Beard: Pistons add immediate help, flexibility in trade with Bucks

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

In the wee hours on Wednesday night the Pistons agreed on a deal to send big man Jon Leuer to the Bucks for forward Tony Snell and the 30th pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft.

In the big scheme of things and trades leading up to the draft, it doesn’t rank as a major deal, but it helped both teams, in different ways.

Tony Snell has started 218 games during his six seasons in the NBA.

For the Pistons, it provided a player who immediately will join the playing rotation and provide some needed wing size. The added draft pick is a bonus, giving them more flexibility, potentially to trade up or trade down.

For the Bucks, it cleared some cap space, potentially to help them retain their free agents and keep their core together, looking to make another run in the playoffs next season.

Here are five thoughts about how the trade impacts both teams:

1. Depth help

The Pistons needed depth on the roster — especially at small forward — as senior adviser Ed Stefanski mentioned this week. They didn’t have an answer in the playoffs to defend the Bucks’ Khris Middleton and now Snell, who is 6-foot-7 with a 7-foot wingspan, fills some of that void. That allows Svi Mykhailiuk, 22, to develop slowly and not have to be rushed into a contributing role if he’s not ready yet. Snell has started 218 games in his six NBA seasons, including 80 for the Bucks in 2016-17. He’s not a stellar offensive option, but he can play significant minutes and provide some good perimeter length and defense, which the Pistons utterly lacked in the second half of the last season and the playoffs.

2. Getting value

Leuer wasn’t playing a significant role on the roster and at a salary of $9.5 million, his contract was one that the Pistons were looking to move, either before the season or at the trade deadline in February. This was a deal that appealed to the Pistons — in essence, getting a rotation player and a pick for a player who wasn’t contributing regularly. Adding the No. 30 pick puts them in a position to draft for need, likely at backup point guard or backup center, and add a good developmental piece to the roster on a reasonable contract. The No. 30 pick has a rookie-scale contract of $1.6 million, which is about the same as the veteran minimum, which was the likely course the Pistons were going to consider with a backup center.

3. Better positioning

With two first-round picks, plus their own second-round pick at No. 45, the Pistons could compile some interesting trade packages — potentially to move into the top 10 — and take a higher-impact player, presumably at the wing spot. There’s been plenty of talk that the Hawks, who have the eighth and 10th picks, would be interested in dealing. Adding draft assets also lends to the notion the Pistons could be gearing themselves for a bigger trade, possibly with another veteran player on an expiring contract, such as Reggie Jackson or Langston Galloway. It might not happen until free agency settles, but it’s more possible than it was before.

4. Finding opportunities

In the past few days, the conversation had tilted toward the Pistons possibly trading down to get additional assets, but Stefanski and his front office have done a good job of finding smaller openings to get assets. Just as they did in acquiring Mykhailiuk and a second-round pick from the Lakers for Reggie Bullock’s expiring deal and acquiring Thon Maker from the Bucks for Stanley Johnson, they have done well with low-risk moves and turning them into chances to improve the roster. It’s taken some savvy but so far, the front office is working well with the limited flexibility they inherited last year.

5. The numbers

The Pistons made a bigger financial commitment, with Snell set to make $11.4 million next seasons and he has a player option for $12.2 million in 2020-21. Leuer was on an expiring deal at $9.5 million, so the Pistons end up with more long-term money, but get the draft pick as a sweetener. In getting Snell, the Pistons likely won’t exercise their team option on Glenn Robinson III for $4.2 million, which is part of the savings also. That would give them 10 players under contract for next season, with still some work to do in the draft and free agency to address the other slots.

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard