It wasn't about the second-round pick swap that allowed the Pistons to jump 10 spots in the draft Thursday night. It wasn't really even about the extra first-rounder they secured in 2025. The Pistons' decision to trade Jerami Grant to the Trail Blazers on Wednesday boiled down to financial flexibility this summer -- and perhaps to one pending free agent.
"They traded him for cap space," NBA insider David Aldridge said Thursday on the Stoney & Jansen Show. "That’s what they traded him for. That’s how you have to look at it as a Pistons fan. It’s not about the pick swaps or anything like that. They traded him so that they could take a run at Deandre Ayton. So if in a year you say, 'We traded Jerami Grant and got Deandre Ayton back,' I think you’ll be pretty happy."
That scenario is growing increasingly likely. The Pistons have been eyeing Ayton since last season when his days in Phoenix started to look numbered. And now that he's set to be a free agent barring an unexpected extension with the Suns, Ayton reportedly likes the idea of landing in Detroit where he could join forces with fellow former first overall pick Cade Cunningham.
Ayton, who turns 24 this summer, "would indeed embrace the concept of teaming with Cade Cunningham to form a new Pistons two-man core," Marc Stein reported Thursday.
The 6'11 big man averaged 17.2 points and 7.7 rebounds last season while posting a career-high Player Efficiency Rating that ranked 17th in the NBA. And with about $43 million in cap space ahead of free agency after the Grant trade, the Pistons are poised to give Ayton the kind of money he's looking for.
"You're going after a big fish with that," Aldridge said. "It’s possible you could combine two really good payers with that kind of cap space though trades, but I think their target is Ayton and I think it makes all the sense in the world.
"The only question I have is, he’s restricted, which means Phoenix can always match (any offer). If this becomes a potential sign-and-trade, who would Phoenix want back in terms of a young piece? Frankly, to me, anybody not named Cade Cunningham you can have if I’m getting Deandre Ayton back."
The knock on Ayton, aside from reported clashes with Suns coach Monty Williams, is that he's a traditional center with diminished value in the modern NBA. To Aldridge, that shouldn't be a concern for the Pistons.
"I don’t care about the shooting, I don’t care if he ever takes a three-pointer. He’s got a good floater he’s added to his game, he’s a good rim runner, him taking lobs from Cade would be sick, he rebounds.
"If I’m Detroit, which is not a free agent destination, it hasn’t been for a very long time, if I can get a young guy like Ayton to grow with Cade Cunningham and some of the other young pieces, and you add either Jaden Ivey or Keegan Murray tonight in the draft, oh my goodness, Detroit’s going to be in really great shape moving forward."