With the worst record in the NBA and their best player — second-year point guard Cade Cunningham — out for the season after electing to have shin surgery, the direction of this Pistons’ season is clear.
Conventional wisdom suggests that would make the Pistons sellers at the trade deadline, but they are at least posturing they may not be as eager to sell as the rest of the league expects, reports James Edwards III at The Athletic.
One player they are open to moving: Nerlens Noel.
Both sides have agreed that a deal is best for both parties, and Detroit has already had talks with rival teams about Noel. Portland, Sacramento, Miami and Dallas have been the teams most engaged when it comes to acquiring the 28-year-old.
The Pistons are wisely leaning into their young core of big men this season — Isaiah Stewart, Marvin Bagley and impressive rookie Jalen Duren — and with that there is no role for Noel. He is making $9.2 million this season with a team option for $9.7 million next season (it’s doubtful any team picks that up, in which case Noel would be a free agent), a salary high enough that putting together a trade both sides like could present a challenge. The Mavericks could make it work with a trade sending JaVale McGee and Frank Ntilikina back, while Portland might have to send Nasir Little and Justise Winslow to the Motor City (and that likely would be too high a price).
The report also says that the Pistons are listening to offers for Sadiq Bey, although what teams would offer for the third-year forward is the big question.
There are two veterans that other teams may expect the Pistons to move — Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks — that the Pistons are not as eager to move on from, Edwards reports. The logic is that while Detroit may be tanking this season now, they had expected to compete for a play-in spot when the season started and they want to get back to that level or higher next season, and Bogdanovic and Burks help with that. Maybe. Or, perhaps this is posturing trying to drive up the price from the Lakers (an unprotected first-round pick) and other teams interested in the veterans. The interest in the veterans is not going away, the Pistons can at least try to create a bidding war and see what happens.
One way or another, expect the Pistons to be sellers at the deadline. Maybe just not as active of sellers as some expect.