Pistons have big needs to fill in free agency

The Pistons finished this shortened NBA season with a 20-46 record, which was 13th best in the Eastern conference. The only stars on the roster are former NBA MVP Derrick Rose and power forward Blake Griffin, who had an injury-filled, disappointing season. Here’s the Detroit Free Press with an overview of what Pistons free agency may look like this offseason:

The Pistons are projected to have around $30 million in cap space, depending on the new salary cap. They are among six teams in the league that will have cap space, positioning them to be a major player in the free agency and trade market.

Since general manager Troy Weaver took over in June, the organization has avoided using the term “rebuild.” Despite finishing 20-46 and moving on from Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, the franchise is eyeing a return to playoff relevancy.

It’s tough to project exactly what the Pistons will prioritize. But there are two obvious positional needs on the roster — point guard, and center. Pistons coach Dwane Casey told reporters in June that for the roster to continue to develop, the team needs a starting point guard. Derrick Rose is the only natural point guard on the roster with experience. Considering he has a year left on his deal, it seems likely the Pistons will look to acquire a point guard either through the draft or free agency.

The roster also only has one true center under contract next season in recently signed Justin Patton. There are other players on the roster capable of playing the position, but the Pistons lack depth there. Casey experimented with playing Sekou Doumbouya as a small center during group workouts in September, but said having a traditional center is a necessity.

D-Rose is 32 years old, while Griffin is 31. While Rose is signed just through next season, Griffin reportedly has a player option for almost $39 million in the 2021-22 season. Unless he has a seriously great bounce-back season, Griffin is likely to exercise that option to remain with Detroit.

But no matter how those two players play, the team is clearly in rebuild mode, and that needs to dictate the moves they make in the next few months.

Pistons basketball operations staff hirings

The Detroit Pistons announced today the completion of their basketball operations staff with the additions of Britta Brown, Tony Leotti, Michael Lindo and Ryan West, as well as the return of former staffers Harold Ellis and Rod Williams.

Britta Brown joins the club as Senior Director of Basketball Administration. Brown will oversee team operations, logistics and assist in day-to-day management of the department. Most recently, Brown was an Assistant Athletic Director at Eastern Michigan University, responsible for athletic and alumni events, overall development and daily department management. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2008 where she was also a member of the women’s lacrosse team.

Tony Leotti joins the Pistons as Senior Director of Strategy and Systems. Leotti will assist with salary cap oversight and overall strategy. Leotti joins Detroit after four seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers where served as the club’s Director of Basketball Administration & Team Counsel and was a part of the 2016 NBA Champions front office. Prior to joining the Cavs, he served as the Associate Vice President & Senior Associate Counsel for the NBA where he advised team and league personnel with transactions and interpretations of the collective bargaining agreement. Leotti earned his Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Economics from Georgetown in 2004 while also competing as a lightweight rower. He later received a Juris Doctor law degree and a Master of Business Administration degree from New York University in 2010.

Harold Ellis and Ryan West both join the basketball front office as pro personnel evaluators. Ellis rejoins the Pistons following a stint as a Pistons assistant coach during the 2008-09 season and as a scout for the team from 2009-12. Since those appointments, he held a Director of Pro Scouting position with the Orlando Magic from 2012-17 and a Director of Player Personnel role with the New York Knicks from 2017-20. West comes to Detroit after spending more than a decade in scouting capacities with the Los Angeles Lakers, holding the Director of Player Personnel title from 2015-19. He was also a scout for the Memphis Grizzlies from 2002-09.

Michael Lindo has been hired as Director of Player and Family Engagement and will be responsible for assisting Pistons players and their families off the court. Prior to coming to Detroit, Lindo worked at Under Armour for six years as the Sports Marketing Consultant – Director of Under Armour Association. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Sports Management from Howard University in 2013 and his Master of Professional Studies in Sports Industry Management from Georgetown in 2016.

Along with the announced new hires, the club also announced five promotions within the department. Gregg Polinsky has been elevated to Senior Director of Player Personnel, Bernard Condevaux to Senior Director of Medical and Performance, Dan Rosenbaum to Senior Director of Analytics, Eric Tellem to Director of Pro Scouting and Jhonika Hawkins to Director of Executive Operations. The club also welcomes back Rod Williams as Director of Team Security. He rejoins the Pistons after serving in security positions with the club from 2012-14 and 2017-18.

