The Detroit Pistons have had a very busy offseason already, and the moves they've made help to shed some light on what to expect from them going forward.
The offseason began with the hiring of Stan Van Gundy as their new head coach and team president. Van Gundy, who ran an offense with the Orlando Magic based on surrounding center Dwight Howard with shooting, made acquiring three-point shooters a priority in free agency and the draft.
Though the season is months away and they still have at least one move yet to make, the Pistons' roster has mostly taken shape. But where do they go from here?
Finalizing the Roster
The Pistons were very active early in free agency, signing four free agents to bring the roster to 14 players, even before dealing with their biggest decision of the offseason.
Restricted free-agent power forward Greg Monroe remains at an impasse with the team. He wants to sign a maximum contract, but the Pistons are offering less, and his fit with the roster is far from perfect.
The sentiment that he does not want to play in Detroit next season is growing, but the Pistons have been unable to find a suitable sign-and-trade deal, as reported by Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski while speaking on Aime Mukendi Jr.'s podcast (h/t Hawkshoop.com). Wojnarowski said:
Detroit has tried to help [Monroe] with some sign-and-trade possibilities around the league. Monroe doesn’t really have a great interest in going back and playing with the Pistons. If they’re going to move him in a sign-and-trade, they’ve got to get value for him. They’ve got to get back some significant talent to compensate for that loss. They haven’t been able to find a deal for him.
Only the Philadelphia 76ers have enough cap space to sign Monroe to a max deal at this point, so there's almost no risk of him signing an offer sheet. And if a trade can't be found, Monroe will have to accept the one-year qualifying offer of $5,479,934, which would give him the ability to veto any trade over the next year.
The two sides will likely hold out as long as possible searching for a deal.
But until a trade is made or the contract is signed, the Pistons have no more roster spots with which to maneuver. If Monroe is shipped it seems likely to be for a small forward, their weakest position, or for a player like Boston's Rajon Rondo to upgrade the point guard spot. In either case, they'd likely need to add a backup big to help fill the void Monroe would leave.
While numerous bad contracts, poor coaching and a lack of top-end talent left the Pistons without direction or a playoff appearance the past five seasons, those troubles are more or less in the rearview mirror.
The Pistons can clear plenty of cap space next summer, Van Gundy has a .641 career winning percentage, and team centerpiece, Andre Drummond, is one of the league's best young big men and will be only 21 when the season begins.
Whether this is a playoff-level team in an improved Eastern Conference remains to be seen. But the Pistons certainly have a growing core of talented young players to build around and plenty of roster flexibility moving forward.
Even without counting Monroe or any player he gets moved for, the Pistons have 11 players on the roster under the age of 30, nine of whom are 26 or younger.
While Drummond looks like the only one with All-Star level talent, many of those players are at least rotation caliber. Some, like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Brandon Jennings, are talented and young enough to be above-average starters down the road.
Coupled with all that youth is the fact that the Pistons have very little money committed to players long term. Of the 14 players on the roster, only Jodie Meeks and Josh Smith have guaranteed contracts beyond the 2015-16 season, though Caldwell-Pope's team option will certainly be picked up and Drummond will be eligible for an extension.
Even so, they very easily could make enough room to sign a max-level player each of the next two offseasons.
With so many young players, a number of expiring or partially guaranteed contracts and future first-round picks at their disposal, the Pistons should be in the mix for any top players made available for trade. Convincing top free agents to come to Detroit via free agency may be tough, so the team should be open to making trade offers for top talents at any position but center.
In the meantime, the Pistons have fielded a deep team that will be centered around Drummond on both ends of the court. There is no guarantee that they'll be a playoff team this season, and they're years from being true contenders in the East.
But for the first time in years there appears to be a long-term plan in place in Detroit.
Jakub Rudnik covers the Detroit Pistons as a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.
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