Pistons Sticking With 'Our Big Three' Of Griffin, Drummond, Jackson

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Photo credit © Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Don't expect any sweeping changes for the Pistons this offseason. The team plans to continue building around the trio of Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson. 

"The philosophy right now is we have those three, and we’re going with them," acting GM Ed Stefanski said in a pre-draft press conference Monday. 

He added, "But I have no idea what’s going to happen." 

Stefanski ruled out the Pistons making a splash in free agency. They only have $9 million in cap space. As for the possibility of a major trade, one that would fundamentally alter the roster, it's highly unlikely. 

"Again, that is all fluid. There’s never been a player in the league that hasn't been traded," said Stefanski. "But Blake Griffin is pretty darn good. He’s a warrior from what we saw out there. I don’t know what package someone could offer you, (but) I don’t shop him. Andre Drummond I think is getting better and better. I think in the second half of last year he showed us what he could possibly be. And then we see Reggie ... he wasn't ready until the middle of January with his ankle and he was terrific in the second half.

"So the big three, our big three, I think came on nicely. It happened to be that Blake got hurt at the wrong time." 

Thanks in large part to Griffin, who put together a career season before a knee injury limited him down the stretch, the Pistons made the playoffs for the first time since 2016. They were promptly swept in the first round by the Bucks, but owner Tom Gores said afterward he was pleased with the team's progress

On Monday, Stefanski pointed to a number of young players that give the Pistons hope, most notably Bruce Brown and Luke Kennard. Now it's a matter of letting them grow. 

"Kennard, a lot of people wanted him traded at the trade deadline. I think Luke’s terrific," said Stefanski. "He was arguably our best player in the series against Milwaukee. (They had to) gameplan against Luke. He’s only two years in. We're so impatient in the NBA. We can go through all the rosters and show the players in their third or fourth year where they just came on and say 'Oh, they're real nice players.' Well, that’s what we have to do. We have to be a little patient with these guys, and I think it’ll pay off."

Even if the Pistons wanted to blow up their roster, they'd have a hard time doing it. As good as Griffin was last season, is any team taking on a 30-year-old who's owed about $110 million through 2021-22? Who's touching Drummond, with two years and about $55 million left on his deal? Jackson might have value as an expiring contract later next season, but his $18 million salary is a pretty hard sell right now. 

As long as Griffin's in the picture, the Pistons are committed to going for it. Stefanski said the team's main priority this offseason is adding depth. Detroit needs particular help on the wing, and maybe they can address that Thursday night with the 15th overall pick in the draft. They'll also have a void at backup point guard if they can't resign Ish Smith. A backup center is on their radar as well. 

Whoever they acquire in the draft and free agency, the Pistons want players with the right attitude. 

"I keep going back to the quality of the person. I'm huge on that," said Stefanski. "I may not have been early in my career. I probably just saw talent and didn’t look at the other stuff as much. Experience has told me that to build a team the right way you need the right person, regardless of some of the talent. It may outweigh some of the talent. ... Where we are today, (we want) playmakers, shooters, but that good person who is coachable and has work ethic and grit. They're huge." 

Right now, it's safe to say the Pistons are holding onto Griffin. They've found themselves a star, and, for better or worse, have no intention of letting him go. Drummond is likely safe, too, by virtue of his contract. There remains a slim chance Jackson could be dealt, but it would have to be a win-now move. Gores has said time and again that he'll pay the luxury tax if it means adding another star to the roster

Remember, the Pistons were heavily involved in talks for Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley at last season's trade deadline. Those talks could heat up again this summer. 

"Tom Gores has been fantastic," Stefanski said. "He gives us whatever we want. If we can get a guy that moves the needle to us being in the top four, let’s say, in the East, Tom will pay the tax." 

That would certainly be a twist, an unlikely one at that. As they head into the offseason, it sounds like the Pistons are committed to seeing how good the Griffin-Drummond-Jackson trio can be. 

"We have ifs, just like a lot of teams," said Stefanski. "Blake has to play to an All-Star level, Reggie has to play in the second half and then I think Drummond has something more in there, I really do." 

Their goal this summer is supplementing -- not subtracting -- those three. 

"We have a plan. You try to execute that plan, and you’re ecstatic (when you do), but roadblocks come up and you have to adjust," Stefanski said. "We talk about what our plan is perfectly, we talk about different ifs. I thought we did a nice job last year on making some moves that did help us. Now can we do that again?"