The Detroit Pistons are gunning toward rising from the scrap heap into the thick of the playoff race next season. It is something General Manager Troy Weaver is not bold enough to say, but his actions speak louder than words.
This is why 33-year-old veteran Bojan Bogdanovic remains on the roster. It is why 7-foot project James Wiseman joined the roster before the trade deadline. Weaver did not sell, hoping to build draft capital, despite having the second-worst record in the NBA.
Weaver is telling us he’s made the right moves in his three years as GM. And that this roster needs maturity to reach the next level, not wait for more the next influx of players. You may not believe this roster is able to make a playoff push. I may not believe it. But the man in charge does.
The Pistons have a talented roster that can win with more seasoning. The problem this season is they lost their main spark in Cade Cunningham to injury. The Pistons can only go as far as Cunningham can carry them.
The other issue is no matter how loudly Coach Dwane Casey preaches defense, he cannot get this team to make stops. Defense has been the linchpin to every Pistons championship. Weaver knows this. That is why he did not sell before the trade deadline. Instead, he brought in Wiseman and told him to rebound and defend.
Fans will focus on his offensive numbers, but the Pistons are more interested in how he defends the paint and prevents offensive rebounds. Wiseman is the modern version of Ben Wallace and Dennis Rodman, although not as good.
Did the Pistons Catch a Break?
Some pundits in the Bay area believe the Golden State Warriors gave up on Wiseman too soon. They should have banked on Wiseman and given up on fading Draymond Green.
“We all love James, like that’s the biggest thing,” guard Steph Curry told reporters earlier this month. “He’s a guy you root for. It’s a guy that you know will be able to figure it out. It’s a guy that approaches each part of his job the right way, has a great attitude considering everything he’s been through and the expectations around him and the conversations around him. A lot of confidence that he’ll be around this league a long time. I don’t know what his ceiling is, [but] it’s a guy I want to see figure it out and have an opportunity.”
Weaver is enamored with Wiseman. I like his game too, although for the wrong reasons. I like that Wiseman can shoot, has a handle and can create his own shot.
The Pistons are searching for grit from him. They want him to be able to compete down in the block with Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid. Wiseman can never outplay Embiid. His job, along with sidekick Jalen Duran, is to make sure guys like Embiid don’t kick sand in the Pistons’ face. Wiseman must be tougher than former Piston Andre Drummond who freaked out every time he faced this man.
The Washington Wizards, who hold the final play-in spot, are 14 games better than the Pistons. Could the addition of Cunningham this season make up that gap?
Probably not. However, Weaver is banking on one more year of seasoning with Cunningham to make up the gap. This man is playing his hand as if the Pistons can make the playoffs during the 2023-24 season.
Let’s see if he is playing his cards right.
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