Top 10 WORST Troy Weaver GM moves (Part 2)

Keeping it going, Part 2 of Troy Weaver's Top 10 WORST decisions as Detroit Pistons General Manager. Here it goes... the Top 5 WORST decisions.

5. Cap salary management (or, "Was Troy a Wiseman to give Bagley a bag, or is he a Dedmon walking?")

We've heard it from the insiders like JEIII, 2023-24 is the year where the Pistons were supposed to make the leap forward and vying for the Play-In Tournament. While we are all excited to get Cade back, and are looking forward to internal growth from our other young pieces, to go from 17 wins to the high 30s/low 40s wins needed for the play-in, in an Eastern Conference where the competition is getting stiffer every season, its hard to believe we're going to get there this next season with internal growth alone.

Because of this, the Pistons could benefit from an injection of more proven talent from free agency. The problem is there is only about $25-30 mil to work with this season, assuming Burks and Livers are retained and the Pistons do not retain any of the following players: Hami, Corey, Rodney, RJ Hampton, Buddy, Rhoden, and Eugene. That's really not very much money to play with; it basically means we could sign one mid-high cap guy, or two mid-cap guys. I don't think that adding either of these kinds of player combos will necessarily put the Pistons in a genuine place for contending for the play-in this season, especially given the talent available, and that Detroit will have to overpay to attract talent given geography and the lack of winning culture. I'm not even really sure that Jerami could be reacquired at this point for the money available.

It doesn't feel right that the Pistons only have a modest amount of cap space given that they're the worst team in the league. Compared with 'competing' low-end Eastern Conference teams also vying for the Play-In like Indiana, Chicago and Charlotte, the Pistons have less money to play with. When you look at those contracts for Bagley ($12.5m), Wiseman ($12.1m), and the Dedmon dead money ($2.9m), that's $27.5m allocated towards essentially redundant big man project players who can't shoot 3s. At a time where the Pistons could really use some higher-end talent to compliment their younger players, there's just not a lot of money to work with.

Furthermore, there's not a lot of roster spots available to sign more external talent; assuming the Pistons keep everyone currently signed, keep Livers and Burks, make both their 5th and 31st picks, and resign one of Hami, Corey or Rodney, that's 13 roster spots out of the possible 15 regular spots. Now, in 2024 the NBA will allow 3 two-way contracts, bringing the total practical roster to 18 spots, but that only leaves 2 or 3 roster spots available to fill with real players.

Obviously, a lot could happen between now and the beginning of the season. The Pistons could trade one or both picks... they could move one or more of their current roster players. But again, for a team that finished dead last, you'd hope for greater flexibility. For a GM that was heralded for taking a team with horrible cap conditions with Flake Griffin and Wilted Rose and finding a way to get us back to neutral, the situation at least this year is not that great, and next year isn't looking a whole lot better. I would assume Troy's seat to be at least warm; being somewhat strapped for cash to invest in players the does not bode well for his chances.

4. Trading Luke Kennard and 4 Second Round picks for the rights to Saddiq Bey

This ties in with item 6 - the trade of Bey for James Wiseman. At the time this trade was made, it totally made sense... Kennard was expecting to get paid, and we didn't have the cap room to pay him nor was he the right investment for a team looking to rebuild. Trading him plus relatively lower grade future assets for Troy to get "his guys" in the draft made a lot of sense. I really liked Saddiq Bey (still do), and was totally bought in on his potential as a long-term, core piece. I never really was that into Kennard like some Pistons fans were, so I was fine seeing him shipped out.

Fast forward... Bey is traded straight up for James Wiseman after 2.5 seasons as a Piston. I definitely did not see that coming. As we've discussed, Wiseman is a project , and creates some challenges with managing playing time with his peers, and is a not insignificant cap hit this season plus a challenge of figuring out whether to extend him the qualifying offer or resign him to a multi-year deal within just a few months.

Looking at it from that lenses, Weaver basically traded 4 Second Rounders and Kennard (who was just traded last season for 3 Second Rounders) for Wiseman. That's 7 Second Rounders (or maybe more like 4 plus a late 1st for Kennard). At the time of the 2020 draft, could we do a thought exercise where we would have been cool with trading 7 Second Rounders for the 2nd overall pick? Absolutely, I think that would have been worth considering. For Wiseman, after 2.5 seasons of showing he's 2.5 seasons away from fully evaluating? Eh... that's a pass for me.

