If you grew up in the 80s or 90s, you remember. It was the other big-box shopping center. It didn’t have as much as Walmart and it wasn’t as nice as Target, but it existed. There were deals to be had — no matter what you needed.
When you’re a team like the Detroit Pistons, you view the NBA trade market similarly.
Teams like Detroit, ones early in a multi-year rebuild, don’t go shopping for designer brand. They aren’t looking to trade for the Bradley Beals or Damian Lillards of the world. No, the moves the Pistons can (and should) make are ones that uncover hidden gems.
They should be bargain shopping. Find that Blue Light Special.
The Pistons’ roster is bad. They have a sure-fire keeper in Cade Cunningham while the rest lies somewhere between probably, maybe, and nope. I’ll take a page out of the Joe Dumars lexicon and describe it like this: “There are no sacred cows here...”
Except Cade. He is very sacred.
With that, let’s bargain shop. I’ve dug back through the past five NBA Drafts in search of players who may be worth exploring. I’m not going to put together hypothetical trades — Sean Corp and Steve Pelletier already did that — but think of this as a list of low-risk, high-reward targets a rebuilding team like Detroit should shoot for in potential deals.
Acquiring Bol Bol is a nice start.
Maybe it gives you fodder for your next night of NBA Trade Machine fun.
TOP OF THE LINE
These guys aren’t going to come cheap — they’re stars at their best. In my opinion, these are the type of guys who are good enough to be among the top three players on a really good team. The odds of the Pistons landing one are slim, but not impossible:
Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers
Don’t kill me, please. He’s still a good basketball player. This team needs many, many, many more of those. I think trading Jerami Grant for him would be a good talent swap, but I totally understand the questions about Simmons’ fit on and off the court with Cade Cunningham.
De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento Kings
There are recent reports that the Kings may be willing to move Fox thanks, in part, to the rise of Tyrese Haliburton — a potential Piston somewhere in the NBA multiverse. Fox is one of the fastest guards in the league. He can be a distributor. He’s showing he can carry the load as a scorer. I’ve loved him since he was at Kentucky and think he’d fit very well.
Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns
I know CeNtErS dOnT mAtTeR aNyMoRe... but Ayton isn’t a dinosaur. He’s an athletic and versatile defender, shown during the Suns’ run to the NBA Finals. He can score inside and out to the mid-range and he’s a good pick-and-roll partner for Cade. While he isn’t a realistic trade target, Phoenix has yet to pony up to re-sign him... and Troy Weaver loves centers... and he will have ample cap space this summer. Just saying.
THE MIDDLE CLASS
Every team needs role players. These are the targets who do certain things well and fit into whatever scheme you run. They’re malleable pieces that can help make life easier for the Pistons who matter — Cade Cunningham, specifically:
Josh Hart, New Orleans Pelicans
Why not add another former Villanova wing who does winning things to the roster? He’s kind of like PJ Tucker, only young and better. He fits any scheme. Slides into any role. I think any team would love to have Hart — including Detroit.
Dillon Brooks, Memphis Grizzlies
Feels like the Grizzlies would need quite a bit to move Brooks, but he’s not a cornerstone-type guy. He’s a gunner, a scorer who can hit from outside and score with the best of them on some nights. He’s got 6th Man of the Year potential in the ilk of Jamal Crawford or Jason Terry.
Malik Beasley, Minnesota Timberwolves
Shooting. Shooting. Shooting. Beasley struggles with a lot, but the dude can score. His stroke is pure and he’s proven that he’s capable of putting up big numbers when given the opportunity. Cade is the type of scorer/playmaker who needs floor spacers like Beasley, a guy who can stand outside the arc but can get to the rack when he needs to as well.
Mo Bamba, Orlando Magic
The funny thing about Bamba, a massive human who can hit 3s and protect the rim, is he would have been one of the bargain bin guys before this season. Finally healthy, he has really blossomed in Orlando, though it’s fair to wonder if he and Wendell Carter Jr. are the right fit in the front court going forward.
Donte DiVincenzo, Milwaukee Bucks
I love White Donte. DiVencenzo, yes, another Villanova guy, is athletic defender who really fills up the stat sheet when he's on. His defense is above average and I think he’s capable of doing more offensively with a larger opportunity. Considering Milwaukee has kind of replaced him with Grayson Allen, he feels like a realistic target coming off an injury.
