The start of Troy Weaver’s tenure with the Detroit Pistons started with a bang. Weaver traded Bruce Brown and Luke Kennard, signed Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee and acquired enough centers to fill an entire division of rosters at one point. Many onlookers scratched their heads for an explanation of what those moves meant for Detroit’s future. It was Weaver’s first time leading decision-making for an NBA franchise. The skepticism was more than fair.

Almost two years later, Troy Weaver’s vision is clear. And his tenure at Pistons shows that a clear vision is more important than “winning” every deal.

The signs and the skepticism were there from the start. The Grant and Plumlee contracts appeared to be overpayments for a team that seemed destined to rebuild after moving veterans at the previous deadline. Both contracts were for three years, and that set a firm timeline.

With Blake Griffin’s contract expiring in the summer of 2022, Pistons fans have often identified this offseason as the year the team will finally start moving on, spending money and competing. It is easy to fall into this trap. Having money to spend on free agents is the clearest way to improve the roster. But the length of the Grant and Plumlee contracts suggested Weaver was eyeing the summer of 2023 to really get moving. Given the recent history of how Detroit free agents spend, a little patience was and is a welcome sight.

Fast forward to last summer and Weaver stuck to plan. He signed Kelly Olynyk to a three-year deal with just $3 million guaranteed in the final year. Trey Lyles has signed a two-year contract. Hamidou Diallo and Frank Jackson have re-signed short-term contracts.

Despite 17 trades and $150 million in free agent contracts, the Pistons’ cap sheet for 2023-24 remains beautifully empty.

Meanwhile, Weaver built through the project. After selecting Killian Hayes with the seventh overall pick in 2020, Detroit got draft rights from Isaiah Stewart in a trade where they sent some future asset projects. Then Weaver traded draft rights to Saddiq Bey as part of the deal with Luke Kennard and sent four second-round picks to the Clippers.

These agreements were not of much value at first sight. Zach Lowe noted as much at the time.

It became clear that Detroit was not going to compete for the playoffs in the near future. You could even say that it signaled an intention to tank. If this is the vision, it seems even more important to get good value in your transactions and signings. Giving up value to get the right part is fine if you’re a competitor. But if you’re restoring your franchise, you want to accumulate assets rather than give them up.

Weaver took a different approach. He transformed the list in a way he thought was important. He got the players he thought would be a good fit for the Pistons’ new foundation. If he gave up some value in the process, so be it. He did things his way.

The results were immediately apparent. Although Detroit was devoid of high-end talent, they competed almost every time they took the floor. Through all the defeats, there has never been a whisper of infighting or player-only meetings. The stories that came out of the Pistons franchise were largely positive: Jerami Grant turned down the same money offered by a competitor to come and play in Detroit, Saddiq Bey was an absurdly hard worker, and the coaching staff and front office were in trouble. phase. A culture was flourishing.

The reward for this culture building came last summer when Cade Cunningham fell into the Pistons’ lap after winning the NBA Draft Lottery. Troy Weaver got his franchise player. The team struggled, but there were signs of a flare up when things started to pick up. Then a critical offseason was approaching.

This offseason started as Weaver’s first — with a confusing exchange. Jerami Grant went to the Blazers for first-round pick and cap space likely at the end of 2025. The return was a far cry from what was rumored a year ago. But Troy Weaver wasn’t done. It never seems to end.

That pick turned into Jalen Duren. The extra cap space became Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel and two second-round picks.

The acquisition of Burks and Noel had two major consequences apart from obtaining interim assets. First, Detroit signed two one-year contracts, now a clear cap sheet for next summer. Second, Burks and Noel earn enough that throwing big money at a free agent is unlikely. My apologies to Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Josh Smith, but not being able to sign long-term contracts worth $30 million maintains the flexibility Weaver has worked so hard to build.

Thanks to Weaver sticking to his clear vision, the Pistons now have the ability to make a splash in the next two offseasons. Detroit’s cover sheets are clear enough that they have plenty of room to sign their young players for fair extensions and add key elements in view of the contention.

None of this would have been possible if Weaver hadn’t followed his plan. It’s easy to sit back as a losing franchise and fight to win every trade around the margins. It’s much harder to take risks and concede value now in order to execute a vision that won’t manifest until later. Troy Weaver did the latter on an impressive level.

Thanks to Weaver’s patience and vision, the future for the Pistons now looks better than it has in at least 15 years. And Troy Weaver is exactly the right person to lead this young team in restoring the franchise’s storied past.


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