Detroit Pistons: Steps to Contention

The Detroit Pistons are facing what could be a tough and long rebuild. Their young players haven’t emerged yet as possible franchise cornerstones. The veterans, along with their hefty contracts, don’t fit the team’s current timeline. The Pistons trading Andre Drummond well below his value this season showed that they know it’s time to change it up. The first step to a successful rebuild is acknowledging the need to rebuild, so the Pistons have begun the process.

How the Detroit Pistons can Accelerate Their Rebuild

Step One: Re-sign Christian Wood

Christian Wood emerged as a legitimate NBA player after Detroit traded Drummond. He averaged 13 points, 6 rebounds, and a block per game on an average of 21 minutes on the floor this season. Those are already solid numbers, but his per-36 minutes show how good he can be. In that statistic metric, Wood averaged 22 points, 11 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. His play completely elevates as a starter.

It’s important to note that Wood has a multi-dimensional offensive game. He has the ability to dominate the paint due to his size and length. He’s also a floor-stretcher, however, as he shot 39 percent from three this season. The versatility he displays is impressive for a player who finally got a shot at real minutes.

With that being said, he is a free agent this summer. Detroit isn’t ready to compete just yet, but they need to keep hold of the talent they do have. The situation with the Pistons and Wood is interesting, however. Wood’s value is as high as ever, but giving a massive contract is risky as he’s only produced for one season.

The best option for the Pistons would be to offer Wood a two or three-year contract in the range of $12-15 million per year. He’ll have the chance to solidify his status as a star on the team, and if not, his contract isn’t necessarily one that will tie up the team’s cap space for the foreseeable future.

Step Two: Explore the Trade Market for the Two Veterans

Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose will go down as two of the most influential players of the past decade. Unfortunately for them, they have suffered countless injuries in recent years that have made them a shadow of their former selves. It’s not hard to see them become contributors for other contending teams right now though, so Detroit would be wise to be active in the trade market.

Rose will be easy to trade. The former MVP is a veteran leader and can still perform. Last season he averaged 18 points and 6 assists per game for Detroit. His contract is also very favorable, as it only has one year and $7.6 million left on it. Expect several contenders, such as the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers, to inquire.

The Pistons could ask for Alex Caruso and Talen Horton-Tucker from the Lakers, or get greedy and aim for Kyle Kuzma. They could seek young talents like Shake Milton or Zhaire Smith from the 76ers. The key for them is to stockpile solid youth right now.

Griffin’s contract won’t be as easy to trade. He’s set to be paid close to $37 million next season, with a player option he’s likely to accept for close to $39 million in 2021-22. This doesn’t bode well considering he only played 18 games this season with averages of 16 points and 5 rebounds per game. If a team believes they can solve his injury issues, they might deem a trade worthy. In 2018-19, Griffin averaged 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists per game.

Step Three: The Detroit Pistons Need to Gamble on Killian Hayes

If a Rose trade is in the cards, then the Pistons have an immediate need at point guard. A combination of Brandon Knight and Jordan Bone is not the answer.

Detroit didn’t have luck on their side during the draft lottery and will be drafting at seventh overall. This means that guards with star potential like Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball will be off the board. The Pistons’ best bet will be to gamble on Killian Hayes from France.

Hayes turned 19 last month and was already performing well versus seasoned professionals in Europe. While playing for Ratiopharm Ulm in the EuroCup, Hayes averaged 13 points and 6 assists per game in 27 minutes on the floor.

He’s more or just as experienced as any other prospect. His height (6’5″) and wingspan (6’8″) are more than ideal for a point guard. What sets him apart from other point guard prospects is his excellent passing ability and basketball IQ. He has intangibles that can’t be taught quickly.

Of course, there are areas he needs to improve. First of all, he needs to bulk up to avoid being physically dominated in the NBA. This will certainly happen under the guidance of NBA trainers. Secondly, Hayes has to slow down his game and learn not to rush things. Good coaching will surely solve this as well.

Hayes’ ceiling can be as high as D’Angelo Russell. At worst, he looks like he can become a Spencer Dinwiddie-like point guard. His selection is a worthy gamble for a team building an identity.

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