- The Pistons have just 16 victories but at least their two lottery picks are finishing the season strong, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com notes. Earlier this week, Jaden Ivey had a career-best 32 points to go with eight rebounds and eight assists against Milwaukee, while Jalen Duren supplied 18 points, 10 rebounds and three assists off the bench. “It means everything,” Duren said. “We’re competing for next year at this point. We’re still learning and growing and getting better. It’s not time to go on vacation until the buzzer hits on the court in Chicago (April 9). I’m just locked in and focused on keep growing and getting better until the season is over.”
Pistons center James Wiseman is going to make it a priority this offseason to improve his strength with a weightlifting regimen, per head coach Dwane Casey (Twitter link via Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press).
First selected with the No. 2 pick out of Memphis in 2020, Wiseman failed to find his footing with the Warriors and was flipped to Detroit at the trade deadline in a four-team transaction. Since being sent to the rebuilding Pistons, the seven-footer has enjoyed a much more active role, averaging 13.4 PPG on 55.2% shooting, along with 8.7 RPG and 0.8 BPG across 26.0 MPG.
There’s more out of the Central Division:
- Bucks two-way rookie guard A.J. Green has an interesting history with Milwaukee as a city, as Lori Nickel of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes. His father, Kyle Green, served as an assistant coach at Marquette during the 2003/04 NCAA season. Kyle Green left his post to become a head coach at Lewis University in Chicago. The Iowa Barnstormers, A.J. Green’s AAU team, meanwhile, played at a tournament in Milwaukee while he was in high school. “I had an idea of what the city was like,” A.J. said. “Obviously, good basketball, good players, and good people. I knew that Milwaukee liked me, but it was not a sure thing. I’m so glad it was here.”
- Bulls head coach Billy Donovan has faced some criticism for an underwhelming season, but he’s earning praise from several of his best players, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. “He’s definitely underrated, underappreciated on the outside,’’ All-Star DeMar DeRozan said. ‘‘He’s easy-going, and as much as he’s locked into the game and pays attention to the small things, it’s incredible. His play-calling, his schemes — he puts a lot into the game that too many people don’t see.’’ At 36-40, the Bulls are currently the tenth seed in the East and are on the cusp of a play-in tournament berth.
- Pacers All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton and sharpshooting center Myles Turner could be shut down for the rest of the season, per Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. “They’ll be listed however they’re listed game-to-game,” head coach Rick Carlisle said following a team practice today. “If you’re asking if it’s possible that they don’t play anymore, yeah, it’s possible. It’s not impossible that one of them would play, but we’re going game to game with it.” Turner has missed the team’s last three games with a sore left ankle and sore lower back, while Haliburton has been absent for the last two due to a right ankle sprain and sore left elbow. Indiana is currently 3.5 games behind the Bulls for the No. 10 seed in the East.
- In a pair of mailbags for The Athletic, James L. Edwards fields Pistons-related questions on potential trade targets, the team’s crowded frontcourt, Dwane Casey‘s future, and much more. Regarding Casey, Edwards believes it’s more likely than not that the veteran coach will be back for next season, perhaps with a mandate to at least make the play-in tournament in 2023/24.
- According to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype (Twitter link), Eugene Omoruyi‘s new contract with the Pistons covers two seasons — it’s guaranteed for the rest of 2022/23, with a team option for ’23/24. In order to give Omoruyi more than the prorated minimum for the rest of this season, Detroit used a portion of its room exception to complete the signing, Hoops Rumors has learned. Instead of the $169,445 he would’ve gotten on a minimum-salary deal, the 26-year-old received $269,445 for ’22/23.
- Like Hill in Indiana, Pistons wing Rodney McGruder is on Detroit’s roster more for his locker-room presence than his production on the court. However, due to injuries, he has started the team’s last eight games and is playing a regular rotation role for the first time this season. James L. Edwards III of The Athletic explores McGruder’s on- and off-court contributions and digs into why he’s so respected by the Pistons’ young players.