If that's a pass, then was trading for "Troy's guy" in 2020 really worth it? In retrospect, I'd have to say 'no'.

3. Trading Bruce Brown for Dzanan Musa and a Second Round pick

Truthfully, I really wanted to put this as my #1 worst move... I was totally disappointed with this decision at the time that it was made, and I'm really REALLY miffed about it now. Seeing Bruce Brown mature into a 'jack of all trades' 6th/7th man on a championship team is awesome... FOR HIM and the NUGGETS! It SUCKS for the PISTONS!!

This is just Troy's version of selling low on quality talent for no good reason. This is worse than SVG trading Spencer Dinwiddie... maybe not quite as bad as Joe D trading Khris Middleton as a toss-in for Brandon Jennings... but good grief, what an idiotic, nonsensical basketball move. Troy's sole job is to evaluate talent, and acquire it, ideally for a modest cost. Bruce Brown is a true-and-red white and blue 'Goin to Work' style Detroit Piston prototype. Why did he just piss him away for a more expensive, non-NBA player in Musa, who never even played a single game for the club??

I get that he was restocking the cupboard of 2nd round picks (after sending out 5 of them for the rights to Bey and Stew), but that measly 2nd round pick ended up as a Balsa-wood-made wasted pick. Goddamnit!

I get it.. you guys will say "get over it"... but no, i'm sorry. This was a horrible, horrible move that did nothing of consequence for us in 3 years, and now we get to watch Bruce ball out as a championship piece, making about HALF of what either Bagley or Wiseman make. If this trade is indicative of Troy's ability to objectively judge talent, and not just go for "his guys", then he failed miserably.

Look, Bruce is probably best as a hard working role player on a good team, and maybe wouldn't have really emerged on a bad Pistons team. Fair enough... but he is a high character, low cost, durable, smart, willing, multiskilled player, and Troy just flushing him down the toilet is absolutely one of his worst moves.

2. Trading Christian Wood, a 1st Round Pick and a 2nd Round Pick for the rights to Isaiah Stewart, Trevor Ariza and a 2nd round pick

Originally I had this much lower on my list of "worst moves", but the more I've learned about it it's changed my mind.

First of all, I don't really care about Christian Wood... I didn't then... I don't now. Clearly he has had a bell-shaped career which peaked starting with the Pistons and then immediately after joining the Rockets. Since then, he's just been good but not franchise altering; he did not turn into a poor-man's Giannis as some people thought he might become. He was and still is a poorer character player.

Second, I really like Beef Stew. I like his character, what he represents as a scrapper, and he's shown some flare of expanding his game to include a 3 pt shot.

However, the more I look at this trade and learn of its implications, the more I realize how short-sighted it was. And the biggest issue isn't that the Pistons effectively traded - at least - 2 First Round picks for 1. At the time of the trade, Wood was playing like a future star... he had Lebron talking... By every advanced stat, he was having his best season of his career and seemed like potentially a budding franchise cornerstone. Wood was certainly worth a 1st given his expiring contract and his gaudy statistics at the time. He could have even been a piece for the Pistons rebuild possibly. But no, that's not the biggest problem with this. The big problem is that this long-conveying 1st round pick guarantied to Houston (now owned by the Knicks) limits their ability to use 1st round picks as trade chip; until that pick conveys, the Pistons cannot trade any 1st round pick until 2029.

At the time the trade was made, it was easy to write this off as a "problem for another day"; the 1st rounder is lottery protected until 2026. While I'd like to believe that by the end of the 2024-25 season the Pistons will be good enough to be out of the lottery, I'm not totally convinced at this very moment. But regardless, unless the team takes a man-sized leap this coming season and becomes a top 12 team, they will keep their pick in 2023-24, leaving the pick to convey in either 25, 26, or 27. There's an off-chance that the pick still does not convey as a 1st in 2027, which is top 9 protected, and it would convey as a Second Rounder, and at first blush you'd be understood to think 'that's not such a bad deal for us... we won that trade'... except that would mean that from the time Troy took over until the 2027 draft, we're still a lotto team essentially every season. That would be VERY VERY BAD... and even the deepest darkest pessimist in me refuses to indulge that's possible.

So more than likely, the pick will convey in either 2025, 2026, or god forbid 2027. But, again, the problem with that is that until it conveys, we cannot include a 1st round pick in any trade, unless it is on draft night where we make the pick and agree to sell the rights to that player. This limits the functional use of the pick as a trade asset except for on draft night or once the player has already been acquired; even then, you're really talking about "trading players" not trading picks.

