Entering free agency for the first time in a long time, the Detroit Pistons have among the most cap space in the league. According to Spotrac, the Pistons are predicted to have the most cap space in the league with over 27 million.
This puts the Pistons in a great position to sign the top free agent in the market, Deandre Ayton.
According to Vegas, the Pistons are the favorite to sign the big man if he leaves the Phoenix Suns. If the Pistons were to acquire Ayton, how would he fit with the current roster?
A look at what it would take to land Deandre Ayton
Ayton and the Suns appear to be heading towards a breakup as it is rumored that head coach Monty Williams wants to move on from Ayton. Despite this, Ayton is still a restricted free agent giving the Suns leverage to match any deal. If the Suns genuinely want to move on from Ayton, what is likely to happen is they will force suitors to agree to sign and trade, which would benefit all three sides.
If the Detroit Pistons were to agree to a sign and trade, the most likely candidate to get traded is Jerami Grant. With Grant, his contract makes the most sense as a salary match for the max deal Ayton would sign, and the Suns would benefit from acquiring another big wing who can shoot and defend.
This could prevent the Pistons from executing the deal as Grant is the Pistons’ most valuable trade piece and, depending on the trade market, could net them a first-round pick. If the Pistons believe they are close to contending, a sign and trade for Ayton makes a lot of sense, but if they think they are a few years away, it makes more sense to chase additional first-round picks.
How Deandre Ayton fits the Detroit Pistons
If the Pistons do acquire Ayton, he would fit in incredibly well with the current roster. Ayton’s career took off after the Suns acquired Chris Paul. Ayton starred as roll man with Paul and Devin Booker, scoring 17 points and ten rebounds on a fantastic 64% from the field. Cade Cunningham and Ayton would team up in Detroit to form a formidable pick and roll pairing. Cunningham would benefit tremendously by having an excellent lob threat to put additional pressure on defenses.
Outside the pick and roll, Ayton still has untapped offensive potential. In the post, he does not demand a significant amount of post touches, but he can take advantage of switches and smaller centers. Also, he has shown the ability to shoot the ball from mid-range and three in small sample sizes. If he can continue to ramp up his shooting volume, he will be one of the best offensive centers in the league.
Defensively, Ayton is solid but unspectacular. As a rim protector, he is about league average and does a good job being active and contesting shots. In pick and roll, Ayton is good in drop coverage but does not do well in other coverages.
This would limit the different defenses the Pistons could run against pick and rolls, but it is not a deal-breaker. If the Detroit Pistons are getting attacked in drop coverage, the Pistons could sub in Isaiah Stewart, who is much better playing in space.
Speaking of Stewart, his evaluation will play a big part in Ayton’s fit with the Pistons. In two years, Stewart has proven that he should be a player in this league for a long time with his tenacity on defense and the glass. The question is whether he is best served as a starting center or an energy guy coming off the bench.
Defensively, Stewart can be (is?) one of the best switchable centers in the league, capable of playing on the perimeter and defending the rim. The difference between Stewart being a 7th man or a playoff starter is the shooting. If he shoots above league average, Stewart is a no-brainer starter on a playoff team. If Stewart does shoot well like he did to close the season, would the Pistons be better off investing their cap space in another scorer and shot creator instead of a second starting-caliber center?
The Pistons are in a great position to acquire Deandre Ayton this offseason. Ayton is a great pick and roll center who would help elevate Cade Cunningham and the other young guards on the team. There is no question that Ayton would elevate this team; the question is if Ayton is the best way to elevate this team.
The Pistons could be better off waiting a year to see if any other disgruntled stars become available, but they could also strike out completely next year. Either way, I believe the decision comes down to their evaluation of Isaiah Stewart versus Ayton. If Troy Weaver believes in Stewart’s jumper and offensive game, the Pistons would be better off pursuing a guard or wing.
If not, they can sign Ayton to pair nicely with Cade, and Stewart can play big minutes off the bench as a change of pace to Ayton’s game.