Analysis: Pistons strengthen frontcourt depth with trade for Wiseman

Detroit News

Detroit — In the waning hours of the NBA’s trade deadline, Pistons general manager Troy Weaver shook up the roster with a trade — his third consecutive deadline-day deal since taking over in 2020.

The Pistons (14-42) were fresh off a brutal 113-85 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers and with the second-worst record in the league, it appears that standing pat was not an option.

Detroit dealt third-year forward Saddiq Bey and Kevin Knox II to the Golden State Warriors, a league source told The Detroit News on Thursday, in exchange for James Wiseman, a 7-foot center who adds to the Pistons’ bevy of big men. Neither of the former Pistons is expected to remain with the Warriors, who reportedly had separate deals in place to send Bey to the Atlanta Hawks, and Knox to the Portland Trail Blazers.

Wiseman, who has struggled to stay healthy in his three seasons, hasn’t quite lived up to the potential that the Warriors saw when they selected him with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. He played three games during his freshman season at Memphis before serving a suspension for a violation. A torn meniscus sidelined Wiseman during his first year in the NBA, and he didn’t play at all during his second season due to various injuries.

Despite his sporadic play, Wiseman averaged 11.5 points and 5.8 rebounds on 51% from the field in 39 games as a rookie. He’s totaled 6.9 points and 3.5 rebounds in 21 games for the Warriors this season.

The Pistons have always been a destination for players to earn second and sometimes third chances to figure things out in the league. Marvin Bagley III was acquired at the trade deadline last season after a difficult start to his career in Sacramento. Hamidou Diallo has arguably played his best basketball since entering the league over the last month or so. Knox proved in his brief time with the team that he can serve as a viable shooter.

Weaver has always liked Wiseman’s game and the 7-footer could pose a higher upside than Bey if he can remain healthy, a league source told The Detroit News shortly after the deal was made.

Wiseman, 21, joins a crowded frontcourt group of rookie Jalen Duren, Isaiah Stewart, Bagley and Nerlens Noel.

Duren, who also played at Memphis for one season, has already solidified himself as a solid option at center. His rebounding and athleticism have proven valuable, especially if Stewart can continue to expand his game on the perimeter. Once Bagley returns from injury, he’ll likely be the team’s backup power forward. That leaves coach Dwane Casey an option to have Wiseman serve as the team’s primary backup center. The depth will allow the Pistons to have two-big lineups in both units, and also extra bodies in case of injury, which has hindered the current season.

By trading away Bey and Knox, the Pistons are thinner at the wing position. Bojan Bogdanovic and Isaiah Livers remain as the team’s only small forwards, although Diallo is often used in that spot, too.

The Pistons didn’t address the roster’s current needs — a two-way wing or playmaking forward — with this current move. However, the need for another perimeter player could be filled with a lottery pick in this year’s draft if the Pistons fall to No. 3 or later, assuming that 7-foot-3 phenom Victor Wembanyama and G League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson are off the board by then. Detroit could also use its hefty load of cap space to find a player that fits its needs in free agency.

Bey was in attendance for the Pistons’ practice on Thursday and he remained afterwards to get up extra shots, shortly before Wojnarowski reported the trade. Pistons coach Dwane Casey was asked about the possibility of the trade deadline disjointing Thursday’s practice and he said the players handled the deadline “professionally.”

The Pistons will face Bey and the Hawks for the first time on March 21. Wiseman will have to wait until next season to face his old team, as the Warriors and Pistons have already completed their two-game series, both games won by the Pistons. Bey nailed the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to carry the Pistons past Golden State on Jan. 4.

Deadline day has come and gone. The burning question that remains is whether Wiseman finds his way in Detroit.

That’s the hope for the Pistons.

Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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