The Detroit Pistons have not played in over two months. Without a complete season of play, there is understandably a great deal of uncertainty heading into the offseason, even more so than usual.
When the NBA season officially shut down, things were not going exceptionally well for the Detroit Pistons. Injuries were abound, and they were 20-46, en route to a lottery pick likely in the top five. When the league halted, the Pistons found themselves unceremoniously in the offseason with more questions than answers.
Will free agency still begin on June 30 as planned? How will the salary cap change? Now that the league pushed back the lottery, will they also reschedule the Draft? Where will the Pistons even be selecting?
Before tackling those questions, however, it is helpful to look first at the team’s status by way of the depth chart as it stands today. This will entail looking at each player in their positional category to determine the biggest overall points of improvement. It is easy to forget how the team performed because we are so far removed from any on-court action. Below is a list of every point guard still on the roster, sorted by the amount of playing time.
Derrick Rose was a surprising high point in an otherwise down season. He submitted numbers akin to his MVP season–better defense, better shooting percentage–albeit in fewer minutes. It was only surprising because this was possibly his best performance since his All-Star days, a span of nearly eight years. Rose did show signs of this career resurgence last year in Minnesota, but he truly rounded into form in Detroit. He came off the bench to relieve Bruce Brown but made a strong case to be a regular starter again.
So will he be back next year? This is a more difficult question to answer now. A month ago, he was a prime candidate to be snatched up by a team making a playoff run with a need for a point guard coming off the bench. Without knowing the future of the playoffs, that market is nonexistent. He is under contract for one more season before becoming a free agent, and as it stands now, he will probably spend that season–or at least the beginning of it–with the Detroit Pistons.
Nine years after the Pistons drafted him, Brandon Knight returned to Detroit from Cleveland as a part of the trade for Andre Drummond. He was a workhorse down the stretch, handling a decent amount of minutes at the point guard spot to give some relief to the Rose and Brown. The chance of him returning next year, however, is almost zero, unless he accepts a drastic pay cut. The Pistons took on his expiring contract as a way to shed some salary for the offseason; they are not likely to turn around and make him a new deal.
In a roundabout way, the Pistons acquired Bone following the Draft last year, and he spent most of the year in Grand Rapids. While his production in Detroit was limited, there was a lot to like about his performance in the G League, where he started 30 games and averaged 17.5 points per game. The Pistons will probably extend a qualifying offer, and Bone should remain in the organization next year. It will not be surprising if he spends more time with the Drive.
Finally, there is an elephant in the room when discussing point guards: Bruce Brown. While he technically played more minutes at the two-guard, he started quite a few games as the primary point guard with Rose coming off the bench.
This was, of course, a make-do while Reggie Jackson was sidelined. We will cover Brown when we go over shooting guards, but he is worth mentioning here. He did an admirable job covering the gap in point guards, but realistically, he would play his typical role of shooting guard in a system with a healthy starting point guard.
With all of this in mind, it is clear the need to improve the point guard position is high. Now that Jackson is a Clipper and Tim Frazier is on waivers, the Pistons are without a true starting point guard.
That spot is currently filled by Bruce Brown, who is not actually a point guard, and Derrick Rose, who cannot play to the full potential of his younger days. Both are more than serviceable players, to be sure, but it is not a scheme built for long-term success. Whether it is through the draft or free agency, the Pistons need to improve their circumstances at guard.
This is the first in a series analyzing the current state of the Detroit Pistons by position. Next, we will look at the shooting guard situation. If it is anything like the point guards, the team has some work to do in the offseason.