Detroit Pistons’ Jerami Grant trade leaves no doubt: It’s Cade Cunningham’s team

Detroit Free Press

Troy Weaver shipped off Jerami Grant to Portland for a 2025 first-round pick and a swap of 2022 second-round picks to give himself choices. Something the Detroit Pistons haven’t had much of the last decade.

Choices that arrived with the most salary cap room in the league. Choices that don’t have to be made on draft night. Or this summer. Or this season.

Choices that will be there next season, too, as Weaver tries to build around one of the best young players in the NBA. Moving Grant obviously freed up lots of money — the Pistons should have at least $43 million this summer — but it also freed up Cade Cunningham.

It’s his team. It’s his ball.

THE DEAL: Pistons trade Grant to Portland for 2025 first-round pick

FINAL MOCK DRAFT: Pistons have options at No. 5, but stick with Keegan Murray

CADE’S COOL: Cunningham isn’t Rookie of the Year. That won’t change his importance to Pistons’ future

He’ll share it, of course. That’s what he does. But the ball movement, and the off-ball movement his coach likes, should be easier without Grant now, and Dwane Casey is free to center — and adjust — his system around Cunningham.

Cunningham is ready for this. Trading Grant for cap space says the Pistons think so as well. Weaver wanted the room to tinker, to ponder a few possibilities, to weigh the free agent market this summer and, if it doesn’t feel right, weigh it again the next.

Now, some may quibble with the return for Grant, but remember that Weaver isn’t in the business of sabotaging himself. This was likely the best deal he was offered.

Besides, don’t overrate what Grant was. He wasn’t going to get a lottery pick in return. So, Weaver chose the freedom to pursue free agents and make more trades.

In the short term, expect the Pistons to make an offer to Phoenix Suns center, Deandre Ayton, a 23-year-old who played in the NBA Finals last year and has plenty of potential to tap.

If not Ayton, then perhaps Miles Bridges, the former MSU star who expanded his range this offseason and might want to come home. And if not Bridges, then Weaver could take on a couple of bad contracts, like Gordon Hayward’s, attached to future assets and free up even more cap space next summer.

ROSTER WORK: Cory Joseph picks up $5.1 million player option with Pistons

There is no rush. The Pistons weren’t making the Eastern Conference finals this season if Portland had given up its No. 7 overall pick Thursday.

Again, Weaver is taking the long view, so that when players of Bradley Beal’s caliber come onto the market — as Beal reportedly did Wednesday — the Pistons will have a shot.

Before you say, “No one like Beal will come to Detroit,” remember what players saw in Detroit late last winter: a rookie with low-key swagger and cool who loves to share the ball, who isn’t afraid of the moment.

Players recognize when other players are different. Cunningham is different. His presence changes how free agents will eventually view this franchise. Adding the right piece in the draft tonight will only help that more.

Moving Grant could mean Weaver wants Iowa’s Keegan Murray to slide into his slot. Yet with all the freedom Weaver just gave himself, it’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t take Jaden Ivey if he were there at No. 5 instead.

And even though Murray, a 6-8 forward, would probably immediately space the floor more for Cunningham & Co., Ivey is worth the swing.

Think about it this way: Even in the NBA success isn’t all about hops. And while hops may sell a certain ideal, not to mention social media clicks that garner he-caught-a-body memes, every team has a player with hops.

What good are hops, though, if a player can’t shoot? Or see the floor at a high level? Or get low and slide his feet on defense?

But if you combine hops with an elite first step? And then combine those with relentless and fearless pressure on the rim?

You get young Russell Westbrook. You also get Ivey, and you hope the shooting and decision-making develop. And even if they don’t, you’ve still got a player who constantly attacks.

So, yeah, if Ivey is there at No. 5 tonight, the Pistons should grab him, thank the lottery gods — again — and plop him out there with Cunningham and all that room on an NBA court.

If not?

Then Murray is the play. And the player.

Yes, he’s 22. Yes, he lacks a 40-inch vertical. But he’s 6 feet 8 with an NBA-ready 3-point stroke, an ability to create a little space to get it off, good in transition, solid defensively, and coming off a year of head-turning improvement.

In other words, he’s a worker. And though he may not have the star potential of Ivey, his ceiling isn’t that of a role player, either.

Whoever is available, Weaver should end up with a player that will make a difference. With the growing cap space, he’ll have more chances — and choices — to add even more.

Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.    

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