The Pistons have signed second-year forward Eugene Omoruyi to a contract that covers at least the rest of the 2022/23 season, the team announced.
The 26-year-old just completed his second 10-day deal with Detroit, and the Pistons decided to keep him around. Head coach Dwane Casey and center James Wiseman praised Omoruyi for his drive, energy and defense in recent weeks.
The former Oregon standout was on a two-way contract with the Thunder earlier this season until being promoted to Oklahoma City’s standard roster after last month’s trade deadline. However, he was cut in late February in order to make room for Lindy Waters on OKC’s 15-man squad.
Omoruyi appeared in 23 games with the Thunder, averaging 4.9 points and 2.3 rebounds on .468/.258/.607 shooting in 11.8 minutes per night. In 10 games with the Pistons, he’s averaging 8.8 points and 3.6 rebounds on .455/.231/.750 shooting in 21.3 minutes per contest.
We’ll have to wait for more details to see whether Omoruyi’s new contract only covers the rest of the season or is a multiyear deal. Either way, the Pistons had a roster opening after his second 10-day contract expired, so they didn’t have to release anyone to bring him back.
Saddiq Bey knew he was the subject of trade rumors going into last month’s deadline, but he was surprised when the Pistons actually dealt him, writes Mike Curtis of The Detroit News. Bey was sent to the Hawks in a four-team deal that didn’t become official until four days after it was agreed upon. He decided to look on the bright side of being traded and focus on contributing to his new team.
“It’s tough as a competitor, but you have to remember that once you get traded, somebody wanted you as well,” said Bey, who spent his first two-and-a-half NBA seasons in Detroit. “You could look at it in a negative way, like, ‘Damn, this team didn’t want me? But this team does want me.’ I think for me, looking at my faith, I just really trusted God. I think this is the place He wants me to be at, so I gotta make the most of it.”
The trade put Bey in the middle of a playoff race, and he’s been able to help Atlanta in its postseason push. He’s averaging 10.4 points and 4.3 rebounds in 15 games since joining the Hawks while shooting 45.6% from three-point range.
“Saddiq respects the game, works on his body, works on his craft,” teammate John Collins said. “Has a total understanding on what it means to be a pro, so I just try to tell him to stay solid mentally and know that his time is coming.”
There’s more from the Southeast Division:
- The Magic are a long shot to climb into the play-in tournament, but they’re enjoying the chance to play spoiler against teams that are above them in the standings, per Nathaniel Marrerro of The Orlando Sentinel. “When you’ve got teams that are trying to fight for playoff spots or fight to get into the playoffs, the intensity in the game is just a lot different,” Markelle Fultz said after Tuesday’s win over the 11th-seeded Wizards. “Any opportunity we get a chance to do that is huge for us and we’ve got to really lock in and take advantage of it.”
- Steve Apostolopoulos, a Canadian billionaire who had discussions with Michael Jordan about buying the Hornets, has decided to focus on a chance to purchase the NFL’s Washington Commanders, according to Brian Windhorst and Adam Schefter of ESPN. Jordan’s company issued a statement this week revealing that he has talked to minority owner Gabe Plotkin about buying a larger share of the team, writes Steve Reed of The Associated Press, but the release doesn’t specify whether Jordan plans to remain the majority owner.
- Nick Richards‘ new three-year extension with the Hornets includes a team option for the final season, tweets Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.
This is the 10th entry in our series breaking down the significant trades of the 2022/23 season. As opposed to giving out grades, this series explores why the teams were motivated to make the moves. Let’s dive into the most controversial trade of the deadline, a four-team deal between the Pistons, Warriors, Trail Blazers and Hawks.
On February 9:
- The Hawks acquired Saddiq Bey.
- The Pistons acquired James Wiseman.
- The Warriors acquired Gary Payton II, the Hawks’ 2026 second-round pick, and the Hawks’ 2028 second-round pick.
