The Detroit Pistons played near .500 basketball after the All-Star break, and the pieces of this young roster are molding into place. With the pieces of Troy Weaver’s puzzle starting to take form, there are important choices facing the franchise this offseason, and there are multiple arguments about the best path forward — particularly when it comes to the NBA Draft.
To me, two critical things have become almost certain in the season’s late stages: Saddiq Bey is going to be good and Cade Cunningham is going to be really good. Though it has only been a short stretch, both players have played consistently well enough to show they can handle larger roles. Bey put himself on the map with the 51-point outburst in Orlando. and Cunningham fought his way into the ROY race alongside Evan Mobley and Scottie Barnes after giving the two a sizeable head start.
Two starters locked down for the foreseeable future is a great start to a rebuild, but depth around them remains a question mark. Can Isaiah Stewart be a reliable starter for a contending team? Will Killian Hayes eventually become the playmaker many hoped for out of the draft? How do Hamidou Diallo and Frank Jackson fit if it all?
The question in the 2022 NBA draft is not whether the Pistons should be worried about need, but should they at least consider fit on the roster?
Well, there’s multiple factors in play here.
Detroit’s position in the draft is the most obvious key to who they’ll consider on draft night as there are pretty clear tiers separating the players in the lottery. At the top, Chet Holgrem, Jabari Smith and Paolo Banchero have been considered locks as top-five selections. Those hovering in that next tier and fighting to break into the top-3 convo include Jaden Ivey, A.J. Griffin, Benedict Mathurin, Johnny Davis and Keegan Murray.
If the Pistons were to luck out again and select number one, the fit between the three big men on the roster will have to be discussed. Each player provides different skillsets, limitations and ceilings that will be dissected in the process. We’ll see if a player emerges at the very top, but as of now there seems to be no consensus.
In the situation where Detroit picks in the 2-5 range, they may just take the best player on their board that falls and won't have to overthink too much. In the least fortunate situation of Detroit picking outside of the top five, the question of fit may come back into play.
Would Detroit still consider taking a chance on an unproven prospect like Shaedon Sharpe or Jalen Duran who may need significant time to develop, or someone who can immediately contribute to a team that would look to fight to be next season’s version of the Cavs? Lottery night has been a massive night for Pistons fans over the last decade and that won't change this year.
Jerami Grant’s future
The decision of Grant’s future will be one of high importance this offseason and there may actually be a link between the Pistons’ lottery fate and their decision to keep or move off their headline player. I think if the Pistons lock down a top-three pick and are staring down one of the elite prospects, it will be easier to start thinking about moving away from Grant.
His play so far on Detroit has proved him to be on a valuable contract (3-year, $60 million) for the team. Sources say he will be seeking an extension to stay in Detroit this offseason in the range of four years and $112 million. While Weaver has been vocal about his admiration of Grant on this team, there has already been buzz about possible suitors this summer.
Depending on the player they ultimately select, they’ll have to consider if it is worth keeping Grant around with another mouth to feed. He’s proved to play well with the youngsters on the roster already and provides versatility on both ends of the floor that any team would value.
If Weaver decides they are ready to compete towards a play-in spot next season, it may be best to keep Grant around. Even if the Pistons aren't in a competitive spot, he could be a trade piece next year.
Fit with Cade
It may be true there isn't a bad fit with Cunningham, but there can always be a best fit. The big men at the top are each exciting in their own way when thinking about their potential alongside Cade.
Marvin Bagley III now provides athleticism and a lob threat that the Pistons have been missing. With none of the top tier bigs being superior athletes, style of play may become a bigger factor. Holmgren and Banchero are both great playmakers for their size, and Smith has the makings of an elite scorer. Cunningham’s ability to play well off-ball makes it easier to consider any of them, but it will be intriguing to see who they like most.
The next tier of players are also enticing when thinking about a fit alongside Cade. Jaden Ivey’s name has becoming quite polarizing amongst Pistons’ supporters, as he provides elite athleticism and an ability to get to the rim that seems like a great backcourt contrast to Cunningham. On the other side, is it too early to bring on another ball-dominant guard?
This is Cade’s team, and whoever the Pistons take has to know that. The versatility of his game makes it easier to go through the process with an open mind but I have a feeling Weaver already has some preferences already.