The Detroit Pistons made a bad decision even worse in releasing Dzanan Musa to trim the roster to the maximum 15 spots as the NBA seasons approaches. Musa, if you recall, was obtained in the team’s trade of Bruce Brown with Detroit also receiving a low future second-round pick.
This essentially means the rebuilding Detroit Pistons not only traded a productive 24-year-old incumbent guard who was the team’s best perimeter defender on the team last season in Brown, but they traded him for essentially nothing. Or, worse than that, they traded him so that they could instead have 29-year-old Rodney McGruder on the team.
I’d like to see a show of hands from those who would have liked to see McGruder as a backup shooting guard instead of Brown. Anyone?
Also, in a season where the Pistons were bending over backwards to open up any available nickels and dimes in salary cap space — including waiving and stretching DeWayne Dedmon and Zhaire Smith, they actually took on salary in Musa, who made $220,000 more than Brown this season.
Look, Musa was probably not an NBA player. Everyone at the time of the Brown trade said it was an immediate talent downgrade. But if you squinted you could understand wanting to take a flyer on a 21-year-old instead of sticking with a 24-year-old who was about to become a free agent you seemingly had no intention of re-signing. But at least he was a 21-year-old that had another season of team control.
But as the season shakes out, it’s about who the Pistons would rather have on their bench and who might be pressed into duty considering the potential for future trades, injury or illness. Bruce Brown > Dzanan Musa > Rodney McGruder.
It’s not even that Brown was terrifically valuable, or that he would be here beyond this season. It’s most certainly the case the new Pistons front office has a different physical/talent profile in mind as they work to radically transform this roster.
But Brown and McGruder have the exact same primary talent — physical, on-ball defender. Brown, meanwhile, has the potential to get better, greater athleticism and familiarity with the system that could have been utilized.
Picking McGruder over Musa might have been at the request of head coach Dwane Casey, who is likely desperate for some competent NBA defenders and didn’t see much hope in Musa. But the GM now has a player his head coach could be tempted to play regular minutes in front of a player like Svi Mykhailiuk or Saddiq Bey or even Deividas Sirvydis. This is rebuilding team and it needs to prioritize time and roster spots for rebuilding players. Not marginal vets on the last leg of their NBA journey.
This will likely go down as a minor error in the Pistons’ grand scheme, but all minor errors add up pretty quickly into an untenable situation. Those sympathic to Stan Van Gundy’s predicament considered stretching Smith to be a minor error, same with some of his free agent contracts, same with his preference for veterans over young players.
The Pistons seem to be repeating all those same mistakes over again. Let’s just hope they draft better than Van Gundy, and actually invest in their development and create opportunities for time on the court.