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NBA Trade Deadline: Pistons have plenty of potential trade partners

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Most pundits expect a quiet trade season. That’s good news for sellers - and the Pistons need to be sellers.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Detroit Pistons
Goodbye hug.
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

As the first underwhelming deal of the NBA trade season fell, Jordan Clarkson to the Utah Jazz in return for Dante Exum and a pair of second round picks, the preseason prediction from most NBA analysts that this year’s deadline would be lackluster looked on point.

The barriers within the trade market are clear. There aren’t a lot of available players who can move the needle for teams looking to contend. And on teams looking to contend, it’s difficult for them to make salaries work for those few needle-movers. Plus, teams are wary of adding long-term contracts with the generational talent of Giannis Antetokounmpo could potentially become a free agent in the summer of 2021.

Despite the challenges around the league, there could be opportunities for the Pistons. Hey, simple economics: supply and demand. When there are few sellers and those sellers are peddling flea market options, the booth with the somewhat premium players look that much more attractive.

There is also more parity in the league this season than we’ve seen in years. With no Big Three (or Four) teams, the top contenders are a sprained ankle away from irrelevance. It also makes it easier for the second- and third-tier teams to talk themselves into pushing their chips to the middle of the table.

Detroit Pistons Trade Assets

Pistons trade pieces:

Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, Derrick Rose, Markieff Morris, Tony Snell, Reggie Jackson, Langston Galloway

The challenges for the Pistons are also obvious, of course. Griffin is hurt and expensive. Drummond could be a free agent this summer and is viewed by many as fool’s gold. Rose is injury prone and on a minutes restriction. Snell and Morris aren’t that good. Jackson and Galloway’s expiring contracts are less attractive in an underwhelming free agency summer.

That means the returns might not be as good as you’d hope. But there are still potential deals out there. Plenty of teams should be getting a phone call from 313 phone numbers as the Pistons season is a bust, making the oft delayed, long-overdue rebuild finally put into motion.

A disclaimer: there are lots of ways to build a valid roster. There’s the complete tear-down and chasing top draft picks. Identifying underused players ready for a larger role with a new team, a Victor Oladipo-type of move. Identifying second-round pick or undrafted young players. Free agency. Building from the middle. And more.

What the Pistons have been doing - chasing the No. 8 seed with a roster full of past their prime players - is not a valid roster building strategy.

The way I’ll structure this is suggesting the Pistons players a potential trade partner might have interest in, the rebuilding strategy each could offer, and some targets they have that could be attractive to the Pistons or salaries that could fit a potential deal.

Eastern Conference

Sacramento Kings v Boston Celtics Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Boston Celtics

Potential Interest:

Andre Drummond

Rebuilding Strategy:

Young players

Targets:

Gordon Hayward, Marcus Smart, Romeo Langford, Grant Williams, Robert Williams, Carsen Edwards, 2020 Grizzlies and Bucks first round picks, lots of extra second round picks

Suggested trade:

Drummond for Smart, Enes Kanter, Grant Williams, and Langford

Analysis:

It’s not easy for the Celtics to get there salary-wise for Drummond. The fillers are likely more young players than Boston would like to give up, and even Smart is quite valuable to the team. But Drummond is a talent upgrade at center that could make Boston the front runner for The Other Team behind the Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals. Dre would be cast in his ideal role as offensive role player alongside Hayward, Jayson Tatum, and Kemba Walker with no other choice than to do what he does best — defend, set screens, pass a little and clean the glass on both ends.

Miami Heat

Potential Interest:

Griffin, Rose, Morris, Snell

Rebuilding Strategy:

Young players

Targets:

Justise Winslow, Goran Dragic, Kelly Olynyk, Meyers Leonard, Derrick Jones, KZ Okpala, Kendrick Nunn, Duncan Robinson

Suggested Trade:

Griffin, Rose, Thon Maker for Winslow, Dragic, James Johnson, and Okpala

Analysis:

There are a wealth of options for these two teams. The two could keep a potential deal tight - say Blake for Winslow and Dragic - or they could make it a blockbuster. The suggested deal seems a nice balance of both, an equal amount of discomfort to make it reasonable. The Heat would be taking on some extra risk in injury prone but higher upside players who fill needs in Griffin and Rose. They also don’t really want to give up Winslow or take themselves out of the Giannis Sweepstakes. But it could be enough to make them the team to beat for the Bucks opponent in the ECF.

