Pistons Mailbag - September 23, 2020

The draft – specifically, the notion of trading out of the No. 7 pick, up or down – stirs up a big chunk of conversation in this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.

CoSvid-19 (@RedAlternates): Jonathan Wasserman reported that the Pistons are open to trading the seventh pick. Any info on if we may be looking to move up or down?

It would only be news if the Pistons weren’t open to trading the pick. I mean, it’s the seventh pick. And while in a typical draft, Troy Weaver would probably feel pretty safe speculating which six players would go ahead of his pick, in this one he probably doesn’t have a handle on any more than three names who won’t be available. He’s going to have preferences in the pecking order, so it stands to reason he’d be willing to move up or down based on what happens ahead of him. Even if this draft weren’t so atypical – beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder when there isn’t a handful of consensus, no-doubt NBA impact players on the board – it wouldn’t make much sense for a front office holding the seventh pick to swat away inquiries about their openness to trade. It doesn’t mean Weaver is set on moving the pick at all costs. It doesn’t even mean, necessarily, that he’s focused on moving up or down. It will be predicated on how he groups players and what happens ahead of him. Being “open to trading the seventh pick” is a product of talking to a lot of other general managers and getting a sense of what they would want – to get a grip on what sweetener would be available to move from seven to a lesser pick - in the event that when the draft gets to seven, you don’t like your options.

Rick (Frederick, Md.): As an armchair GM, my opinion and a few dollars will buy a cup of coffee, but my thought on the draft is this: What if the Pistons use the seventh pick on someone like Okongwu or Okoro who have high ceilings and then use cap space to trade for a second pick to choose a point guard not in the first tier but with potential, such as Kira Lewis or Cole Anthony?

You can’t literally trade cap space, but I’ll assume you are suggesting the Pistons execute a trade to take on someone else’s unwanted contract and for doing so acquire a No. 1 pick. Yeah, I imagine that would be a trade that perks up the ears of Troy Weaver and the Pistons front office, provided he thinks there would still be a quality player available with the added pick and it’s not a multiyear contract that would hamstring the franchise in future off-seasons. If it’s a deal similar to last year’s Jon Leuer-for-Tony Snell trade – one year of Leuer for two of Snell with the No. 30 pick thrown in as the sweetener – then it would likely draw strong consideration. To get Lewis or Anthony would mean a higher pick than 30, I presume, and it requires a team somewhere in the middle of the first round to be a trade partner in such a scenario. Whether one or more fits the bill is the due diligence that occupies the days of general managers and their staffs.

Lee (@wataman66): With reports that our general manager met with R.J. Hampton, who has Russell Westbrook-level speed but lacks a legitimate jump shot, do you think he might trade down in the draft to acquire another pick to get Hampton later? Who is on your radar for us to pick?

Meeting with him (virtually) doesn’t indicate any outsized level of interest in him, necessarily. It’s merely due diligence. I would imagine several other NBA front offices have had similar interactions with Hampton and prospects of his caliber. I would imagine, similarly, Troy Weaver and other Pistons front-office executives have engaged or will do so in similar interactions with handfuls of other lottery candidates in the days leading to the Nov. 18 draft. We’ll be rolling out a series of draft profiles starting next month but do so with trepidation. It’s tough to narrow the list to a manageable number this year due to the very little separation between players.

Bob (Albany, Ore.): I’d like to see the Pistons trade down with Boston for an extra pick or two – a win-win scenario. Your thoughts?

The Pistons have the seventh pick while Boston has 14, 26 and 30. Keep in mind that Troy Weaver has said he sees the draft as 14 or 15 deep. That doesn’t mean he thinks there won’t be a player on the board at 26 or 30 who has a shot to make the roster or grow into a rotation player or something beyond that, I suppose, but it’s pretty telling and makes me think he doesn’t see great value in a trade that would net the Pistons an extra first-round pick (or two) at the back end. The only way that would appeal to him is if he didn’t think there would be any meaningful difference in the quality of the player available at 14 as opposed to seven and that’s unlikely. The inherent benefit to such a deal if he didn’t think there was an appreciable difference in the quality of player those picks would yield is the lower salary slot for the 14th pick and the corresponding increase in salary cap space. Even if the consensus is that there isn’t much separation between lottery candidates, I’d be surprised if individual general managers didn’t have a pecking order. When Weaver says he sees the draft as 14 or 15 deep, there are almost surely players in that group he doesn’t find as appealing as others. If after six players are picked Weaver isn’t enthusiastic about any options at that point, then I suppose – if Boston or another team with something appealing to offer makes an overture – trading back to pick up another asset would be on the table. I would guess, though, that the sweetener that would get Weaver’s attention would be more likely something other than an additional 2020 draft pick. Maybe a young player currently on an NBA roster – or maybe a future No. 1 pick with less than ironclad protections – would sway him to trade out of the seventh pick.

Flashy Stats (@FlashyStatsPod): Do you believe that re-signing Christian Wood is a priority? Do you think that Fred VanVleet is a realistic option for the Pistons?

