Beard: Trade for Bol a calculated risk that could pay dividends for Pistons

Detroit News

Detroit — For the Pistons, trying to rebuild their roster will take some time, patience and a few gambles on young players.

They’re not going to get there simply by losing and taking easy stabs at lottery picks in the NBA Draft. That’s the long road to trying to build a winning team, and from what general manager Troy Weaver has shown in his time at the helm, he’s not averse to taking risks.

The Pistons are making another low-risk move, making a deal to get 7-foot-2 forward Bol Bol from the Denver Nuggets for veteran wing Rodney McGruder, a league source confirmed to The Detroit News on Sunday. The Nuggets also are getting a 2022 second-round pick from the Pistons via the Brooklyn Nets.

Bol, 22, has shown flashes since he was selected in the second round (44th overall) in the 2019 draft. At his height, he has the traditional size for a center, but he plays more on the perimeter at either of the forward spots.

Bol’s highlight reel is tantalizing, but that enthusiasm should be balanced by the fact that Bol logged just 328 total minutes in two-plus seasons with the Nuggets, and that he was buried deep in their rotation.

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There could be room to grow, and the Pistons are willing to find out. McGruder was a big locker-room presence and a veteran that the young, developing guards could lean on. They will need more of that, especially as Cade Cunningham and Killian Hayes try to find their way in their early years.

With Jerami Grant out for a few more weeks after thumb surgery and Kelly Olynyk working his way back from a knee issue, the Pistons have some playing time available to take a look at some young players. After an 8-30 start, they aren’t competing for the playoffs or the play-in, so there’s no harm in taking a gamble on some young players.

Weaver’s tenure has been full of taking chances. Making a big trade for Grant — who also wanted a bigger role than the Nuggets gave him — along with a draft that included multiple trades to get Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart, show Weaver’s willingness to take chances.

On a smaller scale, the Pistons have rolled the dice on Hamidou Diallo, Frank Jackson, Josh Jackson, Luka Garza and Cory Joseph, among others. They’re not all going to come up as long-term fits for the roster, but the more chances a team takes, the better the odds of finding a diamond in the rough.

That’s the upshot of the Bol trade. He might fit better in a role where he gets more consistent minutes and gets to play on a team that is in the same phase of development, where his mistakes won’t put him on the bench immediately and he can take more chances. The Pistons, in their rebuild, could provide some of those opportunities.

More moves to come?

Trading for Bol is likely just the start of the Pistons’ moves ahead of the Feb. 10 trade deadline. They can look at some other young players, and entertain other teams looking to shed salary or take on some of the Pistons’ players on expiring contracts either this season or next season.

It’s unlikely that the Pistons will stick with this version of the roster in the long term, either. Whether that means a bigger deal such as trying to get value in a Grant trade or simply cashing in on expiring contracts, the roster could look a lot different when next season begins, including a likely top-five draft pick.

In the meantime, the Pistons should scour the waiver wire, look at promising players on other rosters and look at taking a calculated risk. There’s no real downside to making some deals for players who look like they have upside.

Bol’s contract is worth $2.2 million this year, and if there’s some flash there, the Pistons could retain him easily, as he’ll be a restricted free agent. He could turn into a solid rotation player, or he could end up being a marginal NBA player. Weaver won’t know until he takes a chance.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

Jazz at Pistons

►Tip-off: 7 p.m., Monday, Little Caesars Arena

►TV/radio: BSD/97.1

►Outlook: The Jazz (28-12) again are near the top of the Western Conference, and they’ll look to finish their five-game road trip with a winning record. The Pistons (8-30) have won three of their last five games.

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