The NBA trade deadline is nearly two weeks away and the rumor mill ahead of Feb. 10 is heating up. (Ah, if only it could thaw the winter freeze here in Michigan.)
As one of the worst teams in the NBA in a league with far more buyers than sellers, the Detroit Pistons’ store front may not have a “for sale” sign dangling from the window, but that won’t keep those strolling by from frothing at the mouth, ready to jump at a good deal.
When you’re 11-35, the second-worst record in the league, you will be featured prominently in discussions.
So, what are the latest reports surrounding Jerami Grant — “the grand prize of this deadline” — and what general manager Troy Weaver might be looking to add in return?
The prevailing theory is the Pistons might accept a young player and first-round pick for Grant, but will anyone meet that requirement? How flexible are the Pistons with their price? And how flexible is Grant in taking a lesser role on a better team? So far, reports are that’s not what he wants, which would dwindle his market and hurt the Pistons’ leverage.
We combed through the maze of intel to bring you the most important tidbits of the past few days:
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Grant has a list
In a bold move, Grant and his representatives have reportedly shown the Pistons a list of teams he would prefer to be traded to if dealt. He will be eligible for a contract extension this summer and can get up to $112 million over four years — $28 million per year. He signed a three-year deal worth $60 million with the Pistons in 2020.
“He still wants to sign a contract extension this summer,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his Hoop Collective podcast. “If he gets traded somewhere, he wants to get traded somewhere, he’s going to get paid.
“I was told his representation came to the Pistons and said, ‘If you’re going to trade him, here’s a list of teams we would be interested in going to play for.’
“The Pistons are not even sure if they’re going trade him, much less trade him to one of those teams.”
There’s a lot to digest on the Grant front, but the most important thing to remember is this: A team trading for him will have him for two playoff runs, since he is signed through next season, offering even more value to a team that sees itself as a playoff or championship contender. Even if he is dealt to a team not on his supposed list, that team could decide it’s worth a shot at convincing him to re-up if all goes well this spring.
On the Pistons side, they don’t have to honor any request by Grant, but he did choose them in free agency in part due to his relationship with Weaver.
Why trade grant now? Well, this is seemingly the peak of his value. He’s in the prime of his career, turns 28 in March and the Pistons have young guys who will continue to take on bigger roles next season. He’s a strong two-way player, but his propensity for ball-stopping and inefficient scoring — his 46.9 eFG%, a field goal percentage metric that acknowledges 3-pointers are worth more than 2s, ranks 152 of 169 players who have played at least 20 games and 25 minutes per game, and puts him side-by-side with the maligned brick-layer Russell Westbrook — as he has assumed the No. 1 scoring role isn’t conducive to the growth of Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey and others.
Grant, who chose Detroit in part to take on a more offensive responsibility, has proven he’s more than just a three-and-D player, but he’s best suited for that type of role, with perhaps a bit more leeway to create. If his usage is that of a fourth option offensively, who can be the No. 1 or 2 guy with bench units or for stretches when the top guys are out, well now you’re cooking.
He fits on pretty much every team if he accepts that lesser role — which is why so many suitors are rumored to be interested — but there are questions if that’s what he truly wants, understandably so.
Grant has been out since Dec. 10 after undergoing left thumb surgery and has been in health and safety protocols the past week. There is no incentive for a team to trade for him until he sees him return to the court, though that could come as soon as Friday, when the Pistons visit Orlando. Beginning Friday, the Pistons will have seven games left before the deadline to showcase Grant and anyone else drawing interest.
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The Lakers, Trail Blazers, Knicks, Jazz, Wizards, Celtics, Pacers, Timberwolves, Hawks, Bulls and Kings are purported to be among the teams to signal interest in Grant, and Bleacher Report has stated several “executives believe the Wizards are leading the chase.”
Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report added Monday the Mavericks are seen as a potential stealth suitor for Grant. A Dallas offer would likely start with Dorian Finney-Smith and Dwight Powell, Pincus wrote.
Washington has recent lottery picks in Deni Avdija and Rui Hachimura, but our Pistons beat writer Omari Sankofa II did not list the Wizards among his recent story looking at “four Jerami Grant trades the Pistons should pursue.”
Interestingly, the Bulls aren’t at the front of the line right now, and that’s due to their reticence to deal second-year forward Patrick Williams. They are “exploring avenues to land Grant without sacrificing their prized swingman,” Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report wrote Tuesday. Of course that could change, as Grant looks like the perfect power forward replacement for Chicago if they decide to go all-in on this season and next season.
The Pistons were big fans of Williams during the lead-up to the 2020 draft, but the Bulls swooped in at No. 4 to take him three spots ahead of Detroit. He’s the type of athlete Weaver likes and fits the rebuild timeline at 20 years old. He’s out for the year with a wrist injury so he can’t help the Bulls, who despite numerous injuries, are 29-17 and a half-game out of the first place in the Eastern Conference. But Chicago has a huge hole and may feel the pressure to take a big swing with DeMar DeRozan having an MVP-caliber season and Zach LaVine entering unrestricted free agency this summer.
If the Hawks are willing to swap John Collins for Grant, the Pistons could cash in big time. Collins, 24, is in the first year of a five-year deal worth $125 million, and would be a boon of youth, athleticism, shooting and defense. The Hawks “have grown more active in searching for a new home” for him, Fischer wrote, corroborating what has been swirling for over a year now but was masked by Atlanta’s surprising East finals run.
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Young big men to watch
The Pistons have a young big in Isaiah Stewart and a veteran who can stretch the floor in Kelly Olynyk, but neither yet to lock down the future of the center position for the “restoring.” Weaver already traded for a young big man in Bol Bol, only to void the trade days later because of his medical report, so Weaver will surely continue to mine the trade market.
There are a number of other talented young bigs who Weaver could take a flier on, notably former lottery picks Marvin Bagley III (Kings) and Jalen Smith (Suns).
“Bagley III has consistently drawn interest from Detroit,” Fischer noted Tuesday.
Bagley will be a restricted free agent this summer and his time in Sacramento hasn’t gone to plan as the No. 2 overall pick in the loaded 2018 draft. He could be salary filler in a larger deal for Sacramento, as his expiring contract is useful, but maybe the Pistons could jump in to take a look at him. The former Duke standout turns 23 in March.
Smith, mentioned Monday by The Athletic’s James Edwards III as someone to “keep any eye on,” was taken 10th overall in 2020 out of Maryland, but hasn’t seen the court much with Phoenix among the NBA’s best for the second consecutive season. He was productive in a recent stretch of games when given the chance, but is fourth in the center rotation when the Suns are at full strength. Deandre Ayton will hit restricted free agency this summer so Phoenix can match any price, but Smith could be dangled to upgrade depth at other spots as it looks to make a second straight finals run. He turns 22 in March.
The Pistons are prohibited from dealing any first-round picks, but have some second-round picks they could offer and also have the expiring contract of Josh Jackson. Cory Joseph could be useful on a playoff team looking to add a veteran ball-handler.
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