Detroit Pistons holding minicamp

A number of teams that weren’t involved with the league restart at the Disney NBA bubble are currently holding minicamps of their own, each in their own individual location. Here’s the Detroit News on it:

By every stretch of Dwane Casey’s imagination, his team’s workouts during phase 2 of in-market minicamp, has been a rousing success.

But the biggest positive for the Detroit Pistons head coach has been what he’s getting out of 24-year-old shooting guard Luke Kennard, who’s taking part in his first basketball activities since Dec. 21, when the former first-round pick was sidelined with bilateral knee tendonitis.

“He’s healthy, he’s playing well, his body looks good, and that’s been another bright spot,” Casey told reporters on Saturday. “I really like what I see out of Luke.” …

The Pistons have not been together for organized scrimmages and full practices since their season ended on March 11.

The biggest areas of focus for the Pistons this offseason will of course be the draft and free agency, but also the health of Blake Griffin, who is coming off of a season-ending knee injury and reportedly not participating in the minicamp. Word is that Griffin is now healthy. For the Pistons, that could mean trying to trade the 31-year-old power forward, who is signed for several more seasons to a team that is clearly rebuilding and not about to be competitive anytime soon.

Ticket resale news developing in Michigan

Anyone who keeps up with the world of ticket reselling / scalping would be interested in a story developing in Michigan, as reported by the Detroit News:

Michigan crept closer Tuesday to repealing the state’s ban on ticket scalping as a years-long effort to reform the law gained steam.

State House lawmakers passed legislation Tuesday that would repeal a Michigan ban on ticket scalping while preventing software or practices that interfere with a venue’s ticket sale efforts.

The two bills will advance next to the Senate, where the upper chamber will vote on whether it concurs with changes to the legislation it originally approved in January.

Michigan’s ban on reselling event tickets at prices above face value has been in place since 1931.

Pistons buy Northern Arizona Suns G League team from Phoenix Suns

The Detroit Pistons, the Phoenix Suns and the NBA G League today announced that the Pistons have agreed to purchase the Northern Arizona Suns from the Phoenix Suns. The rebranded team is expected to play in a new arena currently being constructed on the campus of Wayne State University beginning in the 2021-22 season.

“I’m excited to welcome Tom Gores and the Detroit Pistons as NBA G League owners,” said NBA G League President Shareef Abdur-Rahim. “It’s always bittersweet for a team to relocate, and I thank Robert Sarver and the Phoenix Suns for their time in this league and the fans in Northern Arizona for their ongoing commitment to the team. I’m sure the fans in Detroit will welcome the team with open arms and I look forward to watching NBA G League basketball at Wayne State for seasons to come.”

Pistons owner Tom Gores said the NBA G League will be good for the Pistons organization and the community.

“This is another important investment in our franchise and in the city of Detroit,” said Mr. Gores. “Having an NBA G League team near our new performance center will be an advantage for our front office, our coaching staff and our young players. It will also generate more economic activity in the area and serve as a catalyst for additional development.”

The Pistons current “hybrid” affiliation with the Grand Rapids Drive will continue through the 2020-21 NBA G League season. The Phoenix Suns will continue to operate the Northern Arizona Suns for the 2020-21 season.

In May 2019, the Pistons announced a multi-faceted partnership with Wayne State University, including an NBA G League team to play in a new arena that the school is constructing for its men’s and women’s basketball programs less than two miles from both Little Caesars Arena and the Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center.

In addition to playing games on the school’s campus, a move that will generate revenue and usage of the new facility, the organization will work with Wayne State administrators to create programs and internship opportunities for students in fields like sports marketing, community relations, physical therapy, rehabilitation and sports and entertainment business operations.

The NBA G League serves as the NBA’s developmental league preparing players, coaches, officials, trainers and front- office staff for NBA positions while acting as the league’s research and development laboratory. Playing with 28 teams for the 2019-20 season, the NBA G League is a proven developer of talent. A record 42 percent of NBA players to start the 2019-20 season had NBA G League experience, a number that rose to 57 percent when the season concluded on March 11.

Detroit Pistons hire David Mincberg as assistant GM

The Detroit Pistons have named David Mincberg as assistant general manager.

Mincberg comes to Detroit from Milwaukee where he spent three seasons with the Bucks, including this past season as Vice President of Basketball Strategy. Prior to joining the Bucks, Mincberg spent five seasons with the Memphis Grizzlies where he started as Team Counsel before becoming the Grizzlies’ Director of Scouting.

