What Detroit Pistons must target at deadline, regardless of Jerami Grant’s fate

Detroit Free Press

When it comes to making deals, Detroit Pistons general manager Troy Weaver isn’t shy.

His list of completed trades since he took the organization over in June 2020 is quite long. He has made moves with an eye toward the future, adding a core of young players to develop and, more recently, second-round picks that can be leveraged in additional deals.

Just over six weeks ahead of the Feb. 10 trade deadline, the Pistons are 5-26. the NBA’s worst record. They’ve been hit by the injury bug and are dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak that has sidelined five players, including 2021 No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham. While it’s tough to see a trade that would dramatically shift Detroit’s fortunes for this season, the franchise does have some decisions to make regarding the future.

TRADE DEADLINE OPTIONS: Will Pistons move Jerami Grant now, or later?

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Jerami Grant has emerged as one of the NBA’s most desirable — and perhaps most attainable — assets. He’s averaging 20.1 points per game and would immediately bolster any playoff hopeful’s starting five. Grant is making an average of $20 million a year and will hit unrestricted free agency in 2023.

He has a close relationship with Weaver, and Weaver won’t accept just any trade offer. It would have to be a trade that makes sense for all sides — including Grant. If the Pistons aren’t willing to extend him and give him a raise, they could be better served moving him while his value is high.

Outside of Grant, the Pistons should be open to anything.

They have a burgeoning group of young players. Saddiq Bey is starting to recover from an early slump. Isaiah Stewart has been Detroit’s most reliable center, though there hasn’t been much competition with Kelly Olynyk recovering from a knee injury. Killian Hayes has been their best perimeter defender and passer, and Saben Lee has surpassed expectations as the 38th pick in 2020. Frank Jackson, who has become a 3-point marksman, and Hamidou Diallo, who has given the starting lineup a jolt over the last few weeks, could be included in that group as well.

What should the Pistons pursue as a return  in a trade? They have several roster holes and would benefit from adding more assets for the future as well.

An athletic big man

Detroit’s lack of size has been its most glaring roster hole this season. It was a weakness even before Olynyk sprained his left knee in early November. He and Stewart were the only true centers on the roster.

In the six weeks since Olynyk’s injury, power forward Trey Lyles has been forced to play out of position. The Pistons have had to occasionally rely on 2021 second-round pick Luka Garza in key moments.

Olynyk will return soon, as the organization initially announced a six-week window before re-evaluating his knee. But the Pistons will eventually have to decide if Stewart is the long-term answer at center. He’s a capable big man and is the best rebounder and rim protector on the roster, but also has limitations.

Stewart is slightly undersized at 6 feet 8 and hasn’t been very efficient at the rim and from short-midrange relative to other players at his position. He’s a player the Pistons can build around, but his best position could be power forward down the road.

This isn’t something the Pistons have to figure out this season. They could be better positioned to address their lack of size this offseason, either in the draft or via free agency. But their post rotation must be addressed.

Shooting

The Pistons entered the past offseason knowing that they must shoot better than they did last season. But they’ve regressed from behind the arc, and it’s part of the reason why they’re on pace to win fewer games (13) than the 20 games they won a year ago.

Detroit is shooting 31.3% from 3, a sizable decline from their 35.1% mark in 2020-21. Their best shooters, including Grant, Bey and Jackson, began this season in a slump. Two newcomers — Olynyk and Lyles — haven’t shot much better. Hayes’ accuracy has slipped following a strong start. Cunningham hasn’t yet been able to match the 40% clip he registered as a freshman in college. Joseph (37.7%) is the only player on the roster shooting better than 35% from 3.

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In recent weeks, the Pistons have shot better, though. Since Nov. 28, they’re shooting 34.8% overall. That number could continue ticking up as players shake their early season slumps. But if they have an opportunity to acquire a floor-spacer in a good deal ahead of the deadline, they should pounce on it.

A first-round pick

The front office has been focused on adding second-round picks in recent trades. They acquired two second-round picks from the Sacramento Kings along with Joseph in exchange for Delon Wright in March 2021, and four second-round picks in a deal with the Brooklyn Nets last offseason that sent out Sekou Doumbouya and Jahlil Okafor.

But the Pistons have been short a first-round pick since 2020, when they sent a protected first-rounder to the Houston Rockets in a larger deal that brought back Stewart, the 16th pick of that draft. That pick has yet to convey to Houston. Until it conveys, the Pistons are effectively barred from trading another first-rounder due to the NBA’s Stepien rule.

They could potentially land a first-round pick in a Grant deal. Doing so would give them another shot at adding a young player to their core, or give them another asset to include in a larger deal. Either way, acquiring another pick should be a priority.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Pistons content.

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