Somehow, Marcus Sasser left the 2023 NBA Draft as a Detroit Piston.
General manager Troy Weaver had long been a fan, but during the college hoops season, his scouts had routinely contacted him about the bucket-seeking Houston guard. His 3-point shooting. His pull-up jumpers. His handle. His confidence. His defense was more like a cornerback in football. It caught everyone in Detroit off guard. All.
Sasser, who was expected to go in the late first or early second round, was someone Detroit had identified as a target with its No. 5 pick in Thursday’s draft. So shortly after the choice was made to take Overtime Elite’s Ausar Thompson with their pick, the Pistons’ brass began working on how to get Sasser with their second pick. The front office jumped on their phones until they ended up with the Celtics on the other end, agreeing to trade the No. 31 pick and two future second-rounders to move up to No. 25 to get Sasser, before a other could. (The trade has not yet technically closed with the league.) Weaver wanted to make sure Sasser was a stamp.
“He’s a stabilizing player and personality,” Weaver said Friday in Detroit as his team introduced Thompson and Sasser to the local media. “He’s a rock. When you’re building what we’re trying to build, you need some rocks, and this young man is a rock.
“You can talk about his shooting, defense, but he’s a rock … steady. He brings it every game. You never have to worry about where he will be, what he will be doing. He is rock solid. We wanted to add that stabilizing player and personality to the restoration. We shoved our chips in and went and got him.”
Detroit didn’t necessarily need Sasser. It wanted him. The Pistons gave Sasser a guaranteed contract by moving into the first round to select him. They gave up assets, albeit minimal. They had selected three guards in the first round in the previous three drafts.
Such a commitment suggests the Pistons would like the 22-year-old Sasser, who spearheaded one of college hoops’ premier programs during his four-year career in Houston, in their rotation next season. Detroit needs shooting, playmaking and more powerful point-of-attack defense. Sasser delivers all three. If he was 6-foot-5 instead of 6-1, he may have been a top-7 pick. Sasser has shades of current Charlotte Hornets guard Terry Rozier, former Pistons pit bull Mike James and Philadelphia’s Tyrese Maxey. If you told me Sasser would become a routine Sixth Man of the Year candidate for the next decade, I wouldn’t be shocked.
Obviously, Sasser needs to prove that what he did in college can translate, and his lack of height won’t hinder him too much on either side of the ball. Time will tell.
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The question right now, though, is how Detroit makes room for Sasser. He’s a combo guard who can initiate offense when needed and successfully knock down catch-and-shoot 3s when playing off the ball. That combination, Sasser believes, is why he will fit well with Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey, Detroit’s cornerstones.
“I feel like I can fit in with (bigger) point guards,” Sasser said Friday. “They can play the point guard spot and I can space the floor with my ability to shoot the ball.”
Cunningham and Ivey start. You h. What happens when they leave the floor will be one of the more interesting storylines to follow during the summer and training camp.
Right now, aside from Sasser, Detroit has veteran Alec Burks and third-year guard Killian Hayes in the backcourt. Burks has a team option for next season worth $10.4 million that must be settled by June 29, but all signs leading up to the draft pointed to the Pistons bringing back one of the league’s top scorers from a season ago. Weaver is big on having veterans on the roster, not only for support on the field, but in the locker room. Burks is as good as it gets.
Hayes, Weaver’s first draft pick as Pistons GM, has one season left before hitting restricted free agency. At this point, it’s unclear if the Pistons will try to sign him to an extension this summer. Hayes provides offensive connection and defensive potential that Detroit is trying to hang its hat on. However, his ineffectiveness in shooting, both on the perimeter and around the rim, as well as early career injuries, have hindered the start of his NBA career.
There just aren’t enough minutes for all five of these guys to play. Maybe Sasser gets the rookie treatment to start while Hayes and Burks are around. Maybe the Pistons don’t pick up on Burks’ opportunity, adding extra cap space but losing a trusted, veteran guard in the process. Maybe they trade Burks for a future asset. Maybe Detroit will move on from Hayes before it actually has to. But a consolidation decision must ultimately be made in some capacity.
Detroit certainly got more talented by adding Sasser. It certainly met the needs. But Sasser joining the Pistons adds another interesting wrinkle to an offseason that already lacked them.
(Photo by Marcus Sasser in Houston: Justin Ford/Getty Images)