It's an open secret in the NBA that only a few select teams get the consistent opportunity to meet with franchise-changing free agents. The nexus of basketball success past and present, marketing dollars, and desirable climate gives some teams a leg up on on making league-shattering acquisitions on July 1.
The Detroit Pistons are not one of those teams.
I could give you the list of the major personnel acquisitions in Pistons history, and it'd take you a minute to find the best free agent signing (Hint: Scroll to 2002). Detroit's attempts to build potential contenders in July and August have, at least in my lifetime, proved ... disastrous.
This is also an open secret: Everyone knows you don't build a championship contender out of free agents, you do it through the draft and trades. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen were traded to the Celtics. LeBron James and Chris Bosh never join the Heat if Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley aren't already well-established there. The Warriors are proud (too proud, some would say) of drafting the Splash-y core of their championship team.
Every year, though, fans clamor for big signings. Our collective excitement drown out the voices of history. The Pistons have expressed interest in Al Horford! Jodie Meeks could be traded for cap room! Marvin Williams can't want THAT much money, right?
When the Pistons don't make a big move July 1, don't be surprised. History says it was the more likely outcome. Last year it was Danny Green and DeMarre Carrol, both of whom didn't even take meetings with Detroit (there was sadness at DBB). The year before it was Luol Deng and Isaiah Thomas. And the year before was Andre Iguodala (and, of course, Mr. Stretch Provision, a picture-perfect presentation of free agency pitfalls).
In the two short years the Pistons have had Stan Van Gundy as their President of Basketball Operations, roster construction hasn't been done with 12:01 A.M sit-downs or Stockholm Syndrome Funtime. It's been done with grueling in-season player evaluation, a jujitsu-like dedication to using opponents' mistakes against them, and (I'm gonna guess here) lots and LOTS of phone calls.
This July is going to be low-key in Detroit, like the last few have been. Overtures will be made, but we know the end result. No Al Horford, no Marvin Williams, no Jeremy Lin, no Evan Fournier or Jordan Clarkson. But with the cap explosion, teams are going to need to make room for free agents they won't actually sign - and that's where SVG and Jeff Bower shine.
I'm at DDB, I can give the All-Star Superman version of how the roster's been built. Three legitimate starters -- Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris and Tobias Harris -- were acquired for six legitimate bench players (Shawne Williams + Caron Butler = Ersan Ilyasova, post-Achilles Brandon Jennings, Kyle Singler, D.J. Augustin).
Each team had reasons to make the decisions that they did -- Reggie would have walked out of town, Marcus was the usual Sarver miscalculation, and Tobias was the luxury couch that can't fit through your doorway -- but ultimately, they had to give up starter-level talent because of roster construction mistakes.
Teams are going to make similar mistakes this offseason. Houston is already dangling Patrick Beverley to clear space. The Clippers would have to part with someone to make room for Kevin Durant. Players on the Cleveland bench could definitely come down with the "Disease of More."
SOMEONE will have to help facilitate the DeMarcus Cousins farewell tweetstorm.
By mostly staying out of the free agency pool, SVG has paddled the Pistons into a place where they don't need to make a big splash to be a top team in the East.
So, when the clock strikes midnight this Friday and Jeremy Lin has a huge offer from New York, Al Horford takes the five-year deal only Atlanta can provide, Dwight Howard provides Mark Cuban with the size he's coveted since 2011, and Kevin Durant has the whole of NBA Twitter holding its collective breath, don't worry.
Other teams will be making splashes. SVG and Bower will be watching the ripples. Very, very carefully.