- The Trail Blazers acquired Kevin Knox, either the Hawks’ or Nets’ 2023 second-round pick (whichever is most favorable; from Hawks), the Hawks’ 2024 second-round pick, the Hawks’ 2025 second-round pick (protected 41-60), the Grizzlies’ 2026 second-round pick (top-42 protected; from Warriors), and the Warriors’ 2028 second-round pick.
- Notes: The Hawks previously traded their 2024 second-round pick to the Trail Blazers with top-55 protection. Those protections were removed as part of this deal. This trade technically wasn’t finalized until February 12, which we’ll cover below.
The Pistons’ perspective:
Wiseman was reportedly atop Detroit’s draft board in 2020, when he was selected No. 2 overall by Golden State. The Pistons wouldn’t have traded for him if they didn’t believe in his talent and potential.
Interestingly, Wiseman is the second former No. 2 overall pick that general manager Troy Weaver has traded for in the past two years, joining Marvin Bagley III. They have several similarities, including being left-handed big men who have struggled with inconsistency and injuries since entering the NBA.
Wiseman was something of a mystery prospect, as he only played three college games at Memphis before being ruled ineligible. Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the truncated offseason, he didn’t have a full training camp entering his rookie season, which certainly wasn’t ideal for a player who already was lacking in high-level experience.
He showed some flashes of upside in 2020/21, averaging 11.5 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 0.9 BPG while shooting 51.9% from the floor and 62.8% from the free throw line in 39 games (27 starts, 21.4 MPG). He also shot 31.6% from three-point range on one attempt per night.
Unfortunately, he sustained a torn meniscus in his right knee that required surgery in April 2021. Wiseman had a lengthy recovery process, which included multiple setbacks and a second surgery – an arthroscopic procedure – in December 2021. He ultimately missed the entire ‘21/22 season.
Prior to the trade, Wiseman had appeared in just 60 NBA contests. In 21 games (12.5 MPG) this season with the Warriors, he averaged 6.9 PPG and 3.5 RPG while shooting 62.8% from the field and 68.4% from the line.
Wiseman, who turns 22 at the end of the month, needed more reps. Weaver said as much after the trade. There’s a lot of pressure on top draft picks like Wiseman, but he’s still early in the learning process, as head coach Dwane Casey noted earlier this month. It’s not something that can be rushed.
The Warriors didn’t have time to be patient with Wiseman. They won the title without him contributing last season, and he was struggling when he played for them in ’22/23. The Pistons are in the midst of a rebuild and can afford to be patient, at least in the short term.
At 7’0″ and 240 pounds with a 7’6″ wingspan, Wiseman has an inherent edge in two areas that can’t be taught: size and length. Those factors, combined with his plus leaping ability, make him a natural lob threat, and he has posted above average rebounding numbers with Detroit. He also has long strides and runs the floor well for a center.
Through 15 games (13 starts, 26.3 MPG) with Detroit, Wiseman is averaging 13.3 PPG, 9.0 RPG and 0.9 BPG while shooting 55.1% from the field and 68.8% from the line. He’s just 3-of-14 from deep.
It was a risky trade, to be sure. Bey had been a solid contributor for the Pistons and rarely missed games. But they’re in a position where they need to acquire star-level talent if they want to be competitive in the future, and they think Wiseman has the upside to reach that level.
The fit is a bit clunky and will be interesting to monitor going forward. The Pistons seem intent on running a two-big lineup, as they also have Isaiah Stewart (likely out for the season with a shoulder injury) and Jalen Duren, a couple of recent first-round picks. Wiseman, Bagley, Stewart and Duren will all have to improve in multiple areas for it to work.
That frontcourt will be even more crowded if Detroit wins the lottery again and drafts Victor Wembanyama. Still, that would be a good problem to have and would be one the team can figure out later if it happens.
Wiseman will be eligible for a rookie scale extension in the offseason. Given how rough around the edges he is, I would think the Pistons will wait on that decision until after ‘23/24, when he could be a restricted free agent if Detroit gives him a qualifying offer.
