The Detroit Pistons have tried to upgrade their depth this offseason while keeping their core of Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson intact.
The 21st century has been either feast or famine for the Detroit Pistons.
The Pistons of the new millennium’s first decade were perennial contenders, winning a title in 2004, reaching back-to-back NBA Finals in 2004 and 2005 and joining a short list of teams to reach the conference finals in six consecutive seasons from 2003-08.
That is tied with three other teams for the third-longest such streak in NBA history, joining the St. Louis Hawks (1956-61), Los Angeles Lakers (1968-73) and New York Knicks (1969-74).
The only teams with longer streaks are the Lakers from 1982-89 (eight straight years) and the dynasty-era Boston Celtics, who reached the then-division finals 13 consecutive times from 1957-69.
That was the feast.
Since then, it’s been mostly famine in Detroit. Since that run among the Eastern Conference elite, the Pistons have made the playoffs just three times — 2009, 2016 and 2019 — and have yet to win a game, much less a series, in that span.
Going back to the final two games of the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Boston Celtics, the Pistons have lost 14 consecutive playoff games.
The series-clinching loss to the Milwaukee Bucks at Little Caesars Arena on April 22 pushed the Pistons past the New York Knicks for the longest losing streak in NBA playoff history. The Knicks lost 13 straight from May 2001 through May 2012.
The Pistons reached last year’s playoff party as a No. 8 seed, beating the Knicks in the season’s final night to secure their spot.
But Detroit didn’t have a lot of wiggle room to work with entering the offseason, with Blake Griffin still owed $110.22 million for the final three years of his contract, Andre Drummond on the books for $55.66 million for the last two years of his deal and Reggie Jackson‘s final year at $18.09 million still here.
It should be noted that the final years for both Griffin and Drummond are player options.
So the Pistons were left with enough room to make some small adjustments, rather than an a major overhaul to a team that started 13-7, then went 4-16 from Dec. 3-Jan. 10 before recovering to post a 24-18 mark the rest of the way to finish at the .500 mark.
Gone are bench pieces Ish Smith, Zaza Pachulia, Jose Calderon, Jon Leuer and Glenn Robinson III, as well as veteran guard Wayne Ellington, who started 26 games down the stretch after signing with the club after the trade deadline.
Ellington signed with the Knicks, Smith has gone to Washington Wizards — the first time he plays he will have worn the uniform of 11 different teams, one off the NBA record, Robinson landed with the Golden State Warriors, while aging Pachulia and Calderon are still hunting for deals.
Leuer, traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, was stretched and waived.
In their place come some intriguing veterans and a surprise in the first round of the draft. Here are the grades for the offseason put together by senior adviser Ed Stefanski.