Pistons Acquire Donatas Motiejunas

NBA: Orlando Magic at Houston Rockets

Troy Taormina / USA TODAY Sports Images

8:43pm: The Pistons acquired Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton from the Rockets as part of a three-team trade involving the Sixers, the teams all announced. The Rockets received Detroit’s top-eight protected 2016 first-round pick from the Pistons and the rights to draft-and-stash player Chukwudiebere “Chu” Maduabum from the Sixers. Philadelphia gets Joel Anthony from Detroit and Denver’s 2017 second-round pick from Houston. The Sixers are likely to waive Anthony, a league source told John Gonzalez of CSNPhilly.com (Twitter link).

Motiejunas projects to be backup for Tobias Harris, whom the Pistons also recently acquired via trade, while Thornton adds depth on the wing. The Pistons paid a steep price in adding pieces to their rotation, particularly given the lingering back issues that have kept Motiejunas from appearing in a game since the calendar flipped to 2016. Still, Pistons executive/coach Stan Van Gundy has a track record of paying heavily for players he likes, as Marc Stein of ESPN tweets. Van Gundy and company will get to match offers in restricted free agency for Motiejunas this summer, while Thornton is heading to unrestricted free agency at the completion of his one-year deal.

“We’re happy to welcome Donatas and Marcus to the Pistons family,” Pistons GM Jeff Bower said. “We like Donatas’ size, his skill level and his ability to play two frontcourt positions. Marcus adds scoring punch to our bench with his ability to create his own shot and make plays.  We thank Joel Anthony for his professionalism throughout his time here and we wish him the best going forward.” 

It’s no surprise to see Motiejunas depart from Houston, as it was a lock that either he or Terrence Jones would leave the Rockets as restricted free agents this summer, Zach Lowe of ESPN.com reported earlier this week. Stein reported earlier in the day that the Pistons had offered Anthony to the Rockets in exchange for Motiejunas, but instead the Rockets end up with a lightly protected first-rounder. The protection covers the top 10 in 2017 and 2018 if it doesn’t convey with top-eight protection this year, an odd wrinkle. The deal also allows the Rockets to create a trade exception worth $2,288,205, Motiejunas’ salary for this season, and another worth $947,276 as a vestige of Thornton. Maduabum, the other asset Houston gained in the deal, was the 56th overall pick in 2011 and plays for Pyrinto Tampere in Finland, well off pro basketball’s beaten path.

Philadelphia’s end of the move has the hallmarks of GM Sam Hinkie rather than chairman of basketball operations Jerry Colangelo. The Sixers score a second-rounder and use their cap space to absorb a veteran player it seems they’d prefer not to keep. They waived JaKarr Sampson to accommodate the move, since they couldn’t trade for Anthony, even if they intended to release him, without first opening a roster spot. Anthony was fresh off re-signing with the Pistons in July on a two-year deal worth $5MM, but only the first season’s $2.5MM salary was guaranteed.

Will Joseph contributed to this post. Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical on Yahoo Sports first reported Motiejunas and Thornton were headed to Detroit and that the Pistons were giving up Anthony and the protected 2016 first-rounder (Twitter links). Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com revealed the protection involved with the pick (on Twitter). Wojnarowski later relayed the involvement of the Sixers (Twitter link), while Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reported the second-round pick going to Philly (Twitter link). Gonzalez had news of the rights to Maduabum heading to Houston (Twitter links). RealGM provided additional draft pick detail.

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18 thoughts on “Pistons Acquire Donatas Motiejunas

    • Mario Renteria

      should have traded Howard, Morey, and Harden. My goodness what are they thinking, but then if you think about it we get a very high draft pick and ain’t no telling when Dmo was going to play

    • How so? One of Montiejunas or Jones is going to leave at the end of the year so to prevent them walking for nothing, you gotta trade one of them. Rockets could’ve probably gotten a little more but how much more? They’re getting a pick that is likely to switch hands this year for a guy who has some history with back issues and is still a threat to walk if another team gives him a big enough offer.

      • steve

        I think it’s not a good trade for the Pistons. I don’t see why a team that is battling for 8-7 seed is trading away a 1st rounder to solidify their bench, I don’t think DMO puts them over the top and isn’t he going to be an FA anyways?

  1. Considering one of Montiejunas or Jones are destined to leave, this isn’t a bad haul. No team was going to trade for both in the same deal so its about which of the two the Rockets picture as a better long term piece (which I feel Jones is) and getting value for the other one. Montiejunas has back problems which are cause for concern in big guys and thus lowers his value a bit. Also trading Howard wasn’t a realistic scenario unless the Rockets were prepared to eat a part of his contract and lower their price. They’re not going to get a younger, controlled All-Star caliber player plus more for a guy who is likely to opt out at the end of the year.

  2. thegoat2531

    Not really sure why Stons would give up the top-8 protected. Like the two players in return though. Would rather like to see Joel for Donatas straight up, but Thornton gives us good depth.

  3. Jon L

    I like this move a lot. Marcus Thornton is a great scorer and can fill the Jodie Meeks void for the time being and DMo is a respectable shooter and a post-beast!! I’m excited for the Pistons, and I’m a Celtics fan!

    • Arthur Hill

      Thornton won’t give give them anything defensively, but he’s a great shooter to bring off the bench. Plus he’s get a minimum contract and should be easy to re-sign if the Pistons want to keep him.

  4. thegoat2531

    Why give up the top-8 pick? Would’ve liked Donatas for Joel straight up. Don’t mind Thornton though. SVG is really trying to make this run!

    • The Kid

      Not top 8. Top 8 protected means Detroit only gets to keep it if it falls in the top 8 which it surely won’t. Actually a really good deal in a weak mid-first range draft.

      • thegoat2531

        So would that be the same for Houston? If so why would they do that. I assume it isn’t that way.

        • Arthur Hill

          The Pistons get to keep the pick if it’s among the first eight choices this year. If it’s ninth or higher, it goes to Houston.

    • Donatas for Joel is so off in value even with DMo’s injury. Thats why the extra pieces had to be included. Joel and a first is, in my opinion, too much for DMo straight up so adding in another pick or player in return was needed.

  5. victor

    i was thinking d-mo had more value then that i know he has caught the injury bug here last season and a half but before that when dwight was out he was a rock in the post for the ROX .. i wonder if morey is getting to smart for himself…

    • Arthur Hill

      I think the Rockets would have been more patient if Motiejunas hadn’t been headed for free agency. Also, I’m not sure this trade means Terrence Jones is staying in Houston, unless he agrees to a bargain deal. The Rockets’ starting power forward next season probably isn’t on the roster yet.

  6. Dana Gauruder

    If DM’s back is not a long-term issue, this is another good move by the Pistons. They probably weren’t going to get an impact player in the 10-17 range of the draft and SVG really likes his offensive versatility. Thornton gives them another bench option with Meeks out.

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