Pistons mailbag: Circling back on Ben Simmons and the Pistons’ young backcourt

Detroit News

Salt Lake City — There are less than three weeks until the trade deadline, and it’s time for silly season. There are going to be any number of trade rumors about potential deals that the Pistons are involved in, but as Stan Van Gundy noted, very few of those rumors come to fruition.

Of course, the Pistons are fielding phone calls about trades — every team is — but they’re in no rush to try to consummate a deal. Jerami Grant is one of the hottest names around the league, but with him still recovering from his thumb surgery, and now in health and safety protocols, the trade talk is going to intensify when he returns.

The Pistons won’t be buyers at the deadline, mostly because they’re not in a position to give up their young assets to vastly improve the roster. If a deal for Grant materializes that could help them with more draft picks or more young players to help the rebuild, they could consider it. They could consider moving some expiring contracts or taking a chance on a player that another team wants to move.

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Outside of a potential Grant trade, don’t expect them to shoot for the moon. They’ve been patient in trying to improve the roster on the fringes at the deadline, then making more substantive moves in the offseason, when things are a bit clearer.

This week’s mailbag looks at a rumored deal for Grant, plus Cade Cunningham’s play in back-to-backs and Killian Hayes’ struggles.

► Question: Is there any chance at all Troy Weaver circles back and makes one last-ditch effort to trade for Ben Simmons ahead of the trade deadline? – @DetroitJockCity

► Answer: I don’t know that the rumored deal for Ben Simmons is even real. After all, it included a first-round pick — which the Pistons don’t have right now. Of course, there could be a third team involved, but in their current situation, the Pistons can’t trade their own first-round pick until 2027, unless they get the trade protections altered.

Grant is going to be in a lot of trade rumors over the next couple of weeks, but take any that include the Pistons giving up a first-round pick with a grain of salt. I don’t like the fit that Simmons would have with the Pistons, because Cade Cunningham does a lot of the same things, with a better shooting touch.

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I can’t see the Pistons giving up what it would take to get Simmons, and with the questions about his work ethic and leadership, that doesn’t seem to be a good fit for the rebuild right now. There is likely a better deal somewhere else, but the Pistons don’t seem to be looking for a quick fix in a deal for Grant.

► Q: What would you suggest is the best reasoning behind Cade’s poor play in back-to-backs? – @ObdulioGarcia19

► A: Coach Dwane Casey mentioned this week that their young players, including Cunningham, need to get used to playing back-to-backs, which generally is one of the hardest transitions for rookies in the NBA. There isn’t anything like it in college, where usually the shortest turnaround is a two-day buffer, like in the NCAA Tournament.

Cunningham’s numbers on the second night of a back-to-back are starkly different: 10.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists in seven games, compared to 16.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists with one day of rest (21 games). The numbers also are better with two or three days’ rest.

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My best explanation is that he plays a lot of minutes in every instance and that he can work on his endurance for playing in back-to-backs. He had a slow start out of training camp and three of those back-to-backs have come since he was in COVID protocols, so that could be a contributing factor also. It’s something to monitor for the remainder of this year, but I wouldn’t think it would be an issue next season.

► Q: How much do you think Killian Hayes is affected by (what seems like) the short window of opportunity he has? After seeing Sekou get shipped out and Cade taking the reins early, I wonder what that does to his confidence. – @KornKat2020

► A: I don’t think Killian is affected much by what happened to other players. His biggest issue seems to be that he’s been injured, and he’s been limited to 59 games in his career. By comparison, Saddiq Bey, who was in the same draft, has played in 114 games — almost twice as many. It’s a lot of luck and some of the physical build that Bey has.

In his 59 games, Hayes hasn’t played in more than 10 straight because of myriad injuries, including his hip injury last season, a concussion, plus ankle and wrist issues. That’s not his fault, but with those inconsistencies, it’s hard to get in a good groove and start gaining confidence in his game.

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Playing with Cunningham actually seems to help Hayes. In some cases, he doesn’t have to handle the ball and initiate the offense, and he can spot up in the corner for 3-pointers, a spot that seems to be one of his best spots to score. In the past couple of weeks, Hayes has done a bit more of attacking the rim and being aggressive in trying to get to the paint. If he can do that more effectively, it will unlock more parts of his game.



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