I would say that establishing a value on Wood is a priority. By that, I mean Wood was obviously one of the most productive players on last season’s roster, especially following the trade deadline and the increased opportunity that arose with Andre Drummond’s exit. The Pistons have a slight advantage over the field in retaining him by virtue of holding his early Bird rights. Those rights mean they can offer him the average NBA salary for 2019-20, or roughly $10 million in first-year salary on a new deal – a little more than the full mid-level exception. If they go beyond that, they’ll have to sign him with cap space; if he signs for the early Bird exception, the Pistons can use their cap space on other moves – using only Wood’s cap hold of $1.6 million against the cap – and then add Wood. If the Pistons sense the bidding for Wood would exceed $10 million, then they’ll have a decision on their hands. That’s the priority: Deciding where to establish the value on Wood as part of a broader plan to rebuild and staying disciplined to that valuation. As for VanVleet, it’s a similar equation. Just because the Pistons would be one of the relatively few teams with the space to offer VanVleet a contract that starts at $20 million or so – those are the best guesses as to what it will take to land the Toronto free agent – doesn’t mean it would make sense to do so. Maybe it does, but maybe they’re better off renting out their cap space for other assets rather than lavishing the bulk of their space – and limiting future flexibility – on one player. He’d make a lot of sense given his history with Dwane Casey, the need for stability at point guard and the expanding influence of the position, but they’ll have to weigh that against the opportunity cost – what would they be unable to do going forward if they were to commit such a significant chunk of their future payroll to him?

Charles (Redford Twp., Mich.): The Pistons used three second-round draft picks to acquire Deividas Sirvydis in last year’s draft. Considering the Pistons only got one second-round pick for Andre Drummond, do they expect he’ll be three times better? Will the draft-and-stash of last year’s draft be playing in the upcoming Detroit bubble? And is there any indication he’ll be playing for the Pistons in 2020-21?

The Pistons used two of the four second-round picks they acquired from Cleveland in exchange for the No. 30 pick in last June’s draft to move up from 45, where they would have picked, to 37 to select Sirvydis last June. The other picks surrendered in the deal were Utah’s 2020 second-rounder and Portland’s 2021 second-rounder. The Pistons knew Sirvydis would require more seasoning before coming to the NBA, but were intrigued by his combination of size (6-foot-8) and elite shooting potential. How he fits in their immediate future is unclear given all that’s transpired since last June’s draft. The Pistons also have a new general manager in Troy Weaver and it ultimately will be his call as to what to do with Sirvydis for the 2020-21 season. As for Drummond, the Pistons were motivated more by the desire to clear cap space by removing Drummond’s $29 million player option – which he has said he’ll exercise, as expected, with Cleveland – from next season’s salary cap to provide much greater flexibility and facilitate the rebuilding the organization chose as its future path.

Marvin Muhammad (@mmmikal): What are the Pistons plans for Deividas Sirvydis? Is he still being considered for a roster spot?

I’d file that one under “to be determined.” Everybody’s season was disrupted by the pandemic, the Pistons have a new general manager and there will be bigger roster decisions that come ahead of any determination of how to allocate the last few roster spots. If the Pistons make their major moves and their cap space has been effectively exhausted and they still have a roster spot or two open and Sirvydis is deemed ready by the collective front-office evaluation to come to the NBA – a lot of ifs – then it’s likely to happen. But if their roster spots are filled by trades that take on more bodies than get sent out and there’s not enough wiggle room at the back end of the roster to accommodate bringing him over now, it would be prudent to give him another season – preferably one uninterrupted by a global health crisis – to mature and evolve.

Robert (Romulus, Mich.): How true is the rumor that the Pistons might trade Blake Griffin for Russell “Triple Double” Westbrook?

Is that a rumor or is it merely the musings of bloggers strained for subject matter during the most unusual (and longest) off-season the NBA has ever known? If you’re taking on the task of trying to prop open a championship window for Houston and figure the most expedient way to do so would be to move Westbrook’s massive contract, then there aren’t going to be many matching deals across the NBA and fewer still that would be in play. Given Griffin’s status and the public acknowledgment by the Pistons as an organization that they’re rebuilding, it’s logical that armchair analysts would advance his name as a match for Houston’s needs. Whether the two franchises see it similarly is an entirely different matter.

Cory (Flint, Mich.): Is there a way to find a list of all the former Pistons players who were part of other NBA teams this year? I’m thinking of Spencer Dinwiddie and Khris Middleton and even Boban Marjanovic. I know there are others that would make up a more competitive team than the current roster.

With rosters turning over by more than a third every off-season on average, every team could point to a list of ex-players that would make up a pretty intriguing team. Stanley Johnson (Toronto), Reggie Jackson (Clippers), Markieff Morris (Lakers), Wayne Ellington (Knicks), Glenn Robinson III (76ers), Ish Smith (Wizards), Avery Bradley (Lakers), Reggie Bullock (Knicks), Andre Drummond (Cavaliers), Tobias Harris (76ers), Anthony Tolliver (Grizzlies), Aron Baynes (Suns), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Lakers), Marcus Morris (Clippers) and Ersan Ilyasova (Bucks) are among the Pistons since 2015-16 now playing for other NBA teams.

Pistons.com editor Keith Langlois answers your questions about the Pistons and NBA. To have your question considered, submit it along with your name, email address and city/state using the form below.

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