Detroit Pistons GM Troy Weaver is putting on yet another masterclass of an offseason.
On draft night, Weaver got both of his guys. With the fifth pick, Detroit landed Purdue guard Jaden Ivey. Adding Ivey to the roster gives Cade Cunningham an electrifying backcourt partner. The pair could develop into one of the better one-two punches in the league.
Weavers’ night did not stop there. The GM pulled off a trade that netted the Pistons Memphis center Jalen Duren in exchange for a 2025 first-round pick Detroit acquired one day before sending Jerami Grant to the Portland Trail Blazers.
By all accounts, the Pistons landed two rookies that were high on Weaver’s draft board. After acquiring Ivey and Duren, two of Detroit’s most significant needs were filled. Cunningham has a backcourt partner who can share ball-handling duties in Ivey. Duren provides competition at the starting center spot for Isaiah Stewart.
After a big draft night, only one major need remains on Detroit’s roster. Trading Grant left a hole at the starting power forward spot, and Weaver and the Pistons’ front office have options to fill it.
If Stewart continues to unlock his range from beyond the arc, he could slide to the power forward spot with Duren starting at center. Saddiq Bey could move up to the four with a guy like Hamidou Diallo or Isaiah Livers filling in at the three. However, Detroit has a lot of cap space this offseason, and they could look to spend it. Acquiring a free agent could be Weaver’s strategy for filling the void left by Grant’s departure.
With the start of free agency just three days away, I took a look at some of the best options for Detroit to fill the hole at the four and continue rounding out their roster.
Retaining Marvin Bagley III is a no-brainer for Detroit
Marvin Bagley III resurrected his career when he came to Detroit.
As a member of the Sacramento Kings, Bagley never seemed to really fit in. He played well in his first couple of seasons as a pro, but Sacramento quickly seemed to discard him as part of the team’s future. While he by no means performed like he was a draft bust, it became apparent his legacy with the Kings would be as the guy Sacramento selected instead of Luka Dončić. By the end of his tenure in Sacramento, Bagley was averaging career lows in minutes per game and points per game.
Detroit acquired Bagley at the trade deadline. The change of scenery did wonders for the 23-year-old. Bagley’s minutes jumped to 27 per game. His points per game increased from 9.3 to 14.6. He settled into a role as a solid bench scorer and lob threat for Cunningham to dish the ball to.
Bagley enters restricted free agency this offseason. Detroit can match any offer that comes his way, but it is unlikely the young big man should receive anything too lucrative. An offer of $10ish million per year over three years is the contract many expect Bagley to command on the open market. That is a salary the Pistons can easily afford, while still having room to make other offers.
Retaining Bagley’s services is an easy choice for Weaver and the Pistons’ front office. He may not be a true starting option at the four. Bagley does not possess good defensive instincts, and his three-point shot has regressed since he shot a career-high 34.3 percent in 2020-21. These limitations make him a better option as a player off the bench.
Pistons are no longer interested in Deandre Ayton
Prior to the draft, there was a lot of buzz about Detroit’s interest in signing Deandre Ayton in free agency. The relationship between the Phoenix Suns and the young big man has soured after Phoenix’s second-round loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
With the Pistons having the most cap space in the league, all signs pointed toward Detroit being front runners to acquire Ayton’s services. However, after trading for Duren on draft night, Detroit’s interest in Ayton appears to have waned.
The Pistons have depth at the center spot. Stewart, Duren and Kelly Olynyk are all suitable contributors at the five. Assuming Bagley is brought back, Detroit will have four guys who can play at the center position.
With depth at center, there is little reason to pursue Ayton in free agency. Phoenix is expected to force a sign-and-trade for the restricted free agent. Any team looking to sign Ayton will have to put together a hefty trade package. It is a price Weaver may have paid without Duren joining the roster. However, with Duren on the roster, that is no longer a scenario Weaver and the front office needs to worry about.
Pistons could go all-in on Miles Bridges
With Detroit no longer expected to pursue Ayton, Weaver’s focus in free agency could shift to Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges.