Ultimately, this trade was a home run swing on Wiseman’s talent. The Pistons had a long look at Bey, but they think Wiseman can be a real difference-maker while viewing Bey as having relatively less upside.
The Warriors’ perspective:
Did Golden State sell low on Wiseman? I don’t think so. Just because he was a top pick a few years ago doesn’t mean he’s still valued as such – if he was, the Warriors would have received more in return.
Golden State’s motion offense requires bigs who can set solid (sometimes illegal) screens and make quick decisions with the ball. Neither of those things are strengths of Wiseman’s at the moment.
The Warriors initially tried to cater to Wiseman as a rookie by clearing out the side and giving him isolation post-up touches. That’s never been their style though, and it totally disrupted the flow of their offense (he also was largely ineffective in those situations, often struggling with getting pushed off his spot, which is something he’s still working on).
After he returned from injury this season, they were using him the same way they’ve used their other centers over the years. He just wasn’t playing well.
Even more troubling than the poor offensive fit was how much he struggled defensively. Wiseman runs the floor well in the open court, but he doesn’t have good body control in tight spaces, especially when backpedaling.
Opponents are shooting 70.3% at the rim against Wiseman, which is the worst mark in the league among centers who contest at least four rim attempts per game, according to NBA.com‘s data. DunksAndThrees.com‘s defensive estimated plus-minus ranks him as the third-worst defender in the NBA. It’s really tough to have the backbone of your defense be that much of a negative.
It’s a small sample size (only 262 minutes), but Wiseman’s net rating with the Warriors in ’22/23 was minus-19.3, with the equivalent of the worst offense and defense in the league (he’s at minus-11.1 with the Pistons). Golden State was plus-2.3 in 2,403 minutes with him off the court.
It just wasn’t working for either side. Wiseman looked confused and was visibly losing confidence, and the Warriors had a healthy player making $9.6MM this season who was detrimental to the team’s success when he played.
Payton, meanwhile, was an excellent fit with the Warriors, helping them win their fourth title in eight seasons in ’21/22. A tremendous athlete, the 6’3″ Payton fit well as a pseudo-big man offensively, recording 55 dunks out of 212 made field goals last season, a remarkably high percentage for a guard.
The 30-year-old had a great understanding of the team’s schemes on both ends, with many of those dunks coming off scripted plays on slipped screens. When healthy, he is a top-tier defensive player often tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter player.
The problem was, according to the Warriors’ doctors and Payton himself, he wasn’t healthy. He failed his physical, which held up this four-team deal for three days after the deadline, at which point Golden State ultimately decided to go through with it. He had just started against the Warriors night before the trade, so there’s no way they could’ve known he was going to be sidelined as long as he has.
Payton only played 15 games with the Trail Blazers after signing a three-year contract with them last summer. He was slow to recover from abdominal surgery, which is the same injury that was flagged on his physical. Owner Joe Lacob said Portland was “disingenuous” and broke an “honor code” by not disclosing the extent of Payton’s injury.
This is an unfortunate example of why it’s risky to make a deal at the last minute just before the deadline. If it had been made a few days earlier, the Warriors could have asked to amend the terms of the trade, but they didn’t have that option once the deadline passed.
It’s true the Warriors could have re-signed Payton in the offseason without giving anything up. But due to the way the repeater tax works, his $8.3MM contract would have added about $60MM to their already record-breaking luxury tax bill — an exorbitant amount for a role player.
This trade saved them money both this season and next, as Wiseman is scheduled to make $12.12MM next season in the final year of his rookie deal, while Payton will earn $8.72MM in ‘23/24.
Hopefully Payton is able to return and contribute to close the season, as he has been sidelined since the Warriors approved the deal. He’s an exciting player to watch and played a key role in last season’s title run.
The Trail Blazers’ perspective:
Was it a red flag that Portland was willing to trade Payton so soon after signing him? The Blazers need defensive help and he is one of the best perimeter defenders in the league when active.
Still, I highly doubt there was anything nefarious going on. Differences of opinion happen all the time when it comes to medical issues, which is why players often seek out multiple doctors before undergoing surgery.
