Pistons offseason table-setter: NBA Draft preview, free agency lookahead

Pistons have a lot of cap space, if they want to use it

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 29: NBA commissioner Adam Silver announces the pick for the Detroit Pistons during the 2021 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on July 29, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images) (Arturo Holmes, 2021 Getty Images)

The NBA offseason is upon us, and it’s already heating up, just days after the season ended. Here’s your table-setter for what’s to come for the Pistons.

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What to do with that 5th pick

If you’ve been a longtime reader of this newsletter, you may remember that last year, I warned of NBA lying season, with a lot of unfounded rumors about the Pistons and not taking Cade Cunningham. NBA lying season is heating up again. But this year, it’s not as focused on the Pistons.

Still, there are some rumors out there that could shake up the Pistons draft plans. First, here are the top three candidates for the Pistons at the 5th pick:

  • Best case scenario: Jaden Ivey, Purdue, Guard
  • Expected pick: Keegan Murray, Iowa, Forward
  • Reach pick: Shadeon Sharpe, Guard, “Kentucky” (in quotes because he never actually played for Kentucky)

There could be a few others in the mix here, but this is probably your main crop of prospects to watch, barring a trade. (Which we’ll get to shortly).

So let’s talk about Jaden Ivey. He’s projected to get drafted by the Kings at the No. 4 pick, but it appears this pick is in some serious flux. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony reported last week the the Kings were not Ivey’s preferred destination. Here’s more from what he said in his mock draft earlier this month:

The Kings aren’t Ivey’s preferred destination but have proved willing to take players without the benefit of workouts and medical information in the past, doing so as recently as a year ago when selecting Davion Mitchell. Many around the NBA feel that this pick is available for a team looking to swap picks and move up the draft for Ivey. Detroit, Indiana and Oklahoma City are among those that could potentially exchange an asset to help the Kings’ chances of contending for a playoff spot, with the likes of Jerami Grant, Myles Turner and Lu Dort a few potential options that rival teams point to. In the event that the Kings elect to hold on to this pick and prefer to avoid the drama associated with picking a player against his camp’s will, the candidacy of Keegan Murray might be gaining steam with head coach-to-be Mike Brown. Owner Vivek Ranadive is also said to be a proponent of selecting him.

I’d label this as an NBA lying season report -- but that last part has me intrigued. The Kings owner wants Keegan Murray over Ivey. That would be a big deal. That doesn’t mean the Kings wouldn’t draft Ivey and leverage him for a draft night trade.

As stated above, Jerami Grant could be a useful trade piece here if the Pistons decide Ivey is worth moving up for -- they’ll probably have to give up more than Grant, too, think another draft pick.

But it may be worth it for Detroit, who had another bottom-of-the-league finishing season, and are trying their best not to let it go to waste with a mediocre draft pick.

To add another wrinkle, the Pistons may not be the only team in the mix for Ivey. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said last week that the 4th pick is on the block.

“There are a lot of teams trying to get deals done with Sacramento so they can move up to select Jaden Ivey,” Wojnarowski said. “That’s teams close to them in the lottery who are five and six [the Pistons and Pacers], the New York Knicks at No. 11, Washington Wizards at No. 10, and even some teams outside of the lottery.”

And just today, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that the Kings are becoming “increasingly comfortable” keeping the 4th pick. Again, that could just be smoke and mirrors. “Sacramento general manager Monte McNair has engaged in conversations around Hawks forward John Collins — among a slew of other established, productive players in the market — but there has been no involvement of the No. 4 pick in the discussions centered on Collins, and McNair will ultimately make the decision on the pick, according to sources.”

There’s no doubt that landing Ivey would be the best case scenario for Detroit -- pairing him with Cade Cunningham would solidify the backcourt for years to come. We’ll see how this shakes out.

Let’s move onto Keegan Murray for a minute. He’s the most likely draft pick here if Ivey is off the board. Murray is a smart, ready-to-play forward, he can shoot the three ball, and he can pass. He’s older than his draft counterparts, but he insists that doesn’t matter.

Murray could be a good fit for Detroit, especially if they trade Jerami Grant. Murray could slot in at the four spot for the future. And he fits the mold as a big who can stretch the floor, and he’ll improve on defense.

It’s not that Pistons fans don’t want Murray, I don’t think -- it’s just that Jaden Ivey sounds like a bigger addition. But ending up with Murray would not be the end of the world.

And a quick word on Shadeon Sharpe. No. Please, no. The Pistons can’t afford to risk it all on a player with zero college film, who hasn’t played basketball in a year. No thank you, sir.

The NBA Draft is Thursday night at 8 p.m. -- get your popcorn ready.

NBA free agency lookahead

NBA Free Agency is expected to begin, in earnest, on June 30. The Pistons are projected to have the most (or close to the most) cap space available for any team this offseason.

That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be spending big on anyone. You have to think Troy Weaver is saving up for the right move. Looking at the free agency pool, there aren’t any must-have players, but there are some interesting fits.

  • Jalen Brunson (if Detroit doesn’t draft Ivey)
  • DeAndre Ayton (Pistons are among the teams with highest odds to sign him)
  • Tyus Jones (if Detroit doesn’t draft Ivey)
  • Miles Bridges (a homecoming?)
  • Gary Harris (a homecoming?!)

The Pistons have some things to sort out with their own roster:

  • Marvin Bagley III (unrestricted free agent)
  • Hamidou Diallo (team option)
  • Cory Joseph (player option)
  • Frank Jackson (team option)
  • Rodney McGruder (unrestricted free agent)

I’d expect Jackson and Diallo to return. I’m not sure about Joseph and McGruder, who served as veteran voices on a young team. The biggest question there is Marvin Bagley III, who played pretty well for Detroit in his half-seasons stint. I’d guess Bagley would be brought back on a short prove-it contract.

The Pistons have opened as +75000 to win the title next year, which is the third worst odds -- but you’re saying there’s a chance?!

About the Author:

Ken Haddad has proudly been with WDIV/ClickOnDetroit since 2013. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters, and helps lead the WDIV Insider team. He's a big sports fan and is constantly sipping Lions Kool-Aid.