Detroit Pistons face crucial roster decisions: Debating who stays and who goes

Detroit Free Press

This upcoming offseason could be the most pivotal of general manager Troy Weaver’s career thus far. The Detroit Pistons, who finished 23-59 this season, are positioned for a leap. Eleven of their 23 wins occurred after Feb. 16. The roster gelled as it became healthier and more experienced. There’s palpable optimism for next season, from players, the front office, the owner and the coaching staff.

“I said early on that as we’re going through this, we weren’t putting a cap on the team or measuring by wins and losses,” Weaver said Tuesday. “We measure how we’re progressing forward. Before you can win you have to learn how to win. I thought after the All-Star break these guys started learning how to win and what it took — staying connected, staying together, defending, sharing the ball.”

With another top-seven pick and some cap space, the Pistons will have an opportunity to remake their roster and make meaningful strides toward competing for a playoff spot next season.

They have several pending roster decisions to make this offseason, with multiple players entering free agency, or with options that need to be resolved.

Let’s walk through the offseason maneuvers and predict who will stay and who will go.

Pistons have their ‘guy’ and their plan for the rebuild. Now here comes the tricky part ]

Jerami Grant (trade candidate): Go

Grant bounced back after missing 24 games in December and January with a thumb injury and COVID-19. During the Pistons’ 11-14 stretch — of which Grant played 15 games — he averaged 20.1 points while shooting 46.3% overall and 41.6% from 3. It was a significant efficiency increase over his previous 32 games, during which he shot 41% and 32.7% from 3. Grant thrived playing alongside Cade Cunningham, who established himself as lead ball-handler and primary offensive option during Grant’s absence.

It adds a wrinkle to the front office’s decision-making on Grant, who will be eligible for a four-year extension worth up to $112 million this offseason. He emerged as one of the NBA’s most desirable players leading up to the trade deadline, and the Pistons listened to offers. None of them moved the needle enough, so Grant stayed. But if Detroit isn’t willing to commit to Grant’s asking price on the extension, it makes sense to trade him.

The outcome of the May 17 draft lottery could also inform the decision. The Pistons have the third-best odds, and a 40.1 chance of staying in the top three. Doing so would put them in prime position to land one of the draft’s top-three prospects — Paolo Banchero, Jabari Smith Jr. and Chet Holmgren. All three project as power forwards, the same position Grant plays. Even if the Pistons fall to fourth, they could still select another power forward in Keegan Murray.

The odds favor Grant being moved. Weaver didn’t rule out the possibility when asked Tuesday. But the Pistons are also aware Grant fits their young core, and is still only 28 years old. There isn’t a bad outcome either way, and it largely comes down to the number the Pistons are willing to commit for an extension.

Why Pistons may be content to, once again, pass on trading Jerami Grant ]

Marvin Bagley III (restricted free agent): Stay

Bagley, who arrived at the Feb. 10 trade deadline, only played 18 games for the Pistons before suffering a strained left hip and missing the final five games. He averaged 14.6 points and 6.8 rebounds on 55.5% shooting — the best percentage of his career. Weaver was a longtime fan of Bagley before trading for him, and Bagley has enjoyed his short time in Detroit.

“These past few weeks have been exciting for me,” Bagley said Monday. “Probably the most fun I’ve had playing the game, and that’s how it’s supposed to feel. I’m used to being in an environment and group where playing basketball is fun.”

It seems likely Bagley and the Pistons will agree on a deal, barring anything unexpected. A new contract will eat into the Pistons’ roughly $25 million in cap space, but they don’t have anyone else like him on the roster and he should come at a reasonable price.

Hamidou Diallo (team option): Stay

A finger injury cut his season short, but Diallo was one of the team’s most productive role players this season. He averaged 11 points, 4.8 rebounds and shot nearly 50% from the floor. He has a strong case as the Pistons’ most athletic player, and his ability to pressure the rim and complete highlight-reel dunks made him a good fit for both the first and second units. The Pistons have incentive to bring Diallo back next season at his $5.2 million salary, and must decide by June 28.

Cory Joseph (player option): Go

Joseph has both started and been a backup since arriving at the trade deadline in 2021, and is a helpful leader and mentor in the locker room. He’s coming off of one of his best seasons as he knocked down a career-high 41.4% of his 3s. Joseph returned on a two-year, $10 million deal last summer after the team declined his partially guaranteed $12.6 team option. He has a $5.2 million option and is comfortable here, but has reason to explore free agency — especially if the Pistons decide they would rather explore adding a different veteran guard. Joseph has until June 28 to make his decision, with free agency starting a few days later.

Frank Jackson (team option): Sta

Jackson’s efficiency declined this season after a strong first season with the Pistons on a two-way contract. His 3-point percentage dipped to a career-low 30.8% after knocking down 40.7% of his attempts last year, and he missed 29 games due to injury. But there’s always room on the roster for a good shooter, and Jackson is a better shooter than his numbers suggest. He likes being in Detroit, and there isn’t much downside to bringing him back and giving him a chance to find his touch. He’s due to make $3.2 million next season.

Rodney McGruder (unrestricted free agent): Go

McGruder was one of the most reliable role players this season, knocking down 39.7% of his career-high 2.9 3-point attempts per game in 51 appearances. Like Joseph, he’s a positive voice in the locker room and has mentored young players. But McGruder is in control of his own destiny, and at 30, he could look to sign with a contender.

Contact Omari Sankofa II at Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofaRead more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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