In a few years, hindsight may prove me wrong, but right now, I believe this to be true. The trading for Brandon Jennings and signing of Josh Smith, in my eyes and the eyes of some others, is much better than the signings of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. Let me explain.
I wasn't around DBB when Gordon and Villanueva were signed, but from what I've read in comments over the last year, I can only imagine that most people weren't fond of the signings. Some people were fearful going into this offseason with as much cap as we had thinking that we're going to make another plunder by signing a few free agents to ridiculous deals. We were lead to believe that the front office planned on using much of that cap room to facilitate some trades. Well, let's review what happened.
Going into the offseason of 2009, the Pistons had plenty of cap room and needed to make some changes to stay relevant. The Pistons went after one of the biggest free agents that offseason in Gordon as well as someone having a career year in Villanueva. Both were signed almost as soon as the bell rang opening free agency. Gordon was signed to a 5 year/$58M deal while Villanueva was signed to a 5 year/$37.7M deal. (Well, I really wouldn't call them "deals".) Starting in year one, both players were on the books for a combined $16.5M and it rose each year.
Jennings was acquired in a sign and trade where he'll earn $8M+ each year for 3 years. Smith was signed outright for 4 years and anywhere between $54M & $56M. Starting year one, they will cost the Pistons at the least $21.5M, $5M more than Gordon and Villanueva. Jennings is a guard (point) as was Gordon (shooting). Smith is a forward (PF) as was Villanueva (???). Honestly, I think that's all you can really say is the same between the offseasons of 2009 and 2013.
Gordon came to the Pistons after 5 years with the Bulls where he started a total of 204 of his 398 games. Jennings has started in all but 2 of his 289 games. He also came to the Pistons where he wasn't likely to be the starter seeing as how Richard Hamilton had recently been signed to a contract extension. Gordon at the time was averaging a .437 FG%, .416 3P%, .847 FT%, and 21.3 PP36 while averaging 31.4 MPG. Brandon Jennings on the other hand is coming to the Pistons after 4 years of experience and does not have competition for the starting spot. His deal is also considerably less because his stats are considerably less. Jennings is averaging .394 FG%, .354 3P%, .813 FT%, and 17.7 PP36 while averaging 34.6 MPG. Gordon was brought on for his shooting, Jennings was brought on for his attitude (one source stated), his AST/TO (2.36 P36), and his ability to score in bunches. He's also lightning quick and I've heard that the Pistons really want to get up and down the court this year. In the sign and trade, the Pistons also gave up on some young players who do still have potential, but it opened up roster spots for the likes of Siva (should he sign) and a backup big man (maybe a veteran who'd be more likely to be productive as compared to Kravtsov). The Jennings deal is not bad...but the Gordon deal was horrible.
Now, Smith comes in in a similar way to how Gordon did, but there's more room for adjusting. Like Gordon, Smith comes in where there is already an established player in the position he's used to playing...Monroe at PF. However, Smith has the athleticism and experience of being able to play small forward. Smith playing small forward is the opposite of what many teams are doing. Many teams are playing small ball, trying to use the quicker/smaller players to get past the slower/taller players. The Pistons plan is to go big and bully those small ball teams. Smith will share time at PF though with Monroe or Drummond at C, which I think would mean most of the 96 available minutes at PF and C will be taken up by those 3. How many minutes Smith plays at SF will be determined by how well the big lineup works and foul trouble.
Now Smith, like Jennings, comes to the Pistons as an established starter as compared to Villanueva. Villanueva had started 131 of his 274 games, Smith has started all but 22 of his 676 games. Villanueva also came to the Pistons for shooting reasons (ability to spread the floor). At the time, he had a .453 FG%, .323 3P%, .789 FT% and 18.0 PP36 in 26.3 MPG. Smith comes to Detroit with a .465 FG%, .283 3P%, .654 FT% and 16.2 PP36 in 34.1 MPG. The areas where Smith excels as compared to Villanueva is athleticism (can't really measure), defense (110 DRtg & 1.3 DWS averages for Villanueva, 103 DRtg & 3.9 DWS averages for Smith), steals (0.8 vs. 1.3 P36) and blocks (0.8 vs. 2.1 P36). Rebounding wise, they're actually pretty similar (8.6 vs. 8.4 P36). However, Smith is being paid more than twice what Villanueva was.
The money for these players can be debated if you'd like. I believe Smith and Jennings are over paid based on their production, but compared to what I had heard they were asking for and could have possibly received (Jennings wanted $12M, Smith wanted $18M), I think it's a bargain. I also really do like the versatility that having three quality bigs provides us. There should be very minimal dropoff in production or defense when at least two of the big (literal and figurative) three are on the floor. Also, seeing as how Jennings does have a good vision of the court, he's got another passer in Monroe and at least two people who can easily go up and catch lobs.
Then, when you factor in the other moves that were made this offseason, I think this offseason was much better than 2009. In the 2009 draft, the Pistons picked up Daye, Summers, Jerebko and Chase Budinger. Jerebko and Budinger were the better picks of the four. However, I think this years draft of KCP, Mitchell and Siva will be a better class than the 2009 Pistons draft class. We've resigned Billups for backup PG and to mentor
KnightJennings. We also went overseas (not a first) and grabbed an MVP of the Italian league in Luigi Datome (which I consider better than grabbing Kravtsov). They also kept their financial flexibility to either do another trade during the year and/or resign Monroe at the end of the year by keeping Stuckey and Villanueva. So yes, in my opinion, 2013 has been a better offseason than 2009. As I stated in another thread, I believe that the Pistons should receive a B for this offseason. I would have given them a C-/D for 2009's offseason.