With Thursday’s NBA trade deadline approaching, things heating up with a couple of reported trades. The Indiana Pacers are sending Domantas Sabonis to the Sacramento Kings for a package that includes Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield. The Portland Trail Blazers are trading C.J. McCollum to the New Orleans Pelicans for Josh Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and others.
The winds of change in the trade market swirled a bit, but there was no news on the Pistons’ Jerami Grant, who had been projected as one of the top available targets.
As the clock ticks down to the deadline time, the waiting game continues. This week’s mailbag looks at some potential dominoes falling during trade season.
► Question. What percent do you have the Pistons trading Jerami Grant? What percent do you have them making any trades? — @bigdogpistons
► Answer. Given the Pistons are mired in another losing season and they continue their rebuild, I would think that some type of trade is pretty likely. If I had to put a percentage on it, I’d guess that it’s 75% or so that they make some kind of trade, even if it’s just something on the fringes to unload an expiring contract for a future draft pick or something like that.
As for Grant, I would say trade talk depends on what teams are offering in return. If Tuesday’s trades are any indication, there’s a pretty robust market for a player of his caliber, which means that teams will have to pony up draft capital in addition to young players to make a deal happen. I’ll guess that the likelihood of a Grant deal is about 55% because of that.
The Pistons don’t have to trade Grant now; they could just as easily wait until the offseason and see how the draft works out first, or they could just stand pat and decide that they want to offer him an extension. There’s no real pressure either way.
There are plenty of teams that think they’re in the mix for a playoff spot or who think that the path to a championship is fairly wide open, and that they could make some nice additions to their rosters. Given that, players like Cory Joseph, who has a player option for $5.2 million in his final year next year, could be an option. Josh Jackson also has an expiring deal this year, but it’s unclear what his trade value might be.
► Q. If you were Troy Weaver, would you draft a center or a guard to pair next to Cade? And who would you draft? — @BarrySt31418266
► A. The center position is a glaring need on the Pistons’ roster right now. It’s been harder to gauge because Kelly Olynyk has been out for most of the year, but they’re working on Isaiah Stewart’s development. Having another option in the draft would be helpful. With a probable top-five pick, it’s more likely that they end up with either Jabari Smith Jr. or Paolo Banchero, who are more forwards than centers. Chet Holmgren is a center, but will they get the first or second pick and be in a position to pick him?
Getting another guard is going to be tough, too. The backcourt already is crowded with Cunningham, Killian Hayes, Joseph, Saben Lee, Frank Jackson and Hamidou Diallo. Again, with a top-five pick, they could look at Jaden Ivey, but I think the bigger need is for a big man.
I like Banchero and Smith, but that’s the same position that Grant plays, so barring a trade, that’s just another player in that mix.
► Q. Do you expect Saben Lee to be moved up soon and get any playing time? If not, what else does he possibly have to do? — @Ethan_Lewan
► A. After his blistering start to the season in the G League, Lee hasn’t really brought that same production to the Pistons. That’s not on him; that’s more of a reflection of the level of defense that’s played in the G League. They’re not rushing Lee’s progress at all, and with Hayes and Cunningham, along with Joseph, there just isn’t a ton of playing time available for Lee right now.
There are some things the Pistons want Lee to work on in with the Motor City Cruise, so there is a development plan for him, but trying to show that with the Pistons may have to wait for a bit until they can get things sorted out with their rotation of point guards. Hayes’ recent good play in the second unit doesn’t open very much opportunity for Lee either.
► Q. The Pistons are expected to be a player in restricted free agency this summer. Who among Jalen Brunson, Miles Bridges, or Deandre Ayton is most attainable? — @troy_tweets
► A. According to most reports, none of the three will be easily attainable. Maybe the Suns look at what happens in their playoff run and decide Ayton’s value then, but they didn’t seem to be ready to offer him an extension when they had the opportunity.
Brunson isn’t a great fit if they’re going to have to pay him in the range of $18 million to $20 million, unless they see Cunningham as the lead guard and having Brunson in a hybrid role, like Joseph is doing. The Pistons could very well force the Suns’ hand and make an attractive offer, but at the end of the day, I think the Suns end up matching whatever the number is, especially if they get back to the Finals.
Bridges’ name has been thrown around a lot, too, but with Bey and Grant (at least for right now), how would that work?
► Q. Do you think Dwane Casey will return next year as coach? He’s missed some personal time this year. And do you see him moved to the front office. — @bigdogpistons
► A. After getting an extension for another year after last season, Casey looked to be locked into his entire contract. I don’t think anything has changed. He’s taken some time away for personal reasons, but I don’t think it’s health-related or anything that would keep him from returning next season. After he’s done coaching, I think he ends up in the front office, but that still seems to be years down the road.