Earlier in the week, Detroit traded Jerami Grant to Portland in a deal that opened up potentially more than $50 million in cap space for the Pistons — which opened up the door for them to make a max offer to restricted free agent Deandre Ayton.
Then came the NBA Draft.
The Pistons were one of the big winners on draft night. First, Jaden Ivey fell to them at No. 5. Then they were able to use all that cap space to take on Kemba Walker‘s contract from the Knicks, getting Detroit back into the lottery for a second pick at No. 13, where they selected promising Memphis center Jalen Duren.
However, while all signs have pointed to Detroit making a serious run at Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton over the last few days, that appears less likely after the Pistons walked away with two of the players highest on the organization’s big board. Per sources, Detroit is eager to continue to build back toward playoff contention with the aforementioned young core, and the Pistons are expected to use the majority of their remaining cap space to add multiple veteran pieces rather than just one big swing this offseason, per sources.
For the last 48 hours, it appeared that landing Ayton would be Plan A for Detroit… In all actuality, though, the events on Thursday signal the Ayton route being Plan B. Plan A manifested in Brooklyn, when Ivey unexpectedly slid to the Pistons and they found a way to get back into the lottery to add Duren. Per sources, this was the best-case scenario.
It wasn’t just Detroit. Charlotte was another team mentioned for Ayton because they needed a center, but they drafted Mark Williams out of Duke to fill that role.
Other teams such as Atlanta and Toronto have been mentioned as teams that could come after Ayton, however, both would need to work out sign-and-trade deals with the Suns, and it’s fair to ask if either the Hawks or Raptors would offer the max contract Ayton seeks.
The Suns don’t want to pay Ayton the max and at least some in the organization are ready to move on from the Ayton experience. Ayton, for his part, sounds like someone who wants a fresh start in a new city.
But the path to that became much less clear after the draft.