Anfernee Simons, Portland Trailblazers
The situation with Simons is totally dictated by the situations with Dame Lillard. If the latter stays, the former is on the way out for reinforcements. Simons is a sieve defensively, but a great athlete who can really score. He’s another guard who fits as a starter or reserve that can play off of Cunningham.
Shake Milton, Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers have a lot of guards who are a little superfluous. Milton is fourth in line behind Tyrese Maxey, Seth Curry and Danny Green. He was a good player at SMU and has filled every role the Sixers have asked in his four years in the NBA. He’s one of those big guards who are capable of doing a little bit of everything. I’m a sucker for guys like that.
De’Andre Hunter, Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks drafted Hunter and, early on, he looked like a baby Kawhi Leonard — the Spurs version, at least. He’s dealt with injuries and missed most of the Hawks run to the ECF last year, but there is still a potentially high-level wing in that 6-foot-8 frame.
Cam Reddish, Atlanta Hawks
Another Hawks guy! Reddish has been mentioned in Jerami Grant trade rumors, but he's interesting on his own. He’s improved quite a bit since his days as third banana at Duke and has really taken another step as a scorer this season. Reddish is still a lesser prospect than Hunter, but his combination of athleticism and tools would be welcome in Detroit.
Jalen Smith, Phoenix Suns
I had this guy in the next group, but he’s played his way up the ladder. Smith was always an interesting prospect coming out of Maryland: good rebounder, nice stroke, decent athleticism, cool glasses. After riding the bench early in his Suns tenure, he’s filled in admirably for Ayton at times this season. He’s a pending free agent, so maybe he’s a target this summer, but I like his fit over incumbents like Luka Garza or Trey Lyles.
THE BLUE LIGHT SPECIALS
The ones who’ve fallen on hard times. These guys have all shown glimpses and most are former top draft picks who hav either underperformed or dealt with bad injury luck. They’re the ultimate buy-low targets — young players who’ve flashed but cannot put it all together:
Thomas Bryant, Washington Wizards
Remember him? The former Indiana big played sparingly for the Lakers as a rookie before blossoming with the Wizards. He’s good for 12-14 points and 6-7 rebounds per game with shooting out to the 3-point line. Bryant is coming back from a torn ACL, and Washington has moved on a bit, so maybe he’s available?
Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings
We’ve discussed Bagley as a buy-low candidate. He does some interesting things. He’s also really in a weird spot with the Kings. I think he’s worth a test drive with his combination of size, athleticism and shooting.
Kevin Knox, New York Knicks
I remember covering a high school game at the Florida State Finals when Knox was at Tampa Catholic. His size and the way he moved out there blew me away. Only 22, he hasn’t been a graceful a scorer in the NBA like I envisioned, but he’s a big and able to shoot. The Pistons need a lot more of those going forward.
Markelle Fultz, Orlando Magic
We’ve been down this road before. Fultz is an injury waiting to happen. He’s coming off a torn ACL and we’re not even mentioning the whole he-forgot-how-to-shoot thing. BUTTTT, he’s pretty damn solid when he plays. I don’t know how he fits with Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony in Orlando, but I do know he’d fit with Cade as an aggressive backcourt mate.
Lonnie Walker, San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have drafted so many guard/forward types who just kind of exist. Keldon Johnson is a solid power forward, Devin Vassell is a 3-and-D guy, Derrick White is a nice shooter and playmaker, while Josh Primo may eventually be the best of all. Walker is the lost man. He’s got scoring chops and athleticism. If he came at a discount, I’d be interested in buying.
Jaxon Hayes, New Orleans Pelicans
A JUMPY JUMP GUY! Hayes might not know how to play basketball, but he’s a great athlete who has shot blocking instincts and has range out to the 3-point line. I think he’s a long way from a finished product, but is the type of big the Pistons have been allergic to acquiring.
Brandon Clarke, Memphis Grizzlies
Another JUMPY JUMP dude. Clarke was a favorite of some fans during the Sekou draft. He’s had highs and lows in Memphis — productive in a limited screener/roller/dunker role as a rookie and meh with more responsibility as a sophomore — but he’s the the type of athletic big man that, again, I can’t emphasize this enough, Cunningham NEEDS to be successful.
Bol Bol, Denver Nuggets
I left this in here after the trade yesterday: I’m gonna be honest: I don’t know what’s up with Bol. He had injury and character concerns coming into the draft, which caused him to slip to the second round. Then, he had some nice games in the bubble, but never really carved out a real role in Denver — even with their cavalcade of injuries this year. I don’t know what his deal is, but he’s interesting.