The Detroit Pistons have made three in-season trades and bought out the face of their franchise.
Then, in one day, the Orlando Magic traded their three best players.
The tank to the bottom is on.
On NBA trade deadline day Thursday, the Magic dealt All-Star center Nikola Vucevic to Chicago, guard Evan Fournier to Boston and forward Aaron Gordon to Denver. All three players have been core starters for Orlando for the past half-decade, but the Magic now enter a complete teardown in acquiring three future first-round picks, two recent first-round picks in Wendell Carter Jr. and RJ Hampton, and two future second-round picks.
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In a funny tweet following the afternoon madness from Orlando, Magic wing Terrence Ross let his feelings be known, as the team’s remaining best player.
Ross averages 16 points per game. The Magic are depleted of talent, also without two starters for the season in guard Markelle Fultz (torn ACL) and forward Jonathan Isaac (torn ACL), and rookie guard Cole Anthony (ribs) remains sidelined.
Early Thursday morning, Pistons general manager Troy ̶R̶e̶a̶p̶e̶r̶ Weaver dealt starting point guard Delon Wright to Sacramento for backup point guard Cory Joseph and two second-round picks.
The Pistons and Magic are the bottom two teams in the Eastern Conference, with the Pistons (12-31) up 2½ games on Orlando (15-29).
Overall, the Pistons are tied for the second-worst record in the league with Houston, 2½ games behind Minnesota (10-34).
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The league’s three worst teams all get 14% odds to win the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA draft — they also have the same odds to get picks 2-4 — with the lottery system generating the first four picks, before the rest of the non-playoff teams are slotted in reverse standings.
But it remains advantageous to have as bad a record as possible, because the team with the worst record is guaranteed to pick in the top 5. The second-worst team could drop to No. 6 and the third-worst team can fall to No. 7.
If the Pistons were to finish with the second-worst record, their pick breakdown would look like this: (Pick odds, courtesy of Tankathon.com.)
No. 1: 14%
No. 2: 13.4%
No. 3: 12.7%
No. 4: 12%
No. 5: 27.8%
No. 6: 20%
The 2021 draft is well-regarded, highlighted by Oklahoma State guard/forward Cade Cunningham, USC center Evan Mobley and Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs.
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The Pistons have the No. 20-easiest remaining schedule, according to Tankathon; the Magic have the 8th-toughest. Houston has the hardest remaining slate and Minnesota is 12th. The Pistons host Orlando (May 3) and Minnesota (May 11).
For the Pistons, going from Wright to Joseph is a small downgrade, and the Pistons will get to see more of young guards Dennis Smith Jr., Saben Lee, Frank Jackson and, when healthy, Killian Hayes and Hamidou Diallo. Smith could assume the starting role — he made seven starts filling in for an injured Wright before the All-Star break.
Hayes, the No. 7 overall pick in November billed as the team’s future, is the big question mark, as he’s rehabbing a hip injury suffered Jan. 4. He could reclaim his starting spot when he returns — he has been cleared for on-court work, and is slated to be re-evaluated around April 6.
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In his first season as GM, Weaver has already dealt Derrick Rose, Svi Mykhailiuk and Wright, and saved the team $13.3 million in a buyout with Blake Griffin.