Report: Detroit Pistons engaged with Phoenix Suns in Luke Kennard trade talks

Early Tuesday morning ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Detroit Pistons and Phoenix Suns were engaged in Luke Kennard trade talks. Here’s the latest.

Third-year guard Luke Kennard is the focal point of trade discussions between the Detroit Pistons and Phoenix Suns.

It was first reported the Pistons were listening to offers on Kennard last week by The Athletic’s James L. Edwards III. Early Tuesday morning, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the talks with the Pistons are “gaining traction.”

Phoenix is willing to include its 2020 first round pick, currently slotted 11th overall by Tankathon.com. The Suns (20-30) sit five games behind the Grizzlies, who hold the eighth pick in the Western Conference. The New Orleans Pelicans are currently surging, going 14-8 since Dec. 18, including a 3-3 start since Zion Williamson‘s NBA debut.

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Wojnarowski reported that Jevon Carter and Elie Okobo are a part of discussions. The timing is interesting as the Suns are set to visit Detroit on Wednesday.

Kennard, 23, was selected by Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Bowers — who is currently vice president of basketball operations for the Suns — 12th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft. He’s started 25 of 28 games this season but has sat out the last 22 with knee tendinitis. He’s averaging career-highs in points (15.8), rebounds (3.5), assists (4.1) and minutes (32.9) per game. He’s a career 40.2% 3-point shooter.

Tuesday’s report said the Suns envision Kennard as their sixth man, playing 30 minutes per game. He is set to become a restricted free agent following the 2020-21 season.

Carter, 24, is in his second season and on his second team. His 6-foot-1 frame with a 6-4 wingspan makes him an asset defensively, in which e has 1.2 defensive win shares in 73 career games, marginally as a role player. He has five starts and is averaging 14.3 minutes per game. He has been much better with the Suns but still has a shooting slash of .398/.418/.818.

Okobo, 22, was selected one pick before Carter, 31st overall, in the 2018 NBA Draft. Okobo started 18 games with the Suns in his rookie season but since beefing up their roster this season, he has three starts in 39 games. This season, Okobo has a 22.4% assist rate and 10.4% turnover rate. His shooting slash is .387/.345/.678.

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Of note, Okobo is a native of France could be as valuable in the locker room than anything. Pistons rookie Sekou Doumbouya has impressed in his first month of consistent NBA action. The 15th overall pick was a raw prospect, who didn’t turn 19 until December, and is also french. Detroit was reportedly interested in New York Knicks point guard Frank Ntilikina, who is also French. It’s clear the Pistons want to bring in someone who can grow with Doumbouya through similar struggles to help him adjust to a new country.

Okobo’s deal is set to expire after the 2020-21 season, valued at $1.7 million, though there is a team option for the 2021-22 season worth $1.8 million. Carter’s deal expires after this season, when he can hit restricted free agency.

This deal can’t stand alone, however. The Pistons would need to clear a roster spot, either by cutting someone, such as Tim Frazier or Khyri Thomas, or moving someone else. It’s possible this is the beginning of an expanded deal, too.

The fact that the Pistons could bring back both Carter and Okobo may be tipping the Pistons’ hand early. That would give them five point guards with Frazier, Reggie Jackson and Derrick Rose. Though Jackson and Frazier are on expiring contracts, Rose is the most likely to be traded and can fetch the best assets on the trade market.

Expect more deals to be on the horizon as the Pistons can make deals in a variety of ways. With all of their expiring contracts, they could be a trade partner or assist deals as a third team financially to gain assets.

Kennard, Jackson and likely trade candidates Langston Galloway and Andre Drummond are the final four Pistons remaining from the Van Gundy/Bower tenure, which was only two seasons ago. Dwane Casey took over as head coach, and Ed Stefanski as senior advisor, before the 2018-19 season.

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