From a 20-52 season, the typical thought would be that there is a lot of work to do with the Pistons roster. Whether it’s the next phase of rebuilding or trying to draft for need or just building up the talent base, there is a lot of room to improve.
That’s not quite where the Pistons are. With general manager Troy Weaver at the controls, they have a solid plan to move forward — and now with the No. 1 overall pick in the July 29 draft, they are in position to dictate the top part of the draft. With three second-round picks, they could also make a move up to the first round or find some developmental talent for the G League, or even deal them for future assets.
With Weaver’s insistence that the Pistons won’t have much roster attrition, it’s likely that they’ll build on the draft success they had last season with the top pick, then make incremental improvements instead of making risky moves this year.
That could mean another year in the draft lottery — likely at the bottom — or contending for a play-in spot or lower playoff seed. Either way, the Pistons look to be moving up at the right time, with some draft luck on their side and a year of development for their young players.
This week’s mailbag looks at how the summer could impact the roster and what they could do in the draft.
► Question. Thoughts on potentially trading Jerami Grant who is under contract for just 2 more seasons? Say, Grant to the warriors for Wiseman and pick 7 or pick 14? Move Stewart to the 4 take Cade at 1. — @RotoDanny
► Answer. I hate everything about it. Grant is a budding All-Star type of player and he took a chance on himself to come to the Pistons — and it all panned out. That’s the type of things teams should encourage, not respond with a ticket out of town. I see your point in terms of value, but it sends a bad message to trade an improving player after just one season. It insinuates that any good player who comes could also be traded.
The only way I could see this happening is if Grant himself insisted on a trade, which doesn’t seem likely. He’s building a following in Detroit and it seems that he and Weaver have a good bond and understanding of what their goals are. I wouldn’t mess with that.
In that scenario, the Warriors would need to have some salary outgoing, I believe. Which of their players in that range would you want? Andrew Wiggins? I’ll pass.
► Q. If you could what’s a percentage on the possibility of the Pistons passing up Cade Cunningham for Jalen Green or via trade?? — @Diabolical247
► A. My guess is that the chances of them keeping the pick and taking Cunningham are greater than 50-50. It’s just playing with fire to say that they’d fall in love — because that’s what it’d have to be — to take Green or Evan Mobley over Cunningham. It could happen, but it just doesn’t seem as likely as some media and others on social media might be proposing.
Within that, I still believe that the chances that Cunningham is the No. 1 pick is over 95%. If the Pistons are even thinking about Mobley or Green, they’d find a deal with either Houston or Cleveland and extract more assets. The problem with future first-round picks is that it’s hard to get them in consecutive years — you’d need two different teams’ picks — and if that team gets the first pick in return, the odds of them being bad enough to make the lottery pick worth it are slimmer. It’s just not worth it.
► Q. There are whispers of the Pistons needing a big man. Are there any free agents you’re keeping an eye on? Notice I didn’t ask about the draft. #JustTakeCade — @CallMeDjm
► A. There aren’t many whispers right now, but I’d keep an eye on Cleveland and Jarrett Allen. He has a qualifying offer of $7.7 million, and the Cavs would be silly to not pick that up. Could another team try to make a bigger offer for the 23-year-old big man? Maybe. Could a team offer the mid-level exception, which is about $9.5 million? Could be interesting.
Like last year, I think Willie Cauley-Stein will be one to watch, and maybe even Daniel Theis. The Pistons have Mason Plumlee, Isaiah Stewart and Jahlil Okafor, so unless something changes, they don’t even have roster space to bring in another big man.
► Q. How does Grant fit into this team if they’re to build a true contender. Multiple options is fine. Have people telling me he’s a number one option type guy. — @bpmcgant
► A. Grant would be a top-line scorer and defender on a contending team. He showed this season that he can create his own shot or facilitate for others. That job gets easier if there is another big offensive threat on the court with him, to take some of that attention away. That’s why picking Cunningham makes so much sense. Green could do the same, but he’s not quite the facilitator that Cunningham is.
If things continue on their present course, the Pistons could get another big-time free agent next season, when Blake Griffin’s contract comes off the books. That would be enough around Grant to make for a formidable offensive attack.
► Q. I was reading on Hoops Hype that Cory Joseph’s contract is guaranteed if not waived by June 30. You hearing anything on that front that he’s in the Pistons’ future? — @Barnes3701
► A. My notes say the Pistons have until Aug. 1 to figure out what to do with the final year of Joseph’s contract, which has just $2.4 million guaranteed and a total value of $12.6 million. Part of the decision might come down to whether they end up picking Cunningham and whether they decide they need another ball-handler.
Certainly, Joseph showed he can be an asset in the offense with his production in the numbers he put up in 19 games with the Pistons: 12 points and 5.5 assists, with 37% on 3-pointers and 51% from the field. The $12.6 million is a big number, but they could see that as the price to pay for a good veteran point guard. That allows them to bring on Cunningham and continue with Killian Hayes’ development.