Meet the 2020-21 Detroit Pistons: Grant, Wright head trade haul
David Sherman (NBAE/Getty)
After Troy Weaver turned one pick into four with a rush of draft-week deals, he talked about the motivation to get things done he took into a week that began on a Monday with the lifting of the NBA’s embargo on transactions, progressed to the draft two days later and to the opening of free agency two days after that.
“It was important. We wanted to attack the draft, we’re going to attack free agency – we’re going to attack everything,” the new Pistons general manager said. “I said coming in, this was going to be a restoring. The great Pistons teams, that was their mentality. They were aggressive. They were on the attack. And we want to follow suit. That’s the mantra.”
Weaver engaged in more transactions in his first off-season – the first week that he could really do anything, really – than some general managers do for the life of their tenures, adding handfuls of players in the draft, via trade and finally in free agency.
We looked at the four rookies Weaver took in the draft already. Now here’s a look at the players he added in trade:
ID CARD: 6-foot-8 forward, 26, Syracuse University
HOW ACQUIRED: Grant opted out of the final year of his Denver contract to become an unrestricted free agent. He agreed to terms with the Pistons on a reported three-year deal. The Pistons and Nuggets subsequently worked out a trade agreement that also sent the draft rights to Nikola Radecevic, a 6-foot-5 native of Serbia, to the Pistons. Radecevic, 26, currently plays for Promitheas of the Greek League. He’s also played in Spain, Italy and the Adriatic League.
NBA RESUME: Grant broke in with Philadelphia, which drafted him in the second round of the 2014 NBA draft, 39th overall. He became a starter in his second season with the 76ers, averaging 9.7 points and 4.7 rebounds in 27 minutes a game, and was traded to Oklahoma City early in the 2016-17 season for Ersan Ilyasova and a first-round pick. He came off the Thunder bench for two years before a breakout 2018-19 season in which Grant started and averaged 13.6 points and 5.2 rebounds in 33 minutes a game. With OKC going into a rebuilding mode, Grant was dealt to Denver for a first-round pick for the 2019-20 season and played a key role on a team that got to the Western Conference finals in the Orlando bubble. Grant averaged 12.0 points and 3.5 rebounds in 27 minutes a game for the Nuggets and emerged as an elite, versatile defender.
BEFORE THE NBA: Grant – recommended to Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim by Troy Weaver, now Pistons general manager – spent two seasons in college, averaging 12.1 points and 6.8 rebounds as a sophomore for a team that went 28-6 and 14-4 in its first season in the ACC. Grant played for longtime prep power DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, Md., before signing with Syracuse.
WHAT’S NEXT: Grant’s ability to defend across all positions will give Dwane Casey lineup flexibility. In lineups with Blake Griffin, Grant figures to play at small forward. If Griffin sits, misses time or is strategically rested, Grant can easily slide to fill his slot at power forward. Grant has become an above-average 3-point shooter in recent seasons, more than doubling his attempts and seeing his marksmanship improve to nearly 40 percent in each of the past two years.
FUN FACT: Grant is the son of Harvey Grant, who spent 11 seasons in the NBA after being drafted 12th in 1988 following a career at Oklahoma that ended with a loss to Kansas in the 1988 NCAA championship game. His brother, Jerian, was the 19th pick in 2015 out of Notre Dame and played for Washington in the 2019-20 season. Jerami’s uncle, Horace Grant, played for the Chicago Bulls alongside Michael Jordan and for the Orlando Magic alongside Shaquille O’Neal during a 17-year career. Horace and Harvey Grant are twins.
ID CARD: 6-foot-5 guard, 28, University of Utah
HOW ACQUIRED: Wright came to the Pistons via a three-team trade involving Dallas and Oklahoma City. The Pistons sent Trevor Ariza, acquired before the draft from Houston in a separate deal, to Oklahoma City and Wright came to the Pistons from Dallas.
NBA RESUME: Wright entered the NBA with Toronto, coached by Dwane Casey, after being taken with the 20th pick of the 2015 draft. He spent his first 3½ seasons with the Raptors, becoming a key member of Casey’s vaunted bench in his second season and often playing in three-guard lineups with some combination of DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet. At the February 2019 trade deadline, Wright and Jonas Valanciunas were traded to Memphis in the Marc Gasol deal. In 26 games with the Grizzlies to finish the season, Wright earned his biggest role yet and averaged 12.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 5.4 assists in 31 minutes a game. He signed a three-year deal with Dallas as a 2019 free agent and averaged 6.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 21 minutes a game for the Mavericks.
BEFORE THE NBA: After graduating high school in Southern California, Wright spent two seasons at City College of San Francisco before transferring to Utah, where he was a two-time All-Pac-12 honoree, the first Ute in school history to achieve that marker. He was the 2015 winner of the Bob Cousy Award, given to the top college point guard.
WHAT’S NEXT: Wright’s familiarity with Casey as the Pistons go through a rebuilding phase that begins with Killian Hayes as the first draft choice under Troy Weaver’s administration installs him in a key role. Capable of starting or coming off the bench and of playing either backcourt position, Wright’s similar size and two-way ability will alleviate Hayes of being burdened with taking on too much at either end. Wright can serve as primary ballhandler and playmaker on offense and take on the most problematic defensive matchups so Casey can choose his spots to ease Hayes’ transition to the NBA.
