Pistons mailbag: After trading for Bojan Bogdanovic, where do they stand in East?

Detroit Free Press

It’s almost go time.

The Detroit Pistons unofficially ended their offseason a few days early, trading Saben Lee and Kelly Olynyk to the Utah Jazz on Thursday for a skilled role player in Bojan Bogdanovic. Officially, though, the offseason ends Monday, when training camp starts and the Pistons host media day. Preseason play will start not long after, on Oct. 4 against the New York Knicks. Then, the regular season on Oct. 19.

This week’s mailbag is heavy on Bogdanovic questions. Big thanks to everyone who sent one.

SHAWN WINDSOR:Bogdanovic trade puts Detroit Pistons within reach of NBA play-in tournament

BREAKING DOWN THE DEAL:Bojan Bogdanovic trade is a win for Pistons, addressing 2 important needs

Finish the sentence:“Today, Bojan Bogdonovic is the _____ best player on the Pistons roster.”@detroit_wyso

How controversial would it be if my answer was “remove the blank?”

Bogdanovic averaged 18.1 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists last season while shooting 45.5% overall and 38.7% from 3 — a true shooting percentage of 59.9%. As a point of comparison, here is what the other “best player on the roster” contenders averaged last season.

  • Cade Cunningham: 17.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 50.4% true shooting.
  • Saddiq Bey: 16.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 52.9%.
  • Marvin Bagley III: 11.3 points, 7 rebounds, 55.1%.

Bogdanovic was tops in points, and did so with the best efficiency of anyone on the list. He’s also one of Detroit’s best wing defenders, and stood out on that end of the floor during Utah’s first-round playoff loss to the Dallas Mavericks in April. He’s really, really good.

We can assume Cunningham and Bey will both be improved this season, but they’ll have to do so significantly to match Bogdanovic’s efficiency. I think Cunningham will make a sophomore season leap, and his ability to create his own shot and run the offense from the point sets him apart.

I’ll say Cunningham will be Detroit’s best player next season. He has the highest ceiling of anyone on the roster, and he’ll be a year closer to reaching it. His overall impact should outpace everyone else’s. But Bogdanovic is a very strong No. 2.

Any chance Bojan starts over Bagley? 

Seems like he, Bey, and Stew provide the perfect spacing/balance for a Cade/Ivey backcourt. 

I’d be a little concerned about our lack of shooting off the bench, but shouldn’t developing the young guys be our top priority? — @MatthewCrowe313

I think there’s a great chance Bogdanovic starts over Bagley.

As noted, his shooting will be needed in the starting lineup. He and Bey would give the Pistons two proven shooters, and potential improvement from Cunningham and/or Isaiah Stewart could give the group adequate spacing. Bogdanovic is also a capable ball-handler and willing passer, which would take pressure off of both Cunningham and Ivey and aid their development.

Bagley received a three-year, $37.5 million extension this offseason and should receive significant playing time. But his game may be better suited coming off the bench. He’s a career 29.1% shooter and scores the majority of his points in and around the paint. Rather than clog the first unit’s spacing, the coaching staff could make him the primary option of the second unit and pair him with Cory Joseph, Alec Burks and Isaiah Livers to spread the floor out.

Any chance we end up trading Bojan before the deadline and try to get extra draft capital? Especially if Bojan plays good and had good trade value for a contending team @ScheckEric

There’s absolutely a chance Bogdanovic is traded at the deadline. That doesn’t mean the Pistons traded for Bogdanovic with the intent to flip him for assets later — he’s a really good player and makes the team better, after all. But he’s on an expiring deal and, at 33, is still playing at a high level. If he remains an above-average starter this season, contending teams will be interested. We know how general manager Troy Weaver operates. The Pistons will listen.

But the Pistons didn’t give up a lot to acquire Bogdanovic: Kelly Olynyk, a talented player but career backup, and Saben Lee, a third-year guard who has yet to carve out a consistent role. Were other teams scared off by Bogdanovic’s age? His contract? He’ll make nearly $20 million next season before entering unrestricted free agency in 2023.

