It has been a strange season thus far for the Detroit Pistons.
What started with hope for a play-in berth has turned into a 16-game losing streak and plenty of questions about the roster construction and front office.
The biggest right now is hanging over second-year guard Jaden Ivey, who has been pulled, inserted and pulled again from the starting lineup and played just 13 minutes in the last loss to the Knicks.
Monty Williams has made it clear that defense matters, though it's unclear whether that applies to just Ivey, as the rest of the team has struggled defensively as well. To his credit, Ivey has shown some improvement on that end, so maybe Monty's tough love is working. Williams also made it clear that wins, not development, would be the priority this season, though there hasn't been much of either.
Williams' handling of Ivey has drawn the ire of fans and led to a logical question.
Are the Pistons going to trade Jaden Ivey?
Ivey did get into early foul trouble in the last game, so it's possible he would have played more if he hadn't picked up three early ones. We'll have to see how this plays out over the next few games to really get a sense of where Ivey stands in the rotation, but Ivey wasn't even the first young guard off the bench against the Knicks and rookie Marcus Sasser ended up playing 20 minutes while Ivey sat out the entire 1st and 3rd quarters.
Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports speculated that if this continues, other teams are going to start calling about the availability of Jaden Ivey:
"If Ivey remains on precarious footing, rest assured rival front offices will be dialing the Pistons, wondering what it would take to acquire a former top-five selection...There were a handful of teams, including the very Knicks that extended Detroit’s losing streak to 16 games Thursday, that attempted to trade up and acquire Ivey during the 2022 NBA Draft, even after the Pistons had made the pick official, sources said."
Ivey has said all of the right things so far this season and has expressed that he doesn't mind coming off the bench, but this may change if he continues to play paltry minutes, so is something to keep an eye on.
It was unthinkable that the Pistons might trade Ivey coming into the season, but now I am not so sure, as Monty Williams has a seven-year guaranteed contract and may win the battle if the front office decides this situation is untenable. Which leads to an internal struggle that could be brewing within the Detroit Pistons.
Monty Williams vs. Troy Weaver
Williams' contract likely gives him more security than Troy Weaver, who built the roster that is currently in a historic losing streak. Williams was a Tom Gores hire, and it was widely reported that Troy Weaver wanted to go with Kevin Ollie.
Considering Tom Gores signs the checks, Williams likely has the upper hand in any disputes about how the roster is deployed. These are Weaver's guys, not his, and thus far Monty has clearly not shared the same vision for how they are going to be used. Ivey went from part of the "backcourt of the future" to the second guard off the bench and you have to wonder how that sits with Weaver, whose own job status is shaky after he failed to improve the roster.
Neither has said anything publically but you can bet that tensions are brewing in the front office with every loss.
These questions can all get answered quickly if the Pistons just start winning, and hopefully they will, but if not, this kind of speculation about the construction of the roster and front office is going to linger all season or at least until the trade deadline.