The Detroit Pistons entered the offseason with the most cap space in the NBA, and many thought they would use it to make an offer to restricted free agent Deandre Ayton.
The Pistons had the most money, and the fit was there, as Detroit had no big-man depth and needed a center who could run the pick-and-roll, catch a lob and protect the rim. Ayton does all of those things well and is still young enough that his next contract would net the signing team the majority of his prime years.
But it wasn’t meant to be, as Troy Weaver was able to pull off a draft-day coup by landing Jaden Ivey with the 5th pick and then trading for Jalen Duren, who was reportedly one of their top targets and a guy they had other trades set up to get if the first one fell through.
After trading for Nerlens Noel, landing Duren and re-signing Marvin Bagley III, the Detroit Pistons suddenly had five players who can play the center position.
This pretty much made pursuing Ayton a moot point and the Pistons never got in on the bidding war for his services, which is probably for the best.
Detroit Pistons: Deandre Ayton or Jalen Duren?
I should first say that I really like Ayton, think he is a bit underrated as a big man, and would have been happy if the Pistons had signed him in a vacuum.
But after they were able to get a veteran and a high-ceiling prospect, missing out on Ayton really doesn’t sting and it is probably for the best.
Ayton signed a 4 year/$133 million offer sheet from the Pacers that the Suns ended up matching, so he is going to be making a whopping $33 million a year.
Here are some other guys who will be making the same salary next season:
- Karl-Anthony Towns
- Devin Booker
- Joel Embiid
- Nikola Jokic
Like I said, Ayton is a good player, but is he in the same tier as the two-time MVP? As his own teammate Devin Booker?
The Pistons have one of the best payroll situations in the NBA right now, and though they definitely could have afforded Ayton, and he would have been a nice fit, that’s a lot of money for a guy who is the third option on a good team.
When the other two guys are Booker and Chris Paul, then that works out just fine, but the Pistons don’t have that kind of “win-now” talent and there is a chance they won’t really start getting good until the latter half of Ayton’s contract, by which time Duren may be good himself and still on a lowball rookie deal.
I went back and forth on Ayton, as he would have been a nice addition who undoubtedly would have made the Pistons better, but it also might be the height of foolishness to shell out that kind of money for a center in the modern NBA when he’s not one of the top 3-4 guys at his position.
In the end, it was probably never that close to happening, and it’s clear now that the Suns would have matched any offer, but getting Jalen Duren will give the Pistons the chance to develop their own Ayton for far less.