Troy Weaver and the Detroit Pistons are in a tough spot.
They clearly need an upgrade of proven talent moving forward and will have as many as seven roster spots to fill going into next offseason.
The Pistons may not have enough assets currently to make a big trade, and although they will have tons of cap space again, the 2024 free-agent crop is thin with realistic options.
As I wrote about yesterday, there are some big names in free agency, but most of them are likely to stay put and guys like LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard aren’t coming to Detroit even if they do leave their current teams.
There are a few impact players like Tobias Harris and Pascal Siakam, but both are near or over 30 years old, so the team that acquires them will be paying big bucks for less-than-prime years, which is not ideal.
There are also some good role players, guys like Buddy Hield, who would be a nice floor spreader next to Cade Cunningham and is a guy who has barely missed any games in his entire career, a trait the Pistons desperately need.
But there is really only one potential impact free agent whose age and skillset fit with the Detroit Pistons, and they should start working on acquiring him now.
The Detroit Pistons should pursue OG Anunoby right now
OG Anunoby has just a player option left on his current contract and he is almost certain to decline it in search of a bigger, long-term deal this offseason.
At 26 years old, he’s the right age to join the Pistons’ young core, as he’s got some experience but isn’t washed a la Joe Harris and is just entering his prime, so the Pistons would get all of his best years. He also has the right skill set as an elite defender who made the All-Defensive team last season and a guy who is currently knocking down nearly 40 percent of his 3-point shots on high volume.
If Monty Williams really wants to build around defense, adding another elite defender on the wing is the way to do it, as Anunoby and Thompson would terrorize opposing offenses. A starting five of Cade Cunningham, Ausar Thompson, OG Anunoby, Bojan Bogdanovic (or his replacement) and Jalen Duren is something to start with, then it will be on Troy Weaver to fill the rest of the holes with complementary veterans who can actually play.
Weaver doesn’t have too many clear avenues to improve this team, so going out and getting one of the top free agents should be a priority. The problem is that plenty of other teams are likely thinking the same thing.
Trading for OG Anuoby
The problem with trying to sign Anunoby as a free agent is that he may not even make it to free agency. If the Raptors feel they can’t or don’t want to sign him long-term, they’ll almost certainly trade him at the deadline, especially if they are still low in the standings as they are currently.
They would get a nice haul for trading Anunoby, which would be one way to kickstart a soft rebuild. Of course, they could put Pascal Siakam on the trade market instead, as he too is on the final guaranteed year of his deal, is older than Anunoby and will also net a significant return.
If Anunoby actually reached free agency, the Pistons would have as good a shot at him as anyone, as they will have the cap space, but so will teams like Philadelphia, who offer a more attractive spot to chase titles.
So trading for Anunoby might be the Pistons’ best chance, but what will it take? Jaden Ivey would almost certainly have to be involved, but what assets beyond that is up for debate. How much is a 3-and-D wing worth in today’s NBA? Anunoby is not an All-Star, but he’s an elite defender who can shoot, so will have plenty of value. Do the Pistons even have enough to trade for him?
I don’t know, but Troy Weaver should be on the phone to find out, as there aren’t many avenues to improve this team via trade or free agency and Anunoby is a guy who fits their ethos and timeline perfectly.