Troy Weaver, how does it smell?

Quick, the NBA season starts in like three months. We need to figure out a starting lineup. Okay, this might be a little early, especially since we haven’t seen the Summer League games yet. Still, I am going to argue that the results of the league don’t really matter. Troy Weaver has set the team up for a certain goal, and the goal should drive the playing time and the starts. With this mindset, the starting lineup is a given.

Yes, I realize that I left the last paragraph without addressing what the overarching goal of the 2022-23 season is in Troy Weaver’s eyes. Simple, make the Lottery again. There is no way that Troy’s decision making this summer is anything but a Philadelphia-esque Process. This is an absolute U-turn from where he was before the 2021 draft. In a Detroit Free Press interview, Weaver was quoted as, “Twenty wins don’t sit well with me. I don’t like anything about it, I don’t like the way it looks, I don’t like the way it smells…The only way to improve that is I gotta come back better.” This was before the drafting of Cade Cunningham. Well, the Pistons looked like an improved roster that dealt with injuries and mishap and did not come back better. The 23 win mark was only three wins more than the year before, but the prior year was a COVID shortened season that was ten games short of a full season. This team did not come back better; at best, it came back the same.

My statement that Troy Weaver is shooting for a lottery pick can still seem like a stretch. The man says that the Pistons record doesn’t “look” right or “smell” right. How does that equate to tanking? This summer has shown that Weaver has changed his time table and strategy. This is not a critique of changing strategy by any mean. GMs and coaches have to be willing to adjust to how things are going. My point is that the Piston fans have to realize that 20 win seasons aren’t going to change for the next year or more.

For sure, it is easy to make grand accusations, but proof is required. Fine, let’s talk proof. Weaver has left a gaping hole at the power forward position when he traded away Jerami Grant for what turned out to be a non-shooting center in Jalen Duren. Correct, Weaver just traded a player that was a finalist for the league’s Most Improved Player, deemed to be an All Star snub in 2020-21 by most sporting news sources, and was a good three point shooter who played both forward spots for a project. Wait it gets better, Weaver already has Isaiah Stewart who has a similar skill set to Jalen Duren on the roster. I grant that Duren has more upside and physical tools than Stewart, but Stewart is a fan favorite that has been holding a starting job. Plus the Pistons just extended Marvin Bagley, who is seems to be better suited to the center position than a Stretch 4; Kelly Olynyk, who can shoot outside but is often hurt and is more of a center; and had to cut a previous draft pick in Luke Garza. Troy Weaver has a penchant for over valuing the center position, a position that is not a major part of the NBA currently.

Regardless of whether you like the philosophy, three centers that can’t shoot and one semi-shooting center that spent the season sidelined is okay if you have a host of switchable forwards running around, which the Pistons don’t have. The Pistons passed on middle level free agents like Bobby Portis and Otto Porter Jr for Kevin Knox, a guy that has spent most of the last two seasons injured and had his worst three point shooting year of his career, just south of 28%. Unless Isaiah Livers continues to improve, the Pistons either have to roll out two non-shooting centers or move Saddiq Bey to the 4. Moving Bey to the 4 would be the best, but that would require a new starting small forward. This will work only if Hamidou Diallo is up to the starting 3 spot or if Cade Cunningham moves to the 3. There isn’t enough great depth at the guard spots, so Killian Hayes stays a starter at the point while Jaden Ivey starts at the 2, or vice versa.

A starting line up of Isaiah Stewart/Marvin Bagley, Saddiq Bey, Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, and Killian Hayes definitely gives your youngsters a chance to grow. It would also force Saban Lee, Hamidou Diallo, and Kevin Knox to show up. This is exactly the line up that the Pistons should do long term. I will grant that it will give Troy Weaver a reasonable understanding of the ceiling of each player, but I won’t grant that it won’t smell like 20 wins. This is not a team that is destined to compete for the playoffs. Picking up a Portis or Porter would have given the Pistons a strong switchable forward and allowed Bey and Cunningham to guard people more their size; it would allow Hayes to come off the bench, where he could hopefully find more success than he did last year. The line up of Stewart, Porter/Portis, Bey, Cunningham, and Ivey would allow the Pistons to have a lot of depth and compete for the playoffs this year.

But, we did not get Portis or Porter. Miles Bridges looked like a great pick up for the Pistons, but his legal situation is too up in the air to warrant going after (nor should the Pistons go after him if the allegations are true). The Pistons are going to roll out a group that can only give one outcome: another lottery pick. I will be honest that I have never smelled a tank before, but the Pistons are going to give us a chance to smell one this year. According to Troy Weaver, we won’t like the way it smells.

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