The clock struck 1 a.m. on the East Coast and Detroit unofficially started NBA trade deadline day with a minor move that could have major reverberations in Detroit. Delon Wright was out and Cory Joseph and two secound-round picks were in.
This isn’t going to do much of anything to radically transform the standings. But it provides a clue at Troy Weaver’s mentality and what the team is after going forward.
Here are some things we know and think we know following the trade.
Troy Weaver doesn’t have time for sentimentality
Delon Wright said he’d tried for years to make his way to Detroit and reunite with head coach Dwane Casey. After early-career success in Toronto, he’d mostly drifted in Memphis and Dallas. Finally, he had his wish. He was back with the coach who drafted him and playing some of the best ball of his career starting at his preferred position.
Now he’s gone.
Weaver made the deal anyway because the narrative doesn’t really matter. He’s still in asset accumulation mode and found a way to improve a rebuilding team going forward.
Killian Hayes is close to a return
I don’t think the Pistons make this move unless Killian is close to returning. The Pistons, hypothetically, could already say they were well-stocked at the position even without Hayes. Dennis Smith Jr. and Saben Lee provide enough while Hayes remains out, and Hayes just adds more depth once he’s back. It’ll be interesting to see who starts.
Weaver has more second-round picks (than he needs)
Weaver sends out second-rounders like party favors, but it seems like he knows there are always ways to restock his cupboards. It’s also interesting to note that all three second-rounders are likely to improve in the final stretch of the season. Toronto is in a free fall and could hold a mini firesale, and the LaMelo Ball injury could put a dent in Charlotte’s winning ways. The Lakers pick will never be good, but with LeBron and Anthony Davis out, it’ll get a little better.
Weaver gets even more financial flexibility this offseason
Cory Joseph’s deal is only guaranteed at $2.4 million next season. This provides two bits of flexibility for Weaver. He could use Joseph’s $12.6 million salary in another trade between now and June 30 (Joseph’s guarantee date) to trade for a draft pick and salary to a team over the cap. Or he could waive Joseph and have more money to use in free agency. Wright was set to make $8.5 million next season so that opens $6.1 million he otherwise didn’t have.
Combined with the previous Blake Griffin buyout and Detroit has about $20 million to play with before accounting for its upcoming high lottery pick. That takes an $8.3 million bite out of room at the Cade Cunningham level and a $4.9 million chunk at the Jalen Green level.
Does this mean there is no market for Ellington?
It’s hard to compare the situation of the Kings to those teams who might be interested in Ellington, but the relatively minimal return for Wright could mean there isn’t much of a market for a guy like Ellington. Would the Pistons keep him or buy him out if they can’t trade him? Unclear. But if he does get dealt, it’ll likely be to a true contender (in deference to Ellington) and a pick in the 50s.
Weaver probably isn’t done dealing
This goes without saying, but Weaver seems so close to opening up enough space for a Jerami Grant-level free agent signing, and he has so many players under contract that it seems like he has one more move to open up space in his arsenal. Whether it comes today or in the offseason remains to be seen. He’d need to trade a Mason Plumlee or a combo of Jahlil Okafor and Josh Jackson to get to that $20 million level under the best-case scenario of getting the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
Weaver is no more attached to his players than he was to the previous regime’s
The Grim Weaver or Troy Reaper or Trader Troy or whatever you want to call him had run out of players to trade from the previous regime save for Sekou Doumbouya. There was also a question about whether he’d as easily part with the guys he had personally targeted, traded for and signed. Well, we have our answer. Wright is gone. Nobody else should get too comfortable.
The Tank is on
Call it a rebuild, restore, re-imagining. Call it whatever you want. The Pistons definitively got worse with this trade. I know that not everyone was a Delon Wright fan because his game was not aesthetically pleasing. But he was a good player that made the offense run smoothly ... in the half court, anyway. This trade will lead to more Pistons losses, and with Houston in a freefall, Orlando in sell mode, Minnesota in calamity, the battle for the bottom of the standings will be fierce. They likely won’t finish with the worst record, but this move will help.