There is a way out.
With all the grim, whispery conviction of a conspiracy theorist in a tin foil hat, I bring you this wildly unlikely put possible trade scenario, based on nothing more than the abject need of the Denver Nuggets, the logical tension surrounding the Houston Rockets, the unconvincing harmony of the Boston Celtics, and the abject mania gripping Detroit Pistons fandom:
A Four-Team Trade: Nuggets - Rockets - Celtics - Pistons
Denver Nuggets get
- Jeremy Lin (Hou), 2 years, $20.1 M
- Detroit's 2015 second-round draft pick
- Detroit's 2017 second-round draft pick
Why would Denver do this?
Somewhat surprisingly, the Nuggets are in disaster mode. Apparently, the backup plan to bring in Monta Ellis has pitted them against the mystically animated exhumed corpse of Dirk Nowitzki and the battle could go either way (short supplies of Tru Blood notwithstanding). This has led to them actively shopping former Coach Karl's pet malcontent PG and fellow immortal Andre Miller to move his $5 million contract and get a deal done with Ellis quickly.
This trade would do two things for Denver. First, the very blockbuster nature of it (four teams! More than 9,000 players! ESPN! Linsanity!) would probably assuage the fears of losing momentum after so much turnover from last year's improbably impressive regular season. Secondly, it gets rid of about the same amount of cap room while bringing back a talent whose youth matches theirs and can give them meaningful help in the backcourt with Ty Lawson and Monta (when he gets there).
Losing Chandler will be offset by the fact that they just re-signed Corey Brewer, Gallinari and Faried need their minutes, too, and they have a lot of young players whom they need to start getting something out of just rotting on the bench - than cannot continue to happen under the new regime. Detroit's second rounders will help soften the blow.
Pushing Randolph and Hamilton along is no great loss for a team poised to make noise right now.
Houston Rockets get
- Andre Miller (Den), 2 years, $9.6 M
- Brandon Bass (Bos), 2 years, $13.35 M
- Viacheslav Kravtsov (Det), 2 years, $3.375 M
Why would Houston do this?
Because they were Gandhi in a former life? Since Dwight Howard made his decision to take his talents to Sugar Land, the Rockets are facing an unhappy Asik (something no one wants to see). Couple that with a player in Jeremy Lin who fit in less as the year went on (finally injured, then benched in the playoffs), and last year's Cinderella could easily shatter like so many size 15 glass slippers under the weight of Howard's massive heel.
Eliminating those distractions will immediately be beneficial as this franchise makes its first bid for legitimate NBA Finals contention in over 15 years. Patrick Beverly is a good player and Isaiah Canaan was a great get in the draft, but they will need veteran leadership to both unlock their long-term potential as point guards and to maximize their playoff runs in the short term. Andre Miller can give them a legitimate coach on the court capable of making the decisions that could get them to the promised land. I think Dwight would get behind this move.
Bass brings immediate help to the corps of bigs that Houston will use to support Howard, and Kravtsov is project whom they can develop with negligible risk. All this, while getting $4 million in cap savings immediately. Not a bad day at the office for Daryl Morey.
Boston Celtics get
- Omer Asik (Hou), 2 years, $20.1 M
- Brandon Knight (Det), 2 years, $6.35 M
- Rodney Stuckey (Det), 1 year, $8.5 M
- Kyle Singler (Det), 2 years, $2 M
- Anthony Randolph (Den), 2 years, $3.5 M
- Jordan Hamilton (Den), 2 years, $3.2 M
- Detroit's 2018 first-round draft pick (unprotected)
- Detroit's 2014 second-round draft pick
Why would Boston do this?
Danny Ainge recently vehemently denied that the Boston Celtics are tanking to improve their draft prospects - then he went on to hire a college coach with no NBA experience, usually not a strategy for success the following season. After trading away his two best healthy players. Historically, Boston's recent moves fit the pattern of a team on their way to the lottery in the next year. It seems unlikely such a team would take a highly paid superstar coming off of a serious, season-ending injury into such a rebuild.
That said, Boston absolutely could decide to bring Rondo back, the mutual admiration overtures coming out of all sides about the new coaching situation could be genuine, and Rondo's need to recuperate and work back into All-Star form could actually help in the Celtics
tanking rebuilding experimenting effort next season. But, on the off-chance that Ainge is actually lying through his teeth to get the best deal simply engaging in a little gamesmanship to maximize yield, this might be an offer too good to refuse.
