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Report: Zaza Pachulia signs one-year deal with Detroit Pistons

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At least one member of the Golden State Warriors championship core is moving away from the team.

Fifteen-year NBA veteran Zaza Pachulia has agreed to sign a one-year, $2.4 million deal with the Detroit Pistons. That figure represents a minimum salary contract for Pachulia given his experience.

Via Twitter:

Pachulia’s advanced statistics suggest that he is still a useful player, although his age and minutes might dictate how much of an impact he has on the box score this coming season for the Pistons. Detroit already has several star forwards, including Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond, and they have useful backups like Jon Leuer.

What the Pachulia’s role will be at this time in his career and for a team that is not expected to contend for a championship is unclear. However, getting a veteran presence on the Pistons is a solid move for Dwane Casey as he tries to reform the culture of the team in his own vision.

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Victor Oladipo named NBA Most Improved Player

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This was expected — and well earned.

Victor Oladipo spent the summer of 2017 reshaping his body and honing his skills, and after being traded to the Pacers and the ball put in his hands he became on of the best go-to players, No. 1 options in the league. He averaged 23.1 points per game and became more efficient with that heavier load, lifting the Pacers into the postseason.

All of that earned him the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award.

While Oladipo ran away with the award — garnering 99 of the 101 first-place votes from select media members — there were 33 players total who got at least one of the three ballot spots from the voters. The rest of the order of finish was Clint CapelaSpencer Dinwiddie, Andre Drummond, Julius Randle, and Stephen Adams.

Pistons present themselves as Eastern Conference heavyweights with Dwane Casey

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DETROIT – Pistons spokesman Mark Barnhill, introducing new coach Dwane Casey, said he tucked his notes for today’s press conference into his jacket pocket. Then, as he pulled them out, he discovered an old Pistons playoff ticket in the same pocket.

“It’s a bit of an omen and a bit of a challenge,” Barnhill said.

The ticket was for the Pistons’ best playoff performance in a decade.

“No pressure,” Casey said.

Actually, really, no pressure.

Detroit lost by only two points in Game 4 of the 2016 first round, getting swept by the Cavaliers in the game Barnhill referred to. The Pistons haven’t won a playoff game in the last 10 years and reached the postseason only twice in that span. A two-point loss was their best result.

They’re starving for only moderate success. The 59 wins and second-round loss that got Casey fired by the Raptors? That’d be a dream season in Detroit. Even just making the playoffs next year would be welcomed.

“Our time is now,” Casey said. “…The talent level on the roster is there.”

It better be.

The Pistons are too close to the luxury-tax line to use most of the mid-level exception. They surrendered their first-round pick in the Blake Griffin trade. They’re left with only the No. 42 pick in the second round.

“Whatever player we get, that would be great. But we don’t need another one,” Pistons owner Tom Gores said. “Like, we’re good. That’s why Dwane is here.”

That and $35 million.

The Pistons presented Casey with a favorable contract, a front-office head he knows (more on that later) and a solid roster. Detroit is probably better off trying to win now, because the alternative would be even trickier to pull off. With so many highly paid players stained by losing, the Pistons can’t easily switch paths and rebuild. Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson are close enough to their primes that the present should be the priority, even if this team maxes at pretty good.

Yet, Detroit’s brass couldn’t help but raise expectations even further.

“We have three very – we have a great roster – but very special players,” Gores said of Griffin, Drummond and Jackson.

That’s an overstatement. Besides, how much noise can Detroit make with the Celtics and 76ers rising the Raptors still hanging around?

“I feel very comfortable that we’ll have a product that will compete with the teams that you just said,” Gores’ advisor, Ed Stefanski, said. “We have to win games, as Tom said. But you don’t usually get to an organization and have three core guys like we have.”

Again, they’re talking about Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson.

Griffin hasn’t made an All-Star team in three years, a drought players rarely escape. Drummond is a borderline All-Star in the East (and a tough fit with Griffin). Jackson has only once even sniffed the All-Star discussion.

Casey also praised those three – and Detroit’s last three first-round picks: Stanley Johnson, Henry Ellenson and Luke Kennard. Johnson particularly drew attention from Casey, whose Raptors got swept by LeBron James‘ Cavaliers the last two years and lost the most lopsided six-game series in NBA history to Cleveland the previous year.

“Somebody said, ‘Well, what happened to Toronto in the playoffs? ‘Well, I said, ‘It’s about matchups,'” Casey said. “And Stanley Johnson is the best match up for 23 in Cleveland that there is, physically.”

Maybe Casey, with his strong record of player development, will help Johnson eventually compete at those high levels.

“We’re not developing,” Casey said. “We’re not two or three years away. We want to win right now.”

