The clock struck 1 a.m. on the East Coast and Detroit unofficially started on the day of the NBA trade deadline with a minor move that could have big repercussions in Detroit. Delon Wright was out and Cory Joseph and two second-round picks were in.
This is not going to do much to radically transform the rankings. But it provides a clue to Troy Weaver’s mindset and what the team is like after moving forward.
Here are some things we know and think we know after the exchange.
Troy Weaver has no time for sentimentality
Delon Wright said he had been trying for years to get to Detroit and meet head coach Dwane Casey. After the initial success of his career in Toronto, he had strayed mainly in Memphis and Dallas. Finally, he fulfilled his wish. He returned to the coach who selected him and played the best ball of his career starting in his preferred position.
Now it’s gone.
Weaver made the deal anyway because the narrative doesn’t really matter. He’s still in asset accumulation mode and found a way to improve a rebuilding team in the future.
Killian Hayes is close to returning
I don’t think the Pistons will make this move unless Killian is close to returning. The Pistons, hypothetically, could already tell they were well equipped at the position even without Hayes. Dennis Smith Jr. and Saben Lee toast enough while Hayes stays out, and Hayes just adds more depth once he returns. It will be interesting to see who starts.
Weaver has more second-round picks (than he needs)
The Detroit Pistons currently have three 2021 second-round picks. No. 37 overall (from Brooklyn through Toronto), No. 48 overall (from New York through Charlotte) and No. 54 (from Sacramento through Los Lakers).
Weaver sends out the second rounds as party favors, but he seems to know there are always ways to restock his closets. It’s also interesting to note that the second-round three are likely to improve in the final stretch of the season. Toronto is in free fall and could have a mini firesale, and LaMelo Ball’s injury could take its toll on Charlotte’s winning ways. The Lakers’ selection will never be good, but with LeBron and Anthony Davis out, it will improve a bit.
Weaver gets even more financial flexibility this offseason
Cory Joseph’s contract is only guaranteed at $ 2.4 million next season. This provides two bits of flexibility for Weaver. He could use Joseph’s $ 12.6 million salary in another trade between now and June 30 (Joseph’s guarantee date) to trade for a draft pick and an over-capped team salary. Or he could give up Joseph and have more money to use in free agency. Wright was set to make $ 8.5 million next season, so he opens $ 6.1 million that he wouldn’t otherwise have.
Combined with the previous Blake Griffin purchase, Detroit has about $ 20 million to play with before factoring in its next high lottery pick. That takes a bite out of $ 8.3 million at the Cade Cunningham level and a chunk of $ 4.9 million at the level of Jalen Green.
Does this mean there is no market for Ellington?
It’s hard to compare the Kings’ situation to those of teams that might be interested in Ellington, but Wright’s relatively minimal performance could mean there’s not much of a market for a guy like Ellington. Would the Pistons keep it or buy it if they can’t trade it? Unclear. But if he gets a trade, it will likely be with a true contender (in deference to Ellington) and a pick in the 50s.
Weaver is probably not done negotiating
This goes without saying, but Weaver seems so close to opening up enough space for a free-agent signing at the level of Jerami Grant, and he has so many players under contract that it seems like he has one more move to make room in his arsenal. It remains to be seen if it comes today or in the off-season. He’d need to trade a Mason Plumlee or a combination of Jahlil Okafor and Josh Jackson to get to that $ 20 million level at best to get the first overall pick in the draft.
Weaver is no more attached to his players than to the old regime.
The Grim Weaver or Troy Reaper or Trader Troy or whatever you want to call him had run out of players from the previous regime to trade, save for Sekou Doumbouya. There was also a question as to whether he would easily part ways with the guys he had personally targeted, negotiated and signed for. Well, we have our answer. Wright is gone. No one else should get too comfortable.
The tank is on
Call it reconstruction, restoration, reinvention. Call it whatever you want. The Pistons definitely got worse with this trade. I know that not everyone was a fan of Delon Wright because his game was not aesthetically pleasing. But he was a good player who made the offense run smoothly … in the midfield, anyway. This trade will lead to more losses for the Pistons, and with Houston in free fall, Orlando in sell mode, Minnesota in calamity, the battle for the bottom of the standings will be fierce. They probably won’t end up with the worst record, but this move will help.