NBA free agency is just one day away. The moratorium period kicks off Thursday evening when teams can officially start making deals with players. Those contracts do not become official until July 6 when the moratorium period ends. Detroit Pistons GM Troy Weaver is looking to round out his roster after another stellar draft night just one week ago.
The Pistons landed Purdue star Jaden Ivey and Memphis big man Jalen Duren on draft night. Ivey with the team’s fifth overall selection, and Duren via trade with the New York Knicks and Charlotte Hornets. The draft haul filled many holes on Detroit’s roster. Ivey provides Cade Cunningham with a new backcourt partner, and Duren provides competition and depth at the center position.
Entering free agency, Weaver and the Pistons’ front office are looking to fill in the last remaining holes. The priority is finding a forward to fill the void left by Jerami Grant after he was shipped off to the Portland Trail Blazers. The team was initially rumored to have a serious interest in acquiring restricted free agent Miles Bridges. But, those rumors have cooled down as of late, and Detroit is expected to look for a cheaper option to fill in at forward.
Late Tuesday night, the Pistons pulled the trigger on a trade with the New York Knicks in which they acquired guard Alec Burks and center Nerlens Noel. Burks adds some depth at guard. Burks can play in an on-ball or off-ball role.
Tuesday was also the deadline to pick up team options before the start of free agency. Guard Frank Jackson did not see his team option picked up. Burk’s arrival neutralizes the departure of Jackson, but the team could still be in play to add guard depth in free agency.
The Pistons are on a budget this offseason. The contracts Weaver is signing players to are going to be short-term and cheap. Of course, with the addition of Burks and Noel as well as the assumed return of Marvin Bagley III, Detroit could sign a forward and be done with free agency. But, you never know what trades Weaver might have up his sleeve, and another roster spot could open up just as quickly as they were taken away.
With that in mind, here are some cheap guards Detroit could target in free agency.
The Pistons need to add shooters
The Pistons desperately need to add better three-point shooters to the roster. This past season, Detroit ranked 29th in team three-point shooting percentage at 32.6 percent. The team ranked 26th in three-pointers made per game while ranking 16th in total three-point attempts per game.
Duren and Ivey do little to solve the team’s lack of high-end shooters. Duren attempted one shot from beyond the arc at Memphis, a miss. Being a stretch big does not appear to be part of his game in the near future. Ivey shot 35.8 percent on five attempts per game from beyond the arc this past season. However, the electrifying guard was streaky all season and will need time to develop into a consistent shooter.
In free agency, these guards could provide instant relief to Detroit’s shooting woes.
Bryn Forbes has done one thing his entire career and that is knocking down long-range shots. The soon-to-be 29-year-old is a career 43.8 percent three-point shooter. This past season, he shot 41.4 percent from beyond the arc with the San Antonio Spurs and Denver Nuggets. If addressing the team’s poor three-point shooting is a priority for Weaver in free agency, there is no better player to add than Forbes.
The Lansing native has never been a high earner in his career. He has never had a base salary higher than $4.5 million. Assuming that trend continues, Detroit should have little difficulty acquiring Forbes’ services. A two-year deal at around $6ish million per season should do the trick. Maybe it takes a little bit more than that, but not much.
Reports indicate that Rodney McGruder will return to Detroit next year. The 30-year-old was one of the few bright spots from beyond the arc for the Pistons last season. McGruder shot 39.7 percent on 2.9 three-point attempts per game in 2021-22. He scored 5.4 points on a limited 14.8 minutes per contest.
McGruder is not a great fit as a regular rotational guard, but he fills in well as a situational shooter and depth piece. He was on a veteran minimum contract this past season, and it is safe to say he will likely receive the minimum this offseason as well.
Detroit could prioritize defense first
While shooting is an important weakness Weaver and the front office need to address this offseason, it should not come at the expense of team defense. The Pistons have always built successful teams around dominating defenses. Weaver and head coach Dwane Casey are building that defensive culture in their young unit as well.
As much as a guy like Forbes would improve Detroit’s shooting, he does not offer much on the defensive end. It is not for a lack of trying. Forbes’ smaller stature makes him a defensive mismatch no matter who he marks. That is not to say the Michigan State product should not be a target in free agency. It just means there are situations where Forbes will be more of a negative on defense than he is positive on offense.
Without sacrificing too much shooting, these defensive-minded guards could be on Detroit’s radar.
Gary Harris has always been a solid defender throughout his NBA career. Another Michigan State product, Harris can slide in as a starting shooting guard or come off the bench, depending on whether Ivey establishes himself in the starting lineup or not. Harris can take pressure off Cunningham and Ivey when paired with either player on the defensive end. If he is paired with Killian Hayes, the duo could give opposing backcourt fits with their combined defensive skillsets.
Signing the 27-year-old does not sacrifice too much shooting in favor of defense either. Harris is a career 36.3 percent three-point shooter. This past season he shot 38.4 percent from beyond the arc with the Orlando Magic. However, Harris has been a streaky shooter throughout his career. He is not a guy you expect to knock down multiple threes on a nightly basis.
Harris is unlikely to command a lucrative contract this offseason. Detroit could entice him on a one-year prove-it deal as a stepping stone towards a bigger contract next offseason.
Gary Payton II
The Golden State Warriors are not going to be able to bring back the entirety of their championship roster. Gary Payton II could be one of those players who gets priced out of Golden State.
Despite missing significant time due to injury, Payton II proved himself to be a solid defensive player during the Warriors’ championship run. Payton II is a decent shooter as well, shooting 35.8 percent from beyond the arc this past season. The highest percentage of his career in a season he played over 10 games in. Could his shooting regress to the mean? Only time will tell.
With the 29-year-old’s contract expiring this offseason, Weaver could lure the Payton II to the Motor City with a decently sized contract. He is not going to be expensive, but Payton II could easily command more than what the Warriors can or are willing to offer him.
As I mentioned in my article covering forwards Detroit could target in free agency, Bruce Brown would be an intriguing player to bring back. Brown was a fan favorite during his tenure with Detroit, and he has only gotten better since developing with the Brooklyn Nets.
Brown is one of the most versatile defenders in the league. In Brooklyn, he guarded all five positions, to varying degrees. He has also greatly improved his three-point shot. The 25-year-old shot a career-high 40.3 percent from beyond the arc this past season with the Nets.
Is a reunion between Brown and the Pistons likely? No. He took a discount last offseason to stay with Brooklyn. He could do the same this offseason with the Nets set to run it back with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. At 6-4, he is also not the ideal size that Weaver covets in his wing players. But Brown’s defensive skillset and improved shooting could be enticing for the Pistons’ GM to consider as free agency nears.
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