Why am I obsessed with this caveat? Well, let's try to be optimistic for a minute... let's imagine that Cade comes back looking like a stud, Ivey is diming to Duren, Wiseman is surprising us with development, etc. Imagine we're ready to take the next step and acquire a higher caliber player? As we know, Detroit is not a hot destination for free agents, and at least for the next two seasons we don't have a lot of cap room. A first round pick is one of the best assets we have, and technically we own all of our future firsts except for this one which will convey to NYK... but we cannot use trading it as a tool until that NYK pick conveys (or until 2029).

Add in that Beef Stew... again, I really like him... but honestly unless he adds a whole other dimension to his game or starts shooting around 40% from 3 this next season, his ceiling is likely as a utility big off the bench. Is that really worth the equivalent of two first round picks and being hamstrung for up to 7 seasons? I think there's a good chance that Stew is no longer a Piston during this rebuild, and we'll still be owing a 1st round pick for him. That just is not a good look.

... and last but not least.... the #1 WORST move of Troy's tenure as GM

1. The 2020 NBA Draft

Here's the math...

Incoming: Killian Hayes, Beef Stew, Saddiq Bey, Saben Lee, Tony Bradley (traded for Zhaire Smith who was waived and stretched) and one Second Round pick.

Outgoing: 5 Second Round picks, 1 First Round pick, Luke Kennard (conservatively worth two Second Round picks), and Christian Wood (worth conservatively 1 First Round pick), cash to Utah for Bradley/Saben.


Outgoing: net 6 Second Round picks equivalent; 2 First Round picks equivalent

Incoming: Killian Hayes, Beef Stew, Saddiq Bey and Saben Lee

Saben is long gone, and possibly out of the league.

Beef Stew is still a Piston, and a cool dude, but not a credible NBA starter on a good team at this point. He's below average on PER for a starter, a net negative on career VORP, and a negative on both sides of the court on BPM. Even if you aren't a fan of advanced stats, objectively he is a smaller, less dynamic, less flexible, more plodding type of big man. He has long arms, and has explored his 3 pt shot, but is shooting less than 33% from the distance, not making him a real stretch threat. I really want Stew to be a long-term piece, even if its more as a 7th or 8th man on a decent team, but I can't say confidently that's definitely going to be true.

Saddiq Bey is now a Hawk, traded for James Wiseman who is an overpaid project for the Pistons. Discussed ad nauseum.

Our standard pick that did not require shipping out assets was Killian Hayes. Killian... oh Killian... you were left for last. Yes, yes you are... and, to be fair to you, not just because of how much of a disappointment you've been; by yourself, just looking at you as the #7 pick, you're probably more worth the 2nd or 3rd worst decision by Weaver. But, I decided to do a combo of the 2020 Draft, and overall... yes, that means you're the tops.

Whenever you have Pistons fans earnestly debating who is worse... Killian Hayes or Stanley Johnson... you know you're not good... not good at all.

There's really not much more to say. There's a vague chance Killian finds his game in year 4, or that he's a trade stuffer who gets a valuable deal done for the Pistons. There's just as much chance the Pistons do not extend him the Qualifying Offer for 24-25, and he walks away at the end of this season as nothing but a loss.

I don't want to harp on Killian... not worth the effort... everything has already been said. But in summary, the 2020 NBA for the Pistons netted:

Killian: Fail

Bey: Fail

Stew: Backup big

Saben: Fail

In exchange for the equivalent of 8 total future draft picks (including two Firsts).

SMH.... when i started writing this, I didn't think i would come to this conclusion. I really wanted to put trading Bruce Brown for pocket lint as #1... but in honest retrospect, the actual truth is much much harder to deal with; the once bright eyes, fresh faced 2020 draft for the Pistons seems like a total waste of time... yet another setback of years... similar, but slightly different to the same kind of putzing around Joe Dumars did at the end of his run.

It is quite possible that this "Restoration" will need an actual, true, complete "Rebuild" here in another couple seasons, once all the 2020 picks are gone, and maybe once the 1st rounder to the Knicks has conveyed. I really hope that's not true... I hope Cade can ascend rapidly... I hope Duren becomes a juggernaut... I hope Ivey becomes the 2nd coming of Isiah Thomas... I hope the 5th pick becomes something good... and that we can see Troy swing for the fences with multiple highly skilled trades.

But right now.... eh.... we'll see...

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