Two franchises with combined win totals that wouldn’t even put them in contention for the play-in tournament are shuffling a fe deck chairs on their respective Titanics. The Detroit Pistons, sinking fast, are sending Marvin Bagley, Isaiah Livers, and two future second-round picks to the Washington Wizards for veteran bigs Danilo Gallinari and Mike Muscala.
The news was first reported by ESPN and later confirmed by multiple sources covering the Pistons.
The move makes sense for both sides even if the direct impact on the floor is likely to be minimal. For the Pistons, ANY positive impact on the floor would be a godsend to a team with three wins and trying to move out of the path of the NBA’s worst season in history.
The Wizards, meanwhile, get a couple second-round picks for the the trouble of taking on Marvin Bagley’s $12.5 million salary for next season. Everyone else in the deal is on an expiring contract.
The big question mark is how valuable those second-round picks are likely to be. If the Pistons sent away event one of their own second-rounders (likely to be in the 31-34 range, that is a heck of a lot to surrender for getting off Bagley’s salary. It’d represent more than they got to take on Joe Harris’ bigger deal, in fact. Adrian Wojnarowski reports the seconds are from 2025 and 2026. If true, that means they would be surrendering their own 2025 second as it is the only second they own, and either their own or a pick conferred by either the Wolves, Knicks, Blazers or Pelicans.
And now we know why Bagley was getting DNP-CDs for eight consecutive games before a 12-minute stint in Detroit’s loss to the Houston Rockets.
The Pistons get to replace Bagley’s salary commitment with two expiring veteran deals featuring players that could man the center or forward spots in Detroit with the added bonus of them actually being capable of making a shot beyond 15 feet. Allegedly.
Gallinari and Muscala combined for just more than 700 combined minutes this season. Gallinari has been mostly utilized as a small-ball center in limited minutes in Washington, but was more heavily featured as a power forward his two previous years with the Hawks. Roughly half his shots in Washington and in Atlanta were threes, and he’s connected on roughly 35% of those shots and hit 38% from deep during his long career. Muscala, a career 37% shooter from deep, is hitting just 27% in limited minutes with the Wizards.
Considering Detroit seems to be the place veterans come to completely forget how to shoot (see Harris, Joe), there is no saying this will immediately boost Detroit’s chances of actually turning a couple of the team’s losses into wins.
There is another potential component to this deal, and it is largely financial. The trade opens up $12.5 million in cap space for next season. The Pistons were already projected to have north of $40 million available with Bagley’s money on the books, and they are a team unlikely to attract big free agents that means one thing — more trades.
This move cold be a precursor to a larger deal that involves taking on more salary. Whether that means a deal so big that would involve sending out a core member of the team — most likely Jaden Ivey — remains to be seen.
From a basketball perspective, this move does nudge the team toward a more balanced roster on its own terms. Muscala can play the five and shoot better than Bagley. He certainly can’t defend worse than Marvin. Gallinari is a player who can actually provide minutes at power forward, even if his best days are behind him. This means no longer requiring Bagley, Livers or others to cosplay as power forwards. Gallinari also has a history of being able to shoot at a level the above Pistons just can’t approach.
Is a move that moves the Pistons from a seven-win team to a 12-win team enough?
Yahoo reporter Vincent Goodwill says the move is a “first step,” per a “high-ranking” source, likely a source in the Pistons organization.
So small-c change has come. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I was absolutely terrified what big-C change might look like.