Pistons thoughts: Reacting to the Jerami Grant trade and previewing the NBA Draft
Could some fireworks be on the way for the Pistons?
The Detroit Pistons traded forward Jerami Grant to the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday for a 2025 first-round pick (via Milwaukee) and a swap of the 36 and 46ths picks. On the surface, it looks like a weird deal and a fleecing. It still might be, but moves like this are typically part of a grander scheme.
I never bought into the hype that Grant would net the 7th pick from Portland. It felt like there was an outside shot they would grab a lottery pick. However, it seems like this was the best deal on the board in general manager Troy Weaver’s view. That might not be the reality, but you have to consider what the trade could mean.
Because the Pistons were able to salary dump Grant and not take a contract on in return, they now go into this offseason with anywhere from $43 to $56 million in cap space, depending on your capologist of preference. That’s a huge number and puts them at the top of the league heading into the offseason. There are a lot of things you can do with that.
The cursory takeaway from gaining cap space is fans wondering what free agent the team will break the bank for. While DeAndre Ayton and Collin Sexton rumors persist and Miles Bridges and Jalen Brunson are also in the mix, this goes beyond signing a big name. The cap flexibility can allow Weaver to go into the draft night and continue dealing, maybe even picking up another first-round pick in *this* draft while taking on another team’s salary dump. The cap space and the first-rounder from Portland are bargaining chips and the team needs options.
I’m not crazy about the trade, but I do see what it can be for them. Detroit fans are overvaluing Grant, though. We tend to do that for one of our own. His signing was a win for the Pistons, but his numbers were boosted by volume shooting and being the best player on a bad team. Once Cade Cunningham entered the picture, that went out the window. Cade and Grant never quite fit well together and I thought he played his best when Grant was not on the floor.
There’s too much smoke out there about Ayton and Sexton to ignore. The Pistons have the money to outbid everyone. I have my reservations about maxing out either of these guys, but you have to nitpick to find a miss in the Weaver era so far. I’m cool with going all-in on someone as opposed to kicking the can down the road with draft capital. We are getting close to a point where it could be time to accelerate this rebuild a bit instead of a slow, methodical restoration.
This brings us to the NBA Draft.
The Pistons pick fifth on Thursday night. They fell out of the top three in the draft lottery. That stung, but similar to the 2022 NFL Draft, there is not a generational talent at the top of the board. They won the lottery and grabbed their superstar last year. It’s fine because now, everyone and everything fits. The once-in-every-50-years occurrence that took place last year cannot be ignored.
Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero will be the top three picks. The draft starts with Sacramento at No. 4, one spot ahead of Detroit. Jaden Ivey is the betting favorite, but the fit with the Kings is questionable and he does not seem to want to be there.
There is so much unpredictability with these types of events, especially with Bermuda triangle organizations like the Kings picking in front of you. Without making any bold predictions, here are the three personal boards and why they would fit. And yes, I do believe it to be down to three and will preface by saying I’d be happy with any one of them.
Jaden Ivey: This is as close to a white whale as it gets at this point in the process. There are questions about Ivey’s ability to lock in defensively and his shooting inconsistencies, but he has lead guard potential and is the most electric athlete in the class. Playing next to Cunningham would take some pressure off of him and allow him to do what he does best: play free and explosive basketball. There is a part of me that thinks they could pass if he is on the board, but the fit with Cunningham could be tremendous. He has the potential to be more than just a second banana. Ivey could be the co-star.
Bennedict Mathurin: There is growing buzz here and I’d be completely on board. Reports say that he had an incredible workout with the Pistons and that the front office is sold on what he could bring. He showed an ability at Arizona to thrive both on and off the ball and whips the ball around as a playmaker. Mathurin is also a great athlete that can either pull up from three on the fast break or accelerate and put you on a poster. He is also twitchy defensively and holds up on that end of the floor, tipping balls and diving on the ground. He is an attacking guard that could fit well as the running mate to the cool, calm, and collected Cunningham.
Keegan Murray: By far the safest pick on the board and one that Detroit fans should be able to rest easy with. Most of the takes about him being a boring prospect have to do with his age (22) and the school he comes from in Iowa. He was the best scorer in the Big Ten last year, can shoot from all three levels, and also could be a lob threat. He would also side right into Jerami Grant’s old role and I can see him being a player that gives you 15-16 points per game easily. The floor is high, and the ceiling is to be determined. With as much of a crapshoot as this event is, there is nothing wrong with taking someone you know will be productive. It is even less risky when you already have your franchise player.
No matter who Thursday night plays out, the Pistons will be better than they were going into the night. There is a starting spot in the lineup up for grabs now with Grant gone, but they have options galore. Detroit will go as far as Cunningham takes them. They do not *need* to land a future superstar tonight, but it seems like a safe bet they will find someone who fits and can help push the franchise forward.