Three weeks from the trade deadline and with the Pistons getting close to fully healthy, speculation on what moves are in the offing lead off this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.
@sportswithfatima/IG: When is the trade deadline? Do you think we will make any moves?
Langlois: The trade deadline is 3 p.m. Feb. 10. That’s three weeks and a day away. The Pistons already made a move – the since-rescinded trade that sent Rodney McGruder to Denver for Bol Bol. Troy Weaver isn’t shy about making moves if he thinks they help push the franchise forward, so, yeah, if you had to bet, I’d go with a move being more likely than not.
BLake (@B_Lake007): Do you agree that the emergence of Hami and Bey in the absence of Jerami Grant hastens trade discussions involving Grant?
Langlois: The uptick in Bey’s productivity – Tuesday night’s opener of the four-game road trip at Golden State aside – is pretty striking since Grant’s injury and Bey moving to the four spot. Bey made first team All-Rookie, though, while playing the three opposite Grant last season, so I’d be careful about drawing a straight line between Bey’s productivity spiking and his playing at Grant’s spot. Bey came into the season intent on expanding his game beyond the role that saw him take two-thirds of his shots from the 3-point line as a rookie and he did that with the support and urging of Dwane Casey and the Pistons front office. His 3-point rate has settled in at a little more than 50 percent this season, so he’s clearly diversified his game. I’d made the case that some of his recent uptick is likely due to growing a little more comfortable in those areas where he’s begun to dabble and, correspondingly, seeing his 3-point accuracy start inching back toward last season’s norm in the process. There is surely room for both Bey and Grant in the Pistons lineup and in their future. But, yeah, I would say that the mere fact the Pistons have played without Grant for the past month and gotten a chance to see what a post-Grant world would look like, on balance, probably makes them a little more comfortable with the idea of a trade if it’s had any impact at all. It’s still going to take an attractive offer to get them to sign off on a deal, though. Which brings us to …
(((robingillis))) (@sweepybuns): Everyone wants to know who we can get for Jerami Grant and I want to know why we can’t keep him.
Langlois: A well-timed question, sweepy! Exactly. This isn’t a distress sale the Pistons are embarking upon. Grant’s name is ubiquitous on the trade rumor mill because there aren’t many sellers this year, a byproduct of the play-in tournament’s onset, and among the handful of teams out of the running for a play-in spot the Pistons have quite arguably the most coveted player in Grant because of what he is – a two-way wing with length and versatility at both ends – and how he’d fit with any number of contenders looking for that last big piece to give them an edge in the postseason. So the offers could get intriguing enough for the Pistons to seriously consider and ultimately act. But the Pistons also have to wonder if a year from now – with Cade Cunningham flowering, Saddiq Bey ascending and another high lottery pick likely in the pipeline – if they, too, wouldn’t be looking for someone just like Jerami Grant to complete them. The Pistons could extend Grant, add the lottery pick, continue developing not only Cunningham and Bey but Isaiah Stewart and Killian Hayes and other young players already here, put their free-agent bounty to use and feel like they’ll be in the thick of it next season with still plenty of development potential on the roster. That’s why I’m not at all convinced a Grant trade is inevitable. Things can change in a hurry. Nobody saw Cleveland emerging as a legitimate playoff team this season, but the Cavaliers have had four turns at the lottery and it all started coming together for them. The Pistons are two years behind the Cavs on the rebuilding timeline, but Troy Weaver went about it so aggressively from the start – swinging trades to add two extra first-round picks ahead of his first draft in 2020 – that maybe he feels they’ve taken a year off the process and they’ll be ready to take a big step next season if a few other pieces fall into place.
Yeah Buddy (@Meeeshigan): Is it safe to say that we’ll probably have three new starters next year? The player we get in a Grant trade, our No. 1 pick and Blake’s cap space used on an off-season free agent? Cade Cunningham and Saddiq Bey would be the remaining starters.
