Detroit Pistons are listening, but here’s why a Bojan Bogdanovic trade remains unlikely

Detroit Free Press

DALLAS — Bojan Bogdanovic isn’t new to this.

The NBA trade deadline is Feb. 9, less than two weeks away. The Detroit Pistons may be sellers on paper, but as of this week, sources still believe the organization is unlikely to part ways with Bogdanovic. A team may blow them away with an offer, but the expectation is that both he and fellow veteran Alec Burks will stick around through the offseason, at least.

Yet until the deadline passes, the Pistons will continuing listing to offers and Bogdanovic’s name will remain in the rumor mill. The 33-year-old veteran sharpshooter signed a two-year, $39.1 million extension in October and is in the midst of a career season after being traded from the Utah Jazz last September. Every contending team in the league could use his services. Interest has been high. Bogdanovic knows how it goes, and is trying to keep his head.

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“I’m trying to stay away from all of the rumors,” Bogdanovic told the Free Press during shootaround in Dallas on Monday, hours before Detroit’s game against the Mavericks. “You know better than me. It’s not up to me what’s going to happen, if I’m going to stay or leave. I’m in their hands.”

It makes sense that teams are curious about Bogdanovic’s availability. The Pistons, 13-38 overall, own the worst record in the Eastern Conference. Bogdanovic, meanwhile, has remained one of the league’s most efficient scorers despite carrying a team lacking the star power he had grown accustomed to during his previous stops. Entering Monday, he’s averaging career-highs in points (21.2), true shooting percentage (62.4%) and usage (25.7%).

When the Pistons traded for him, they were positioned to be more competitive following a 23-win season. Bogdanovic said his early conversations with Detroit’s front office before the season centered around Cade Cunningham, who only played 12 games before a left shin injury prematurely ended his season. The injury changed the tenor of Detroit’s season. The team’s hopes of surging up the standings and fighting for a playoff spot came to an end when the 6-foot-6 rising star underwent surgery in mid-December.

In a recent interview with HoopsHype, Bogdanovic said team leadership has told him the goal is to be competitive next season and that he is viewed as a core piece. Some news aggregators interpreted the interview as a promise from the Pistons that Bogdanovic won’t be traded next week, but he clarified to the Free Press that those conversations took place before the season. He hasn’t had any recent talks with general manager Troy Weaver and owner Tom Gores, and there haven’t been any assurances that he won’t be traded, though sources say it remains unlikely.

“I didn’t talk recently to Troy or Tom, but before the season I talked to them when Cade was healthy,” Bogdanovic said. “They were trying to win as much games to maybe fight for the play-in, and then this summer, we know that the Pistons have money and salary cap to bring someone. I didn’t talk to anybody recently what’s going to happen with me or with the team.

“That was a long time ago, the beginning of the season,” Bogdanovic added. “The Cade injury really hurt us and it changed our season. He was our leader and the main guy on the floor. Our strategy offensively and defensively was based around him. We were talking how good I can be for Cade and those guys, just spacing the floor and giving them room to work and improve their game. Like I said, recently I didn’t have any conversations about the future.”

A lot can happen over the next week or so, but the Pistons have good reason to hang onto Bogdanovic. He may be a luxury on a team currently tied for the best odds to land Victor Wembanyama with the first overall pick in this upcoming draft. But the team remains interested in making a leap next season, following an offseason where they’re positioned to have more than $40 million in cap space in addition to another high lottery pick.

This will be a pivotal summer for Detroit. The team is growing weary of losing, and the 2023 offseason has long been viewed as an ideal time to turn the page on the “restoring.” The 2020 first-round pick trio — Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey — will all be eligible for extensions. The Pistons will have the money and assets to dictate free agency and the trade market.

Despite the poor record and embarrassing losses this season, Bogdanovic hasn’t seen the signs of chemistry problems or disinterest that plagues many teams mired in rebuilds. Cunningham will return next season, and all of the factors that enabled this to be a potential breakthrough season will still be in play this fall.

The reality is it’s too early to say if Bogdanovic will be in Detroit’s plans beyond this season. Teams will still be interested this summer, and the Pistons will be in a position of strength since he’s signed through the 2024-25 season. He likes what he’s seen from this team behind-the-scenes thus far, and the Pistons will have a tough time finding a better veteran for the money.

“We’re pretty tight,” he said. “These young group of guys are working. We’re working pretty hard trying to grow every day. Sometimes it’s tough after those losses that they’re having, especially the last one against Houston. That was the team to beat and we had everything under control in the first quarter. It’s tough to work hard after those losses, but the team is in great spirits. You can see they’re working hard and all their careers are in front of them. They’ll have a lot of ups and downs in this league.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.

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