James Wiseman is now a proud member of the maligned center who Troy Weaver signed/drafted/traded for club. He joins the likes of Detroit Pistons luminaries like: Justin Patton, Tony Bradley, Dewayne Dedmon, Christian Wood, Isaiah Stewart, Jahlil Okafor, Mason Plumlee, Tyler Cook, Luka Garza, Kelly Olynyk, Balsa Koprivica, DeAndre Jordan, Bol Bol, Marvin Bagley III, Nerlens Noel and Jalen Duren. Sometimes they were here for hours, sometimes for years.
As a reminder, Weaver was only signed as general manager in 2020. I wonder if they have a secret handshake or something.
With the addition of any player comes questions about roster fit and potential rotations. When it comes to any center added by Weaver comes questions about which center is going to be playing out of position, and with the addition of a center on a team absolutely starved for talent/depth at the wing position comes questions like: “Why?” and “What the hell?”
Weaver has not made any official comments, but if I was glancing into my crystal ball, I would assume the answer is as simple as Weaver coming to the conclusion Bey didn’t have a future on the Pistons, Isaiah Stewart doesn’t have a future at center, Marvin Bagley has a future on the injury report, and he still trusts his evaluation and instincts around Wiseman stretching back three years and not the body of evidence he’s amassed in 60 games as a pro and a dozen or so more in the G League.
Weaver was looking at a team without a backup center (Noel might be waved or be put back in mothballs), and he really wanted a backup center, and whomever he added needed upside.
I’m not sure I trust Wiseman’s upside, but he is just 21 years old. I can understand a more intentional commitment to Stewart at power forward and allowing him to sink or swim there. But the ripple effects on this roster are real, and they are mostly negative.
First, this team went into this deadline starved for defense and depth at the wing, and it leaves with two fewer wing players and a center who can play no other positions. Neither Bey nor Kevin Knox was a good defender, but both were clearly better on D than Wiseman. And that fact should send a shiver down your spine.
Second, how the hell is this offense supposed to work? Let’s think seriously about where Detroit’s shots come from — oh, hey, look at that, they come from within 10 feet.
More specifically, Jalen Duren takes 95% of his shots within 10 feet. Nerlens Noel takes 79% of his career shots within 10 feet. Hamidou Diallo takes 75% of his shots within 10 feet. Marvin Bagley III takes 68% of his shots with 10 feet. Isaiah Stewart 52%.
These players work almost exclusively in the paint with any effectiveness whatsoever. Now you’re asking them to share the court with each other and still give players like Jaden Ivey, Killian Hayes and Bojan Bogdanovic driving lanes to the rim that force the defense to move and create open shots for teammates.
It’s not going to happen. Detroit entered today with the 27th ranked offense in the NBA, and it likely got worse following today’s trade. Oh, and the defense ranked 29th in the NBA, and somehow the addition of a 7-foot center meant that got worse too.
Wiseman has a net rating of minus-19.3 in limited minutes with the Warriors this season. The defensive rating is a team-worst 123.2 with him on the floor and 112.2 with him off the floor. There has been lip service to Wiseman figuring things out on defense slowly but surely with more seasoning in the G League. Good lord, must all Pistons fans hope that is true. Because his defense is a disaster, and he’s joining a team with plenty of giant defensive question marks firmly planted into the rotation.
This move is so reminiscent of last year’s deal for Marvin Bagley that it makes your head spin. A player with some offensive gifts inside who is originally miscast as some sort of versatile offensive force. A former No. 2 pick who has done nothing but disappoint.
But where Bagley came to a Pistons team desperate for a pick-and-roll vertical threat for Cade Cunningham, Wiseman arrives with Bagley already filling that role when healthy, Cade Cunningham out for the season, and the starting center position firmly in the hands of Jalen Duren, who, despite being in his rookie season and the league’s youngest player, has already clearly outplayed Wiseman and has a much higher upside.
Yeah, the can argue that with Bagley out and Stewart looking more like a power forward, you could use some center depth. But Wiseman was one of five centers traded on deadline day, one of three still 25 or younger, and he was clearly the worst one and cost the most assets in exchange.
The Pistons could have had Mo Bamba for the equivalent of Patrick Beverly or Thomas Bryant for the cost of a salary and a couple seconds. Instead, they gave up a 19th overall pick in Saddiq Bey, Kevin Knox and didn’t get any additional assets in return.
And Wiseman, unlike Bey, isn’t cheap. As a second overall pick, he will cost $12 million next season and then enters restricted free agency on the same timeline as Bey, so your decision on which young players to invest in is exactly the same. In a best-case scenario you can’t afford to keep him to be a backup, and in a more likely scenario, he continues to show he doesn’t have NBA skills and washes out as he can be more easily replaced by a reliable veteran on a minimum deal.
Like, what are we even doing here?
The Pistons’ forward rotation now looks like its in shambles, as if it wasn’t already. The Pistons will be relying on Bojan Bogdanovic and Isaiah Stewart as starters and a bench of Isaiah Livers (36% from 3), and Hamidou Diallo (27% from 3, 18 total attempts all season). If anything, this is a huge opportunity and vote of confidence in Livers. He has struggled shooting the ball last season, but does project well as a shooter, and he’s been one of the most active, communicative defenders on the team. He’s not always consistent, but if you’re looking for a player who projects into legitimate 3-and-D territory, it’s obviously Livers.
Wiseman’s cap hit next season means Detroit has roughly $28 million in room, per our good friend and contributor Kyle Metz, and that can buy you one wing, but it can’t solve all your problems. That’s what happens when you suddenly find yourselves tied up with $25 million dedicated to two offense-only big men with limited range who don’t seem long for your organization.
Speaking of problems, what happens next season? If the Pistons decide they’d rather have Wiseman than Bagley, then they will need to bribe someone to take the two years remaining on the three-year deal Weaver just signed Bagley to this past offseason. if they decide they don’t want Wiseman then I wonder why they didn’t just take the hoard of second-round picks Atlanta sent to Golden State for Bey. And if they are lucky enough to win the Victor Wembanaya sweepstakes, well, then all this heartburn will have been worth it, but it is a hell of a way to get there, because then they certainly don’t need Bagley or Wiseman.
This was a bad move, and the ripple effects it could cause going forward are not trivial. I’m sure Wiseman will explode for some eye-popping offensive performances during this stretch run. Maybe he’ll even make a game or two fun as this miserable season winds down.
But this offseason, we will still be left with the same question — why did any of this have to happen?