Proposed trade with Bulls has huge risk/reward for Pistons

Lonzo Ball #2 of the Chicago Bulls looks to shoot against Killian Hayes #7 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
Lonzo Ball #2 of the Chicago Bulls looks to shoot against Killian Hayes #7 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /
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Lonzo Ball #2 of the Chicago Bulls shoots against Killian Hayes #7 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

Proposed trade with Bulls has huge risk/reward for the Pistons

There would definitely be risk for the Detroit Pistons in a deal like this, but the possible rewards might make it worth it.

The risk

It’s not hyperbole to say that there is a chance that Lonzo Ball never plays basketball again. He’s now had multiple knee surgeries and will have missed at least two full seasons before trying to return to the NBA.

Detroit could be stuck paying a guy who never steps on the court $20 and 21 million over the next two seasons. This would not only set them back in 2023-24 but could eat up a big chunk of cap space for the following season.

The Pistons are certainly not in “win now” mode, but they are trying to improve, so fans would not be happy with any move that potentially led to more talk about tanking or waiting until next year.

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Lonzo Ball is a very good player when healthy, a strong perimeter defender who is a great passer and can stretch the floor with his 3-point shooting. He shot over 42 percent from long range in his last 35 games with the Bulls.

But it’s hard to see how he fits on this Pistons’ team even if he was healthy and that’s a huge IF, as he has pretty much been hurt every year he’s been in the NBA. Lonzo has played 52, 47, 63, 55, 35 and 0 games over his six years in the league.

He’s a versatile enough player that Detroit could probably find a suitable role for him, as he improved off the ball immensely and has shown he can be effective in that role, but will he ever play again?

The reward

If the Pistons were to do a deal like this, it would be for the pick, not the player, as no GM would realistically expect Lonzo Ball to make a contribution. Anything Lonzo gave the Pistons in the deal would just be gravy, as they would almost certainly try to buy him out at some point, good luck with that, as Lonzo is still young and not likely to walk away from what could be his last payday in the NBA.

It may seem like a pick in 2028 wouldn’t be worth giving up $20 million plus in cap space over the next two seasons and I would probably agree with that.

But the Bulls are at a crossroads, and it’s not going to be long before they blow up their roster and rebuild (which is why I don’t think they would do this trade) which means their pick could be very valuable in 2028, when they are likely to be terrible.

It’s a pick that could potentially be a huge asset for a trade in the next few seasons, as teams would be banking on the Bulls being bad and that pick ending up in the top-10. Of course, it is top-5 protected, which reduces the value and there is no guarantee the Bulls will be bad. They could very well still be a middling team stuck in NBA purgatory, which would lead to this pick potentially being outside of the lottery.

But until then it’s value would be in the eye of the beholder and its a pick that could be packaged in a bigger deal, especially if the Bulls were to be terrible next season, which is a distinct possibility.

Getting a first-round pick for Bogdanovic, potentially a high one, would be great, but Lonzo Ball’s contract and injury status/history make this move very risky for a team trying to improve, as it could cost them valuable cap space and basically waste a roster spot.

It’s the type of deal Troy Weaver may have to consider if he is really set on getting a first-rounder for Bojan. The potential reward is there, but it comes with considerable financial risk.

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