Langlois: I wouldn’t say it’s safe to say at all. It could work out that way. But as outlined in the previous question, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that Grant stays. If he is traded, I wouldn’t assume that the return would include a likely starter for next season. If he’s going to a contender – and that’s the likely outcome if he’s traded – that team might not be in position to offer a player good enough to start next season. The return is more likely to include draft picks or a combination of draft picks and young prospects. The player included in a trade package for Grant that’s there for salary ballast might be an expiring contract and a free agent headed elsewhere at season’s end. If we’re using the Orlando-Denver deal from last season as the barometer, given the parallels between Aaron Gordon’s situation then and Grant’s today, yeah, the Magic did wind up with a starter in Gary Harris, but he’s seen more as a placeholder than a core piece for the rebuilding franchise. The Magic got a first-round pick and a rookie, R.J. Hampton, who’d been taken 24th a few months earlier. I’d agree on Cunningham and Bey remaining as starters. If there were a pool as to who would be the next most likely starter, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether it would be Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, the lottery pick or “other.” It’s possible, of course, that Hayes or Stewart comes off the bench next season. But I wouldn’t bet on three new starters, necessarily. It’s a little early to guess at that.
Langlois: I’d put an Olynyk deal as a considerable long shot for several reasons but ethical concerns wouldn’t be among them. The least of it is probably the fact he’s coming off a knee injury, though how he plays over the next three weeks leading to the Feb. 10 trade deadline will either dispel concern over how the injury affects the quality of his play or underscore it. The fact he’s got two-plus seasons remaining on his contract surely will eliminate some potential suitors, though the fact the final year of his deal is only partially guaranteed might mitigate that impact. But the Pistons need size and Olynyk is both one of their few players with size and one of their few remaining veterans. I don’t think he’s off limits if somebody comes to the Pistons with a compelling offer, but I think it’s fair to assume the Pistons aren’t out there soliciting Olynyk offers.
@x_cessive_mercenary/IG: When will Kelly O come back?
Langlois: Could well be tonight. Dwane Casey said Sunday that Olynyk was going to see how he felt before the afternoon tipoff to determine his status for that day. He practiced in San Francisco on Monday. My guess is they weren’t going to play him in a back to back when he was coming off of a two-month absence, so chose to sit him at Golden State and play him tonight at Sacramento – so long as he feels ready once he tests the knee again before tipoff.
@ribs6116/IG: Do you think the Pistons will make a trade soon?
Langlois: It’s impossible to predict when a deal that prompts an immediate response might come across your desk. The Pistons made the Bol Bol trade a month ahead of the trade deadline before it was rescinded. So if there’s a deal made soon, chances are it would be more of that magnitude. I’d be a little more surprised if a more consequential trade goes down weeks ahead of the trade deadline. If there’s going to be a Jerami Grant trade, for instance, that’s one I would anticipate coming within 48 hours of the deadline and perhaps not until the final hours.
@eythorarmann/IG: Wouldn’t it benefit Killian Hayes more to come off the bench and lead the second unit? Why isn’t our healthy starting lineup Cade, Hami, Bey, Jerami and Beef Stew?
Langlois: The notion that Hayes would be helped by coming off the bench isn’t an uncommon one, but I’m not sure it’s formed on solid footing. The idea of starting him is that he’s surrounded by another playmaker (Cade Cunningham) and solid scoring options (Jerami Grant when he’s available, Saddiq Bey) and can grow in the role envisioned for him. And there is also the thought that Hayes would be getting his minutes alongside the other players the Pistons hope are part of their core going forward. The counter argument, I suppose, is that Hayes might find less challenging matchups if he’s coming off the bench. But if a large chunk of Hayes’ value going forward is his ability to defend elite players on the perimeter, then starting him is the best way to maximize that strength of his. It’s certainly not out of the question that Hayes eventually finds his niche coming off the bench, but for where the Pistons are now and for what they’re trying to accomplish this season, starting him remains the right course.
@gus_weaver_from_313: What are the chances of Hami being a featured player in our near future?
Langlois: You’d have to define “featured player” for me. He’s starting now and playing 29 minutes a game over the last 20. That’s one definition of “featured.” If you’re asking if he’s going to be a guy for whom a lot of plays are designed, I don’t think that’s happening anytime soon and might never be his NBA role. He’s a guy who can make an impact running the floor, creating turnovers, slashing against rotating defenses, cutting without the ball and hitting the glass. There are a lot of players who have long and distinguished careers with that job profile. Making decisions with the ball in his hands in the half court isn’t Diallo’s strong suit, but that’s OK. He can be a very effective player without that in his bag. And when you’re playing a big chunk of your minutes alongside Cade Cunningham, best to let him be that guy.