FUN FACT: Wright’s older brother, Dorrell, was drafted 19th by the Miami Heat in 2004 out of high school, one year before the last NBA draft in which American-born players weren’t required to be one year removed from their high school class graduation. Dorrell Wright spent 11 years in the NBA, experiencing his best season in 2010-11 with Golden State when he started all 82 games and averaged 16.4 points in 38 minutes a game.
ID CARD: 6-foot-9 forward, 21, Bosnia and Herzegovina
HOW ACQUIRED: The Pistons acquired Musa from Brooklyn in what became a three-team trade also involving the Los Angeles Clippers. The Pistons sent Bruce Brown to the Nets and received Musa and Toronto’s 2021 second-round pick in return.
NBA RESUME: Musa was drafted 29th by Brooklyn in 2018 and probably would have gone higher if not for the assumption among teams that he would be hard to pry away from his successful European career so soon. His rookie season was derailed by a pair of injuries – one to his right ankle suffered before training camp and one to his left shoulder in December after a productive run with Brooklyn’s G League affiliate. Musa wound up logging only 39 minutes across nine games of his rookie season, then averaged 12 minutes in his 40 appearances in 2019-20. Musa averaged 4.8 points and 2.2 rebounds for the season.
BEFORE THE NBA: Musa played professionally for three seasons in the tough Adriatic League, all for Zagreb. In 16 EuroCup games as an 18-year-old, Musa averaged 10.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in 20 minutes a game while shooting 36.4 percent from the 3-point arc on 3.4 attempts per game; 45 percent of Musa’s shots that season came from the 3-point line.
WHAT’S NEXT: Musa has unique ballhandling and playmaking skills for an oversized wing. Gregg Polinsky, Pistons senior director of player personnel, was part of the Brooklyn front office when the Nets drafted Musa, joining the Pistons the following month. Musa will compete for minutes on the wing with rookie Saddiq Bey and others. Musa’s reputation as a 3-point shooter has yet to translate to the NBA, where he’s hit 22.7 percent, though the sample size is small and Musa’s chances have been too sporadic to extrapolate meaningfully from them. A fresh start with the Pistons could be the opportunity Musa needs to affirm the rosy expectations that underpinned his predraft evaluations. Refining his shot selection and streamlining his mechanics will be key to Musa’s flowering.
FUN FACT: Musa was one of the youngest players ever to appear in the EuroLeague – the top level of competition in Europe, featuring the top teams across Europe’s domestic leagues – when he played as a 16-year-old in October 2015. He was considered as one of the top prospects in Europe throughout his time in the Adriatic League, winning the EuroCup Rising Star Trophy in 2017-18 and being named the Adriatic League’s top prospect and making the all-league team that same year.
ID CARD: 6-foot-4 wing, 29, Kansas State
HOW ACQUIRED: McGruder came to the Pistons from the Los Angeles Clippers in a trade that also brought them the No. 19 pick in the Nov. 18 draft, used to take Saddiq Bey, and shipped Luke Kennard to Los Angeles.
NBA RESUME: McGruder broke in to the NBA with Miami in 2016 and wound up starting 65 games as a 25-year-old rookie, averaging 6.4 points and 3.3 rebounds in 25 minutes a game. He spent the next two seasons with the Heat, as well, starting 112 of his 162 games in a Miami uniform. He was waived by the Heat in late April 2019, the final week of the NBA season, in a move motivated strictly by Miami’s desire to avoid a punitive luxury tax bill as a repeat offender – the same reason the Heat had earlier that season waived Wayne Ellington, who subsequently signed with the Pistons and helped them secure a playoff berth. McGruder was claimed by the Los Angeles Clippers, which allowed the Clippers advantages in signing McGruder as a free agent that summer. In 56 games with the Clippers last season, McGruder averaged 3.3 points in 16 minutes a game.
BEFORE THE NBA: McGruder, an AAU teammate of Michael Beasley’s in the suburban Washington, D.C. area , wound up following Beasley’s footsteps to land at Kansas State. He worked his way into the rotation immediately as a freshman and started for his three final years there, averaging in double figures scoring in more than 30 minutes a game each season. McGruder made the All-Big 12 honor teams each of the final three seasons, graduating from the third team to the second to the first as he advanced in class. After going undrafted in 2013, McGruder spent one season playing in Hungary and the next two in the G League before catching on with the Heat.
WHAT’S NEXT: McGruder will compete for minutes on the wing, where his toughness and versatility could open the door to a spot in the rotation for him. McGruder has taken between 47 and 49 percent of his shots from the 3-point arc – he’s a career 33.6 percent 3-point shooter, though he shot near the league average of 34.8 percent in three seasons with Miami before slumping to 27 percent with a less stable role in Los Angeles – in each season and that could increase in Dwane Casey’s offense.
FUN FACT: McGruder told Heat.com, the official website of the Miami Heat, that the player he patterned his game after was ex-Pistons star Rip Hamilton: “With me constantly moving and stuff, I like Rip Hamilton,” he said. “So, you know, just constantly moving, and I like guys like Tony Allen. I watch how he competes on the defensive end and that’s what keeps him around. You see the guys that stick in the league, just trying to see what they do to make them stick. That’s what I try to look at.”