30 Teams in 30 Days | 2022

30 Teams in 30 Days: Pistons stock up as they build around Cade Cunningham

Detroit adds rookie Jaden Ivey (and more Draft picks) as it continues to trek toward the future.

Cade Cunningham (left) and Saddiq Bey are crucial to the Pistons’ future.

Detroit Pistons

2021-22 record: 23-59

Key additions: Nerlens Noel & Alec Burks (trade), Bojan Bogdanovic (trade), Kevin Knox (free agency), Jaden Ivey & Jalen Duren (2022 draft)

Key subtractions: Jerami Grant (trade)

Last season: The rebuilding process continued to chug through the initial stage as the Pistons laid a foundation with Cade Cunningham, the top pick in 2021. An injury tripped Cunningham out of the gate, but as the season progressed, he perked up and displayed the skills that bookmarked him for success at this level. Cunningham was in the running for Kia Rookie of the Year, and the Pistons also received solid returns from second-year-man Saddiq Bey, but a 23-win season meant another trip to lottery land.

Summer summary: When you’re choosing fifth in the draft, your fate is largely in the hands of the four ahead of you. With some luck, maybe the player you wanted — or your second choice — falls your way.

Or, as was the case in the 2022 draft, there are five very strong candidates and you’re guaranteed to get one.

The Pistons, who had the No. 5 pick, were fortunate to grab Ivey. He not only fills a positional need — slot him next to Cunningham and there’s your backcourt of the future — but his skill level puts him in top company.

He has a unique, change-of-speed style off the dribble that fools defenders and allows him to reach the hoop. His shooting range is also decent — the former Indiana star shot 32.2% on 3-pointers in his college career — and he’s solid from mid-range. An unselfish player, it would come as a surprise if he isn’t a chemistry fit with Cunningham.

The Pistons took Ivey ahead of guards Bennedict Mathurin, Shaedon Sharpe and Dyson Daniels, who were taken directly after him. Basically, in this run of guards — the first four picks were front-liners — the Pistons had Ivey rated higher, as did most other teams. Time will tell, of course, and until then, Pistons general manager Troy Weaver has a solid Draft track record with Cunningham and Bey (which gives him the benefit of the doubt here).

Weaver also seized the chance to dip twice into the Draft, by becoming a dumping ground for Kemba Walker’s contract. In return for that favor which freed up money to sign Jalen Brunson, the Knicks delivered an extra No. 1 pick, the 13th overall, to Detroit.

The Pistons addressed their frontcourt by taking Duren, 18, a raw center who played one year at Memphis. Duren’s athletic gifts are obvious and at 6-foot-11, 250 pounds, he’ll be dangerous on the screen and roll right away. He’s an old-school post player who lacks floor stretchability and needs to develop at least a mid-range jumper to be a factor offensively.

Weaver obviously values Draft picks, which is why he jettisoned Grant to the Blazers for a 2025 first-round pick and two future second-rounders. Grant was Detroit’s designated scorer and a good defender and, after Cunningham, clearly its best player.

But this trade was done for a few reasons. One, Grant can sign a four-year, $112 million extension in December and, obviously, the Pistons didn’t want to go there. It’s best to keep the cap as clean as possible in order to (a) sign a free agent or (b) swing a trade for a disgruntled star or (c) do both before it’s time to lock up Cunningham in what will likely be a rookie max extension.

Whom will the Pistons promote to replace Grant? Well, this idea might be a bit ambitious, but maybe … the No. 2 overall pick from 2018?

Marvin Bagley III has had a harsh four NBA seasons, first for being drafted ahead of Luka Doncic and Trae Young (not his fault) in 2018 and also for washing out rather quickly in Sacramento despite being given every opportunity to succeed there.

The Pistons threw him a lifeline twice — first by acquiring him, then by giving him a three-year contract this summer. The latter caught NBA people by surprise. Other than a few spurts, Bagley hasn’t shown much to inspire such a contract.

But the Pistons are in the player-development business right now and so he fits their philosophy. In 18 games with Detroit, Bagley averaged 14.6 points and 6.8 rebounds in 27.2 minutes per game and started eight games. He’ll have a chance to improve on that and, also, the money means little to a team that won’t flirt with any salary cap penalties anytime soon. Detroit didn’t surrender much to acquire Bagley and the $37 million extension isn’t much, either, especially if he senses it might be his last and becomes motivated by that.

It wasn’t all about adding through the Draft, though. Bogdanovic was a last-minute acquisition from the reloading Jazz and should get major rotational minutes. In the deal with the Knicks, the Pistons also absorbed Noel and Burks, while picking up two more future second-round picks. Noel and Burks are serviceable and economically priced veterans who are in the final year of their deals. They can fill out the rotation, become a voice in a young locker room and serve as trade bait at the deadline if something interests the Pistons.

In all, it was a busy summer for the Pistons, who hope they can one day pinpoint 2022 as the offseason when their plans took an accelerated turn.

Up next: Brooklyn Nets | Previously: Golden State Warriors

> 30 teams in 30 days: Complete schedule

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Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

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