A native of Washington, D.C., Mincberg holds an undergraduate degree from the University of South Florida and a law degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Pistons sign center Justin Patton

The Detroit Pistons have signed center Justin Patton to a contract.

Patton, 6-11, 241 was drafted 16th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls and was part of a draft-night trade which sent him and Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves. In nine career NBA games, Patton has averaged 1.8 points and 1.2 rebounds with Minnesota, Philadelphia and Oklahoma City.

A native of Riverside, GA, Patton, 23, played one season at Creighton University where he averaged 12.9 points (68% FG), 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 35 games. He was named Big East Freshman of the Year and was a unanimous selection to the Big East All-Freshman team. Patton also earned All-Big East Second Team honors.

New Detroit Pistons general manager is Troy Weaver

The Detroit Pistons hired Troy Weaver as their new General Manager today.

“Troy is an outstanding executive with an exceptional track record for identifying and developing talent,” said Pistons owner Tom Gores. “In talking with Troy, he’s got both the skill and temperament to lead, and the confidence and creativity to work collaboratively with others. We’re excited for him to take the reins as General Manager of the Pistons at this important moment. Ed and the team have done excellent work creating flexibility with our roster and establishing a clear direction. Troy comes aboard to help take us to the next level.”

Weaver, 52, joins the Pistons after spending the past 12 seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder (OKC), including the last three-plus years as the club’s Vice President of Basketball Operations. Previously, he served eight seasons as Vice President/Assistant General Manager with responsibilities that included coordinating player-personnel matters, NBA Draft preparation, free agency planning and summer league roster construction.

Per the Detroit Free Press, “Weaver’s reputation for spotting talent in the NBA draft and facilitating an environment to help young players develop stands out. The Pistons will potentially have a top-five draft pick and more than $30 million in cap space, so Weaver will have ample opportunity to reshape the roster this offseason.”

“It’s an honor for me to join a franchise with the history and tradition of the Detroit Pistons,” said Weaver. “I’m excited for the challenge of building this team into a consistent winner and assembling the pieces to compete at a very high level. We’ll get to work right away, evaluating opportunities and installing systems that will make us all successful.”

And per the Detroit News, “Weaver is regarded for his decisions in player personnel, which starting in his first season with the Thunder in 2008, as he pushed for drafting Russell Westbrook with the No. 4 pick in the 2008 draft. At the time, Westbrook wasn’t projected as an elite NBA prospect, but Weaver identified him as a breakout star.”

Ed Stefanski, Senior Advisor to Tom Gores, noted that Weaver’s experience over multiple years in Oklahoma City and around the NBA make him a great fit to help move the Pistons franchise forward.

“Troy’s basketball knowledge and experience will help this organization in all facets of strategic planning and roster development this coming season and beyond,” said Stefanski. “He has a good eye for talent, is a great communicator and is team oriented. I look forward to working with him as we focus on achieving our collective goals.”

Pistons forward Christian Wood almost fully recovered from coronavirus

The bad news is, this is another coronavirus item. The good news is, it’s about a player’s near-full recovery. Here’s the Detroit News reporting:

The Pistons cleared the first wave of COVID-19 testing on Wednesday, with only one positive test.

Christian Wood, one of the first NBA players to test positive for coronavirus, is almost fully recovered. In order to be cleared, a person needs two negative tests, spaced at least 24 hours apart. Wood passed the initial test Wednesday and will take the second test on Thursday, a league source told The Detroit News.

The Pistons also tested 16 other members of their traveling party of more than 50 people, which included players, coaches, front office members and support staff. That group traveled to road games against the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers on March 8 and 11, respectively.

Here’s to more good news coming soon, we hope.

Pistons scout Maury Hanks hospitalized due to coronavirus

The coronavirus bad news continues, and has now put a Pistons scout in the hospital. Here’s the Detroit Free Press reporting:

A Detroit Pistons scout has been hospitalized with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, a person with knowledge of the situation told the Free Press early Thursday.

“One of our scouts, who works out of his home office in another state, has been hospitalized with COVID-19 in that state,” the source said. “We do not have any information as to the potential vector of exposure.”

The source spoke on condition of anonymity because of health privacy rules. East Tennessee State basketball coach Steve Forbes tweeted Wednesday that the scout’s name is Maury Hanks, a college scout in the Pistons organization since 2014.

We wish all the best to Hanks.