The Pistons take on some unwanted salary and it feels a bit low of a return for Griffin. But Winslow and Okpala are the types of players the Pistons should be targeting in rebuilding.

Toronto Raptors

Potential Interest:

Drummond, Rose, Snell

Rebuilding Strategy:

Young players, late draft picks

Targets:

Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka, OG Anunoby, Terence Davis

Suggested Trade:

Andre Drummond for Gasol, Davis, protected first-round pick

Analysis:

The post-Kawhi Raptors have been all about flexibility. Their extension of Lowry gave him some longer term trade value while maintaining cap flexibility for the summer of Giannis. Swapping Drummond for Gasol could be no-brainer for the Raptors to stick with that same strategy, provided that the price was right. Drummond’s upcoming player option would be of little difference to Toronto this summer, since Gasol is an expiring contract anyways. Davis and a late first round pick could be worth seeing how Drummond potentially fits in the “north” - and if Drummond opts in to his deal, they could see the possibility of flipping him again as a rental next season and recouping their small investment.

Sacramento Kings v Indiana Pacers Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Indiana Pacers

Potential Interest:

Griffin, Drummond, Morris, Snell

Rebuilding Strategy:

Young players

Targets:

Myles Turner, Jeremy Lamb, Goga Bitadze, T.J. Leaf, Alize Johnson, Aaron Holiday

Suggested Trade:

Drummond for Turner, Lamb, and Johnson

Analysis:

Long term, the Pacers could be a fit depending on whether they choose Domantas Sabonis or Myles Turner as their long-term big man. It’s been an awkward fit and not likely to be both - and Sabonis is the more likely to be the choice. If they could get out of the last years of Turners’ contract while also adding a more talented player, they’d likely pull the trigger. The primary appeal for the Pistons would be that Turner is somehow still only 23 years old and could fit the timeline for a rebuild, plus you could add another of Indiana’s young players. Alize Johnson is my favorite of their bunch. Not the most attractive return, but still, it’s something.

Brooklyn Nets

Potential Interest:

Blake Griffin

Rebuilding Strategy:

Young players

Targets:

Spencer Dinwiddie

Suggested Trade:

????

Analysis:

I really like the Nets as a landing spot for Blake, pairing up for next season with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Their best trade chip is Dinwiddie and they only have him on contract through 2021. But I don’t quite see how they can make the money work. Any ideas here?

Philadelphia 76ers v Orlando Magic Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images

Orlando Magic

Potential Interest:

Derrick Rose, Tony Snell, Langston Galloway

Rebuilding Strategy:

Young players, picks

Targets:

Aaron Gordon, Mo Bamba,

Suggested Trade:

Tony Snell and Langston Galloway for Gordon

Analysis:

I don’t really know what the Magic are doing and it sounds like they don’t either. But they’re usually always good for selling low on one of their talented young players and they seem to have soured on Gordon. Now they have an enticing new young core of 21-year-olds that they can give up on two years from now.

Charlotte Hornets

Potential Interest:

Drummond, Galloway, Snell

Rebuilding Strategy:

Young players, picks

Targets:

Malik Monk, picks, matching salaries (Nicolas Batum, Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist)

Suggested Trade:

Andre Drummond for Nicolas Batum and a first round pick

Analysis:

It’s the easy deal that’s always out there when folks say that Drummond can’t be traded. Of course, it makes more sense to broaden it - you could also get Monk included, and, of course, they’d no longer need Biyombo, plus MKG is just sitting there...but then it gets complicated. The simple point is that the Pistons can trade Drummond to the Hornets anytime they want.

Washington Wizards

Potential Interest:

Griffin

Rebuilding Strategy:

Young players

Targets:

Rui Hachimura, Thomas Bryant, Troy Brown, picks, expiring contracts

Suggested Trade:

Griffin for Ian Mahinmi, C.J. Miles, Hachimura, and Brown

Analysis:

OK, hear me out. The Washington Wizards are obviously insane. Their John Wall contract proved that to start with, then their Bradley Beal extension confirmed it. So they have crazy money attached to those two players. At this point...fuck it. Add Blake to it too.

