Mailbag Pistons: Trading up in the 2022 NBA Draft, 2022-23 expectations and more


As promised, here is the second part of the mailbag which began last week, this time touching on the possibility of the Pistons landing Chet Holmgren, moving up in the 2022 NBA Draft, next year’s expectations and more.

(Editor’s note: Questions have been lightly edited for clarity.)

Is there any chance one of the top three teams in the draft goes for Jaden Ivey, and the Kings do Kings things, so the Pistons get one of the big three? — @truckingpayroll

I firmly believe there will be some weirdness at the top of the 2022 NBA Draft. My biggest reason for that hunch: The Oklahoma City Thunder are involved.

Sam Presti and Co. are hard to gauge. One would imagine, assuming the Magic take Auburn’s Jabari Smith, the Thunder will take either Holmgren or Paolo Banchero. Oklahoma City, from roster-construction and upside standpoints, needs a blue-chip frontcourt prospect to pair with its promising backcourt. It just makes sense. However, as you all know, the Thunder haven’t made a ton of sense (and not necessarily in a bad way) the last few years. They defy convention.

There is very much a world in which I could see Oklahoma City taking Purdue’s Ivey at No. 2. Then I could see the Rockets taking Banchero, who has playmaking skills that should benefit Houston’s intriguing, and sometimes wild, young guards. He’d be a good connector for the Rockets. After that, I could see the Kings taking Keegan Murray, who is the most NBA-ready prospect in this class. Sacramento appears to have interest in ending a million-year playoff drought. That would leave Holmgren sitting there for the Pistons at No. 5. Holmgren, more than Smith or Banchero, is the one you hear rumblings about potentially falling out of the top three, though I think it’s unlikely.

Do I think this exact scenario plays out come draft night? I wouldn’t bet money on it. However, it wouldn’t surprise me.

Do you think the Pistons may try to trade up into the draft for one of the top three bigs? — @PistonsCade

I don’t think so.

For starters, I just don’t see Detroit giving up young assets at this stage of the rebuild. The Pistons have spent the past few seasons restocking their asset cupboard and accumulating young talent. Realistically, the fifth pick and one of Isaiah Stewart or Saddiq Bey would have to be the foundation of a trade to move up. I can’t envision Detroit parting with either right now unless, of course, an opportunity to land a bonafide star presents itself.

Secondly, as I’ve said before, I do truly think the Pistons like their options at No. 5. If you ask me, there’s a real chance the best player in this class five years from now will be someone taken outside of the top three. I’m not as impressed with Holmgren, Smith or Banchero as I was with Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green and Evan Mobley. I wouldn’t be surprised if all three big names from this class are just OK players when the dust settles.

Assuming No. 5 and Jerami Grant doesn’t entice Orlando, OKC or Houston, I don’t see it happening.

If the draft, free agency and trades all go well, what do you think the floor and ceiling are for this team next season? — @realgabesipes

First, it’s important we establish what “all go well” means. Of course, depending on whom you talk to, the definition can vary.

If you’re asking me what I consider “all go well,” I’d say the Pistons would leave draft night with two top-10 picks (meaning they’d traded Grant), and then, in free agency, they’d sign a placeholder, above-average shooting guard like Gary Harris to a one-year deal, re-sign Marvin Bagley III and fill out the margins. I’m in the camp of thinking they should turn a corner for the 2023-24 season and heavily invest in the roster next summer. If things don’t go great in this scenario, Detroit gives itself a shot at Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson in next year’s draft. This route probably has a floor of a top-five pick and a ceiling of the Play-In Tournament, assuming Cunningham is a borderline All-Star and Bey and Stewart take the leaps expected.

The popular “all go well” among the Pistons fan base (on Twitter, at least) seems to be getting Jaden Ivey at No. 4 and executing a sign-and-trade with Phoenix to get Deandre Ayton. That team probably has a floor of the Play-In Tournament and a ceiling of playing competitively in the first round. Definitely more instant gratification with this route, but I’m not convinced the long-term outlook is as bright.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

There’s a lot of chatter about Grant and the draft pick, but out of the players on the roster now, who do you think will have a breakout season? — @AustinDayeFan

My vote is for Stewart.

The second-year big man showed real signs of being a really good pick-and-roll defender last season. He also ended the year by making 11 of 18 shots from distance — a 61 percent rate in his last eight games. I believe he’ll have the green light to space the floor immediately at the start of next season. If Stewart has the backing of the coaching staff to shoot the 3-ball out of the gate, I think fans will see the 21-year-old be more of a consistent floor-spacing threat.

If the Pistons can’t find a trade for Grant, will they essentially be forced to extend him this offseason? — @CorumsBurner

This is a good question.

Naturally, some might see losing Grant for nothing as very significant. And that might be true if there are decent-to-good trade packages available this summer, but Detroit waits until the deadline, nothing manifests and then Grant declines an extension and walks in free agency. That wouldn’t be ideal.

However, what if opposing teams with interest in Grant change plans and the Pistons consider extending him but elect not to? I don’t think that scenario is the end of the world. After all, Detroit would open up $20 million in cap space next summer, when the free agency market will be far more enticing than it is this summer. If that cap space helps the Pistons land someone significant, I don’t think many fans would complain that Grant wasn’t traded.

My guess is if the Pistons don’t trade Grant, they’ll extend him, but there are a few moving parts that need to get sorted out before an extension really becomes possible.

What’s the appetite for ownership and management for tanking another year? — @adityav84

I don’t think “tanking” is the right word here, but I know what you mean.

I do get the sense there are some in ownership and management who would not be opposed to rolling with the young guys for one more year and letting the chips fall where they may. Meaning, if the Cunningham-Bey-Stewart-No. 5 pick-No. 7 pick nucleus leads the Pistons to the Play-In Tournament, they’ll be happy with that. If that group leads to another top-five pick but individual players improve in the process, I don’t think that’ll be the end of the world.

On the flip side, I know some of the decision-makers are ready to get the ball rolling and start turning a significant corner sooner rather than later. With that being said, I get the sense all (or most) are in unison and that acquiring young talent is of utmost importance. I don’t get the sense that there is a mandate to make the postseason next year, but the franchise does want to feel good about the individuals asked to steer the ship forward. The organization, as a collective, still appears to have an eye on the future and building this thing the right way, with draft picks, cost-friendly deals and patience in regards to pouncing on a big financial commitment.

Things can change, of course. But at this moment in time, the Pistons aren’t rushing their process just because outsiders might start to feel antsy.

(Photo of Chet Holmgren: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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