Your Detroit Pistons are finally getting in much-needed structured practice time. It’s the second week of group activities for all the teams who did not make the NBA Bubble, and we’re starting to get glimpses of what the Pistons have been working on during their organized team activities (check the Pistons’ Instagram page).
But, despite Dwane Casey’s promises, this is evaluation time for Troy Weaver’s new front office in Detroit. Here are five things I hope Weaver discovers after the Pistons’ OTAs:
Khyri Thomas’ time is up
I honestly feel for Khyri Thomas, who has never found himself healthy enough to capitalize on the promise he showed as the two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year. To add insult to injury, he was starting to get rotation minutes before the Pistons’ season ended.
However, he was just kind of meh in those short rotation minutes. As a second-round pick going into his third year, the Pistons have to exercise his guaranteed money to keep him, which means letting him go is actually easier. And, a new front office that wants to find their own players and make their own mark could actually use the roster spot.
There are a lot of younger, taller, longer, cheaper Khyri Thomases that will be available at the end of this year’s interminable draft period. I suspect the Pistons will move on from the Khyri Thomas they have.
Louis King’s time is now
On the other side of the stay-or-go roster questions, we’ve got this:
Casey: "Louis King has caught my eye a little bit."— James Edwards III (@JLEdwardsIII) September 16, 2020
Louis King had an uneven G-League season, but holds a lot more promise than a guy like Khyri Thomas because of his size and youth. It wouldn’t surprise me if Louis King and Jordan Bone (who we’re going to get to in a minute) both get “promoted” out of their two-way contracts into minimum deals, freeing up the two-way slots for Troy Weaver to make further roster acquisitions.
It also wouldn’t surprise me if “promoting” King and Bone is the only way to retain them because we only have a partial G-League season highlighted by the G-League players the NBA is actually invested in. There are a lot of questions around the 2020-21 G-League season.
There are fewer questions about King. With an improved frame, ballhandling ability, and three-point stroke, it’s easier to squint and see how King should get a look in the rotation. The ballhandling potential is the key; the Pistons have a distinct lack of guys who can create shots for themselves. King flashes the ability to do so, and the strength improvements offer hope that he can covert those shots at a better rate than he did last season.
Justin Patton has a place on this roster
Justin Patton cannot catch a break (Or, as the obvious joke was made on Twitter, he catches too many breaks). Surgery on his pinky finger is keeping him out of OTAs, robbing him of the ability to prove himself against the best big men the Pistons have to offer at this time - Thon Maker and Adam Woodbury.
...Yeah, I was REALLY looking forward to Justin Patton beating up on those guys in OTAs.
Despite Patton being unavailable, I would love to give him a chance on the roster. Patton’s size and strength alongside the shooting ability he flashed in the G-League are why he was a first-round selection, and why I’m bullish on him being a rotation player for this iteration of the Pistons.
“Hey Laz, what’s the difference between Khyri Thomas and Justin Patton, two guys who injuries have robbed of opportunity? You want to cut one and keep the other, that doesn’t seem fair!” That’s a good question strawman, and the answer is that there are a bunch of shooting guards on this team already and not that many big men. Gotta balance the roster.
Luke Kennard’s long-term outlook
This is one of the biggest questions Troy Weaver will have to answer early in his Pistons tenure: What to do with Luke Kennard? The book on Kennard - Good passer, better scorer, not just a shooter, middling-to-bad defensively, a little injury prone? - is out. The head of the previous front office, Ed Stefanski, who is still involved with the team, tried to trade him at this year’s deadline. Kennard is extension-eligible this offseason and the Pistons own his rights as a restricted free agent next offseason (whenever that happens).
However, Weaver hasn’t had the chance to evaluate what kind of player Luke Kennard is with his own eyes. A guy with Weaver’s background in scouting and player personnel would love, I’m sure, to actually see how Luke performs with his teammates, how he responds to his coaches, and how he looks physically after what is functionally an offseason. Weaver wouldn’t want to immediately take some air out of the Pistons’ restoration in a trade if Luke is worth being part of the rebuild.
Jordan Bone is a gem worth polishing
One of the Pistons’ biggest need this offseason is a long-term answer at point guard - in DBB parlance, the mythical PGOTF. That’s probably not Jordan Bone.
...But what if it WAS Jordan Bone?
The numbers Bone put up in the G-League (17 points and 7 assists a night on 43/38/77 shooting) say there’s a real NBA prospect there. How often he was the best player on the floor for the Grand Rapids Drive (and frequently, the best player on either G-League side), say he’s too good to play another 31 G-League games for a team slated to be as bad as the Pistons are. His physical traits - particularly his speed - are unmatched by any other guard currently on the Pistons’ roster.
Even if the Pistons draft a point guard, even if they don’t trade Derrick Rose, there’s room on the roster - and in the rotation - for a point guard with Bone’s attributes.