It’s always dangerous to look at Troy Weaver’s moves in a vacuum, but for the sake of discussion, let’s say Trader Troy is done rolling and trading as general manager of the Detroit Pistons.
At least imagine the six players he added through the draft and trades are here to stay. Let’s even go so far as to pretend this is the roster the Pistons will have on opening night and start building a rotation. That will at least help us gauge what Weaver’s next move might be as the team prepares for the start of free agency on Thursday.
For any confused Pistons fans, I know you have questions. They are probably the following: What just happened? How much money is left in Detroit? How will this work? And after? Why God why?
We’ll take them one at a time.
What the hell just happened?
Weaver’s one big move is actually split into three parts (so far). He traded Jerami Grant before the draft for a first-rounder from the Milwaukee Bucks in 2025 and a jump to the second round of the 40s and the 36th pick.
On NBA draft night, he was part of a complicated three-team deal with the New York Knicks and Charlotte Hornets that earned Detroit the 13th pick, which was used to select Jalen Duren and Kemba Walker.
On Tuesday night, Weaver re-engaged with the Knicks in a separate deal that saw Detroit receive Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks, two future second-round picks (including Detroit’s 2023 pick who was traded in 2018 against Khyri Thomas) and $6 million in exchange for nothing.
Although that’s not really true. Technically, they’ll likely receive the $20 million traded player exception Detroit received from Portland as part of the Grant deal. It appeals to the Knicks because they want to free up space and get nothing back in return so they can sign Jalen Brunson to a deal they’ll likely end up regretting.
A traded player exception cannot be traded with players, which is why this is set up as two separate transactions.
How much money is left in Detroit?
The Pistons entered the offseason with the most capped space in the NBA, and that soared to $55 million once the Grant trade was completed. But once all that dust settles, the Pistons will have about $23 million, by ESPN’s Bobby Marks.
Of course, that doesn’t take into account the inevitable new contract of Marvin Bagley III, who is expected to return to Detroit on a new multi-year contract.
For the sake of argument, we’ll give Bagley a starting salary of $8 million next season. Let’s even be bold and say the Knicks’ $6 million in cash is Kemba’s buyout figure. That means Detroit gets another $3 million back. That would leave $18 million to spend in free agency, and the Pistons would have 14 players under contract and just one spot to fill.
How will this work?
Wow, that’s a tough question. The short answer is that it probably isn’t. Is the slightly longer answer so clearly that it means there is more movement on the horizon. And the answer from the galaxy’s mastermind is that Weaver thinks it can work out pretty well and is ready to feature that lineup next season no matter what.
We can start thinking about rotations, but even figuring out who your starters will be is a little tricky. One, the team has a giant crater where the vanguard point was and two, they just trade for a traditional center and are about to sign Bagley to a multi-year deal, and his best position is center, and that’s just two years away from the drafting of Isaiah Stewart, who started all 71 games he played last season.
We will simply tear off the bandage and offer a starting composition:
- Leader: Cade Cunningham
- Shooting Guard: Alec Burks
- Small Forward: Saddiq Bey
- Front power:
CraterMarvin Bagley III
- Center: Nerlens Noel
This starting lineup, I’m sure, is not without controversy. First, I put veteran Alec Burks’ 3-point shooting and defense above shiny new play and franchise building block Jaden Ivey. But defense and 3-point shooting matter, and they’re rare in Detroit.
Then I give Bagley the starting striker position, but that’s mostly by default. There are really no clear candidates on the list. Would you rather just put Stewart out there and tell him to shoot 6 threes a game? Do you put Kelly Olynyk out there and hope he physically withstands the drudgery of chasing younger, faster players every game? Did you just demote and start Bey there and look for a new starting small forward? This position is definitely the team’s biggest question mark right now.
Then in the center I trade the tenacious but undersized Stewart for Noel simply because Noel provides some verticality that Stewart does not and is also a stronger rim protector. However, I would say at this point Stewart is the best rebounder despite giving up 3 inches, and is also probably the best overall defender due to his versatility.
OK, now we come to the bench where things get a lot more fun.
- Leader: Killian Hayes
- Shooting Guard: Jaden Ivey
- Small Forward: Isaiah Livers
- Attacker: Kelly Olynyk
- Center: Isaiah Stewart
This acts as if the rotation is 10 minutes, and we haven’t even considered returning players Cory Joseph (1,600 minutes last season), Hamidou Diallo (1,269 minutes) or Saben Lee (604 minutes) or the ultimate threat of lob Jalen Duren.
In reality, Casey is unlikely to go for a 10-man rotation, but when things are going well, it’s likely a bench team he wants to deploy. Imagine the kind of passes Hayes could make to Ivey and Duren with Livers and Olynyk parked on the perimeter?
And when rookies struggle, you turn to your most loyal veterans, with Joseph likely getting the first dibs to spell center minutes from Ivey and Duren absorbed by the trio of Olynyk, Bagley and Stewart.
The Pistons desperately need to move forward, and also a need to add more perimeter shooting and around $18 million to make it happen. The team could sign a viable new starting striker (go for Otto Porter Jr or Bobby Portis), but that only exacerbates the glut of big men.
I think it’s perfectly fair to assume a trade is on the horizon, and players who should probably pack a duffel bag include Olynyk, Lee, Joseph, Diallo, Stewart and Hayes. I’m not saying they’ll all be traded, and I’m not even saying most of them will be traded. But if Weaver is looking to further bolster and balance the roster, those are likely the names he’s trying to squeeze into the deals.
Why God why?
Pistons fans once dreamed of trading Jerami Grant for John Collins or the seventh overall pick. They saw space and wanted Deandre Ayton and Miles Bridges. They saw the playoff or even the playoffs.
How unlikely it all was, Detroit found themselves with reliable veterans on expiring contracts, a renewed commitment to developing their young guys with the fortuitous and perhaps unexpected addition of Ivey and Duren, and just an absolute ton of space and flexibility. go forward.
As capable veterans on expiring deals, Noel and Burks can help Detroit on the court and be returned at the deadline to claim a real trump card. If the Pistons are still struggling this year, the upcoming draft is absurdly deep and you feel like you could get a real impact player anywhere in the top eight of the draft.
And if Noel and Burks miss the deadline, Detroit has the ability to keep them and fill a gap or decline their option and go big game hunting, but for real this time.
Detroit’s cover sheet is just absurdly clean next season. The Pistons will see $8.9 million in dead money off the books of DeAndre Jordan and Zhaire Smith. They also only have $3 million guaranteed to Olynyk.
If you bring Cade, Killian, Beef Stew, Saddiq, Livers, Ivey and Duren back, you’re only looking at salary commitments of $45 million in 2023-24. The salary cap is expected to be around $132 million.
I imagine Troy Weaver could think of a few ways to use nearly $90 million in cap space, and I’m sure he will with a view to creating a team that could win now and in the foreseeable future. .