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Pistons Mailbag - THURSDAY, May 19

The lottery results, what that means for next month’s NBA draft and how it affects the rest of the Pistons roster dominates the discussion in this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.

@KrispyFlakes2k: Would Jaden Ivy or Shaedon Sharpe be a better fit next to Cade? What does this mean for Killian Hayes long term?

Langlois: It’s probably less than 50-50 that the Pistons will get to decide between Sharpe and Ivy. It seems like one of those two will be in the thick of it to be taken by Sacramento at four, though the Kings have a penchant for unpredictability. Fully realized versions of Ivy and Sharpe would work spectacularly next to Cunningham given their athleticism. Ivy probably has a better chance to be the more snug two-way fit because he should be able to guard every point guard in the league. I don’t know if Sharpe comes in being able to do that. I think teams are probably pretty confident that Sharpe’s shooting and athleticism will translate well enough to give him some instant impact offensively, but I don’t know that a Cunningham-Sharpe backcourt would be viable defensively unless you believe Sharpe can guard at the point night to night. I don’t think the Pistons want to saddle Cunningham with that responsibility. At least until Sharpe knows his way around the league, Sharpe-Cunningham lineups would likely include a point guard in the mix with them. Given their size, the Pistons shouldn’t be made vulnerable defensively in such lineups. What it means for Hayes is really in Hayes’ hands. If his offense continues to progress at the rate it did over the final six weeks or so of the regular season, he’s going to find his way onto the floor in some capacity. Maybe it’s off the bench. Again, how far his offense comes will be the ultimate determinant.

Langlois: I think the odds that a future All-Star is available when the Pistons pick at five are very high. The trick is determining who that might be. The odds they wind up taking someone from the cluster of Jaden Ivy, Shaedon Sharpe and Keegan Murray is probably better than 50-50. Throw Bennedict Mathurin into the mix and it’s probably at least 75 percent. Now, which one from the group do we think will be the best player in 2024-25? That’s the trick. But you’re right that the biggest piece of the puzzle is Cade Cunningham. His potential star power and his size/playmaking combination give Troy Weaver great latitude to build out the roster around him.

@matthewchewbacca/IG: Do you see any possibility where the Pistons try to move their pick or get another pick?

Langlois: Trading out of five is doubtful. Trading up is a chore. Trading down is unlikely, as well, though it’s conceivable Troy Weaver likes a wide enough range of prospects that he’d drop down a few spots if somebody makes a compelling enough offer to move up. I don’t see the Pistons trading out of the lottery altogether for an established player. That’s not something that would seem to fit the timeline of a team that just two years ago began rebuilding. As for getting another pick, the speculation will be on Jerami Grant and Portland, picking seventh, and I suspect it will remain a hot topic until draft night, at least.

@refunned: Seems like it’s going to come down to a choice of two of Shaedon Sharpe, Jaden Ivy or Keegan Murray. Any indication where the team is leaning?

Langlois: That’s a scenario with as good a chance of coming to fruition as any. If you assume the top three go off as the consensus has held for most of the college season – Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith and Paolo Banchero in some order – then Sacramento at four will be the team that dictates the next handful of picks. No one really seems to have a good read on its intentions. It’s been a tough organization to decipher for some time and nobody really knows how the sausage gets made there. Ivy gets the most buzz as the player with a chance to break into the top three. If you throw Ivy into the pile with Holmgren, Smith and Banchero as the players who’ll be off the board when the Pistons pick, then if the choice comes down to Murray and Sharpe, the contrast between them is pretty striking. Murray is older by nearly three years – 33 months, to be precise. Sharpe is a few months removed from high school after arriving at Kentucky in January; Murray spent a year in prep school and two at Iowa after his high school days. Troy Weaver has to weigh how the two players might compare in three years when Sharpe will be the age Murray is now. That is, of course, if the decision is really down to those two. I’d put another player or two in the mix, at least, with Arizona’s Bennedict Mathurin being another – and someone who splits the difference, in a sense, as a two-year college player like Murray but someone who doesn’t turn 20 until four days before the draft. It comes down to projection and risk tolerance. If you believe Sharpe has star potential but a greater likelihood to fail, then the task is to determine where the probabilities line up. It’s a tough spot for a general manager to be in, for sure, but that’s why good ones are so incredibly valuable. No personnel executive is infallible – Jerry West himself famously said that if you get it right 51 percent of the time, you’re beating the odds – but Pistons fans should feel pretty good about the pick given Weaver’s history.

@michaelmoore2549/IG: Is Keegan Murray the target now that we know where the team is picking?

Langlois: There’s at least some chance Murray goes before the Pistons pick. I have to imagine he’s on a short list for Sacramento and possibly for Houston. He might wind up the betting favorite to be the Pistons pick, but there is nobody that rises to the level of a favorite against the field. It’s likely at least one of Murray, Shaedon Sharpe and Jaden Ivy is gone ahead of the Pistons pick. The other two will be on the list – probably the short list – to be introduced with a Pistons cap on and shaking Adam Silver’s hand on draft night.

@KornKat2020: Do you think selecting fifth factors into the Pistons extending Jerami Grant? Obviously, you can still pick a power forward if Keegan Murray is available, but it seems like Grant was more moveable with any of the top three guys. Also, how willing do you think the Pistons are to throw max money in free agency with regard to Deandre Ayton?

