agency focus remains unchanged

AUBURN HILLS The Detroit Pistons clearly came away feeling good about nabbing Henry Ellenson and Michael Gbinije in the NBA draft, but the reason that means nothing when free agency opens next week was illustrated a few minutes earlier when Oklahoma City stole the show.

A night that was supposed to be about the NBA’s next crop of incoming stars was upstaged by the Thunder trading Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and first round pick Domantas Sabonis.

Oklahoma City had the Golden State Warriors on the ropes in the West finals but couldn’t finish, the same fate that befell the Warriors against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, and the Thunder’s response was to trade away their third best player.Cheap Jerseys from china They got better and younger and deeper, created more opportunity to build the interior around Steven Adams with Enes Kanter as an offensive complement, they reportedly will exercise Ilyasova’s option, they got the rookie son of Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis, got at least a very good rental before Oladipo gets paid, and put themselves in the best position to retain Durant.

The night was not about Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram, the first two picks of the 2016 NBA draft.

It was about veterans everyone knows.

That is not to short the Pistons’ draft results, which went as well as they possibly could hope.

They got the power forward depth they wanted in Marquette’s Ellenson, who measured 6 11 1/2 in shoes at the NBA draft combine, can put the ball on the floor, make the mid range shot, rebound, and maybe guard someone. That last one will determine the precise nature of his long term employability. But at No. 18, he could be a steal.

The Pistons got a shooting guard who spent his senior season at point guard in Syracuse’s Gbinije. That should excite anyone who has seen Kentavious Caldwell Pope’s knuckleball handle. Assistant general manager Brian Wright said the Pistons view Gbinije as a combination guard. Whether they view him as a third point guard remains to be seen but Gbinije at least checks some of the same boxes as 2015 draft pick Darrun Hilliard as the Pistons continue to stockpile multi dimensional guards via the second round. introductory press conference. Today is for smiling for the cameras and holding up their first pro jerseys. Tuesday, they will undergo their first two a days at Orlando Pro Summer League, the first of eight practices in four days. Welcome to the NBA.

As to what consideration they will be given in the Pistons’ rotation plans, it is firm: They will start July 2 against the New York Knicks’ summer team in Orlando.

That’s the extent of the guarantee.

Free agency opens one week from today, July 1, and the Pistons still are very much in the market for the same things as before the draft.

Pistons czar Stan Van Gundy said the draft would have “no impact” on the Pistons’ plans in free agency, though he acknowledged surprise that Ellenson was available and said he has the potential tricky little word to earn a bigger rotation role than they had planned at No. 18, which was none.

Neither Ellenson nor Gbinije can begin to prove himself until October and the Pistons have a roster to build right now.

If the Pistons do not make a move, they expect to have around $15.5 million to spend in free agency, though it is not in their character to not make a move and they have three players on non guaranteed contracts. They also can exceed the cap to re sign restricted free agent Andre Drummond after all other business is complete.

They need a second point guard and second power forward. Those won’t come cheap, especially the point guard. The first 12 hours of free agency will be a fiscal frenzy unlike the NBA has seen. The list of eight figure players by this time next week will shock and amaze.

Even if the Pistons consider Gbinije primarily a third point guard and Stanley Johnson primarily a small forward, they still have four other shooting guards under contract.

It would take a significant offer for the Pistons to give up Caldwell Pope but his potential restricted free agency in 2017 is a costly consideration and you have to give up something to get something. Hilliard still is playing on a second round rookie contract. The Pistons like them both but never say never.

Certainly, Jodie Meeks, at about $6.5 million, and Reggie Bullock, at about $2.25 million, both in the final seasons of their contracts, could fit into any number of Meeks has had two injury pocked seasons with the Pistons. Bullock was bad in autumn but excellent in spring in his only year with the team.

The Pistons go into free agency as a 44 win team on the rise. More people walk through the door when you have something to sell. The Pistons are not likely to try a major shake up like dealing a piece of their young core but using cap space by picking up salary in trade is a consideration. And they might look just a little better to big time free agents, if Atlanta Hawks power forward and Grand Ledge native Al Horford really wants to leave $35 million plus on the table.

Oklahoma City had something to sell. The Thunder were a few possessions away from being a few possessions away from a championship. They still shook it up, though they did it to get younger and better, as have the Pistons.

The Pistons got swept in the first round so they have to change. They need a backup point guard who can make them churn for 18 minutes. They need a range shooting, range defending power forward.

If Ellenson earns a promotion, so be it. His availability at No. 18 surprised most everyone in the media room, even though any semi draftnik had seen his projections slipping. The Pistons had him 10th on their big board, Van Gundy said. He will shine in summer league and there will be a clamor to see more of him in preseason, then into the regular season. It’s inevitable. Wait for the first three game losing streak.

That is not the plan. Getting veteran help to improve a playoff team is. Teams that rely on rookies to get from 44 wins to 50 wins more likely end up at 38 wins. June 23 is a great day for long term roster building efforts but July 1 is when the Pistons hope to find veterans everyone knows who can move them forward immediately.

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