Inside Pistons’ draft night, how they got Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren, what’s ahead

Trying to figure out Pistons general manager Troy Weaver is like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. You’re better served just coming back to it another day, building and building, until, eventually, the picture becomes a frame on your wall.

Since taking over in 2020, Weaver has made multiple moves that, at first glance, may leave you feeling empty or muddled. Then another move comes the next day, rolling into the previous one, and so on and so on, until the picture is staring back at you completely. The man in charge of turning Detroit back into a relevant franchise after more than a 15-year timeout has continuously preached patience as he and his staff build the Pistons up “the right way,” not skipping steps and constructing through the draft and unique ways to add assets. It’s how he goes about his transactions, too, as many are individual moves that collectively lead to a larger one by the time the ink dries on the paper.

In a matter of days, a simple equation can morph into AP Algebra.

This week, Weaver put together a masterclass in patience and execution. On Wednesday, with just a little more than 24 hours until the NBA Draft would start, the Pistons traded veteran forward Jerami Grant to the Trail Blazers for a 2025 first-round pick via Milwaukee, the 36th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft and a pair of future seconds. On the surface, the return for Grant appeared underwhelming considering that he’s a two-way wing, in his prime, and has been the topic of trade conversations for the better part of this calendar year. The ghosts of Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon rose from the depths of hell as fans thought about the idea of ​​the Pistons carrying close to $ 50 million in cap space after dealing Grant into Portland’s Grant-sized trade exception. A tortured fan base thought it was stepping into a revolving door of horror.

However, as a draft night came and the best guard in the draft, Purdue’s Jaden Ivey, landed in Detroit’s lap with the No. 5 pick, the phones started ringing. Teams, per sources, were blowing up the Pistons with their best offers for Ivey. On the other end, Weaver and his crew were making calls of their own, trying to find a way to land 18-year-old Memphis big man Jalen Duren, who, according to sources, blew the Pistons away in the pre-draft process and has long had fans in Detroit’s front office.

From here, this is where the Grant trade comes back into play.

The Pistons, searching for a way to get back into the lottery, used the Knicks’ troublesome financial situation against them. New York has made it no secret that it would like to pursue Dallas guard Jalen Brunson in free agency, but needed to shed some salary in order to make a legit run, making Detroit the perfect trade partner. After failing in their attempt to pry away Ivey from Detroit, the Knicks pivoted. They used the No. 11 pick (Ousmane Dieng) to acquire three first-round picks from the Thunder. New York turned around and used draft capital to acquire Duren from the Hornets, who took the big man 13th overall. Then, the Pistons and Knicks agreed on a deal that landed Detroit its coveted target in Duren and had the Pistons happily take on the remaining $ 9 million on Kemba Walker’s contract. By sources, Detroit will buy out the veteran point guard.

Ultimately, this is what the Pistons got for trading Jerami Grant: Duren (the 13th pick), the 36th pick (Gabriele Procida, who will be stashed, per sources) and more than $ 30 million in cap space at their disposal. That’s anything but underwhelming.

Patience.

The Pistons now move into the next phase of their “restoration” with one of the most intriguing young cores in the NBA – Cade Cunningham, Ivey, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart and Duren – as well as enough space to make a run at a max-level player. However, while all signs have pointed to Detroit making a serious run at Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton over the last few days, that appears less likely after the Pistons walked away with two of the highest players on the organization’s big board. Per sources, Detroit is eager to continue to build back toward playoff contention with the aforementioned young core, and the Pistons are expected to use the majority of their remaining cap space to add multiple veteran pieces rather than just one big swing this offseason, per sources .

For the last 48 hours, it appeared that landing Ayton would be Plan A for Detroit. Acquiring the additional $ 20 million in cap space created an opportunity for the Pistons to put the fear into any team with a blue-chip restricted free agent. In all actuality, though, the events on Thursday signal the Ayton route being Plan B. Plan A manifested in Brooklyn, when Ivey unexpectedly slid to the Pistons and they found a way to get back into the lottery to add Duren. For sources, this was the best-case scenario.

Being able to add additional cap space in trading Grant allows Detroit to take on Walker’s money with no hesitation. The Pistons still project to be one of the biggest spenders when free agency opens. This is why gaining financial flexibility was so important to the franchise. Detroit could have a Plan A, B and C, all of which were obtainable. It’s been a while since the organization could control its own course.

Weaver went into this week with a plan. He executed. Weaver wanted his guys and he got them. Detroit wasn’t very athletic a week ago. It got the most athletic guard and most athletic big man in the draft. The Pistons, as an organization, from top to bottom, are as healthy as they’ve been since their last championship in 2004.

It was obvious that Detroit would do something this offseason. No one, though, knew exactly what, or how it would happen. That’s how Weaver likes it. Unpredictable. Chaotic. Loud. Then you take a step back and see the puzzle come together.

(Top photo credit Troy Weaver: Chris Schwegler / NBAE via Getty Images)

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