If it turns out the Blazers intentionally withheld information about Payton’s injury, then it would rightfully impact their reputation around the league and they might lose a second-round pick. I don’t see why they would risk that just to add a handful of second-rounders and move off Payton’s salary.
The Blazers created an $8.3MM traded player exception as part of the deal, which is what Payton makes this season. They will have until next February to use it.
Portland also added Knox, who makes $3MM this season. The former lottery pick is now on his fourth team in 14 months. His $3MM team option for next season is reasonable enough if the Blazers want to bring him back, but he’s only played 55 minutes in 10 games thus far with Portland.
The Hawks’ perspective:
This trade could be viewed in three parts for the Hawks. First, they sent out five second-rounders to acquire Bey (and Knox, who was then flipped to Portland).
Second, they created about $3MM in salary cap relief by making a four-player trade with Houston at the deadline, dealing away two second-rounders (via the Thunder) in the process. That allowed them to take on Bey’s salary while remaining under the luxury tax line.
Finally, they were able to absorb Bey’s $2.96MM contract with a trade exception they generated last summer when they moved Kevin Huerter to Sacramento.
If you want to look at it in total, they basically shuffled around some end-of-bench players and dealt away seven second-rounders to add Bey, a third-year forward.
You could certainly make the case that Bey was the best player involved in this deal at the time it was made, even if he isn’t a household name. He appeared in 204 of a possible 210 games with Detroit (30.0 MPG), averaging 14.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.0 APG and 0.9 SPG on .400/.357/.843 shooting in two-plus seasons.
From watching him play with the Pistons, I always felt that Bey could really shoot, but he was forced to take difficult shots because they had a team full of young players trying to figure things out, and he was one of the only real threats from deep. I think that experience will make him better in the long run because it helped him develop his off-the-bounce game, and he’s a solid passer who very rarely turns it over. He’s below average on defense, but not a liability or anything.
Frankly, I’m not sure why the Warriors didn’t just take Bey in this deal. He may not have been familiar with the system, and he certainly isn’t nearly the defensive player that Payton is, but I thought they could use another forward instead of another guard, and he seemed like a good fit. He’s also much cheaper than Payton, earning $4.56MM next season in the final year of his rookie contract.
Either way, obviously the Hawks wanted him. Through 15 games (25.1 MPG) in a reduced role with Atlanta, Bey is averaging 10.4 PPG and 4.3 RPG on a strong .466/.456/.789 shooting line.
As with Wiseman, Bey was a first-round pick in 2020 (No. 19 overall) so he will be eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer. The former Villanova product will turn 24 years old on the last day of the regular season (April 9).
The Pistons faced the Heat on Sunday and it gave Jalen Duren an up-close lesson on how counterpart Bam Adebayo plays. The Pistons would like to see Duren emulates Adebayo’s approach, according to Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press.
“I was watching Bam even before I was in the league,” the Pistons’ rookie center said. “One of the guys I pay attention to, being a big guy who does a lot. You can talk about the skill factor, but I look at it from the standpoint of just affecting the game in more ways than one. Some guys just affect the game scoring, some guys affect it on the defensive end, which isn’t bad. But I feel like Bam is a guy who affects it all around in just terms of his hustle, his IQ, his defensive mindset, he can score it, his ability to connect the floor. That’s what I try to be.”
Duren left Sunday’s game with a head injury after a collision with Miami’s Kevin Love, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com tweets.
- Pistons forward Marvin Bagley III was not only back in action on Sunday, he was in the starting lineup, Langlois tweets. Bagley missed the previous three games with right ankle soreness. He scored 14 points.
- Pistons centers Jalen Duren and James Wiseman displayed some surprising chemistry when they played together on Thursday, but having them both on the court did create some spacing issues, writes Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (subscription required). The Pistons, who would like to use both young big men going forward, are hopeful that Wiseman’s jump shot will continue to develop, helping to ease those spacing concerns, Sankofa notes.