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NBA Trade Rumors: Detroit Pistons trade for Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks as New York Knicks dump money for Jalen Brunson pursuit

The Detroit Pistons trade for a center, which at least keeps that joke going for another season

New York Knicks v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

A month ago, the Detroit Pistons were armed with by far the most cap space than any other team in the NBA. One week ago, after the Jerami Grant trade, Detroit could clear as much as $55 million in space and rumors of interest in Deandre Ayton and Miles Bridges spread.

With less than 48 hours from the start of free agency, the money is largley gone as Detroit engaged in multiple deals with the New York Knicks that netted center Nerlens Noel, wing Alec Burks and veteran point guard Kemba Walker.

The Walker deal was done on draft night, and the Noel and Burks deals were unearthed Tuesday by Adrian Wojnarowkski of ESPN.

The Knicks were desperate to cut all that salary without taking players back in return as it hopes to sign guard Jalen Brunson to a lucrative long-term contract once free agency begins.

Walker is expiring and expected to be bought out. Burks is expiring and currently injured, but could add a legitimate 3-point threat once healthy. Noel, is one of the better defensive centers in the league and has one guaranteed year left and one team option for $9.2 million in 2023-24.

Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the Noel/Burks deal, and also indicated Detroit will receive back its own 2023 second-round pick as well as a 2024 second-rounder from Miami as well as $6 million in cash considerations.

They previously received the 13th overall pick in a complicated three-team deal that included Charlotte and New York and that turned into Jalen Duren. The Pistons also jumped up in the second round and drafted Gabriele Procida.

With Duren, Isaiah Stewart and Kelly Olynyk already in the fold, and the team expected to re-sign Marvin Bagley III, it’s unclear how Noel would fit into the suddenly extremely crowded Pistons front court.

Wojnarowski writes that Troy Weaver, who we all must remember loves centers and that should be joked about ad infinitum, is “eager to utilize center Nerlens Noel and guards Alec Burks next season.”

Burks I get. He isn’t healthy after offseason ankle surgery, but he has been a plus-40% 3-point shooter for two seasons and is at 38% over his 11-year career.

Noel ... I don’t see how you make room for him unless you’ve already got deals in place to unload one or more of Olynyk or Stewart. Or somehow thing those two players plus Bagley could largely address the team’s gaping hole at the power forward position.

Personally, I think it would be a very bad idea to run out players who don’t have the mobility (Olynyk) or shooting (Stewart and Bagley) to hold up at center for major minutes.

On the one hand, this move likely improves your defense with Noel perhaps starting and Isaiah Stewart coming off the bench at center with Jalen Duren developing in the G League and with spot minutes as center depth.

I’d say the team will still try and obtain a starting power forward, but it would only exacerbate a minutes crunch (unless some of these big men are involved in the deal). Perhaps the team goes with an Olynyk and Bagley duo and we simply pray for the best.

The Pistons by my back-of-the-envelope math will still have roughly $18.4 million in salary cap space give or take moves like whether they let Saben Lee go and what Bagley’s new contract looks like. So they have money to address needs.

On the wing, Burks is a welcome addition who can space the floor and play multiple positions. He’ll play minutes and be helpful once healthy. Also with both players on moderate contracts that work as expiring (both have team options next season), they could easily be flipped at the deadline to a contender for additional assets.

But this move also very clearly shows that this upcoming season isn’t about the play-in game, much less the playoffs. It’s about building around a young core and collecting assets with their cap space.

The Pistons have stop-gap competent players that will help take some of the pressure off of Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Killian Hayes, Isaiah Livers, and newcomers Jaden Ivey and Duren. They’ll either help the entire season or help just enough to get traded to greener pastures.

Now, I guess, we start dreaming of all that cap space we’re going to have next year. The dead cap hits of DeAndre Jordan ($7.8 million) and Zhaire Smith ($1 million) come off the books as do Hamidou Diallo and Cory Joseph.

Without taking into account the new draft picks, the Pistons have only $46 million committed next season. They could cut that obligation to $35 million if they let go of Olynyk and Saben Lee.

Next season, the rookie-scale contract for Ivey is expected to be $6.3 million and for Duren it will be $3.6 million. So that would put Detroit at roughly $45 million with a cap anticipated to reach $132 million.

I suppose you could fill a few roster holes with that kind of money.