Worst Free Agent Fits For the Detroit Pistons

The Detroit Pistons finished last season with the third-worst record in the NBA at 23-59.  Adding quality players to their lineup this summer is a high priority.

However, the last thing they want to do is end up in another situation comparable to when they added former free agents like Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, and Josh Smith.

These three acquisitions are widely regarded as some of the worst signings in the history of the franchise. They were expensive deals that never helped propel Detroit back to the postseason contending we saw with the “Going to Work” crew.

Free agency can sometimes be tricky for rebuilding teams like the Detroit Pistons. It’s extremely important not to rush development and expectations when the majority of a roster is young. So even with favorable cap space at the disposal of the front office, they cannot afford a miss this offseason.

Here are the worst possible fits the Detroit Pistons could add in free agency:

  • Jalen Brunson (G)

During an impressive postseason run, there were plenty of reports speculating the Pistons having an interest in the Dallas guard. Jalen Brunson finished the regular season averaging 16.3 points per game and just under five assists while shooting 50% from the field and 37% from three-point range. That scoring average excelled to 21.6 points in the playoffs.

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Brunson’s offensive prowess confirmed his ability to be a versatile scoring machine and control a team’s offense. This was even heightened while the Maverick’s franchise point guard Luka Doncic was nursing a calf strain injury for three playoff games against Utah.

Upgrading Detroit’s backcourt is a major concern to address properly this summer. Creating a formidable tandem for the future with the 2021 No. 1 draft selection Cade Cunningham is imperative. However, the Pistons can find a better plug in their backcourt than Brunson.

While the offensive skillset has received its proper praise, the defensive end of the floor could be troubling. A common trend we see developing throughout the league is offenses hunting smaller guards defensively. Teams run pick-and-roll often to create isolation mismatches against smaller guards. That could be a huge issue for the Pistons if they acquire the 6’0 restricted free agent guard.

The Pistons have an extreme advantage with Cade Cunningham as their 6’7, 220-pound point guard. Emphasizing size and athleticism should be a priority in building this roster. There is no question with Brunson being a multitalented scorer, but he could possibly limit them defensively. It would serve the Pistons better to continue playing to their developing strengths.

  • Miles Bridges (F)

The Charlotte Hornets could be facing a tough bind in retaining their budding forward and restricted free agent Miles Bridges. He is reportedly searching for a max deal over five years for $173 million this offseason. Even with his increased production and upside, the Detroit Pistons should steer clear of offering this deal to Bridges.

The Flint native is coming off a career-high average of 20.2 points, seven rebounds, and 49% shooting per game. He is, without question, one of the biggest reasons for Charlotte’s turnaround over the past two seasons. The Hornets finished as the 4th best offensive scoring team in the NBA last season while creating instant highlights consistently with point guard LaMelo Ball.  That, unfortunately, does not mean his game will translate seamlessly in Detroit.

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Bridges splits time as the power forward and small forward in Charlotte, two spots on the Piston’s roster that do not need a major upgrade. Small forward Saddiq Bey is establishing himself as one of the foundational pieces of Detroit’s future. Power forward Jerami Grant is still on the roster despite rapid trade rumors. Trading Grant, who is also in search of a contract extension per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, only to sign a smaller forward in Bridges to a more significant contract, makes little sense. Their head-to-head statistics are pretty similar, and it wouldn’t be a major statistical upgrade outside of the contract.

Bridges’ 3-point shooting came down to Earth this season to 33% after averaging 40% in 2020-21.

The max money is a scary enough thought with Bridges, but the fit isn’t as ideal as his highlights. As a matter of fact, Bridges has averaged 33% from behind the long line three of his four NBA seasons. He’s also not a consistent defender which helped result in Charlotte being the NBA’s 24th-ranked defense last season.

  • Collin Sexton (G)

Reports have indicated that free agent guard Collin Sexton has made a full recovery from his torn meniscus injury last season. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ restricted free agent could possibly command about $20 million per year this free agency period, and Detroit’s front office should have zero interest in giving that to him.

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While the 23-year-old has grown as a skilled scorer, he’s done it in a ball-dominant manner. Sexton has averaged 20 points per game throughout his career, including a career-high of 24.3 through 60 games in 2020-21.

However, his limited ability as a playmaker doesn’t offer much attraction to the Pistons. This rebuilding roster needs floor spacers who can also knock down open shots, not just ball-dominant isolation scorers. Taking the ball away from Cade Cunningham for a limited scorer cannot be a beneficial game plan.

Sexton also does not leap off the screen as a defender. In that same 60-game sample size in 2020-21, he had a poor defensive rating of 117.7. His on-ball perimeter defending certainly needs improvement as well.

The biggest reason to avoid a gamble like Sexton is the upcoming NBA Draft on June 23. There should be plenty of valuable guard options with Detroit’s No. 5 selection like Jaden Ivey, Bennedict Mathurin, and Shaedon Sharpe. Each of these three prospects has a higher upside than Sexton; they are not coming off of an injury and won’t be as expensive.

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Drafting one of these young guards makes better sense than paying an expensive guard like Sexton.

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