Langlois: If the Pistons are the team to extend Jerami Grant, then I think you can take a trade of him off the board for 2022-23. I’d frame it more like does picking fifth have any impact on the likelihood of trading Grant and giving the receiving team the decision to extend him or not? The Pistons could execute an extend-and-trade deal for Grant. But if they extend him for the maximum allowable – four years plus the year that remains on the deal he signed with the Pistons in 2020 – then they could not trade him for six months. Murray might be more ready to step in and produce as a rookie than Holmgren, Smith or Banchero given the age disparity and the fact he produced at extremely high levels in the Big Ten. How Troy Weaver assesses offers for Grant – if it gets that far – will determine his fate to a greater degree than the results of Tuesday’s lottery draw. As for whether the Pistons are interested in offering Ayton a max deal … good question. I think the real issue now is how did the crushing Game 7 loss by Phoenix – in such a thoroughly one-sided and shocking manner – affect Suns management and ownership? It will be very difficult for Phoenix to assess its situation in a clear-eyed manner and avoid an overreaction to that second-round defeat. The Suns were the best team in the NBA all season. Do they put their faith in that and make minor tweaks around the edges? Or do they throw up their hands, let Ayton walk and do something more dramatic? Teams that have cap space will be trying to figure that out between now and the opening of free agency.

@B_Lake007: I believe that Keegan Murray is a perfect pick for the Pistons at five if he is there. This would make it easier for the Pistons to trade Jerami Grant for assets. Do you agree?

Langlois: On paper, it’s logical. But you have to believe that Murray is capable – or will be in a year or two, at minimum – of filling the void Grant leaves. There’s a reason that credible journalists all around the NBA identified Grant as one of the most targeted trade subjects at the February deadline last season. The reason is he’s really good and teams want good players. There’s not a tree that grows athletic 6-foot-8 wings with the ability to create their own offense you can shake and grab what falls out. So if you trade Grant to help fill another need with the idea that Murray will step in to his spot, then you’d better be reasonably sure you haven’t merely created another problem in an attempt to solve a different one. I like Murray. It seemed like every time I saw Iowa play last season, he was the best player on the floor. But there are questions with all of these guys, it seems. Murray’s age, ceiling and doubts about his defensive impact are the most asked about him.

Darrell (Detroit): I think Cory Joseph is going to opt out this summer. He’s coming off a decent year shooting, there is a need for quality backup guards and he’ll be third in the pecking order with the Pistons. Limited play this season will diminish his opportunity to sign a better deal in 2023, so he’s gone, I do believe. I also predict Kelly Olynyk will be traded or stretched. New additions will include Jalen Brunson, Mitchell Robinson and either Jaden Ivy or Shaedon Sharpe.

Langlois: I would bet on both Joseph and Olynyk being around next season, but maybe you’ll be proven right. Joseph is signed at a pretty healthy number for next season if he picks up his option, a reported $5.1 million. Cap space is at a premium around the league. Most teams, and certainly every team remotely close to title contention, will be relying on exceptions to fill out rosters. Joseph would have to bet on himself to walk away from a guaranteed $5.1 million. I don’t know that Joseph will do better than that in salary, though his calculation could well come down to his faith in getting an offer for more than one year. There’s a clear role for him with the Pistons, he’s had some of his best days playing for Dwane Casey and he’s as close as he can get to his Toronto roots without actually playing for the Raptors by being in Detroit. It’s an agent’s job to anticipate what free agency will yield, so maybe Joseph will have a clear idea of the offers available before he has to decide whether to pick up his option or not. We’ll see. If you think Joseph is gone and you’re casting off Olynyk, the Pistons would be frighteningly young next season. Rodney McGruder, Joseph and Olynyk were the only 30-year-olds on the roster last season and McGruder is also a free agent. That would leave Jerami Grant, 28, as the oldest player on the roster – if, indeed, he’s still here. Troy Weaver has been pretty clear that he wants some veteran ballast in the locker room. I don’t think he’s talking about just having a token veteran at the end of the bench, either. It’s important to have one or two wise old heads as part of the rotation, too. It’s an impossible task to lead from the rear.

@ReachForTheSki: Does anybody trust the authenticity of the lottery? Whatever, we got our bone thrown our way. 1. Trade. 2. Draft. 3. Free Agency. Free agency should open before the draft so it’s the last puzzle to add.

Langlois: If you’re suggesting the lottery was rigged so that Orlando, Oklahoma City and Sacramento would get three of the four picks the lottery determines – three of the smallest markets in the NBA – then that’s some next-level conspiracy chess you’re playing. Can I interest you in my crypto shares? As to your last point, a lot of folks agree that free agency should come before the draft. It’s been broached before, but there doesn’t seem to be much momentum to change it anytime soon.

@Alldayaloha808: I don’t get the disappointment with getting the fifth pick. Could be worse and they could be picking seventh. Anyway, there will be good talent when the Pistons pick. Not to worry.

Langlois: There was a 33 percent chance to pick sixth or seventh, so it was not at all surprising that the Pistons wound up with the fifth pick. What also isn’t surprising is that fans dreaming of getting one of the three big guys who would have seemed like great running mates for Cade Cunningham were disappointed that the roughly 40 percent chance the Pistons had of landing in the top three wasn’t realized.

@real.frankk/IG: Can we trade up and draft Paolo Banchero, please? We would be the best.

Langlois: If you buy the growing consensus that Jabari Smith and Chet Holmgren will be the first two picks, then you’ve got to work with Houston to get to three. If the price is a future No. 1 pick – that’s what Philadelphia gave Boston to move from three to one to pick Markelle Fultz in 2017, though you could argue moving two spots to three shouldn’t cost as much as moving two spots to one – that’s a pretty high price. I’d bet against it, even if Houston were open to the deal.