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On keeping Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess

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I don't very much like Drew Sharp's work for the Detroit Free Press, and I don't seem to be alone in that regard. For that reason, I'm hesitant to even throw a link his way, but I'm compelled to because he actually raises an interesting point that I've often pondered myself these last few months. From Sharp's column on Monday:

There's an increasing suspicion that point guard Chauncey Billups is playing his last season in Detroit. He'll opt out of his contract, seeking a maximum deal. But Billups' real value to the Pistons is a sign-and-trade chip that could bring in a couple of younger pieces next season.

Do they turn Billups into another Grant Hill? Apply the Larry Bird exception to give Billups the most money possible and then ship him. That scenario works out best for both parties. The player gets his big bucks and the team gets better compensation than just a draft pick if they moved Billups before the trading deadline.

The Pistons won't acknowledge it, but this is a transitional period. But everyone should brace themselves, because the real change is a year away.

I'd like to think that it's a shoo-in for Billups to return... but if Ben Wallace can leave, Billups certainly can. Do you think it'll happen? Is he worth a max contract, or should Detroit attempt to negotiate a sign-and-trade?

While we're at it, here's another point to consider, and one that I'm surprised very few people have mentioned: Antonio McDyess is also eligible to opt out of his contract at the end of the season. Like Billups, he's due for a raise, and he'll likely receive it, whether it's from Detroit or another team.

I like McDyess as much as the next guy (and maybe even more so), but re-signing him to a longer and more expensive deal this summer is extremely risky. Sooner or later, Jason Maxiell will deserve sixth-man minutes, and with any luck Amir Johnson will be ready to contribute next year.Amir is often overlooked by casual fans, but count me among those who believe he has the potential to be a star in this league. As long as McDyess is on the roster, it'll be very difficult for either to happen.

Plus, there's the age/injury factor. Granted, McDyess has missed only five games in two seasons with Detroit, but he's an old 32 years old given his history of knee injuries. If he prices himself at the upper end of Detroit's budget, Joe Dumars will need to ask himself if he'd rather use that money on a younger player with the potential to someday start, or at the very least one who can bring immediate energy off the bench instead of someone who needs to be eased into games.

Who might that be? I'm not saying they're actually better options, but here are some names: Chicago's Andres Nocioni (whom I hate but also compare to a smaller Bill Laimbeer) and Cleveland's Anderson "Sideshow" Varejao (whom I hate but only because he out-hustled Detroit's frontcourt in the playoffs last year) will be restricted free agents this summer, and they're six and eight years younger than McDyess, respectively.

Unlike Billups and McDyess, who have the option of becoming free agents, Dale Davis will definitely be one at the end of the year. While I can't imagine any scenario in which Billups is dealt midseason, I could see a lot of teams inquire about McDyess and/or Davis -- including playoff contenders looking to shore up their frontcourt depth as well as non-contenders looking to acquire an "expiring" contract. If the Pistons are .500 at the midway point, should Dumars start taking those calls?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not hitting the panic button after a 5-5 start (especially considering two of those losses were by a single basket), but it's worth considering: how much change is still in store for this roster this season? And if the roster doesn't see significant changes this year, do you expect (and do you want) it to remain intact heading into next year?

Trading Billups could spark rebuilding [Detroit Free Press]