With the NBA Draft approaching on Thursday, the Pistons are in an interesting spot. They have the No. 5 pick, just behind the Sacramento Kings, who pick fourth following the Orlando Magic (No. 1), Oklahoma City Thunder (No. 2) and Houston Rockets (No. 3).
General manager Troy Weaver didn’t drop any hints about which way the Pistons are leaning when he addressed reporters on Monday, but given his history of draft-night trades, it’s fair to assume that the focus shouldn’t just be on the Pistons’ picks at No. 5 and the second-rounder (No. 46 overall).
After getting Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 overall pick last season, the Pistons set the stage for their rebuild, but this year’s draft will be just as important for their trajectory. Most mock drafts project that the Pistons will be in position to get Purdue guard Jaden Ivey, Iowa forward Keegan Murray, or possibly Kentucky guard Shaedon Sharpe or Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin.
This edition of the Pistons Mail Satchel looks at some of the Pistons’ options with their top pick, as well as whether there could be a trade in the works.
►Question: Based on what you have seen which player is a better fit with Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Keegan Murray, or Shadeon Sharpe?? — @jamara23732
►Answer: The key words there are “what you have seen.” I’ll start with Sharpe, because most people have seen him the least, unless they have done a deep dive into his highlights at Peach Jam or in high school. He’s definitely the wild card in this discussion, because the Pistons have seen him in a workout, so they know better what his skill level is than people outside of that workout.
Sharpe’s measurables are there, with a 6-foot-5 height and a 7-foot wingspan, but there has to be a belief that he’s a can’t-miss prospect because the Pistons have to get this pick right. There has to be some level of risk-taking that the Pistons would be doing, because Sharpe sat out last season at Kentucky, so he hasn’t played competitive basketball since the summer after high school. That may not scare Weaver, but it will make some general managers pause.
Honestly, everyone should be able to play well with Cunningham — I would play well with him. That’s not necessarily the biggest barometer. A big consideration should be who plays well with the rest of the team, including Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart and some of the other likely starters. Yes, Cunningham is the foundational piece, but he can adapt to almost anyone else’s game.
I like what Ivey and Murray can bring with their ability to create shots without the ball, but judging by their college tape isn’t going to tell everything about the transition they’ll make to the NBA and how they would look in a Pistons uniform.
►Q: What’s the asking price for Jerami Grant and how eager is the team to move him? — @ZaktheMonster
►A: That’s the million-dollar question here. Again, some fans are clamoring for the Pistons to move Grant, but the Pistons have shown that they’re not going to trade their leading scorer just for the sake of opening a roster spot or seemingly clearing the way for the young core to take on a bigger responsibility.
Weaver has said that he wants to keep some veterans on the roster to ensure that it’s not just young guys who are running the show and that they have some guidance. That’s what leads me to believe that the Pistons still value Grant and that they would be fine keeping him on the roster, with a modest salary increase. The other side of that is the fact that Weaver said that teams came calling at the trade deadline but that there wasn’t a deal that suited the Pistons.
I would think the Pistons are looking for a first-round pick from a team or, at worst, two rotational players. They took a chance on Grant and it ultimately paid off, but trying to catch lightning in a bottle twice by going out in free agency would be tough.
I don’t think that they’re anxious to move Grant. Again, if there’s not a deal that makes sense for them, the Pistons won’t go out of their way to clear the roster spot. The cap space is a benefit, but looking at the big picture, they could value the 20 points per game that Grant brings and just do something before the deadline.
►Q: You think we should go after Miles Bridges? — @terrelllamarr
►A: It all depends on the numbers. It looks as if Bridges will be in high demand in free agency, and if the cost gets up near $30 million, I would tap out. Giving Bridges all that money suggests that the Pistons would value him over Grant, and I’m not sure that that’s the case.
Bridges has developed over the past couple of years, but that cap number would scare me, without knowing whether that’s a long-term trend or just a really good year.
Although he’s only 24, Bridges has been in the league for four seasons and has had gradual improvement each year. He went from 7.5 points as a rookie to 13 in his second season and up to 20.2 points, seven rebounds and 3.8 assists this past season. Those are impressive numbers, but all that was done in Charlotte’s system and there’s no guarantee that it will translate to the Pistons’ offense.
Bridges has an explosive game and he’s improved from beyond the 3-point arc, including 40% in 2020-21. He has a power game and some finesse from the perimeter to go with it.
►Q: If they trade the pick, what should it be for? — @KSMedia13
►A: The Pistons seem to be locked into the No. 5 pick, but if they were to consider trading it, I would assume that they would be getting a high-level player — probably starting-caliber — as well as another lower pick in the first round.
There might be some consideration of trading up into the first round, but I can’t see it. Moving up would involve trading more young assets to try to get someone like Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren or Paolo Banchero, and I wouldn’t think the Pistons covet any of those three enough to give up young assets in addition to the No. 5 pick.