Detroit Pistons: Depth chart identifies another need at centers

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

For the Detroit Pistons, there is room for improvement at every roster position. This is the fifth and final look at the team’s depth chart, namely at centers.

NBA teams are not anchored by centers as they once were. Instead, many big men have evolved to be shooters or “stretch fives.” For the better part of the decade, the Detroit Pistons could claim one of the most dominant centers in the league in Andre Drummond.

Then, in February, the Pistons sent Drummond to Cleveland to make some financial room. To make up for his sizable absence, they mainly started a combination of two young players and got a small amount of time out of a third. Below is a list of the players who played the position throughout the year, sorted by playing time.

64. . . . Christian Wood. 1. player

Christian Wood is already becoming an NBA journeyman. Still under 25 years old, Wood has previously played for five different clubs. This year, his first with Detroit, he spent a lot of time-shifted to the four with Drummond on the court, but he also spent plenty of minutes as a center. He was given more time there, especially after Drummond left for Cleveland. Once he started receiving regular minutes, he began to shine.

After the trade, Wood started 11 of 13 games and averaged 34.2 minutes per game (before then, he had averaged 18 minutes and started only one game). During a nice final month stretch, Wood recorded career highs in points, offensive rebounds, three-point field goals, and assists.

He shot 38.6% from three, better than average for many NBA centers. In fact, a masterful career-high 32 points came in what was then just a Wednesday in March and is now the final game of the year.

Unfortunately, he might be playing for a sixth team in the fall. He is an unrestricted free agent, and he may have played himself out of the Pistons’ rebuilding budget. If they can keep him at or slightly above the roughly $1.6 million he has earned so far, it would be a steal–however unlikely. Otherwise, Wood may be on an opposing squad.

player. 64. . . . Thon Maker. 2

After being traded midway through last season, Thon Maker finished his first full season with the Detroit Pistons. Most often, he came off the bench to relieve Drummond, causing his minutes to come down from his days in Milwaukee.

For the most part, he had an average season. He generally knows where to be on defense, and his blocks have been on the rise as a result. Unfortunately, he has had trouble extending plays for the Pistons: he had one of the worst rebounding percentages among Pistons big men and was on pace to have the most turnovers in his career.

He commands a pricey qualifying offer with the Pistons, but he will probably be back next year. Given his salary and impending free agency, though, it would not be surprising if Maker becomes a potential piece of a larger package come next trade deadline.

. . . Donta Hall. 3. player. 64

You would be forgiven for forgetting Hall’s output this year, as he appeared in only four games before the season’s abrupt end. After signing a 10-day contract and bouncing back and forth from Detroit to Grand Rapids, the 22-year-old still played decently in his minimal time. All the same, do not count on him to return next year unless it is a similar type of deal with the G League.

Obviously, there is a reasonable need for a center in the coming year. As it stands, the Pistons probably do not have a starting center. Christian Wood might get a better deal from another team, and Thon Maker is better served coming off the bench.

There is, however, the philosophical question of how necessary an old-school center is in today’s NBA. Look no further than the Central division rival Milwaukee Bucks center, Brook Lopez, who took 31 threes in his first eight seasons and over 1,500 in his last four.

Lopez adapted to the floor-spacing style of the modern NBA. After seven years with a classically dominant big man like Andre Drummond, are the Detroit Pistons ready to commit in the same direction?

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Regardless, the Pistons hope to have a strong frontcourt, and while their power forwards are in good shape, finding a strong center should be a priority. In fact, finding a capable center should be just behind finding a starting point guard–whether that comes from the draft or in free agency.