Offseason overhaul gives Pistons a fresh start of sorts
DETROIT (AP) — This offseason was such a whirlwind for the Detroit Pistons, it was easy to forget that Blake Griffin is still part of the roster — sort of a last star standing after a flurry of moves by the team’s new general manager.
Griffin sounds ready to embrace whatever the future holds.
“If developing young guys is the goal for this season, then I’ll do whatever they ask of me,” Griffin said recently. “I’ll spend more time with the young guys, I’ll try to teach more, listen more, whatever it is.”
Only four players who appeared in games for the Pistons last season are on the roster now. The rebuild began in earnest when Andre Drummond was traded in February. Then new GM Troy Weaver took over in June, and by the time the draft and free agency rolled around, he was ready to shake up the team.
Griffin, Derrick Rose, Sekou Doumbouya and Svi Mykhailiuk are still around. The rest of the roster is new acquisitions with a variety of skill sets and experience levels. For a team that hasn’t won a playoff game since 2008, a new start made sense, but this could be a bumpy ride at first.
“The whole goal is to put a competitive team on the floor that the city and the community can be proud of,” Weaver said. “We’ll let the chips fall after that, but we want to be competitive, and we want a team with an identity that fits Detroit, and I think we’re headed in the right direction. So that’s step number one.”
Gone are Drummond, Luke Kennard, Bruce Brown and Christian Wood, among others. Now Detroit welcomes Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee, Josh Jackson, Jahlil Okafor and Wayne Ellington. The Pistons’ wheeling and dealing also meant they ended up with three first-round draft picks this year. They used those on Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey.
Griffin had a terrific 2018-19, but he was limited in the playoffs that season and played only 18 games last season. That’s been an all-too-familiar problem for Griffin with both the Pistons and the Los Angeles Clippers. He’s averaged only 49 games over the past five seasons.
If Griffin is healthy, he too could become the topic of trade speculation. He said he took the team’s recent direction in stride.
“It has been a lot of changes, but I think I was sort of prepared for that,” Griffin said. “It sounded like that’s what was going to happen, and I like the pieces that we got.”
One of Detroit’s few holdovers is Doumbouya, the team’s first-round draft pick last year. He turns 20 on Dec. 23, the day the Pistons are scheduled to open their season at Minnesota. Doumbouya averaged 6.4 points in 38 games as a rookie.
The 6-foot-5 Hayes has played in France and Germany and gives Detroit an intriguing point guard prospect. Stewart averaged 17 points last season as a freshman at Washington, and Bey averaged 16.1 points as a sophomore at Villanova.
With Drummond gone, Detroit has a lot of rebounding to replace, but the additions of Plumlee and Okafor gave the Pistons some size. Weaver clearly respects Detroit’s previous championship winners from 1989, 1990 and 2004 — and how those teams were built.
“I’ve never seen a team win a championship without controlling the backboard,” Weaver said. “I welcome all the center jokes, because I do love centers, and last time I checked, the two teams here with the Pistons that were good, they had a bunch of bigs.”
Rose, another big name with a troubling injury history, played 50 games for the Pistons last season. When he was on the court, he was very good at times, averaging 18.1 points and 26 minutes.
The 26-year-old Grant arrives after averaging 12 points for Denver last season. He played big minutes during the Nuggets’ run to the Western Conference finals.
“A guy that comes in, he works hard, he’s professional, he’s a great teammate,” Weaver said. “All the things we embody.”
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