Beard: Trading Jerami Grant sets the stage for more offseason fireworks for Pistons

Detroit News

Call him Trader Troy or the Dream Weaver or any one of those creative nicknames that those in social media routinely come up with.

Pistons general manager Troy Weaver isn’t one for standing pat with a roster, especially when he sees an opportunity to improve it. The Pistons, coming off a miserable 23-59 season, have plenty of improvement to make, and Weaver cleared the runway for some significant changes this offseason.

The Pistons agreed Wednesday to trade leading scorer Jerami Grant to the Portland Trail Blazers for a 2025 first-round pick, along with some additional second-round picks, including a pick swap that moves the Pistons from No. 46 to No. 36 in Thursday’s draft.

For what it’s worth, the Pistons achieved their goal of getting a first-round pick for Grant, but the downside is that they won’t realize it for another three years. That appears to be the market for Grant, who is entering the final year of his contract, and is due $21 million next season. That number fits a trade exception that the Blazers had after dealing C.J. McCollum to the New Orleans Pelicans at the deadline.

There was some thought that the Pistons would be able to get the Blazers’ pick — No. 7 overall — in Thursday’s draft, but looks to be a price that Portland wasn’t willing to pay. Instead, the Pistons look to be in position to pick Iowa forward Keegan Murray with their No. 5 pick, if he’s available.

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There’s a bigger picture involved in trading Grant, and it’s not in the draft. The Pistons already were in position to be a major player in free agency, after Blake Griffin’s $29.8 million comes off the books. The Pistons likely will have more than $40 million in cap space available this summer, to pursue high-level free agents.

One candidate could be Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton, who is rumored to be on the outs, after a quick exit in the playoffs this season. Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson and Knicks center Mitchell Robinson also could be potential targets.

More likely, Weaver could pursue a player currently under contract with another team and bring them onto the Pistons’ roster with their sizeable cap space. This year’s group of free agents isn’t robust, but with cap space, the Pistons can pursue other players who have more time remaining on their contracts.

They could also look to use the cap space as an asset, taking on other teams’ unwanted or bloated contracts with additional draft capital or young players.

Having that flexibility and a willingness to deal has been a hallmark of Weaver’s tenure. In his first draft, in 2020, Weaver added to first-round picks, and he was able to select Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart, two foundational pieces of the rebuild.

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Weaver remade the roster quickly, and that restoration continues with Wednesday’s deal involving Grant. Trading their leading scorer seems to suggest that the Pistons are slow-playing the rebuild. Another read is that making more cap space available helps them for the long term and makes them more flexible to pursue longer-term deals with other players this offseason.

The trade means the Pistons will need to make up for Grant’s 19.2 points on the offensive end, but also his veteran leadership. Grant was a member of Team USA, which won the gold medal last summer in the Olympics.

That’s no small void to fill.

Weaver has said that he doesn’t want to have a roster full of young players, and stressed the need to have some veterans to help guide them. The Pistons still have — at the moment — center Kelly Olynyk, as well as guard Cory Joseph, who exercised his player option and will return for next season.

Beyond that, they’ll need to get other voices in the locker room to help guide this group. Cade Cunningham is a year wiser in the NBA, as are Bey, Stewart and the young core. That will be another critical piece to their rebuild, in how they mature off the court.

Draft night could have some more clues as to how the Pistons will proceed in the offseason, but there likely will be more fireworks when free agency opens on July 1, and beyond.

Trader Troy will be waiting. @detnewsRodBeard

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