'We like our young pieces': Deal at trade deadline opens chances to young Pistons guards
It wasn’t the flurry of trades that some people expected the Pistons to have at Thursday’s trade deadline, but they made one deal to help with the future asset acquisition.
The Pistons added point guard Cory Joseph and two second-round picks from the Sacramento Kings for guard Delon Wright. On the surface, it’s not a huge deal — Jerami Grant wasn’t going to be traded, by the way — but it opens more playing time in the backcourt for the cadre of young guards, including rookies Killian Hayes and Saben Lee, along with Dennis Smith Jr. and Frank Jackson, whom they are still evaluating for a potential long-term fit.
There was some anticipation that maybe the Pistons also would part with Wayne Ellington, who is on an expiring, vet-minimum contract. For what it’s worth, Ellington has become one of the leaders in the locker room and in working with some of the younger players to impart his wisdom and to help them improve.
Ellington said he had his mind on the trade deadline, but also on the task ahead of working with the young shooters to hone their games.
“I definitely plan to continue to work with those guys and see those guys flourish,” Ellington said Wednesday. “Obviously, the ability is there.”
The Pistons ended up keeping Ellington and no other deals came to fruition for players such as Sekou Doumbouya or Mason Plumlee.
This is the crew they’re rolling with — at least for the remainder of this season.
“The dust has settled, and like I told the team, what we have is a big part of our foundation, a big part of our core going forward, of our building process — and it is a process,” Casey said Thursday. “Sometimes, it's going to look great and sometimes it's going to look ugly, but we needed this as an organization to kind of restore it.
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“We like our young pieces and we’re getting guys back healthy here soon, so it's going to be a lot of opportunities for guys to come out and compete — and that's what we're doing; we're not just rolling the ball out there. Guys have to do their job on the offensive end and the defensive end develop winning habits.”
Casey couldn’t talk about the trade for Joseph, because it hasn’t been finalized through the league as of Thursday. There should be some familiarity, though, as Joseph played two seasons under Casey when the two were with the Toronto Raptors in 2015-17.
Griffin vs. Pistons?
The Pistons parted ways with Blake Griffin after a buyout this month and after he worked his way back to playing form, he’s appeared in two games with the Nets. He’s had two points — including his first dunk in two seasons — against Washington, and he followed up with eight points against Portland.
Griffin is still getting his sea legs under him, so he didn’t play in the back-to-back, a 30-point blowout loss to the Utah Jazz, but he looks to be getting to regular form when he plays on a more consistent basis. That includes his first game against the Pistons, which will come Friday, as he’s not listed on the injury report.
Griffin wanted to go to a contender, and the Nets, who are tied for second in the Eastern Conference, are an ideal destination for him. When they get back to full strength, the combination of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden will make them the favorites in the East, and maybe the betting favorite to win the championship.
Where Griffin fits in that mix will be interesting to see as he increases his endurance and gets into the playoffs, where his acumen will be more of a premium. The road leading to the postseason will be critical for him to find a niche and for them to form a cohesive group for the playoffs.
PISTONS VS. NETS
Tipoff: 7 Friday, Little Caesars Arena
Outlook: The Nets (30-15) have won 16 of their last 19 games and are in a good rhythm since trading for James Harden. Blake Griffin is slated to play but Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are out, and Harden is questionable.