The Pistons are so confident in their current roster, they haven’t even hired a general manager or equivalent. For now, Stefanski – advisor to the owner with the title of “senior executive” – is running the show. It sounds as if that could continue for a while.

“We could make Ed GM tomorrow,” Gores said. “That’s easy. If you guys want a title, that’s kind of easy.

“That’s not the point. The point is we’re building an organization, not around one person, but around what our vision is.”

Stefanski said, no matter how the front office is assembled, Casey will report to him. And Stefanski will report to Gores.

After giving Stan Van Gundy massive control, the Pistons are dispersing power.

Casey is a good coach, and he’ll help. Stefanski has plenty to prove as a front-office head. Gores is still learning as an owner, a failed experiment (keeping Joe Dumars) and unfulfilling tenure (Van Gundy’s) behind him. The roster is solid, though unexciting, when healthy.

They’re now all in it together, awaiting a chance to deliver. Considering how modest external expectations are, maybe they will.

But as the Pistons overstate their standing, it gets harder to take them seriously.

What do Pistons look like under Dwane Casey? Expect more Blake Griffin

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Once Blake Griffin was traded to Detroit last February at the deadline, Stan Van Gundy put the ball in his hands a lot — a 29.8 percent usage rate. Griffin was handed the ball in the post a lot (especially the high post) and the Pistons averaged an impressive 105 points per possession from those plays (stats via Synergy Sports). Griffin, as he has tended to in recent years, took too many midrangers and didn’t get to the rim as much as the coaching staff would like, but was efficient in isolation, and also showed promise as a playmaker.

Expect to see more of that with Dwane Casey as coach.

Casey was officially hired by the Pistons Monday as their new head coach — the best the Pistons could have made. Once they made the move for Griffin to pair with Andre Drummond (and eventually a healthy Reggie Jackson) this became a team about winning now and making the postseason. Casey has gotten the most out of a team in that space the past several years in Toronto, he should put the Pistons in better positions to succeed.

How? More Griffin. That’s what Casey said on ESPN Radio’s Stephen A. Smith Show:

“We’re going to empower Griffin to expand his game, a lot like DeMar DeRozan in Toronto. Expand his game out to the 3-point line, have some point-forward responsibilities with the basketball out on the floor bringing it down. Because he’s more than just a back-down, post-up player….

“They have a good team, they have a good roster and a very dynamic owner in Tom Gores, who is doing a lot of things for the city of Detroit.”

More Griffin is a start, some high low game with Drummond, or Griffin working off the ball as Jackson and Drummond run pick-and-rolls. There’s a lot of potential there.

Beyond that, Casey is going to need to get more out of Detroit’s younger players such as Stanley Johnson and Luke Kennard. Player development is going to matter for a capped out team.

Most of all, Casey needs to stop in every church he passes by and pray/light a candle — maybe sacrifice a live rooster if needed — that Jackson and Griffin can stay healthy for most of a season. Same with the rest of the Pistons. Healthy this is a playoff team and a pretty good one in Detroit, but’s a roster loaded with players who have long injury histories.

Casey is expected to meet with most of the team soon in Los Angeles and lay out his plans. He will get the most out of this roster, whatever pieces he has. We’ll see if that’s enough.

Pistons announce Dwane Casey as head coach

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Ever since John Beilein withdrew from the search, it appeared extremely likely the Pistons would tab Dwane Casey as their next coach.

Now, they have.

Casey is a win-now coach for a win-now roster. The Raptors fired him after years of strong regular seasons then disappointing postseasons. Who really deserved blame for those playoff flameouts? Maybe Casey. Maybe Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Maybe LeBron James. Many people were probably at least somewhat culpable, but Casey took the fall.

He’s a good coach who implements a sound defense, develops young players and has improved his offensive style.

Casey will take over a Detroit team starving for the type of success Toronto deemed no longer good enough. The Pistons haven’t won a playoff game in 10 years and reached the postseason only twice in that span.

Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond are stars, though a somewhat awkward fit. Reggie Jackson getting healthy could put a 39-43 team over the top and into the playoffs.

Good thing, because Detroit lacks the salary-cap flexibility to upgrade the roster significantly. The Pistons also already traded their first-round pick (in the Griffin deal).

Detroit is hiring Casey before a president or general manager, as fired Stan Van Gundy both ran the front office and served as head coach. Ed Stefanski, advisor to owner Tom Gores, is apparently running the show for now. Will the new president or general manager – whichever title is given – want to hire his own coach? Picking the coach first often brings complications.

The Pistons aren’t immune from those. Their process since dumping Van Gundy has revealed organizational issues.

But at least they have a good coach now.