Detroit Pistons free agency: D-Rose heading to ‘The D’


Trent Balley, Detroit Sports Columnist

NBA free agency is upon us, and there have already been massive moves made. Most notably, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and DeAndre Jordan are teaming up on the Brooklyn Nets. With growing speculation that Kawhi Leonard leaving the Toronto Raptors is a legitimate possibility, it’s looking like the Nets are primed for dominance atop the Eastern Conference.

Well, when Kevin Durant returns healthy from his Achilles injury NEXT season, that is. 

Still, with Irving as the number-one option and Jordan rim-running and rebounding, the Nets’ sharpshooting playoff roster from last season looks like a team to beat. And if there’s one thing we know about the NBA, it’s that when one big splash is made, other teams are pressured to re-up as well.

So how about our beloved Detroit Pistons? Don’t worry, I won’t walk us through the playoff slaughter at the hands of league MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo. But let’s not forget, the Pistons were looking like the six seed in the East for much of the season, until Blake Griffin got hurt. Then, they won the three-team race with the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat to secure the last playoff spot.

What we can assume at this point is that the Pistons are standing pat with their Griffin/Drummond frontcourt duo. Both have sizable salaries, and it seems that if the Pistons were looking to deal one of them, they would have done it at last season’s deadline or this summer already. However, I believe it’s the right decision to hang onto them given Griffin’s All-NBA third team selection and Drummond’s second consecutive rebounding title in 2018-19.

The rest of the roster is where things get fuzzy. A majority of Detroit fans have been calling for point guard Reggie Jackson’s exit for awhile now. Their wish may have just been granted.

The 2011 MVP Derrick Rose has signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the Pistons. It’s a high-risk move, given Rose’s plethora of injuries in his history. However, at this point, the Pistons are dealing with the same concerns in Griffin, who only played two of Detroit’s four playoff games last postseason. Furthermore, with both players sitting at 30 years old, their career timelines are matched up. And now, they’re teammates.

Rose is a point guard, but he can also run the two. However, with marksman Luke Kennard and lockdown defender Bruce Brown both showing signs of great improvement last season, it’s hard to imagine Rose playing anywhere but the point.

How does this help Detroit? Well, one thing that we have seen is that Rose can get buckets. In 51 games with the Minnesota Timberwolves last season, he averaged exactly 18 points per game on 48.2% from the floor, along with 4.3 assists per game. He also hit 3-pointers at a career-high 37% clip. Perhaps the hidden impressive detail is that he did so starting only 13 games.

Oh, and just for fun, it’s worth mentioning that Rose dropped a career-high 50 points last season. The dude can still ball. It’s just a matter of health.

Let’s juxtapose Rose’s production with Jackson’s. The Pistons’ point guard averaged 15.4 points per game on 42.1% from the floor, along with 4.2 assists per game. He too played 27 minutes per game. It’s close, but Rose was better across the board.

So, could Jackson remain on the team and Rose run the second unit? Maybe, but the Pistons should be able to get a deal done for Jackson’s departure. His contract is set to expire, and a rebuilding team like the New York Knicks or Memphis Grizzlies may look to ship the Pistons some role players for Jackson.

Regardless of what happens with Jackson, the Pistons are adding offense with Rose. At 30 years old, this is likely Rose’s last chance to be a solid NBA starter. Even if he does come off the bench, he’ll get his 20-28 minutes per game, and he’ll be asked to do one thing: put the ball in the basket. A healthy Derrick Rose is a significant upgrade from Detroit’s most recent backup point guard, free agent Ish Smith.

The Pistons struggled to score last season, averaging just 107 points per contest (25th in the NBA). If nothing else, Rose is a shot in the dark to get more efficiency and scoring at the point guard position. 

We’ll see where Detroit goes from here. When we look at the Eastern Conference landscape, it’s hard to see this team dropping out of the playoff picture in 2019-20 as long as the stars remain healthy. The problem is, that could be a big “if”. But for now, the Pistons are committed to competing in the East. And with a whole year until Kevin Durant returns, this is the year to go all in.