Detroit Pistons: Roster locks and bubble boys

Detroit Pistons Derrick Rose. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
Detroit Pistons Derrick Rose. (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images) /
3 of 3
Detroit Pistons guard Wayne Ellington
CLEVELAND, OHIO – MARCH 18: Wayne Ellington #20 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Whose bubble bursts?

When you are a veteran brought in to a team that is ‘retooling’ like the Detroit Pistons, there is a different type of pressure. Of course, they are expected to play well and help the team. That is why they are there.

However, they are also expected to help the young players learn, and if they are standing in the way of a young player getting minutes to develop, they might be sitting on the bench or traded, even if they are playing better than the young player.

Related Story. Is Detroit Pistons GM Troy Weaver the new Sam Hinkie?. light

The other part of being on a team ,  not looked at as a championship contender, is that the roster can be fluid, as the general manager could be on a season-long search to upgrade the team. Team chemistry and loyalty do not mean much to a club trying to avoid the lottery (also a team that wants to be in the lottery).

With those circumstances in mind, here is a list of the current Pistons players who one could say are on the ‘bubble’. EIther they might not make the team, be traded for an asset, or be sent to the G-League.

The list goes from least likely to go, to the highest chance:

Delon Wright

The 6-foot-5 veteran could end up as a starter,or as a shooting guard who could aid Killian Hayes with the ballhandling. He also could be the first guard off the bench, if Derrick Rose starts. But Wright looked underwhelming in the two games with the Knicks, as he averaged just 3.0 points. That is good enough for an OK player off the bench stats, not NBA starter. He is a favorite of coach Dwane Casey, having played for him in Toronto. But he has a big contract ($9 million) and if he does not start producing, they may look for an alternative.

Josh Jackson

The 6-foot-8 wing has oodles of potential. Of course, what is the old saying about playing potential? (It gets coaches fired). Jackson was the No. 4 pick in the NBA Draft three years ago, which is good. But he was playing in the G-League at this time last year. That is bad. Jackson has shown flashes of the player he was drafted to be so far. If he regresses, Jackson has a small contract and it would not be much of a hit to let him go. If he looks good, he might be trade bait.

Jahlil Okafor

Okafor has done well in Detroit’s first two games. But his game, low post scoring exclusively, was a  lot better in 1995 than now. He has not been a great rebounder, passer (surprising since his hands are HUGE), or defensive player so far in his NBA career. That is why Detroit is his fourth team in four years. With Mason Plumlee being paid a lot of money, Isaiah Stewart a first round pick, and Jerami Grant and Blake Griffin perfectly capable of playing small-ball center; is there a place for Okafor?

Wayne Ellington

He was signed right before training camp and it was a bit of a surprise. Why would a team, looking to the future , want a 32-year-old guard who has already been with them? Ellington is on the floor to do one thing – shoot three-pointers. In two games, he has made just 25% of his three-point attempts. That will not cut it, if that continues. Outside shooters are notoriously streaky, so he could drill five three-pointers in a row against the Wizards. He is known as a character guy who will help the young players learn the ropes. If he does begin hitting his shots, Ellington might be better off being sent to a contender.

Deividas Sirvydis

It is hard to evaluate someone who has yet to even put on a Pistons uniform. Due to travel problems from his native Lithuania and league mandated COVID-19 protocols, Sirvydis is not expected to even be around the team until Friday. He has a three-year-contract, but for not a lot of money (He will be Detroit’s lowest paid player this season). The fact that the Pistons had to trade three-second round draft picks to get him two years ago , probably means he will make the team. However, being a 20-year-old swing player, if there is a G-League, you can bet Sirvydis will be playing there.

Rodney McGruder

Why is he on the team? Not saying the 6-foot-4 guard is not an NBA player. This will be his fifth season in the league. But McGruder is a defensive-oriented role player who is not a diver. He was on the bench of the Clippers last year. That is the type of team he should be on, a high motor guy who provides defensive intensity. Coach Dwane Casey had him playing with the rookies at the end of both Knicks game (and he did not do badly). There just is no role for him here. He will get traded for a protected 2028 second-round pick at the first opportunity.

Dzanan Musa

It is hard to evaluate a player who has not played in a game, as the 6-foot-9 guard (he is really thin) did not get into either Knicks game.

Maybe the fact that Musa was the only player on the roster not to play, outside of LiAngelo Ball (that is whole other story), says all you need to know. Coach Dwane Casey says it was nothing against Musa, he had to only so many minutes to distribute. We will see if Musa gets any court time against Washington. Right now, it does not look good for Musa to play any role with the Pistons. Hello Grand Rapids!

Saben Lee

He is the only player still with the team who does not have a guaranteed NBA contract for the season. Lee is on a two-way deal, which means he can not play more than 50 games for the Pistons. The rest of the time he must be in the G-League. Lee has looked good in the preseason. He ran the point at the end of the fourth quarter in both games, with the Knicks starters in, and handled the pressure well. The 6-foot-2 guard is suppose to be a scorer as well, but we have not seen that part of his game yet. Heck, he is shooting 37.5% on foul shots so far. With 16 guaranteed contracts already for 15 spots, Lee will probably be seeing a lot of Atlanta (where G-League bubble might be) or, eventually, Grand Rapids. But he definitely has shown promise. He just needs to knock down those free throws.

Next. Detroit Pistons: Don’t Worry About Killian Hayes’ Shooting. dark

The Pistons must get down to 15 players before its opener on December 23 so one player has to go, no matter what. They also have a two-way contract available. So, even if GM Troy Weaver is not looking to make deals (highly doubtful), Detroit still  have to make a couple more moves to its roster in the next week.