It’s so crazy, it just...might...work. No, probably not. But a big three of Wall, Beal, and Blake goes a lot further than that messed up big two. It’s hard to tell exactly what they’re trying to do, but if it’s win, then Blake helps them do that. If it’s randomly spend money, he helps them do that too.

But why not? They have the expiring deals to get them there with Miles and Mahinmi. They have a few different routes to go with young players - whether it’s the Rui and Brown offer or Thomas Bryant and a pick. They like Rui and Bryant, but neither is worth passing on Blake Griffin when they are already pot invested in Beal and Wall.

For the Pistons, well, this might be the best you can do buds. A couple of young players or a pick, plus immediate salary relief to go be a pain in the ass in the restricted free agency market this summer. Much better than the thought of trying to tie in Luke Kennard to get off Blake’s contract.

This is my darkhorse favorite Blake landing spot.

Atlanta Hawks

Potential Interest:

Drummond

Rebuilding Strategy:

Young players, picks

Targets:

Cam Reddish, expiring contracts

Suggested Trade:

Drummond for Chandler Parsons and Reddish

Analysis:

Depending on what you think of Reddish, this might be the best you can do for Drummond. The Hawks are natural buyers for Drummond over the deadline, and parting with their lackluster small forward might be worth seeing what they’d get for a $90+ million investment. There’s also a sense of urgency for them as Chris Haynes reported that there’s frustration with the team. But personally for the Pistons, I don’t like Reddish.

New York Knicks

Potential Interest:

Drummond

Rebuilding Strategy:

Young players

Targets:

Dennis Smith, Jr., Frank Ntilikina, Mitchell Robinson

Suggested Trade:

Drummond for Bobby Portis, Wayne Ellington, and Dennis Smith, Jr.

Analysis:

This is actually one I’d do. It’s basically just swapping salary to take a flier on Smith. But I like Portis and would probably want to keep him around next year - perhaps the same with Ellington as well, considering expiring contracts will have value in the Summer of Giannis. Point guard is a tough position to fill long term, as the Pistons have found out. It’s possible DSJ just sucks at basketball. But the athleticism and tools are there. He’s worth a try.

Western Conference

Denver Nuggets v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Denver Nuggets

Potential Interest:

Griffin

Rebuilding Strategy:

Young players, expiring contracts

Targets:

Paul Millsap, Malik Beasley, Monte Morris

Suggested Trade:

Griffin for Millsap and Beasley

Analysis:

This is Denver going for it. Blake would represent a risk for them, but one worth taking. They could stand to give him the rest he needs to get healthy for a playoff push. And his selfless style would fit great in the ball movement environment of the Nuggets. It’s not a huge return for Blake, but there’s the possibility of flipping Millsap or turning it into a three team deal.

Los Angeles Clippers

Potential Interest:

Morris

Rebuilding Strategy:

Young players

Targets:

Jerome Robinson, Landry Shamet

Suggested Trade:

Morris for Robinson

Analysis:

There aren’t many options for the Clippers to improve their roster for their title push. And this is the franchise’s first ever shot at a title. Here’s a spot where Morris’ team friendly contract can pay off.

Houston Rockets

Potential Interest:

Morris

Rebuilding Strategy:

Picks, matching salaries

Targets:

Random $2-3 million players

Suggested Trade:

Morris for random matching salaries and a second round pick

Analysis:

The Rockets are such a hodgepodge of minimum contracts. Give us a couple and a second round pick and Markieff is all yours.

Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images

Dallas Mavericks

Potential Interest:

Drummond, Snell, Galloway, Rose

Rebuilding Strategy:

Not much

Targets:

Matching salary

Suggested Trade:

Drummond, Snell, and Tim Frazier for Dwight Powell, Tim Hardway Jr., and Jalen Brunson

Analysis:

I like Brunson so I’m down with this deal. But otherwise, it’s just shipping Drummond out of town - which is still worthwhile. For Dallas, it gives them some support next to Kristaps Porzingis and a huge front line. But comments from Rick Carlisle about post ups suggests he might not like coaching Dre.

