Sat. Dec 3rd, 2022

After months of rumors, the Detroit Pistons reportedly traded Jerami Grant on Wednesday, sending him to the Portland Trail Blazers for a 2025 first-round pick via the Milwaukee Bucks and other draft considerations. One of the other benefits of the deal was that it opened up even more cap space, such that the Pistons now have $43 million to work with this summer. 

As one of the few teams with significant money to spend this offseason, they will not only have flexibility, but a potential advantage over rival clubs. To that end, the Pistons are expected to pursue big man Deandre Ayton in free agency, according to James Edwards III. 

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft, Ayton has been an important part of the Suns’ success over the last few seasons, which includes a trip to the NBA Finals and the best record in the league. On paper, it would seem to be a lock that he would re-sign with a Suns team trying to make the most of Chris Paul’s final few seasons. And that may still happen given that Ayton is a restricted free agent, and the Suns will have the opportunity to match any offer. 

At the same time, there have been some signs that the two parties may split this summer. They weren’t able to come to terms on an extension, and Ayton — who is intent on getting a max deal — didn’t feel valued by the organization according to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski. In addition, Ayton only played 17 minutes in the Sun’s shocking season-ending loss to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 7 of their second-round series, and head coach Monty Williams hinted at “internal” reasons for the benching. 

If the Suns do let Ayton walk, he’ll have no shortage of suitors. While it’s fair to wonder if Ayton is actually worth a max deal, it’s clear that he’s going to get one this summer. Whatever happened towards the end of the Suns’ playoff run, Ayton is still a 23-year-old 7-footer who’s a walking double-double and finishes efficiently around the basket. 

Players with Ayton’s size and skillset are rare, and it’s no surprise the Pistons would be interested. Cade Cunningham looks like the real deal as a lead ballhandler and playmaker, and pairing him with Ayton would give the Pistons a strong inside-outside foundation for their rebuild. 

Again, the Suns have the ability to match any offer the Pistons (or anyone) makes, but this is certainly an option Detroit should explore. 

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