ESPN’s Marc Stein claims the Pistons and Magic are inching ever closer to completing the following transaction :

The sides, according to sources, are bartering over the extent of lottery protection Orlando would have on the first-round pick it has agreed to send Detroit along with center Kelvin Cato for Darko Milicic and guard Carlos Arroyo.

It’s thought Orlando is seeking to retain this year’s first-round pick — and convey its 2007 first-rounder to Detroit instead — if the Magic’s pick winds up in the top seven of the June draft. The deal would collapse if the sides can’t come to a resolution — with Detroit looking to reduce Orlando’s level of protection by a few spots — but it’s clear the Pistons have made the decision to move Milicic before the Feb. 23 trading deadline after giving him a chance to earn a rotation spot under new coach Flip Saunders.

The Orlando Sun Sentinel’s Ethan Skolnick is amongst those willing to cut the Pistons a break on what could be one of the biggest draft busts of all-time.

History will forgive Joe Dumars for passing on Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade in the 2003 draft, because of the success the Pistons have had anyway. If he’d drafted Bosh, he never would have acquired Rasheed Wallace. If he’d drafted Anthony, maybe Tayshaun Prince fails to become the player he’s become. And Wade? Which guard would he have replaced?

As it is, this trade helps the Pistons now and in the future. It will allow the Pistons to keep their starting five together. And it also gives them another frontcourt piece. Don’t be surprised to see shotblocker Kelvin Cato getting 5 to 10 minutes per game in the playoffs, especially against Shaquille O’Neal. He can fill the Elden Campbell role.

Darko had zero points, no rebounds or assists in 3 minutes of action last night in what should be his final game in a Pistons uniform, as Detroit beat New Jersey, 85-71.