Detroit Pistons Offseason Report Card

The Detroit Pistons posted the worst record in the NBA last season, but were not rewarded in the Draft Lottery, slipping to No. 5 and out of the sweepstakes for Victor Wembanyama. With ample cap space, the Pistons also had the opportunity to make a splash in free agency, but chose to kick the can down the road for one more year, instead using that space to acquire veterans and future picks from teams looking to unload some salary.

The result is a Pistons team that comes into the 2023-24 season with low expectations in terms of being a potential Play-In contender in the East, and will likely be picked to finish at the bottom of the conference. That said, there is a considerable amount of young talent on the roster and they should be better than a year ago. The biggest addition for the Pistons next year is simply getting Cade Cunningham back and healthy, which will automatically make them better than they were a year ago. This season will be a lot about evaluation internally, as they look to see how their young hopeful core plays together before they have to start making extension considerations and consolidating their young talent.

Here we’ll grade out the Pistons offseason moves in the Draft, free agency and contract extensions, and the trade market.

Draft: B+

The Pistons weren’t in the mix for the most highly touted prospects in this year’s draft, and as a result selected Ausar Thompson (one pick after his twin brother Amen went to Houston). Thompson is a highly athletic wing with upside on both ends of the floor, albeit some questions about his jump shot. Our Brad Rowland gave the Pistons a B- for their selection on Draft night, explaining his grade as follows.

For many evaluators, the No. 5 spot represents the first slot with real, tangible uncertainty. Ausar doesn’t quite match the obscene athleticism of his brother, Amen, but he is a tremendous athlete in his own right with size and versatility. At this juncture, Ausar plays more like a wing and could provide key flexibility for Detroit on both ends of the floor.

However, after a strong Summer League performance where he looked a bit more refined than was maybe expected and showed how he can be a positive contributor on both ends, I’m bumping his grade up a bit. They also added Marcus Sasser in the second round out of Houston, and while Sasser isn’t a big guard at 6’2, he is a very good shooter, has a wingspan to make up for some of his height issues on defense, and was simply a tremendous college player. For a team needing to add winning players, Sasser is a very good use of an early second round pick.

Free Agency/Contract Extensions: C+

The only signing the Pistons made this summer was inking Isaiah Stewart to a 4-year, $60 million extension, with a fourth year team option. It’s a great deal for Stewart, who gets long-term stability but it was a bit of a surprise to see from the Pistons. Stewart’s been solid for them and shown promise, but they have a logjam in the frontcourt with Stewart, Jalen Duren, Marvin Bagley III, and James Wiseman. While they played Stewart at the three some last year, it’s not his ideal position. Detroit needs to find some clarity with their frontcourt rotation this season, but it certainly seems like Stewart has cemented his place for the near future. I don’t think this was a bad extension to hand out, but it’s a deal that mostly keeps them treading water and doesn’t particularly excite me.

Trades: B-

As mentioned, the Pistons chose to use their cap space to acquire some more second round picks and a pair of veteran guards in Joe Harris and Monte Morris. Harris gives them some more shooting for this year, while Morris is a steadyhand at point guard and an upgrade there over Killian Hayes, who it seems is unlikely to factor into Detroit’s long-term plans. Those are two veterans who will help make Detroit a little better, as the Pistons very much needed to add more shooting around Cade Cunningham and needed a veteran point guard behind him in the rotation. They also allow them to free up cap space next summer to make a big signing if they decide that’s the right time to take that step, or to do this all over again as there are always teams looking to move off big expirings, especially under this new CBA. The question for Detroit is whether they are willing to part with some of their veterans at the deadline this year, as they’ve been adamant about getting a big return for Bojan Bogdanovic, but now have a couple more rental options for contenders who might need shooting or a backup point guard.

This wasn’t a particularly exciting offseason for the Pistons, but it’s been a good show of patience to not force something when there wasn’t a clear path to making a huge leap as a team. They’ll see how this group plays together all together for the first time, and can make the appropriate moves from there next summer.