It’s been a rough 2019-20 Pistons season. There is one bright side, though. It’s been rough enough that it’s finally convinced the Pistons front office and ownership that a rebuild needs to happen. Hopefully.
After more than a decade of attempts to rebuild on the fly, even though the previous iteration could never actually be considered something that was actually “built,” it sounds like the franchise has finally, at least kinda, come to peace with the reality that has been staring at them in the face for years.
The Detroit Pistons need an honest-to-goodness teardown, rebuild, and to define a legitimate strategy to make the franchise relevant.
Well. At least, they’ve acknowledged the first part. It’s unclear that owner Tom Gores and general manager Ed Stefanski are aware the rest is also a necessary ingredient.
Michael Pina of SBNation outlined the “why” for the rebuild already. At this point, those whys are obvious to any Pistons fan who has suffered through this season. But the short version is:
- The team has been built to force (or allow) Andre Drummond to play toward toward his worst instincts and not his greatest strengths. by the franchise.
- Blake Griffin may be damaged goods.
- When Derrick Rose is your team’s best player ... you’ve got problems.
- There’s only one mention of Reggie Jackson, and it’s that he represents salary filler
This core, quite simply, isn’t good enough. Now the question is what is the most effective method for the franchise to dig themselves out of its current hole.
So what’s next?
Let’s start with what’s not next. A Sam Hinkie-style tank job. There is rebuilding, there is tanking and then there is TANKING. Most people talking about the Pistons tanking isn’t hoping to recreate the Hinkie era. Everyone knows that lottery reform ended the incentive of 10-win seasons. So please, remember it’s not as simple as “trying to lose.” That’s not the goal.
Way back in 2012, DBB’s Mike Payne showed the blueprint for tanking properly:
The proper way to tank is to adjust your most competitive lineup by inserting younger, less experienced players. It might also be the best way for a team-in-transition to develop its younger generation. It’s also a way to run early auditions for players the team might want to sign for the following season. The Pistons could effectively be improving their team for next season while increasing their lottery odds at the same time. This isn’t losing for the sake of losing, it’s about developing young players with a lottery payoff.
That’s still completely valid. And it also requires clearing the roster of players currently filling those roles while also potentially getting assets in return.
The word “tanking” has a loaded background. Blame Hinkie for that. It’s not about intentionally losing games, it’s about getting younger, identifying players who can be a part of your future, and as a side benefit improving your draft position. There are lots of ways to rebuild a roster - through the draft, trades, free agency, or a combination of each. But each is likely to include a version of a renewed focus on youth and development.
The strategy that the Pistons use to rebuild is up to them. Just go ahead and pick one and stick to the plan.
How to run a failed garage sale
Have you ever had a family member hold one one of those yard sales where people are just trying to get rid of their junk, but still think it’s really valuable? They have some brass chandelier with imitation crystal and no one wants it just because no one decorates their house that way anymore. It’s covered in dust, faded, and shabby, but, for some reason, it’s priced at $75. The end result?
The point of having a garage sale is to get rid of stuff. Hopefully you get a little money out of the exchange, but if not, it’s not that big of a deal. If you sell that chandelier for $10 instead of the $75 you thought it was worth, well, that $65 probably wasn’t going to be the big difference-maker in your life. Because the alternative is keeping it for even longer, letting it continue to deteriorate to the point where you have to pay some dude with a truck who picks up junk to come haul it out of your house for you.
Unrelated: Shams Charania of The Athletic said, “So far in the Pistons talks to potentially move Andre Drummond, Detroit is reportedly asking teams for one or two first round picks or young players in exchange.”
Drummond isn’t part of the Pistons future. Neither is Derrick Rose, Markieff Morris, and Tony Snell. All are on contract for the Pistons next year, albeit with player options. Prior to the game against the Pelicans, the Pistons have played six games in the month of January. Drummond leads the team in minutes at 33.8, Rose is at 29.9 (fifth most on team) and Snell at 26.1 (sixth) and Morris played 14 minutes during his one game back from injury. Those are minutes and valuable crunch time expeirences that could have gone toward finding future fixtures of the franchise.
There are also the expiring contracts of Reggie Jackson and Langston Galloway. In the past, expiring contracts have had greater value than this season. So despite their status as not having a role with the Pistons long term, the days of using an expiring pick to take on an extra year or two with a pick or young player as a thank you likely won’t apply this season. But still, Galloway can generate interest as a rental.
The most important thing is to acknowledge that this is a garage sale and to keep in mind the mission of a garage sale. Hopefully you make a little money in a garage sale, but that’s not the primary goal. The primary goal is to make sure that you don’t get caught up haggling over $5 and wind up having to put those exact same items out for sale a year from now.
So what are they going to do with all of those open minutes?
This is where it gets fun.
I mean, isn’t it fun having a player like Christian Wood? He’s 24 years old, averaging 20 points and 11 rebounds per 36 minutes, has a 65% true shooting percentage. He’s not perfect by any means, but he’s one of the better backup power forwards in the league this year.
There are plenty more Christian Woods out there. Let's find them.
Some of these guys might currently be playing in the G League. Some might be second draft players. Or change-of-scenery players.
Then, of course, next season is where the NBA Draft comes in. DBB will be there with more specifics breaking down what’s to come (or at least, what should be to come) and who could be targets in the next phase of the Pistons rebuild.
An Andre Drummond trade is the first step of it. Hopefully it comes soon.