The Detroit Pistons need to make a roster move before the 2022-23 season starts.
This past week, the Pistons’ front office re-signed veteran Rodney McGruder to a one-year, veteran minimum contract. Every cent of the 31-year-old’s deal is fully guaranteed.
The Pistons roster has 17 players signed for next season, 19 including two-way contracts. That number will decrease to 16 when the Kemba Walker buyout is completed. However, that still leaves Detroit’s roster with one player too many.
Whether it is through a trade or simply cutting someone, Detroit is going to have to part ways with one of their players before the start of next season.
Releasing a player is the easiest way to bring Detroit’s roster down to the legal limit of 15 players. Most of the roster is safe. The young core is not going anywhere, and most of the team’s veterans have comparatively larger contracts. The likely cut candidates will have short, inexpensive contracts.
Here are three players who could be on the chopping block for Detroit.
It would be a bit strange for the Pistons’ front office to re-sign McGruder just to cut him before the start of the season, but stranger things have happened.
Last season, McGruder appeared in 51 games for the Pistons, including two starts. He shot 39.7 percent from beyond the arc on 2.9 attempts. The 31-year-old showed his value as a situational three-point shooter with the Pistons.
At this point in his career, McGruder is best served as a good locker room presence and situational depth player. That is a role the Pistons could value enough to keep the veteran wing next season. However, if the rest of Detroit’s roster outperforms McGruder in training camp, he could quickly find himself expendable.
Like McGruder, Kevin Knox just received a contract from the Pistons’ front office this offseason. Detroit signed the former lottery pick to a two-year, $6 million contract. It has been reported that the second year of the deal is a team option.
Knox has had an unspectacular start to his NBA career. The Kentucky product has been an inefficient scorer thus far in his career, and he has seen his numbers and minutes regress through each subsequent season.
The Pistons have not shied away from reclamation projects over the past couple of seasons. Knox is the latest of those projects. The 22-year-old will have the opportunity to rejuvenate his career in Detroit, but he will have to earn his roster spot in training camp first.
If Knox flashes the potential that made him a lottery pick back in 2018, there is little doubt that he will make the final 15-man roster. However, if he struggles in training camp, the Pistons have other options to turn to when rounding out the final roster.
The Pistons selected Saben Lee with the 38th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. The Vanderbilt product would have benefited from spending time in the G-League as a rookie, but complications due to the COVID-19 pandemic left the Pistons without the option of having Lee split time between the NBA roster and the G-League roster.
Lee has struggled to find his footing after two years in the league. Like Knox, he has been an inefficient scorer throughout his NBA career. His three-point shooting has regressed from his rookie season to his second season as well.
Summer League was more of the same for Lee. He shot one-for-eight from the field in Detroit’s first Summer League matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers. He was often a ball stopper on offense as well, making Detroit’s offense stagnant.
The Pistons have a lot of options at the point guard position. Cade Cunningham, Killian Hayes, Cory Joseph, Alec Burks and Jaden Ivey are all capable of running the point guard position for the Pistons next season. Unless Lee shows significant improvement during training camp, he might find himself as the most likely cut candidate as the Pistons cut down to the final 15-man roster.
(Featured Image Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)