With about a month left until this season’s trade deadline, the Detroit Pistons sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference as they look to add a future star in the form of a top overall pick. With the second-worst record in the NBA, the Pistons are just about where we thought they’d be before the campaign started. As Detroit continues to develop their young draftees and free agent fliers, it seems increasingly likely that Troy Weaver will look to bring back some value for the team’s older veterans via trade. The trade of Derrick Rose, who was recently shipped to the New York Knicks, seemed to signify that players like Delon Wright, Wayne Ellington, and Mason Plumlee could find themselves on a playoff contender before the deadline, as well. There’s no doubt that veteran presences prove beneficial to have in the locker room, but with the franchise already dealing with a disgruntled Blake Griffin and being in the midst of a lost season, it can’t hurt to scour the trade market for potential assets.
Delon Wright Joins “The Process”
Philadelphia 76ers Receive: PG Delon Wright
Detroit Pistons Receive: SG Matisse Thybulle, PF Mike Scott
Posting career-highs across the board, teams are starting to take notice of Delon Wright’s revitalization in Detroit under his two-time head coach, Dwane Casey. Wright has been a steadying presence as the Pistons’ point guard after an underwhelming start to the season, and has been a key factor in Detroit consistently staying competitive in games. Now sidelined with a groin injury, the effects of his absence have already been obvious for the Pistons, who are now left with only Dennis Smith Jr. and Saben Lee at point guard as rookie Killian Hayes continues to rehab. By now, however, opposing front offices have already seen what they have needed to out of Wright, an all-around point guard who can do just about everything for a team.
Trading for Wright would give Philadelphia something they desperately need – a secondary playmaker behind Ben Simmons. The Sixers are currently in the bottom-third in the NBA in assists per game (23.2), with over a third of them coming from Simmons alone (7.9). Philadelphia does have an array of dynamic guards, including Shake Milton, Seth Curry, and rookie Tyrese Maxey, but they are all score-first players. Wright is someone that doesn’t have to score to contribute, and would undoubtedly help the Eastern Conference’s top seed become even deadlier with his balanced scoring, playmaking and defensive arsenal.
After an impressive under-the-radar rookie season from Matisse Thybulle, he has struggled immensely on the offensive end as a sophomore. However, his intensity and ability on defense can only be matched by a handful of players in the league, which has still earned him good minutes with the Sixers this year. Thybulle is older than the typical second-year player at 23-years-old, meaning the Sixers have to at least be somewhat concerned over his lack of offensive polish. While Thybulle still plays a significant role on defense for the team, his extreme struggles on offense combined with the plethora of other guards on Philly’s roster likely makes him expendable for the (W)right price. Thybulle’s grittiness, toughness, and consistent effort would delight Pistons fans, and he could even become a similar story to Josh Jackson in Detroit.
Desperation in Beantown
Boston Celtics Receive: C Mason Plumlee, SG Wayne Ellington
Detroit Pistons Receive: C Tristan Thompson, SG Romeo Langford, 2023 second-round pick (via Charlotte)
After a hot start to the season, the Boston Celtics have been dreadful, resulting in a steep drop to the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. With Kemba Walker’s struggles and Marcus Smart’s injury, the Celtics’ offense has suffered mightily, as the team can’t seem to get consistent contributions outside of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
The Pistons don’t have a season-changing player to offer the Celtics, but they do have a pair of steadying veteran presenses that can help a playoff team in the forms of Mason Plumlee and Wayne Ellington. Plumlee has been the Pistons’ “quarterback” this season, as head coach Dwane Casey put it, and his production has certainly lived up to his $8 million price tag so far with career-highs in minutes, rebounds, and assists per game. Plumlee provides what neither Tristan Thompson nor Daniel Theis have brought to the Celtics this year with his high-level playmaking from the center position, an attribute that can help unlock a team’s offense. Thin on both bench veterans and pure shooters, the Celtics would be able to address both those issues by adding Ellington, who has had a streaky, but very serviceable, reunion with Detroit.
In return, the Pistons exchange their veteran center for another in Tristan Thompson, who will be an expiring contract next season. Thompson’s deal being one year shorter than Plumlee’s is the reason Detroit’s return for the two veterans may seem underwhelming in this scenario. Romeo Langford produced a disappointing season with the Indiana Hoosiers after being one of the highest recruits in the country, resulting in a draft day slide to the Celtics at #14 in 2019. He has yet to crack the rotation after a season-and-a-half in Boston and sits behind a number of other young guards. With the second-year wing serving no purpose to the championship-minded Celtics, he could be another reclamation product in Detroit, especially with the roster thin at shooting guard.
If There Was Ever a Blake Trade…
Miami Heat Receive: PF Blake Griffin, SG Svi Mykhailiuk
Detroit Pistons Receive: PF Kelly Olynyk, C Meyers Leonard, SF Andre Iguodala
In all reality, the chances of the Detroit Pistons finding a trade partner for Blake Griffin are slim to none. Griffin’s struggles over the past two seasons have been hard to watch, especially after a historically great 2018-19 campaign, and now he seems to have played his last game with the Pistons after the worst stretch of his career. The 31-year-old former All-Star possesses one of the worst contracts in the NBA, which pays him over $36 million this season and nearly $39 million the next if he accepts his player option for 2021-22 – which is likely for obvious reasons. That’s All-NBA money, and Blake Griffin is, to put it bluntly, not even close to that level anymore, meaning a team would be taking a risk by adding his monstrous contract.
But who else to take that risk but the Miami Heat, who have disappointed this season after a Finals appearance last season? To be fair, some of the Heat’s struggles can be attributed to injury woes and COVID-19 protocols, but it’s obvious the team has taken a step back from their overachieving 2019-20 season. In this deal, the only true downside for Miami is taking on Blake’s money and passing up the opportunity to sign a big name in a talented free agent class this summer, which could be a deal-breaker in itself. Moving on from the injured Meyers Leonard and the washed Andre Iguodala doesn’t hurt the Heat much at all, and the Pistons would be able to decline both of their team options after the season. Kelly Olynyk is having his worst year since joining the Heat, and while he has been productive in his four-year stint, is likely not in Miami’s future plans either.
Despite ridding themselves of three dispensable – and in the Pistons’ eyes, worthless – players to acquire a big name, it still may not be enough to convince Miami to take on Blake Griffin. To facilitate a trade, the Pistons will undoubtedly need to sweeten any Griffin deal somehow, with the most likely option being 23-year-old Svi Mykhailiuk. Svi has undergone a cold spell himself this season, but he provides another development project for the Heat while also being a cheaper alternative to Duncan Robinson, who could leave town as an unrestricted free agent this summer. With another young shooter and a rejuvenated Blake Griffin playing next to defensive stalwarts Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, the Heat could see a noticeable improvement. Meanwhile, the Pistons would have a ton of salary cap at their disposal to either take on bad contracts, sign smart short-term deals, or take a shot at a big-name free agent in the offseason.
The more likely scenario is that the Detroit Pistons and Blake Griffin agree to one of, if not the biggest buyout in NBA history, but only time will tell how Troy Weaver empties his clip as the trade deadline approaches…
(Featured image by Chris Schwegler/NBAE Getty)