The Detroit Pistons have had a quiet period of free agency so far, especially by Troy Weaver standards.
Rather than the usual flurry of signings we’re used to, the Pistons only made two quiet moves. They re-signed Marvin Bagley III to a three-year, $37.5 million deal — a move expected after trading for him in February — then agreed to a two-year, $6 million deal with Kevin Knox.
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The Pistons may have finished most of their offseason work before the moratorium begins at 6 p.m. Thursday. They added two lottery picks in Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren and traded for Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel and Kemba Walker, who was bought out of his $9.2 million contract. The list is currently complete; they would have to give up a player or make a trade to create room for another free agency signing.
It is also possible that there are more transactions to be made. The giant domino hanging over the offseason is Kevin Durant’s request to trade to the Brooklyn Nets, according to reports. Some teams are waiting to see what happens. If traded, it could lead to a flurry of moves across the league to accommodate what would be one of the biggest trades in NBA history.
The offseason is far from over. The Utah Jazz reportedly completed a blockbuster trade on Friday, sending Rudy Gobert to the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the two teams could strike additional deals to balance their rosters. It’s too early to hail Detroit’s summer. The Pistons could find a way to get involved in future deals. Or, they could stay pat.
Let’s take stock of Detroit’s roster after three days of free agency.
Loaded in the middle, light on the wing
Here’s the Pistons’ current depth chart. Rather than sorting by position, we’ll be looking at their guards, wings, and bigs.
Guards: Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Killian Hayes, Cory Joseph, Saben Lee
Wings: Saddiq Bey, Alec Burks, Hamidou Diallo, Isaiah Livers, Kevin Knox
Large: Isaiah Stewart, Marvin Bagley III, Kelly Olynyk, Nerlens Noel, Jalen Duren
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There is some interchangeability here. Cunningham can play three-guard, and Dwane Casey said he thinks Cunningham can also play alongside Killian Hayes and Jaden Ivey in three-guard lineups. Bey and Livers can both play forward, and may need to do so often to give the Pistons enough spacing.
But there is also an obvious blockage in the frontcourt. Duren and Noel have been added to a frontcourt that already includes three rotating players in Stewart, Bagley and Olynyk. Of the big five, Olynyk is the only reliable shooter. There’s also some skill overlap, as Bagley, Noel, and Duren all thrive playing indoors and rolling to the rim.
It is possible that of the last three players, Bagley is the only one to play significant minutes at the start of the season. The Pistons have made a notable financial commitment to him, guaranteeing the three years of his contract, and he is the most reliable scorer of the three. Noel has an injury history, having played just 25 games last season, and has a team option for the 2023-24 season. Duren is 18, raw and will have plenty of opportunities to play in the future even if he doesn’t get much game time at first.
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The Pistons have more immediate commitments to Bagley and Stewart, who was the starting center last season and will be eligible for his rookie contract extension next offseason. The coaching staff will likely find it difficult not to play against Olynyk due to his shooting and overall offensive versatility.
Eliminate Noel and Duren from the rotation, and the frontcourt situation becomes less crowded. Stewart and Olynyk can play most of the minutes at center, and both Bey and Bagley can play as power forwards. Bey had success playing all four last season while replacing an injured Jerami Grant.
The Pistons’ opening night rotation could look like this – Killian Hayes, Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart in the starting lineup, and Cory Joseph, Alec Burks, Hamidou Diallo, Isaiah Livers, Marvin Bagley III and Kelly Olynyk absorbing most of the bench minutes. Burks could start Hayes again if the coaching staff wants more shots in the starting lineup.
What needs on the list are still unmet?
The Pistons answered their greatest need — shooting — by trading for Burks. The 30-year-old veteran winger knocked down 38% of his 3-pointers over his 11-year career and is expected to lift a team that shot just 32.6% from behind the arc last season, 29th in the NBA .
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They could use more shots, though. Burks, Livers (42.2%) and Joseph (41.4%) are the only players on the roster to shoot better than 35% on 3 last season. Bey dropped to 34.6% after shooting 38% from 3s as a rookie, and Cunningham only shot 31.4% after knocking down 40% of his 3s in college. Detroit wants Stewart and Hayes to make 3-point shooting a reliable part of their arsenals. Internal improvement could bring the Pistons closer to league average next season, but they should still look for outside help.
Detroit still has somewhere in the neighborhood of $8 million in cap space. It is impossible to say whether it will be spent, and if so, for whom. It’s still too early to rule out further Weaver moves.