On a Friday afternoon in September, the Detroit Pistons made a largely forgettable trade. The Pistons acquired DeAndre Jordan (who was subsequently bought out and signed by the Los Angeles Lakers), four second-round picks, and cash from the Brooklyn Nets for Jahlil Okafor and Sekou Doumbouya.
While the deal itself is fairly insignificant, general manager Troy Weaver and the Pistons just completed the ultimate rebuild. With Doumbouya now gone, Detroit has gotten rid of every player from its 2019-20 roster … in about nine months.
General manager Troy Weaver inherited a mess with the Detroit Pistons
The Pistons franchise has seen better days. Detroit hasn’t won a playoff game since 2008, and has made the playoffs only twice in the past dozen seasons. In that period was the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season, when Detroit’s .303 win percentage (20-42) was its worst since 1993-94.
Their 2019-20 roster featured Blake Griffin, a former All-Star, who played in only 18 games while making $34 million. Andre Drummond, Detroit’s first-round pick in 2012, played in 49 games before being dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
In total, just three players appeared in 60 or more games that season: Langston Galloway, Christian Wood, and Thon Maker. Best of all, Tony Snell was the team leader in starts with 57 — the same Tony Snell who once played 28 minutes and didn’t record a single point, assist, rebound, block, or steal.
The Pistons needed a change, and it started at GM. Troy Weaver was hired in June 2020 to overhaul what had become one of the worst teams in the NBA. Weaver had previously served with the Oklahoma City Thunder for 12 seasons, most recently as their vice president of basketball operations.
In a nine-month span, the entire Pistons roster has changed
At Weaver’s introductory press conference, head coach Dwayne Casey knew his new GM was there to make changes happen.
“We’re rebuilding our roster and Troy brings a tremendous amount of experience. He’s one of those guys who has a knack for talent,” said Casey. “The next couple of years of developing our roster is a key time in our organization.”
However, Casey probably couldn’t have predicted every player he had just coached being off the team so soon.
From the start of the 2020-21 league year to now, the following Pistons are gone (in order of most to least-expensive in 2019-20):
- Blake Griffin (bought out March 2021)
- Brandon Knight (contract expired 2020)
- Tony Snell (traded November 2020)
- John Henson (contract expired 2020)
- Langston Galloway (contract expired 2020)
- Derrick Rose (traded February 2021)
- Luke Kennard (traded November 2020)
- Thon Maker (qualifying offer declined November 2020)
- Sekou Doumbouya (traded September 2021)
- Jordan McRae (contract expired 2020)
- Christian Wood (traded November 2020)
- Bruce Brown Jr. (traded November 2020)
- Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (traded March 2021)
- Khyri Thomas (traded November 2020)
- Justin Patton (traded November 2020)
Before the Pistons even took the court for their first game last season, only Griffin, Rose, Doumbouya, and Mykhailiuk remained. Now with all four gone, a new chapter has officially begun.
It’s now full steam ahead for the Detroit Pistons
After a much-needed makeover, the Pistons are already starting to see some of their new players blossom.
Jerami Grant averaged a career-best 22.3 points in the first year of his three-year, $60 million deal. Saddiq Bey, the 19th overall pick in 2020, averaged over 12 points per game and landed on the All-NBA Rookie First Team. Even a previously-forgotten player like Josh Jackson seems to have found a home, as the former fourth overall pick averaged 13.4 points coming off of the bench.
It’s good to see vets like Grant and Jackson shine, but Detroit’s long-term success rests on their ability to draft. Weaver had three first-round picks in 2020, selecting Bey, Isaiah Stewart (another All-NBA Rookie Team pick), and Killian Hayes. In 2021, the Pistons struck gold in the lottery, taking phenom Cade Cunningham with the first overall pick. They also capped off their draft with Luka Garza, the reigning National Player of the Year.
Weaver clearly found success in his first draft and could do it again this year if Cunningham lives up to the hype. It’s nothing new for Weaver, who was the primary driver in the Thunder selecting Russell Westbrook fourth overall in 2008.
“I just feel like my philosophy is we don’t draft players, we draft people,” Weaver said to Pistons.com. “We want to make sure we get the person right. More times than not, high picks that don’t pan out the way people see it, you miss on the person.”
The youth is there, the talent is there, and the people are there. Now after a quick rebuild, it’s time for the Pistons to begin their ascent to relevancy.