The Detroit Pistons have a long list of tasks this summer. They’ll have significant cap space, a strong chance to land a top-four pick for the second year in a row and several pending roster decisions.
After Tuesday, the front office could have a much easier time mapping out its offseason. The NBA’s 2022 draft lottery is set for that day at McCormick Place in Chicago. The Pistons, who finished the regular season with the league’s third-worst record, could move up as far as No. 1, or fall all the way to No. 7.
A top-three pick could simplify their offseason, as it would make it likely they will end up with Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith or Paolo Banchero — widely considered the top three prospects in the draft and all very high on Detroit’s draft board.
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Holmgren, Smith and Banchero project as NBA power forwards, and any one of them could impact how the Pistons handle Jerami Grant — their talented power forward eligible for an extension. Detroit listened to trade offers for the 28-year-old last season, but didn’t receive an offer strong enough to part with him.
Grant will likely sign a four-year extension — worth up to $112 million, with an average annual value of $28 million — this summer. If the Pistons aren’t willing to commit to Grant beyond next season, it makes sense to move him to a team that will. Landing a top-three pick in the lottery would further incentivize that.
“Jerami demonstrated his efficiency in the way he fit with the group,” Pistons general manager Troy Weaver said last month. “I’m curious. I’m not sure. The deadline, people had their feelers out but nothing that blew us away. Maybe something comes down the pipe. We’ll see. I don’t anticipate it being an avalanche. After the playoffs, some teams will feel like, ‘We can add a player or two,’ and maybe the phone rings a little more. I’m not sure. The landscape of the NBA changes weekly. We’ll see.”
The Grant signing, widely considered a risk in 2020, has become one of Weaver’s biggest wins. Grant averaged a career-high 22.3 points and 4.6 rebounds during his first season in Detroit and received All-Star consideration.
Injuries limited Grant to a career-low 47 games this past season, but he eventually found a groove playing alongside Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey. He averaged 20.1 points while shooting 46.3% overall and 41.6% from 3-point range over his final 15 games; the Pistons had a positive plus-minus when the three players shared the floor.
While Grant has outplayed that three-year, $60 million contract signed in November 2020, his extension would be a significant investment for a rebuilding team that hasn’t made the playoffs in three seasons, or won a postseason game since 2008. Holmgren, Smith and Banchero have franchise-changing potential, which would leave little incentive for Detroit to commit to multiple power forwards long term.
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Holmgren, believed to be Detroit’s favorite prospect, is arguably the best two-way player in the draft. He averaged 14.1 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.7 blocks for Gonzaga last season. He’s long, and possibly too lanky to handle many one-on-one defensive matchups, but modern NBA teams defend by committee. And Holmgren has the tools and instincts to be a Defensive Player of the Year candidate.
Couple that with his offensive chops (39% from 3) and well-documented competitive spirit, and he checks multiple boxes for Detroit. Pairing Cunningham with Holmgren would give the Pistons two versatile franchise centerpieces who excel on both sides of the ball and play high-IQ basketball.
Smith is the most effective shooter in the draft. He averaged 16.9 points and 7.4 rebounds as a freshman for Auburn while knocking down 42% of his 5.5 3-point attempts per game. His 6-foot-10 frame and high release point makes it tough for defenders to bother his shot. He also competes on defense.
Banchero might be the worst shooter of the three, but he possesses the most polished offensive skills of the three. He averaged 17.2 points and 7.8 rebounds for Duke, and his passing vision, light footwork and dexterous ball-handling at 6-10 give him point-forward potential in the NBA.
There’s no wrong answer for the Pistons regardless of where they pick. But they would likely miss out on all three if their pick drops.
They could still go with Iowa power forward Keegan Murray at No. 4 or lower, but a guard would be more likely. Ending up with Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin or Purdue’s Jaden Ivey would lessen the need for Detroit to deal Grant, but it wouldnt be as urgent a decision.
Detroit has a long and potentially complicated offseason ahead, but they will receive some clarity on Tuesday.
Contact Omari Sankofa II at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.