Trades, draft crucial for building Detroit Pistons
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) Stan Van Gundy is now entering season two of his attempt to bring the Detroit Pistons back to prominence, and at this point the easiest way to acquire help may be by targeting players who aren't on the open market.
''I think free agency is a little bit of a crapshoot. Guys, they're out there picking a team. A lot of teams are chasing them,'' Van Gundy said. ''You never know what's going to happen, and so, we said coming in that as much as we would go out and try to be players in free agency, great path for us to building a team is through ... the draft and trades.''
Detroit made a significant deal last week, acquiring power forward Ersan Ilyasova from Milwaukee for Caron Butler and Shawne Williams. The 28-year-old Ilyasova gives the Pistons a replacement if restricted free agent Greg Monroe leaves, as well as another big player who can shoot from the perimeter.
The 6-foot-10 Ilyasova has played seven NBA seasons for Milwaukee, shooting 37 percent from 3-point range over the course of his career. He averaged 11.5 points per game for the Bucks last season.
''The guys we would have been chasing in free agency wouldn't have been at as high a level,'' Van Gundy said.
Detroit went 32-50 last season in Van Gundy's first year as coach and team president. The Pistons have not been in the playoffs since 2009, and some of their biggest free agent signings in recent years - Josh Smith, Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva - did not work out well.
So a quick fix seems unlikely.
''We've got two more years under contract with Ersan - those kinds of things are invaluable to us as we're building,'' Van Gundy said. ''I think as we build and get better, then obviously we become more attractive to free agents. But right now, quite honestly, coming off a tough year, the whole thing, this is a better path for us.''
Ilyasova was introduced Tuesday at the team's facility. He's averaged in double figures each of the last four seasons, although his rebounding numbers have dipped recently. Now, he'll have a chance to play alongside Andre Drummond, whose offensive game lacks polish, but whose rebounding and shot-blocking ability makes him one of the most promising young big men in the game.
''Last season, before the training camp, we were looking at Detroit, when we see all those players they have, I thought they were going to be really playing at a high level, you know, being a playoff team,'' Ilyasova said. ''You don't know what can happen.''
After Ilyasova's arrival, the Pistons still have a hole at small forward. Van Gundy says that and the backup center spot are his team's priorities going forward - but Ilyasova is a big addition to the frontcourt.
''It was a little scary thinking about going into the summer and saying you might have to go get two starters,'' Van Gundy said. ''Now we feel like we've got four starters that we're really happy with.''