The 7'-0",Turkish, 27-year-old Asik had a breakout year with Houston last season, coming in fourth in the league in RPG at 11.7, had, more than a block per game, and averaged a double-double in this, his third NBA season. He has made the playoffs each of those seasons, and though his streak would likely be broken this year, it would be safe to assume he can be a useful building block on a playoff team. His ability as a true center could be a boon for Celtic big Jared Sullinger on the defensive side. In any case, he is an impact player right now, and will be one for many years to come.
Despite the frequent vitriol directed toward him by Pistons fans for his inconsistent production, Brandon Knight has shown flashes of great talent at scoring in the backcourt. He has range on his jump shot, and at only 21 years old, he has time to improve. Stuckey no longer has such time on his side, but he does have a contract that expires at the end of the season, giving Ainge time to evaluate what he has in the big, slashing combo guard. Randolph, Singlre, and Hamilton are fliers: young players on extremely friendly deals who have also shown flashes and may be developed into something useful by your lauded new coach if he's worth all the hype.
The real gem in this deal, besides Asik - who is a steal - and buying low on Brandon Knight, is Detroit's first-round pick. By getting it without protection, this provides a more tangible asset than most traded draft picks and can become a real hammer in a future trade or turn into a nice player.
Detroit Pistons get
- Rajon Rondo (Bos), 2 years, $24.8 M
- Gerald Wallace (Bos, via Brooklyn Nets), 3 years, $30.3 M
- Courtney Lee (Bos), 3 years, $16.6 M
- Wilson Chandler (Den), 3 years, $20.2 M
Why would Detroit do this?
There's an axiom for students learning to play chess: If you don't see a good move, just don't make a bad one. I'll modify it here. Trading for Rondo is a good move, but trading Greg Monroe or Andre Drummond to do it would be a bad one. The Pistons do have flexibility as an asset, and that flexibility must be mental, creative flexibility, not merely financial flexibility, if they really want to return to the successful path.
Because there are still other teams in places of need right now, the Pistons can leverage their flexibility creatively to service those needs and creative value without losing their foundational assets. Brandon Knight, as I have written previously, is a replaceable asset. He has potential that is as yet untapped, and I would only give it up reluctantly, but losing that - even to a rival like the Celtics - is not really a loss, that's just a cost of playing the game.
Conversely, Greg Monroe, with his size, passing ability, youth, and surprisingly promising metrics in defense against common PF offensive sets, is a unique, once-in-a-generation talent. Drummond simply has the potential to establish himself as the best player at his position for the next 6 to 12 years of his career after year 5 because of his unparalleled athleticism. These are two assets that are foundational; you build around them, not through them.
Therefore, putting our best capital, or flexibility, to use here makes even more sense. In so doing, we spend it, but we set ourselves up nicely to succeed both on the court and on the business side in the short term and the long term.
As I've mentioned before, Rondo's All-Star credentials are undeniable. He would undoubtedly make the Pistons a credible playoff team once he's fully healthy. His poor 3-pt shooting is a concern, but much as his midrange game has improved considerably over time, it's possibly his true outside shooting could take a step up to respectability.
But, even better, the passing capability of Rondo and Monroe on the court at the same time (and better, Rondo and Monroe with Smith or Wallace) may actually circumvent most of the floor spacing problem. If that is the case, the ability of so many players on the team to create great shots for teammates, and the necessity for other teams to double-team Drummond in the post, could make the Pistons effectively consistently unguardable.
Unlike in Brooklyn, such a team would really take advantage of Gerald Wallace's strengths as a versatile forward who can pass and pull his defenders away from the hoop. His reputation as a perimeter defender will be put to the test, as will Wilson Chandler's. Chandler's outside shot will be crucial, as will Courtney Lee's. There will be no wasted weight.
Rondo, Wallace, Lee, and Chandler are all signed to deals below that given Josh Smith per annum. They are tradeable if things don't work out, so some flexibility is still retained, expiring in time to pay Drummond come contract time in 2016. But, the mild risk assumed comes with the tangible reward of improving in the win column immediately and subsequently as the your Double Dragons in Monroe and Drummond develop from franchise cornerstones to forces of Nature taking the NBA by storm.
So, what do you think of this deal?
Keep in mind, my sanity is not at issue; every voice in my head assures me I'm quite sane. Do you like where this leaves the teams involved? Do you think anyone is getting the raw end of the deal? Is someone making out like gangbusters? What would you change? Comment below, and let me know!