The Flint native enjoyed a breakout season in 2021-22. Bridges averaged 20.2 points, seven rebounds and 3.8 assists this past season, career highs in each category. Bridges is a restricted free agent this offseason and he has made it clear he is looking for a max contract. While a max offer is probably not in the cards for the 24-year-old, there is no doubt he will garner a lucrative deal from somewhere.
Charlotte does not have a lot of cap space. Reports indicate the team will be hesitant to match an expensive offer sheet for Bridges. With no shortage of cap space, Weaver and the Pistons could easily position themselves to sign Bridges.
If Detroit acquires the Michigan State product, he would instantly slot in as the starting power forward, filling the gap left by Grant. Bridges is one of the most dynamic players in the league. He is a threat to posterize opposing defenders on a nightly basis. His shot from beyond the arc is serviceable but could still improve. He is not a lockdown defender, but he performs well on that end of the floor.
Bridges is a good player. He is not quite an All-Star talent yet, but he has room to continue growing his game. If Bridges can take another step up in his development, he would without question be worth a near-max contract. If he continues to improve, he could be an instrumental piece as Detroit looks to turn the corner.
Other names to monitor
I do not expect the Pistons’ front office to pursue a center. The team has the aforementioned depth at the center spot. The guard position gets a little tricky, they could add another piece but it should not be at the top of the priority list. The team already has Ivey, Cunningham, Killian Hayes, Cory Joseph and Saben Lee. Not to mention Diallo, whose team option I fully expect Detroit to pick up this summer. Although reports indicate the team is not expected to pick up Frank Jackson’s team option.
With that said, forward is the position Weaver is likely to target first in free agency. Finding a replacement for Grant is the first priority. Whether that replacement comes from in-house or free agency, the Pistons have to add more forward depth to round out the roster.
Bridges is the big name the Pistons could go after, but Weaver and the front office might decide this is not the year to spend big in free agency. If Detroit pursues budget options in free agency, these guys could be on the team’s radar.
Kyle Anderson will not command nearly the contract Bridges will on the open market. If Detroit targets the 28-year-old, he probably slides into the starting lineup, at least at first. Anderson is a decent shooter and a lengthy defender. He lacks speed, but he has a decent handle and can make good reads as a playmaker.
The Memphis Grizzlies will have to start making decisions regarding contract extensions in the near future. Anderson will not be expensive, but there is no guarantee he will be cheap. The Pistons could steal him away with the promise of a starting job and a larger payday.
Does a reunion between Bruce Brown and the Pistons seem likely? No. But, there is no question Pistons fans would rejoice at his return. Brown was a fan favorite before Weaver and Co. shipped him off to the Brooklyn Nets in 2020.
In Brooklyn, the 25-year-old has continued to grow his game. Brown’s three-point shot is coming around; he shot 40.4 percent from beyond the arc this past season. His defensive versatility was on full display with the Nets. Brown guarded all five positions in Brooklyn.
If Brown returns, he slots in as the starting small forward, sliding Bey up to the power forward spot. There is a lot of value in having a guy who can lock down on defense while taking what he is given on offense. That is exactly what Brown provides.
Otto Porter Jr.
Otto Porter Jr. took a veteran minimum deal for the chance to win a championship with the Golden State Warriors. With a ring on his finger, the veteran forward is likely to look for one last potential payday. With ample cap room, Detroit could be that team, as long as it is a short-term deal.
Porter is a solid shooter who plays good team defense. If Detroit can sign him to a one or two year contract on a not-so-insignificant salary, he would fill in nicely as a stretch four. When it is time to extend the core players, Porter’s money would be off the books.
Free agency is tricky. Overpays are in abundance as teams work to pry free agents away from other teams. So far in his tenure, Weaver has been smart and avoided handing over lucrative long-term deals to players who are not quite worth the value. If free agency opens and playes cannot be bought for the right price, expect Weaver to turn to the trade market in order to fill the void left by Grant and round out the rest of the roster.
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