Debating Detroit Pistons’ NBA trade deadline: Smart to set high price for Bojan Bogdanovic

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Pistons have two prime trade candidates in Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks. Both veterans have been among the NBA’s best scorers in their respective roles.

In some eyes, they’re luxuries on a rebuilding Pistons team that may be better served bottoming out for Victor Wembanyama, rather than hanging onto two players who could be flipped for assets while the market is hot.

However, the Pistons’ front office has set a high asking price for both players, sources say. It appears likely both players will still be in Detroit after the Feb. 9 trade deadline passes, unless a team ponies up a big offer. The Pistons want to compete next season. If no one meets their asking price, they can simply bring Bogdanovic and Burks into the offseason and reevaluate from there.

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NBA cap, trade and free agency guru and contributor Keith Smith joined “The Pistons Pulse” podcast this week to discuss Bogdanovic and Burks’ trade value and how the Pistons should proceed. Smith is a fan of Bogdanovic, 33, who is averaging 21.5 points on 49.1% overall shooting and 42.3% shooting from 3-point range, and believes he has been undervalued across the league.

The Pistons want significant draft capital for Bogdanovic, and Smith agrees with the high price.

“He’s awesome, and I don’t think he gets enough appreciation for what he is almost his entire career,” Smith said. “He can be really good. He can be your offensive engine, he can be your fourth guy. There are not very many players in the NBA who can fill both of those roles. A lot of those guys, you put them into that third, fourth player role and they disappear and they’re not happy and all that. He’s a good spot up guy, he’s good at playing away from the guy and he’s good with the ball in his hands as the primary offensive creator.”

Bogdanovic has been their best offensive player this season and is a major reason the team has been better offensively per possession compared to last season — though still ranked 28th both years — even without Cade Cunningham. The Croatian forward’s name has been involved in trade rumors all season, and the Pistons have received plenty of calls about his availability. Thus far, no team has met the asking price.

The Pistons traded for Bogdanovic in September and only gave up veteran role player Kelly Olynyk and former second-round pick Saben Lee. At the end of October, they extended Bogdanovic to a team-friendly two-year, $39.1 million extension with the second year partially guaranteed at $2 million. The trade and extension was great value, Smith said, and increased Bogdanovic’s worth.

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Smith projects the Pistons to have around $43.8 million in cap space available this summer. It gives them two ingredients to make a postseason push next season.

“I don’t know that I would move so far off of my asking price if I was Detroit because I really do think that he’s that good, and I think there’s a place for him on whatever next year’s team is,” Smith said. “I think the goal next year has to be, this is our step forward season. I’m not saying you have to be the (Cleveland Cavaliers) and make the jump to fourth or fifth in the conference. But you need to be pushing towards, we need to be in the 6-10 range, at least in the play-in. We’re going to be really pushing towards that and that’s where we gotta go, only because rebuilds lose patience very quickly, both players, front office, ownership and fans. And when you lose the patience in the rebuild, that’s when you make silly mistakes and start to do really dumb stuff.

“You can keep him around, still have $40 million in cap space and be perfectly fine to go, ‘let’s add pieces around this and we should be able to craft together a pretty good roster.’ It’s such an interesting spot, to me, just because there’s so many ways you can go with him.”

Burks, 31, is averaging 13.3 points on 45% overall shooting and 43.6% from 3, and has been one of the league’s most effective bench guards. Unlike Bogdanovic, Smith thinks the Pistons should move on from Burks, who has a team option worth $10.5 million this offseason.

Smith likened the Pistons keeping Burks to a rebuilding baseball team keeping a good closer. It’s nice to have, but too much of a luxury for a team that needs to dedicate assets elsewhere. A late first-round pick would be great value for the Pistons if a team gets desperate enough, he said.

“What’s really changed for me for Alec Burks is the last few years, is this year he’s shooting lights out,” Smith said. “But the last couple years before that, he was really good too. He’s always been a little bit more of a shaky shooter. His role right now is really good, he’s a combo guard off the bench. You can let him run some stuff. He can play off the ball. He’s a really good cutter.

“That conversation needs to be less about today, because fine he’s playing well, but what does that do? I don’t think that does anything for you if you’re Detroit. I’m not trying to win games now. Not that they’re trying to lose, but it doesn’t matter if he helps you to four more wins this year. Is that a good thing? I’m not entirely sure. But when you look at it with him next year, is he worth $10 million on our books or is he better off being on someone else’s and we have $10 million in cap space? Just don’t take on any money long term. Try to increase your flexibility even more, especially for guys who won’t be on the books anyway.”

Catch the “The Pistons Pulse” podcast each Tuesday, with Free Press beat writer Omari Sankofa II and former Division I player and current analyst Bryce Simon. Listen to all of our shows on Freep.comAppleSpotify or wherever you load up podcasts.

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