The rebuilding effort just got more difficult for the Detroit Pistons after falling one spot in the lottery cost them a first-round pick in the 2014 NBA draft, and now they must figure out their next moves.
If the Pistons had stayed at the No. 8 pick or moved up through the lottery, they would have kept their pick. Instead, it fell to No. 9 and was moved along to the Charlotte Hornets, the result of a trade two offseasons ago that sent Ben Gordon to Charlotte for the expiring contract of Corey Maggette. They used the cap space created to acquire Josh Smith.
It's fair to say they're regretting that trade now.
But Joe Dumars, the man who made that deal—as well as signed Gordon, Smith and Charlie Villanueva—is no longer running the front office. In his place, and in charge of ending their five-season streak of missing the playoffs, is new president of basketball operations and head coach Stan Van Gundy.
While his vision for the Pistons is yet unknown, he takes over a roster filled with young, if mostly underachieving, players and can have as much as $20 million in cap space this summer. Missing out on that top-eight pick certainly hurts, but the cupboard is far from bare.
Sort Out Power Forward Position
With only the No. 38 pick remaining in the draft, the real first order of business for Van Gundy must be to move either Greg Monroe or Josh Smith.
In 2013-14, the Pistons tried to play those two at the same time alongside Andre Drummond, and playing Smith out of position at small forward simply didn't work.
"All we know for sure, really, is that the Pistons don’t need a defensively adept frontcourt player with a poor jump shot," Eric Freeman of Yahoo! Sports said prior to the lottery. "They appear to have that role covered several times over."
Monroe and Smith are both too talented to come off the bench, and if Monroe receives a near-maximum contract like expected, then both players will be making too much money not to start anyway.
After the season he had in 2013-14, most Pistons fans would like to see Smith shipped elsewhere, but it will be difficult to find a taker for the three years and $39.5 million remaining on his contract. Instead, finding a sign-and-trade partner for Monroe, who reportedly isn't in Van Gundy's plans, seems likelier.
Either way, one of the two big men must be wearing a new uniform by the time the 2014-15 season begins.
Add Wing Talent in Free Agency
Now that the Pistons won't be able to address their lack of perimeter talent via the draft, they'll have to do it on the open market.
The Pistons were terrible on the wing on both ends in 2013-14. They ranked No. 29 in three-point percentage at 32.1 percent. They were in the bottom third in opponent shooting percentage from 25 to 29 feet and 20 to 24 feet, and they were dead last from 15 to 19 feet. They desperately need to add someone who can help them in both areas.
The free-agent market is relatively thin this offseason, but there are a handful of players who fit the profile.
Luol Deng of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and longtime former Chicago Bull, is an unrestricted free agent and has played in the Central Division his entire career. He's an elite wing defender and a serviceable outside shooter. He'll likely command a four-year contract worth upwards of $40 million, and there's no indication he'd come to Detroit, but his veteran leadership would be quite valuable for this young team.
Trevor Ariza is another player who would improve the Pistons on both ends. A strong defender and rebounder, Ariza also was an elite three-point shooter in 2013-14, making 40.7 percent on 5.7 attempts per game. It was by far the best shooting season of his career, so regression is a concern, but the 2013-14 version of Ariza would be an ideal fit in Detroit.
After Ariza and Deng, the best available players would be riskier to sign or are restricted free agents.
Lance Stephenson can be a terror on both ends of the court, but he also inspired a Grantland article titled "Loose Cannons" in which he's compared to former NBAer Ricky Davis. Kyle Lowry is another mercurial talent, if they want to address the point guard position, who can be difficult to play with at times (link has some NSFW language).
What wing player should the Pistons look to sign in free agency?
Gordon Hayward could be a great offensive weapon at small forward, but the Utah Jazz are likely to match any offer to the restricted free agent. The Boston Celtics will likely do the same with Avery Bradley, who was an All-Defensive Second Team player in 2013 and shot 39.5 percent from three in 2013-14.
If the Pistons fail to land one of those players, they'll be left trying to sign serviceable veterans who can play rotation minutes on the wing. Otherwise, their only hope is to acquire a player to fill the hole in a trade for Monroe or Smith.
Regardless, missing out on the deepest draft lottery in years is making the Pistons' road back to relevancy even tougher.
Jakub Rudnik covers the Detroit Pistons as a Featured Columnist for B/R. Follow him on Twitter.