Pistons GM Troy Weaver Favors 'One-Year Rebuild Every Year'

But he has a bigger task ahead of him in Detroit. 

Will Burchfield
June 22, 2020 - 8:49 pm
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Troy Weaver is in Detroit to guide the Pistons through a rebuild -- in his words, a 'restoring.' That's what Weaver dubbed the project on his hands when the Pistons introduced him Monday as their new general manager. Restorations define Weaver's resume.

He helped restore the Jazz in the 2000's after Stockton and Malone, and then the Thunder, over and over, in the 2010's. He's keen on restoring the Pistons in a way that will make the legends of the franchise proud. He wants guys "like Dave Bing, Isaiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Ben Wallace, Rip Hamilton" to watch the team play and say, "This resonates. This looks and feels like a Piston team."

"We’ll work hard to ensure that we make that happen," he said. 

Weaver's also keen on making that happen quickly. While the Pistons appear to be far from contention, Weaver learned during his tenure as assistant GM in Oklahoma City that a rebuild doesn't have to take forever. The Thunder shed skins frequently during the last decade, transforming from a team led by Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant to one centered around Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and a boatload of first-round picks, and never let the roster decay.

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"We retooled the team a few times, turning great players into more players and more picks. We were in a mode that we had to be extremely flexible and open-minded, because it’s different now," Weaver said. "Traditional rebuilds are pretty much a thing of the past. It’s a two- or three-year rebuild and see what you have, and then two or three years again. But our philosophy is, one-year rebuild every year. Try to be competitive. Go to the drawing board without mortgaging the future and try to put the best team on the floor."

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For the Thunder, three big trades stand out in the 2010's. First, after making it to the NBA Finals in 2012 led by a core of Durant, Westbrook and Harden, they traded Harden to the Rockets rather than risk losing him as a free agent. The package that came back included a first-round pick that the team turned into longtime starting center Steven Adams -- a player Weaver identified himself

Then, after hitting a wall in 2019 with a team built around Westbrook and Paul George, the Thunder shipped Westbrook to the Rockets and George to the Clippers and wound up with seven first-round picks and a budding star in Gilgeous-Alexander. In other words, the foundation of a new core.

No one gave the Thunder much of a shot this season, but they were 40-24 and fifth in the West when play was halted. That's what a 'one-year rebuild' looks like. Will Weaver be able to pull off something similar in Detroit? No, not to that degree. The Pistons don't have the kind of assets to swing any quick-fix trades.

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But they also might not tear things down completely. Weaver referenced Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose as two 'big-time players' who can 'help us moving forward.' Outsiders also thought the Thunder were crazy to take on Chris Paul and his expensive contract, but Paul has played a key part in the team's latest regeneration. Weaver seems to have a similar vision for Griffin and Rose, and the Pistons at large. 

"We want to be competitive every season," Weaver told the Jamie and Stoney Show. "We want to put a team out there that everybody can feel comfortable with. I don’t believe in tanking. I believe in trying to be competitive and using everything we have in our tool belt to put a productive team on the floor. I think a lot of teams feel a rebuild is, be bad for three or four years, get high picks and try to figure it out. That’s not the formula we’re going to use here in Detroit."

It's a window into Weaver's thought process that he doesn't believe in the 'traditional rebuild,' the kind of drawn-out project that entails years of losing. And it jibes with the approach of owner Tom Gores -- and senior advisor Ed Stefanski, too -- who never wanted to start over in the first place. Eventually the Pistons were forced to, and now they're hoping Weaver can set them back on the path to success. 

By all accounts, he's up for the challenge. The question is how quickly he expects to conquer it.