It was not a quiet deadline for the Detroit Pistons. In fact, no team was more active on NBA Trade Deadline day than the Detroit Pistons, and no team has been more active since Detroit made its first move in a trade with the Washington Wizards on Jan. 14.
Now that the dust is starting to settle, the Pistons look fundamentally different than they did just three weeks ago. Let’s take stock of where things stand and what it might mean for the Pistons’ rotation.
The Players the Pistons Traded or Released
In a series of trades and releases, the following players are now no longer members of the team:
- Bojan Bogdanovic
- Alec Burks
- Monte Morris
- Marvin Bagley
- Kevin Knox
- Killian Hayes (released)
- Isaiah Livers
- Joe Harris (released)
The Players the Pistons Added
- Quentin Grimes
- Simone Fontecchio
- Mike Muscala
- Danilo Gallinari
- Troy Brown Jr.
- Shake Milton
- Evan Fournier
- Malachi Flynn
- Danuel House (released)
- Ryan Arcidiacono (released)
Yeah, just a little spring cleaning to the Pistons roster.
The big question is what this means for the team’s starting lineup and for how head coach Monty Williams is likely to build a rotation. Williams is a bit of wild card with lineup construction as evidenced by his habit of inserting Killian Hayes, Isaiah Livers, and Kevin Knox into the starting lineup at various times this season.
These might not have been great or even good players, but they got a load of minutes in Detroit that must now be accounted for. The Pistons also lost actual bedrock parts of their offensive game plans in Burks and Bogdanovic and Morris was likely to play an increased role as he ramped back up to health.
Pistons Projected Starting Lineup
So what will the new starting lineup look like? Here is my best guess:
- Cade Cunningham
- Jaden Ivey
- Simone Fontecchio
- Isaiah Stewart
- Jalen Duren
If there are any adjustments there, it would likely be at the expense of Stewart losing a starting role in favor of either Quentin Grimes or Ausar Thompson. However, I think, at least initially, the Pistons will opt for a jumbo lineup with the 6-foot-8 Fontecchio playing small forward, where he spent most his time in Utah.
Pistons Projected Rotation
The Pistons will clearly lean on Marcus Sasser as the primary backup point guard, as I think the Morris trade was a big vote of confidence in Sasser’s growth and commitment to development in that role. He’s certainly better at running an offense to get himself open looks than in helping create opportunities for teammates, but we’ve seen some advances in his development, and it makes sense to focus on that development. The Pistons are also now more likely to let Jaden Ivey run the show when Cade Cunningham sits, and they could also use Shake Milton if Sasser hits a wall or misses time. Flynn is the end-of-bench option.
Detroit’s primary shooting guard will be Quentin Grimes, and I think the Pistons will want him to play 25-30 minutes a night in a four-guard rotation with Sasser, Ivey and Cunningham, and Williams has never been shy about throwing three guards on the floor together. Evan Fournier could get sporadic Joe Harris-like minutes at guard as well, and Milton could spend time there, too, as he can flip between positions if called upon.
Ausar Thompson will get more time at small forward in a platoon with Fontecchio, and i also see them sharing the floor quite a bit. Troy Brown Jr. is the one player not getting much attention that I think might receive more minutes than people are expecting, but it really depends on how the rest of the rotation pieces shake out. He wasn’t getting much run in Minnesota, but he played plenty for the Lakers and the Bulls the previous two seasons, and he is a respectable enough 3-point shooter.
There is no reason to think Isaiah Stewart still doesn’t have a stranglehold on this position, but I think the Pistons will slot Thompson and Fontecchio at power forward plenty. If the Pistons want a little more size off the bench and feel like they can get away with it, it’s also an opportunity to put Gallinari on the floor in short bursts.
The center position was the one spot on the floor they did not address during NBA Trade Deadline day, though the Wizards deal brought two capable small-ball fives in Muscala and Gallinari. Williams has been opting for Muscala as the first big off the bench, and there is no reason that shouldn’t continue, and for James Wiseman, who somehow survived this roster purge, to continue getting DNP-CDs.