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Pistons Mailbag - WEDNESDAY, August 10

What the Pistons might be looking to add to their roster next and training camp battles get us off and running in this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.

Darrell (Detroit): Looking ahead to next off-season, do you think the Pistons would sign Jerami Grant to a max deal if for some unforeseen reason he decided not to extend with Portland? I know he can sign an extension in December for $28 million per year, but what would be his maximum if he went into next summer as an unrestricted free agent? If the Pistons were to add him next off-season, then it will be clear they won that trade. Imagine how good the Pistons would be if they could make the playoffs, sign Grant and/or Andrew Wiggins. What can Wiggins max out at next summer?

Langlois: Grant will be a nine-year veteran when the 2022-23 season concludes, which would mean as an unrestricted free agent he could sign for a maximum deal that would start at around $39.9 million if the projection the NBA gave of a $133 million cap figure holds. (The figure is always adjusted during the moratorium period to reflect the previous league year’s revenue figures.) If Grant were to hit unrestricted free agency while still with Portland, he could sign for five years and $231 million. (A player re-signing with the team that holds his Bird rights can sign for five years with 8 percent annual raises; if he signs with another team, he can sign for four years with 5 percent annual raises.) Grant’s maximum should he leave Portland as an unrestricted free agent would be four years and $172 million. The same figures would apply to Wiggins, who also will be a nine-year veteran, as both were part of the 2014 NBA draft. Much can change between now and the start of free agency 2023, so it’s folly to look too closely at potential free-agent pursuits at this time. But the way the roster stands today – lots of big men and lots of guards – it stands to reason the Pistons would monitor the crop of wings. They’ve got Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Livers and Kevin Knox in the 6-foot-7 to 6-foot-8 range.  You can throw Cade Cunningham in there, as well, since he gives you wing size even if he’s playing at point guard. It stands to reason the Pistons will have their radar up for bolstering that position. As for the likelihood of re-signing Grant, let’s see what happens with the extension. My hunch is something would have to go off the rails pretty badly for it not to be offered and signed when the opportunity arises.

Langlois: Let’s do a process of elimination to get closer to an answer. Who isn’t in danger of being on the roster bubble? It’s not going to be Cade Cunningham, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart, Killian Hayes, Jaden Ivey or Jalen Duren. It’s not going to be Marvin Bagley III, Kelly Olynyk, Alec Burks or Isaiah Livers. It’s extremely unlikely to be Kevin Knox, Nerlens Noel, Hamidou Diallo or Cory Joseph. So if nothing changes, it kinda sorta looks like it comes down to Saben Lee or Rodney McGruder. But that “if nothing changes” is a rather large assumption. I think there’s a chance Troy Weaver makes another move before the season starts. It might not come before training camp opens in late September. It could be a preseason injury injects a little fluidity into the trade market. A team looking for a big man would likely make one of its first calls to Weaver given the presence of Stewart, Olynyk, Bagley, Noel and Duren. I can’t see any of those players being waived – all of them have varying degrees of trade value – so either the Pistons carry five big men into the season or they make a trade. That could open a roster spot and make any discussion of which player gets waived moot. The Pistons value both Lee and McGruder for both their basketball ability and their character, so it’s still tough for me to believe their thinking is that they’ll wind up waiving one or the other.

Greg (Warren, Mich.): I’m looking forward to the season but realistically I don’t expect the playoffs. If the Pistons are drafting around fifth again next season, what is the early word on the quality of the draft and what type of player would the Pistons be looking at do you think?

Langlois: With the full caveat that the big-picture evaluation of the 2023 draft class is a long way from fully formed, I think it’s fair to say the consensus opinion is that it will fall somewhere between the 2021 (upper end) and 2022 (lower end) for star power at the top. While I would never say Troy Weaver would go into a draft looking for anything else but the player he thinks has the brightest NBA future, it’s also coming to a point where fit will be more of a tiebreaker consideration than it’s been in his first three draft classes. What does that mean? It means that if the Pistons get the No. 1 pick and Weaver agrees with the overwhelming consensus that French 7-footer Victor Wembanyama is the obvious best talent, he’d take him despite the presence of Isaiah Stewart and Jalen Duren on the roster. But if the Pistons were to get, say, the eighth pick and Weaver thought Duke 7-footer Derrick Lively was the best player available at that slot, the difference between him and whoever is next might have to be considerable for the Pistons to add another young big man to the mix. It could be shaping up as a draft that meshes pretty well with Pistons interests given the depth chart on the wing for the Pistons isn’t quite optimal in an era where two-way wings with playmaking chops are the holy grail. Among the top 10 to 15 players, there are at least a handful who would slot in as wings, including twins Ausar and Amen Thompson, Cam Whitmore, Dariq Whitehead, Dillon Mitchell, Anthony Black and Gradey Dick.

@barkotthegoat150/IG: How will the Detroit Pistons change this year?

Langlois: They got bigger and younger. The Pistons opened last season with only Kelly Olynyk, Isaiah Stewart and Luka Garza as big men and often used Trey Lyles as backup center when Olynyk was lost for several weeks with a knee injury. As the roster stands now, they’ll have five players who line up as primarily centers – Olynyk, Stewart, Marvin Bagley III, Nerlens Noel and Jalen Duren – though at least the first three have the capability to play part-time at power forward. In Duren, 18, they have the youngest player in the NBA, in addition to adding Jaden Ivey, 19. The Pistons have 12 players 24 or younger among the 18 on either standard or two-way contracts at present. As for how they’ll change stylistically, they’re going to be more athletic with the addition of Ivey and Duren. I don’t know how much Duren will play early in the season, but he’s their most athletic big man by a wide margin and Ivey projects as one of the more athletic guards in the league. They’ll have the potential to play in transition more often, though young teams often need to figure out how to harness their athleticism. They’ll also be wearing a new (old) uniform, Pistons teal, for about 10 games.

@KevinNGregory: What day does training camp officially begin?

Langlois: The Pistons haven’t announced anything officially yet, but you can pencil in Sept. 26 as media day and Sept. 27 for the first day of practice. The NBA season opens on Oct. 18, which means the Pistons likely will open on Oct. 19. The regular season ends on April 9, a Sunday, which it’s done the past two seasons to accommodate the play-in tournament wrapping up in time to allow the playoffs to start the following weekend, April 15-16. The NBA schedule has not yet been released, thought that is likely coming next week. We know one game, though – the Pistons will play the Chicago Bulls in Paris on Jan. 19. The Pistons haven’t announced their preseason schedule yet, though one game – Oct. 7 at New Orleans – is known because the Pelicans have announced it as part of their preseason schedule.