been focusing on many areas of improvement and player development this year. They’ve also acknowledged team weaknesses including losing Jerami Grant as a plus wing defender. But one area they’ve tried figuring out all season rather than wait, is the starting front court rotation.
Weaver believes for the Pistons to compete they must add more size and toughness similar to teams who’ve beat them up this season. The Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Milwaukee Bucks deploy lineups with multiple bruising front courts players without taking away from perimeter offense. And from the sounds of it, Troy Weaver wants in.
“In the East, if you want to compete and have a chance, you gotta have some big guys,” Weaver remarked. “The top four teams in the East, Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Cleveland, if we want a chance to compete in the East, look at those teams. They’re all top-12 in defense, and they’re all big.”
While there is belief in what Stewart and Bagley can be, Weaver has shown to be proactive as general manager. His philosophy includes stacking as much talent, regardless of position, and to horde assets at this stage in a rebuild. Some found it odd Weaver selected guards in with the Pistons first pick the last three drafts. And then followed it up by trading Saddiq Bey for former number two overall pick James Wiseman. Bey played a position of need on the wing, where as Wiseman joined a crowded front court along side Stewart, Bagley and Duren.
Detroit Pistons Changes on the Way?
It may signal more changes to the core are on the way. In the case of the guards Ivey essentially replaced Hayes in the starting backcourt, and later proved worthy of a portion Bey’s shot attempts.
So the addition of Wiseman could signal long term changes to the starters, or more additions to the front court are on the way. Weaver and Casey have admitted changes are coming this offseason, but they are working now to figure out the bigs.
“We want to continue to look at our bigs and what combinations work in terms of them spacing and being able to score. That’s our biggest challenge right now,” Casey said. “We’re going to continue to look at different things with them to see how they play and what can help them be able to score and utilize each other.”
The season of change just ahead should produce even more spirited play from a roster hoping to prove the investment is worth the wait. Just ask Troy Weaver. It’s been his promise to restore the Pistons to former glory since his first day on the job.
Troy Weaver’s Promise
“We will work day and night, tirelessly, to put a team on the floor that the community can first identify with and second be proud of. My number one goal is for people to come to the arena and feel great about the product. And when we’re on the road, old Pistons like Dave Bing and Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars and Ben Wallace, Rip Hamilton turn on the TV and it just resonates. It looks and feels like a Piston team. We’ll work to ensure we make that happen.”
What’s Next for the Detroit Pistons
Jaden Ivey and the Detroit Pistons play the OKC Thunder on the road, Wednesday, March 29th at 8:00 PM.
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