It’s puzzling that the Jazz were unable to get draft capital for a career 39.2% shooter and starter for a contending team. But it also implies the market for Bogdanovic may not be much stronger in February, when he’s two months away from turning 34 and five months from signing another contract — either with the Pistons or elsewhere. Teams will call, but they may not offer anything that moves the needle for Detroit’s long-term future.

How much does Bogdanovic change your win projection?@WesHolmes10

The Pistons are, with little doubt, a better team today than they were on Wednesday. I’m not yet convinced Bogdanovic will improve their fortunes by a significant amount, though. There are still nine teams in the Eastern Conference — the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat, Brooklyn Nets, Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls and Cleveland Cavaliers — who boast more talent than the Pistons, with clearer paths to the playoffs.

Given that the 10th seed in the conference last season won 43 games —20 more than the Pistons — it’s difficult to see Bogdanovic thrusting the Pistons into the play-in race. It would require big leaps from Cunningham, Bey, Stewart and one other young player, at least. Improvements of 20 wins don’t happen often. But Bogdanovic does raise Detroit’s floor. Whatever record you previously expected the Pistons would finish with, you can safely add a few more wins to it.

Ask me again after the preseason. A strong showing against the Knicks, New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies would change my mind.

Is this trade going to put an end to stew at ; dream? It seems like this is going to force more center mins on him @ScArisen

The trade may lessen the incentive for Stewart to play power forward, since Bogdanovic is a more natural fit there. But I don’t think the Pistons will abandon the experiment.

The Pistons will be a better team — and Stewart will be a better player — if he can consistently knock down 3-pointers. It would enable the coaching staff to play Stewart alongside Detroit’s other bigs — Bagley, Jalen Duren and Nerlens Noel — and thus open up new rotation possibilities. It would also help the starting lineup, which will lack adequate spacing if Bogdanovic and Burks both come off of the bench.

Stewart will continue working on his shooting, regardless of where his minutes are. I don’t think the Pistons envision him shifting to power forward full time. They just want him to be able to play the position capably. Think about Grant Williams’ role with the Celtics in the playoffs. He played center in small lineups, and lined up next to Al Horford or Robert Williams III in bigger lineups. Boston could do that because he hit a career-high 41.1% of his 3-pointers and can defend the perimeter and paint. He fits every lineup. Detroit could use Stewart in a similar role, given that Stewart is already good at defending switches.

Where do you see diallo fit in all this?@chubbs2_

Hamidou Diallo is in a tough spot. Bogdanovic will play a lot of minutes at the wing and forward positions. We can safely pencil in Bey, Burks and Isaiah Livers as minute-getters at the wing and forward positions as well. How many will be left for Diallo?

I’m curious to see what he can do to stay on the floor. He’s still one of the best athletes on the roster and rebounds well for his size. He was good last season as an off-the-bench spark plug and occasional starter. But he’s also a career 27.7% shooter, and his athleticism is duplicated by Jaden Ivey, who will also play a lot of minutes as the prized No. 5 overall pick. Diallo’s margin for error is smaller than it was a year ago.

Which season will have a better ending. Pistons 22/23 or HoD? I think we all know which will have the better start…— @AriHoopsWagner

I’m going with the Pistons — not because I think they’ll make the playoffs, but because I’m very underwhelmed by House of the Dragon’s first five episodes.

If you haven’t been living under a rock, you know that Game of Thrones is back in the form of a prequel featuring multiple characters from House Targaryen. Like Thrones, the HBO show has enthralled Twitter and become required weekly viewing for fans of the franchise. Unlike the early seasons of Thrones, the characters in House of the Dragon are flat and humorless, and the writing resembles a daytime soap opera. There’s no Robert Baratheon, Jon Snow, Daenerys Targaryen, Ned Stark, Arya Stark, Tyrion Lannister or Petyr Baelish — all characters with great screen presence and dialogue. There’s no one worth rooting for or against. Everyone is a slightly different shade of gray. It’s boring.

If you like the later seasons of Thrones — which featured big, conversation-starting moments and great set design, but poor character development and inconsistent plotting — you’ll like House of the Dragon. If you preferred the early seasons of Thrones, which were a much slower burn but featured compelling characters and careful, thoughtful world-building, you probably won’t like House of the Dragon.

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