Dwane Casey: Moving On From Drummond, Jackson 'Big Step' For Pistons

It's reminiscent of his starting point in Toronto.

Will Burchfield
May 08, 2020 - 2:26 pm
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It's been about three months since the Pistons traded Andre Drummond and plotted a new course as an organization. A couple weeks later they bought out Reggie Jackson, another vestige of an era that was vain more than it was valiant. 

The Pistons made the playoffs twice with Drummond and Jackson, and were swept in the first round both times. That was the ceiling, so they finally tore down the walls and started over. 

For Dwane Casey, it was probably refreshing. He was brought here to build a winner, and now he can get to doing that. The Pistons have an emerging young core, a high draft pick this summer and plenty of cap space to work with in the years ahead. And Casey's no longer beholden to a win-now charge.  

It's reminiscent of his starting point in Toronto, where Casey took over a last-place team that hadn't been past the first round of the playoffs in 11 years. In case you were wondering, it's been 11 years for Detroit. So Casey's spent lots of time during quarantine watching film from this season, thinking about next one. And those after that. 

"We took a significant step in trading Andre Drummond. And Reggie Jackson, letting him go was a big step for our organization, which clearly drew the line that we are rebuilding and retooling our roster to get ready for the future," Casey told the Jamie and Stoney Show. "So these are different times for us. We’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of building to do, a lot of roster reconfiguring to do."

It will be a team effort, starting at the top with Ed Stefanski. The Pistons acting GM publicly acknowledged the need to rebuild after the Drummond trade, for the first time in his tenure in Detroit. He said the team was done 'just making the playoffs.' There's a youth movement afoot in Detroit, and Casey knows first-hand where it can lead. With a retooled roster, his Raptors soon became a juggernaut in the East. 

"It’s hard work, but for me, it’s exciting," Casey said. "I kind of did the same thing in Toronto the first few years, so that helps me have confidence that it can be done if you do it the right way." 

The right way, for the Pistons, is straight through the draft. They added a promising piece last year in Sekou Doumbouya, and it's crucial that they find another this year. USC center Onyea Okongwu and forward Deni Avdija from Israel are two names to ... start learning how to spell. Take it from Toronto. Its championship last season would never have been possible without first-rounders DeMar DeRozan and Pascal Siakam.

But the draft isn't the only vehicle. The Raptors also aren't the reining champs without Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka, both of whom were acquired in trades. (To say nothing of Kawhi Leonard.) Little was made of Detroit's acquisition of Svi Mykhailiuk at the 2018 trade deadline, but he's starting to play himself into the future. And how about Christian Wood? The Pistons claimed him off waivers last offseason, and now he's one of the league's rising stars. Detroit will make him a priority this summer. 

This is how a small-market team builds a consistent winner. 

"The silver lining for us (this season) was a kid like Christian Wood," Casey said. "We saw what we had in him. Svi really grew as a basketball player, Bruce Brown. We had a lot of players that really grew in that time. That’s very, very important for us right now in this process."

Step one was moving on, once and for all, from a roster running in place. There are bigger steps to come, like figuring out what to do -- and how to do it -- with Blake Griffin. But the Pistons finally have a path forward, and some room to stretch their legs. That has to feel good for Casey, who's been boxed in with the Pistons for two years too long.