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A look at the Detroit Pistons off-season so far

Detroit has never been a target destination for top-tier free agents. This year it looked like things might be different, the Detroit Pistons had a lot of cap space and players like Danny Green and DeMarre Carroll seemed within reach. We quickly learned that wasn’t the case though once free agency officially started. Green is staying with the San Antonio Spurs, and Carroll is leaving the Atlanta Hawks for the Toronto Raptors. So, with their top two targets off the board, what have Stan Van Gundy and crew done?

Let’s go back a few weeks. In mid-June the Pistons acquired, Ersan Ilyasova via trade. He’s a stretch four to replace the soon-to-depart Greg Monroe and they gave up almost nothing to get him. Out went two players with team options that weren’t going to be picked up anyhow. Little did we know at the time that Monroe would end up taking Ilyasova’s place on the Milwaukee Bucks. This swap actually works out pretty well for both sides. Ilyasova has two years remaining on his deal, set to earn $7.9 million next season and $8.4 million for the 2016-17 season though only $400,000 is guaranteed. Monroe is getting a 3-year max deal from the Bucks worth $50 million. Monroe can move back to his natural position of center there, and Ersan is a better fit for Van Gundy’s system in Detroit for far less money. If we had approached Ilyasova in free agency, he’d surely be getting more than $8 million a year right now.  Win-win.

Jump to the NBA entry draft on June 25th and much debate ensued. Many NBA fanatics saw the near impossible happen – the Sacramento Kings drafted Willie Cauley-Stein at No. 6 opening the door for Justice Winslow to drop into the Pistons laps at No. 8. However, much to the disappointment of many fans they selected Arizona’s Stanley Johnson instead. Whether or not that was the correct pick or not we probably won’t know for a while. Though regardless of who you wanted, you have to like Johnson’s confidence. But for now it seems like Johnson is a capable defender and will be given a chance to grow into a scorer at small forward. In the second round, they took a shooter out of Villanova, senior Darrun Hillard. Right now this pick looks like a bit of a reach, but time will tell. Hillard will probably spend some time in the D-League though.

Free agency began at 12:01 on July 1st, and in the time that has passed since, there’s been a ton of movement. As we crossed player after player off the wish list for the Pistons, our beloved hometown team sat quietly without making any new moves on day one. On Day two however, pieces started to move.

A little after 1 pm on the second day of the free agent season the Pistons struck, coming to terms with Aron Baynes to the tune of three years, $20 million, and a player option at the end. So your question now is, who the heck is Aron Baynes?! Well, my friend, Baynes comes to Motown via San Antonio. At six-foot-ten and 260-pounds, the New Zealand native should provide reliable depth at the center position. He can step out and shoot from 10-12 feet, and rebounds well, all while shooting around 85% from the charity stripe. He’s like a poor man’s Greg Monroe from a style perceptive. He got limited minutes with the Spurs, as they are pretty deep, but seems like a solid signing. While $20 million sounds like a lot, once the cap jumps next year this will be more comparable to what a $4 million a season type of contract looked like a couple years ago.

Then just a couple hours later, once it became clear the Pistons best chance to improve was through trade, they announced a deal with the Phoenix Suns that sees three players come to Detroit, all for a 2nd round pick in 2020. The move was all about the Suns clearing cap space to make a run at LaMarcus Aldridge. Best of luck to them, and anytime they want to make similar moves, I hope they call again. The Pistons are the beneficiaries of this intent and have been rewarded with a very affordable option at small forward while they develop Stanley Johnson. Marcus Morris averaged 10.4 points per game last season and shot over 35% from beyond the arc. His shooting ability, combined with a 235-pound build, allows Morris to slide between the forward positions as needed. In addition to Morris, they also got former all-star Danny Granger.

Granger is a shell of his former self now, but just a few years back he was averaging over 25 points a game until his knees betrayed him. Since 2012, he’s played only 76 games and averaged about 7.2 points per. In addition, 25-year-old Reggie Bullock will likely sit at the end of the bench, if not spending time in the D-league, but that’s just a guess. Maybe Bullock flourishes in SVG’s system and we all look foolish. We won’t know until the season gets going.

Our best guess is that the Pistons aren’t done and expect at least one more trade. They also have about 7 million more in cap space, not counting what is held for Reggie Jackson. They haven’t made the flashiest moves so far, but have made some smart ones. It’s pretty much the opposite of the Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva summer…

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