I expect a very quiet NBA trade deadline for the Detroit Pistons. With four days remaining before the deadline, Wayne Ellington is on the only player I’d give a greater than 50% chance to be dealt. And even that is much closer to 55% than it is to 90%.
This might be a seller’s market with the large majority of teams still fighting for some post-season berth. But that doesn’t mean there are that many attractive buyers out there with something to offer. Most contenders have depleted their war chests to secure big-name additions. Everything else seems to be working on the margins.
Then again, with Troy Weaver never say never. He says he wants to empty his metaphorical clip, and while he’s traded every player he inherited save for Sekou Doumbouya, it’s unclear how aggressive he’ll be in dealing his own guys.
There are certainly reports of the Pistons being interested and active in trade discussions. There have been talks between the Nets and the Pistons on potential free agent Spencer Dinwiddie, who is out for the season with an ACL injury. The interest there seems to be focused on big man Mason Plumlee.
But there seems to be a decent number of centers on the market, so who knows how attractive Plumlee is on the market at large.
There are also reports of the Sixers looking for shooting and backcourt help, with the most popular name being native son Kyle Lowry. It’s unclear if the Toronto Raptors, struggling and going through the season from hell, will deal Lowry. Would a Wayne Ellington and Delon Wright combo interest the Sixers? Perhaps.
What is more clear is that the Pistons are smartly not interested in dealing any of their intriguing young players — Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart and Saddiq Bey have all generated interest and are being rebuffed by Detroit. Saben Lee, meanwhile, is young and tantalizing and if anything a trade of Wright might happen expressly to open up playing time for Lee (and Hayes and, to a lesser extent, Dennis Smith Jr.).
Pistons fans might also want to brace themselves for a chance that Ellington might not get dealt because the teams aren’t willing to pony up a decent enough second-round pick. When the potential return is so low other factors start coming into play — namely, would Ellington want to go to this place? Would he rather just stick around in Detroit? Would it be better to just buy him out and let him pick his own destination? Again, it’s more likely that he’s traded, but I’d put the odds there at 40-45%.
Then there are the latest rumors, which also happen to be the most confusing. There are reports out there that the Pistons have checked in on the extremely available Aaron Gordon. Right now, thankfully, it seems the asking price is too high (reportedly an ask of two first-rounders from Houston is out there). Hopefully, Detroit hang up the phone on that kind of exchange pretty quickly.
Speaking of Houston, there are also reports that the Pistons are interested in impending free agent Victor Oladipo. This could be similar to the interest in Dinwiddie, and just like with Dinwiddie, I hope nothing materializes.
There is a certain logic to trading a long-term deal you maybe don’t need anymore (a Plumlee or Wright) for an expiring contract you might be able to utilize in a sign-and-trade.
But there are so many teams with FA money available this offseason, I’m not sure if anything would require a sign-and-trade. And if the intention is to sign either of these oft-injured and getting to the end of their prime players to a new Jerami Grant-esque long-term deal? Well, that seems like it would be a straight up mistake, to put it kindly.
So who is left? Just about the only player who is extremely moveable and could be used in most rotations is Josh Jackson. Jackson is having a mini-resurgent season as a quality defender and sometimes explosive scorer, and he only makes $5 million next season. He could be used to facilitate a larger deal or be dealt for something intriguing.
How likely is that? Maybe like 10%. He’s not that enticing without a reliable 3-point shot, which he doesn’t have, and he’s a Detroit native who the team just asked to speak to the crowd at the first game with more than 1,000 fans in the building. That doesn’t seem like a player on his way out.
ALL OF THAT BEING SAID. If one of these unlikely pieces moves, part of me thinks they’ll all be on the way out. If you move a Plumlee, Wright or Jackson, that signals a commitment to established young players and a thirst for more young assets.
In the first year of this rebuild, it seems as if Stewart and Bey (and newly acquired Hamidou Diallo) could fill into those Plumlee and Jackson roles seamlessly, and with rookie lottery pick Hayes, young vet Smith Jr and the intriguing Lee, the Pistons seem to have enough to get through the rest of this season without the pressure release valve of veteran Wright, and can re-evaluate in the summer with less money on the books.
Again, nothing seems imminent, and it seems nothing is extremely likely. But at this point, I’ve come to expect the unexpected from Troy Weaver.