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What’s the Plan, Detroit Pistons?

What’s the Plan? is a weekly series where we look at the long-term outlooks for teams that aren’t immediately contending for a championship. This week, we take a look at a team that has a lot of decisions to make with its roster: The Detroit Pistons.

The Pistons are in an interesting position. After waiving Josh Smith in December, the Pistons immediately improved, snapping off a seven-game winning streak and playing .500 ball after starting 5-23. They lost Brandon Jennings to an Achilles injury, only to have Reggie Jackson step up and start a point-guard controversy after coming over from Oklahoma City. Jackson will be a restricted free agent this offseason, and power forward Greg Monroe will be an unrestricted free agent testing the open market.

The Pistons have some tough personnel decisions to make over the next few months in terms of deciding which players to keep and which ones to let go. The Pistons aren’t wasting any time though, as it looks like they’ll be moving on from Greg Monroe this summer.

Thursday, the Pistons traded for Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova. Stan Van Gundy has been seeking a stretch 4 and Ilyasova fits the bill, while Monroe represents the more traditional flavor of a power forward who posts up and crashes the boards. Monroe’s skill set replicates a lot of what Andre Drummond does for Detroit, which is why they were looking for a forward who could better complement Drummond’s skill set, like Ilyasova. Drummond has shown a lot of promise, is four years younger than Monroe and is eligible to sign his rookie extension this offseason, although that wouldn’t take effect until 2016.

The Pistons could re-sign Monroe, but he’s going to be looking for a lot of money this offseason as a young, talented big man. With Ilyasova now on board and the fact that Monroe and Drummond aren’t a great fit, it doesn’t make much sense to use up so much cap space on Monroe. The Pistons have other holes they need to fill, particularly on the perimeter, a very dangerous weak spot to have in today’s NBA.

The small-forward position is likely the weakest position for the Pistons moving forward, and also the most necessary to be filled if the Pistons want to be serious contenders. They’re in the East and LeBron’s not leaving any time soon. The Eastern Conference road to the Finals is going to go through Cleveland for the foreseeable future, and if a team doesn’t have someone to cover LeBron, they’re going to have a tough time coming out of the East.

Players like Kawhi Leonard, Draymond Green, Jimmy Butler and Khris Middleton are set to be restricted free agents this offseason, and while those players are all likely going back to their current teams, it can’t hurt to make a phone call.  You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take, and if Detroit doesn’t take a shot, they’re missing the opportunity to turn one of their biggest weaknesses into one of their biggest strengths. Even if they miss out as expected, there are other players on the market. Technically, LeBron James could be a free agent again. All I’m saying is: he did leave them once.

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