In my first Kwame Brown post, I suggested that his signing might set up another trade. Before Brown's arrival, Rasheed Wallace was the only player on the roster who could defend opposing centers without worrying about specific matchups. Now, the Pistons have two such players, allowing Joe Dumars to trade Wallace, should the right offer come along, without necessarily demanding a starting-caliber center in return.
But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if Brown wasn't signed simply to use as a bargaining chip down the road. Kevin alluded to this in his post this morning:
While $4 million per year might be a bit spendy for a center with a well-deserved reputation as a stiff, snagging a two year deal that expires in 2010 is a major coup in and of itself. Teams will be scrambling to get under the cap come the 2010 trade deadline, and a $4 million expiring contract will be ideal for facilitating three way trades.
A lot of people have suggested that the Pistons overpaid for Brown, but his $4 million salary may actually make it easier for the Pistons to make a deal in February. Consider this: Rasheed ($13.6 million), Chauncey Billups ($11 million), Rip Hamilton ($10.5 million) and Tayshaun Prince ($9.5 million) are all making top dollar.
After those four, Antonio McDyess ($6.8 million) and Amir Johnson ($3.6 million) are the only other players making more than $2 million. Jason Maxiell ($1.8 million), Rodney Stuckey ($1.7 million), Arron Afflalo ($1 million), Cheikh Samb ($800,000) are still on their rookie contracts, and Will Bynum (and potentially Lindsey Hunter and Theo Ratliff, should they sign) earns the veteran's minimum.
For the most part, the young players represent huge bargains -- their talent (or at least potential) far exceeds their current salary. You wouldn't want to trade them unless you're getting equal talent in return, and you certainly wouldn't want to bundle them together in a trade unless you were absolutely certain it'd result in a title.
Trouble is, the fact that the Pistons literally don't have a single "bad contract" on their roster can make it difficult to swing trades -- when every player is either a bargain or making market value, it's impossible to throw another body into a deal just to make the salaries work without getting ripped off.
Here's a hypothetical example (that's unrealistic but illustrates my point): say the Pistons and Rockets agreed to swap Rasheed Wallace for Tracy McGrady ($21 million) straight-up. The Rockets know Detroit will have to send back another body or two to make the deal work but don't really care who it is. Without an expendable $4 million salary to throw-in, Detroit would have to package some of their young bargains simply to make it work. I'd swap Rasheed for McGrady straight up, but would I swap Rasheed, Maxiell and Stuckey for McGrady? No chance. Rasheed and Brown? Now we're talking.
Now, obviously, overpaying guys simply to trade them in the future probably isn't a good habit, but I'm already of the mindset that Brown's contract isn't that horrible when you consider the market for big men. But no matter what you think of his skills, remember that this is the league that features guys like Keith Van Horn being handed $4.3 million contracts with the understanding that he'll never actually play a game simply to make a trade happen. Having players with medium-sized contracts is an asset in itself, above and beyond what they bring to the floor.