Utah Jazz

Potential Interest:

Morris

Rebuilding Strategy:

Meh, maybe young players

Targets:

Ed Davis

Suggested Trade:

Morris for Tony Bradley and Nigel Williams-Goss

Analysis:

You know I’d love to trade for Davis and show how little the Pistons would miss Andre Drummond when you can get his offensive rebounds for $23 million less. But this makes more sense. It’d be a sneaky good coup for the Pistons, as Bradley is a nice rim runner and Williams-Goss did a solid job developing as a point guard in Greece.

Golden State Warriors v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Portland Trail Blazers

Potential Interest:

Drummond, Griffin, Snell, Galloway, Rose, Morris

Rebuilding Strategy:

Young players, picks

Targets:

Expiring contracts, Zach Collins, Anfernee Simons, Nassir Little

Suggested Trade 1:

Drummond, Blake, Rose, and Morris for Hassan Whiteside, Kent Bazemore, Jusuf Nurkic, Anfernee Simons, Nassir Little, Gary Trent

Analysis:

OK, that’s probably overboard. But there’s a world in which it makes sense. The late Ron Marshall would appreciate it, I think.

Suggested Trade 2:

Drummond for Whiteside and Little

Analysis:

If you want to be boring. I think the bolder move makes more sense for the Blazers. They need to go big. But at least, this gives them a similar deal as the previous suggestion with the Raptors - the opportunity to upgrade their center relatively cheaply, potentially even recouping their cost if Drummond opts into his contract over the summer.

Sacramento Kings

Potential Interest:

Drummond, Rose, Snell, Morris

Rebuilding Strategy:

Young players, picks

Targets:

Not much for me

Suggested Trade:

I got nothing

Analysis:

It seems like there ought to be something here. The Kings have always been linked to Drummond. They want to chase the eight seed in the Western Conference. The Pistons have some veteran salary that could match and the Kings have some youth. But honestly...I’ll pass.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Potential Interest:

Rose, Jackson

Rebuilding Strategy:

Young players, picks

Targets:

Jarrett Culver, Josh Okogie, matching salaries

Suggested Trade:

Rose and Jackson for Gorgui Dieng and Jarrett Culver

Analysis:

The Wolves are a tough team to figure out beyond that they need a point guard and they don’t want to keep paying Dieng. So. If we address both of those issues, will you give us your best prospect who isn’t currently helping you? (No, probably not.)

Minnesota Timberwolves v Golden State Warriors Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Golden State Warriors

Potential Interest:

Blake Griffin

Rebuilding Strategy:

Young player

Targets:

D’Angelo Russell

Suggested Trade:

Griffin for Russell

Analysis:

This is similar to the Nets suggestion, but certainly more of a blockbuster. It depends on what the Warriors think of Russell and which direction they want to go. Russell has always seemed like an awkward fit with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Swapping him with Blake could give them another title shot and revive the Death Lineup.

Phoenix Suns

Potential Interest:

Blake Griffin

Rebuilding Strategy:

Youth, picks, salary flexibility

Targets:

Matching contracts, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Ty Jerome, Cheick Diallo, Jevon Carter

Suggested Trade:

Blake for Tyler Johnson, Frank Kaminsky, Johnson, Diallo, and a first-round pick

Analysis:

Phoenix has been pushed as a landing spot for Kevin Love, but why not Blake? The Johnson and Kaminsky contracts get the money most of the way there, then it’s about Bridges/Johnson plus extras. It’s the type of return that could work out well for the Pistons, as the Suns have plenty of interesting young prospects. Diallo and Carter are two who do a nice job of filling minutes in the short term and possibly finding a home in Detroit long term. And Blake would be even better than Love for helping their young core of Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton become relevant. For them, it’d be cashing in a few expiring contracts and fringe prospects for a guy who was All NBA last year.

***

At 12-20 getting ready to enter 2021, it’s time to blow up this roster. The pieces are there. The partners are there. The only thing that’s missing is the vision from the front office and the will from the ownership.

And I’m sure I even missed some more options. Share in the comments my glaring oversights. Also share your favorites.

This team needs to look dramatically different two months from now. What’s your hope for how it looks?