There might be some fans at the gigantic Little Caesars arena, because the Detroit Pistons took some serious steps towards solidifying a young nucleus for the future of their franchise.
It all began on Wednesday with them trading Jerami Grant to the Portland Trail Blazers for a 2025 first round pick they acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks that is protected 1-4. The trade cleared enough cap space for the Pistons to sign a max free agent this offseason or make a few moves. That alone makes the move a win for the pistons.
Grant was very good for the Denver Nuggets in the 2020 NBA Playoffs and it earned him a 3-year, $60 million deal from the Pistons. He was solid for two seasons, averaging around 20 points per game and shooting over 35 percent from three. With his athleticism, defense and shooting, he’s a strong player, but not good enough for the Pistons to sign to a five-year max available for teams to retain their own talent.
With their salary cap freed up and the fifth pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, the Pistons were all set for Thursday night. They got the player that they wanted to pair with last year’s No. 1 overall pick — Cade Cunningham — in Jaden Ivey.
The guard from Purdue was arguably the best perimeter player in men’s college basketball last year. He improved from averaging 11.1 points on 39.9/25.8/72.6 shooting splits, to 17.8 on 46/35.8/74.4 on a team that was a favorite to win the national championship and proved to be a clutch player. Against Wisconsin at the hostile Kohl’s Center in Wisconsin late in the regular season, he scored Purdue’s final seven points, and hit the three that would’ve sent the game to overtime, if not for Chucky Hepburn’s pull-up three while fading out of bounds with one second remaining. Then in the Sweet 16 he had a tough game against Saint Peter’s, but still took Purdue’s last two shots of the game. The first 3-pointer he made (with eight seconds left to play) closed the deficit to one. He came back down the floor and shot a three to tie the game that missed.
Ivey will be a great backcourt mate to Cunningham who showed in the second half of the season why he was selected first in 2021. A great couple of days for the Pistons one week before free agency begins, but they weren’t done. Another player that they liked in this draft was Jalen Duren. Per 24/7 sports he was rated the No. 6 overall player in the country in 2022. After one season first-team All Conference season at Memphis, he was considered the top big in this draft. Duren hasn’t yet turned 19, but measured at the combine at 6-foot-11, 250 pounds with a 7-foot-5 wingspan. The Pistons used that 2025 pick they got from the Blazers on Wednesday to get him.
In less than 36 hours, the Pistons created a max salary slot and landed two young talents that should be able to help their young team immediately. Also, a front court of Isaiah Stewart and Duren next season — that could be frightening. Or, maybe that max money could find its way to Deandre Ayton.
The Pistons home arena has been hard to fill since Ben Wallace, Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, and Rasheed Wallace left. That will be changing very soon, because this young bunch is going to be extremely fun to watch.