While only a few fans and pundits (if any) expected the Detroit Pistons to make some sort of mini-leap during the 2022-23 campaign, especially after adding Bojan Bogdanovic in a surprise offseason move, they remain very much where they have been over the past two seasons — the bottom of the Eastern Conference. Of course, it's difficult to be too harsh on the Pistons, since they lost prized sophomore guard Cade Cunningham to a season-ending injury early on, essentially destroying the engine of their season before it even had a chance to rev up.
It's unclear just how big of a leap the Pistons can make in the upcoming season; it's not like they set the league ablaze during the short period of time that Cunningham was healthy. But given how young their squad is, it's not too unreasonable to expect a lot of improvements, especially from their blue-chippers in Cunningham and Jaden Ivey, a few of their lottery reclamation projects such as James Wiseman and Marvin Bagley III, and solid young pieces such as Jalen Duren and Killian Hayes.
At the end of the day, however, even a young core needs its veteran reinforcements. Not to compare apples to apples, but when the Golden State Warriors rebuilt their teams in the early 2010s, they traded for solid veteran pieces to expedite their contending timeline (the addition of Andrew Bogut comes to mind). Thus, it's not too unreasonable for the Pistons to pull off a similar move.
Here are three early trade targets the Pistons could pursue during the 2023 NBA offseason.
John Collins has been the subject of trade rumors aplenty for what seems to be ages. Alas, Collins remains a member of the Atlanta Hawks, and with new head coach Quin Snyder's arrival, both the Hawks and Collins could very well decide to stick it out and see if a new system ends up being beneficial for both parties.
Even then, it's clear that Collins' days as a Hawk are numbered. While Collins definitely has a place in this league, and his skills that made him a nightly 20-10 threat in the past have certainly not vanished overnight, it's evident that for his career to flourish even further, a divorce is what's best.
Enter the Pistons.
The Pistons, at the moment, have a bit of a frontcourt logjam, with the likes of James Wiseman, Marvin Bagley III, Jalen Duren, and Isaiah Stewart essentially battling for two frontcourt spots. What better way for the Pistons to deal with their glut of big men by consolidating them into one talented player in John Collins?
Wiseman has showed flashes of offensive brilliance following his move from the Golden State Warriors, so it makes sense that the Pistons would want to keep him, since he's still in his rookie deal. Meanwhile, Duren displayed exceptional rebounding and shot-blocking as the youngest player in the league, and he could very well turn out to be the best player among the aforementioned quartet.
Thus, the Pistons could very well dangle Bagley and Stewart, in addition to whatever draft capital it may take, to try and facilitate a career revival for John Collins.
Yet another player who has been the subject of a lot of trade talk, Tobias Harris is still a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, one of the best teams in the league. The problem with Harris has never been his production. A consistent tertiary/secondary scoring option, Harris is getting paid like one of the league's best players, which has precluded the Sixers from putting the best depth around their star big man Joel Embiid.
In addition, Tyrese Maxey's emergence as the Sixers' third-best scoring option has rendered Harris' scoring exploits a bit expendable. (Harris' size and defense on the wing, however, is a different story.)
And with Harris approaching the last season of his megadeal, this could prove to be the best time for the Sixers to go the Los Angeles Lakers route and deal away a huge expiring deal to get a few more depth pieces that could prove to be better fits alongside Embiid and James Harden (should he re-sign).
The Sixers could, perhaps, try to nab Bojan Bogdanovic, Alec Burks, and a solid backup center behind Embiid (Isaiah Stewart, perhaps?) by attaching draft-pick compensation to Harris. The Pistons, in turn, will be gearing up for the future as they try to clean out their ledger in preparation for a potential blockbuster acquisition in free agency to supplement the Cade Cunningham-led core.
Trading for someone as injury-prone as Jonathan Isaac appears to be such a daft idea. And it probably is, given Isaac's $17.4 million salary for the next two seasons. But the Pistons have taken an interest in reclamation projects in recent years, and Isaac is as enticing of a reclamation project as they come.
Isaac functions similarly to Minnesota Timberwolves wing Jaden McDaniels, two supersized forwards who are extremely mobile on the perimeter and can protect the rim with ease. A cursory glance at Isaac's stats during the 2019-20 season show what a huge asset he could be when healthy, and the Pistons are one of those teams that can take a risk on the Orlando Magic forward.
It also helps that Isaac's contract for the 2024-25 season is non-guaranteed, making it easy for the Pistons to cut bait if the Magic forward fails to recover as expected.
As for why the Magic would do this, the answer is simple: Paolo Banchero's arrival as the franchise cornerstone, along with Franz Wagner's continued improvement, will relegate Isaac to backup duties, even when healthy. Orlando is also on an upward trajectory; with their young stars still on their rookie deals, the Magic would do very well to capitalize on free agency while they can.
Trading away Isaac's contract gives them a pathway to clear up future cap space while also adding a few assets along the way.