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The Changing of the Guards: If Not Stuckey, Then Whom? Part II

As pointed out in Part 1 of this look at the guard options around the league, it's pretty clear that this year's free agent class will not provide an upgrade to Rodney Stuckey at the point. While players like Kyle Lowry and CJ Watson still have plenty of upside, the smart money is to stick with Stuckey's rookie deal and spend when the time is right.

Should Joe Dumars spend part or all of the MLE, it should be used to address Detroit's frontcourt needs first. Thankfully, Will Bynum can be extended without spending any part of our MLE, giving him a clear advantage on where to spend on free agent guards this summer.

If free agency isn't going to give Detroit a more natural point player, that leaves the trade market and the draft. To explore the trade options going into the 2010-11 NBA season, here's part two of the "Changing of the Guards".

What Will Detroit Be Looking For In A Trade?

Assuming Detroit is looking for an upgrade at the point, the targeted player should at least be a significantly more efficient scorer and a significantly better distributor than Rodney Stuckey. Beyond those two core competencies, a 3-point shot is important, but not as necessary given that Ben Gordon will likely end up starting at shooting guard if Rip Hamilton is moved. If Gordon does start at the 2, size will also be important to allow Gordon to switch to defend a point guard when match-ups get tricky.

What Should Detroit Avoid?

Overweight contracts. The higher the price, the more likely Detroit will have to include a large contract to make the money work. All of Detroit's trade assets should first be focused on frontcourt upgrades. Unless we can net a star point guard in a trade, our assets must be focused on acquiring bigs.

Also note that this is not a list of players Detroit should target in a trade, but a more comprehensive list of players that will likely be available on the trade market this summer. If it's possible that you'll hear a player's name in trade rumors or fan trade proposals, you can expect to see them listed here.

Most Likely Available Point Guards

1. Devin Harris

Back story: Unless the May 18th draft lottery brings any surprises, it's likely that New Jersey will end up with the number one pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. Expect New Jersey to take John Wall and not look back. They're going to be a big player in this year's free agent market, already an oft-rumored destination for Lebron's Elbow or another premier player. John Wall, Brook Lopez and an impending move to Brooklyn make the Nets a top free agent destination. If the lottery balls go their way on the 18th, expect Devin Harris to be the trade-bait name of the summer.

Rationale: Upon drafting Wall and possibly signing a premier free agent, the Nets will need to focus on upgrading their wing positions with solid vets. That may put Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton or Ben Gordon on their radar.

Value to Detroit: As Harris approached his peak, he looked to be a special player. In the last year, those expectations were shattered by poor shooting, more poor shooting and leadership over one of the worst teams in NBA history. Devin Harris is one of the few guards in the league to have actually shot worse than Rodney Stuckey in 2009-10, putting up 40.9% from the field and 27.6% from three. He averaged a few more assists, but that difference could be the result of having an inside dish partner in Brook Lopez. Where Harris was once a rising star, he now carries more question marks than he does advantages.

Verdict: Pass. Harris presents a downgrade in efficiency and doesn't distribute well enough to warrant taking on his remaining $27 million contract.

2. Jose Calderon

Back Story: Since it's unlikely that the Raptors will be able to re-sign their mascot, expect them to use their point guard logjam to fill some holes. Calderon or Jarrett Jack will likely wind up on the trading block this summer, and Toronto might not need frontcourt help if they can swing that rumored Bosh for Lee sign-and-trade.

Rationale: It's very unlikely that Detroit will be a trading partner with Toronto, as we have very little that they need. Yet their current 2-guards, the unbelievably-efficient Sonny Weems and the nearly-as-remarkable DeMar DeRozan, aren't three point shooters. It's possible that Toronto would consider a swap of Calderon + contract for Ben Gordon. Jarrett Jack would (rightly) move to the starting lineup and the picture might improve for our neighbors to the slightly-northwest.

Value to Detroit: Calderon is tricky-- he's a significantly more efficient shooter than Stuckey, he's a better distributor and he's got a 3-point shot. Sounds like the perfect option, right? Calderon is also an abysmal defender (which might make our backcourt the worst defensive pairing in the league), and he put up only 10 points per game this season. For a starter, that is pretty much unacceptable unless your name is Ben Wallace. Add to that the $30 million he's due for the next three years, and we'd have to throw a sizable contract to Toronto to put him in a Pistons uniform. Why not just give Luke Ridnour part of the MLE instead? They're basically the same player.

Verdict: Pass. Calderon is a prime example of why sports stats can be misleading. Fortunately, his ugly contract numbers cannot be misread.

3. Jarrett Jack

Back Story: Same as for Calderon

Rationale: If Toronto is smart, they'll trade Calderon and move Jack to the starting lineup. Is Toronto GM Bryan Colangelo smart? The media thinks so, but we're talking about a guy that just gave Hedo Turkoglu a Rashard Lewis contract. Should Toronto move Jack and his $5mil/yr. salary, we may not have an equivalent piece to trade (and they don't need Maxiell), but it could be worth exploring.

Value to Detroit: Jarrett Jack hits all of our needs: in 2009-10, he shot 48.1% from the floor, 41.2% from three, dished 5 per game in 27 minutes-- and he looks like Chauncey Billups. Win/win/win. Oh, and his contract is actually reasonable.

Verdict: If Detroit works out a nice frontcourt in the draft and a primary trade, a secondary move for Jack could be quite sensible, however unlikely.

4. Beno Udrih

Back Story: While Beno Udrih was given a nice contract (he has $21.5 million due over the next three), he's been made mostly redundant by the arrival of Tyreke Evans. With this year's draft pick and the recent addition of Carl Landry, expect Sacramento to try and move Udrih to fill other holes in their roster.

Rationale: While the Kings may keep Udrih as a slightly overpaid backup, he could net them some talent that better suits their team. The free agent market and the draft will decide how Sacramento proceeds, but he may be a prime trade piece that could help push the Kings to a playoff berth.

Value to Detroit: Udrih is a great shooter, hitting at nearly 50% this season. He does not, however, pose an upgrade in the distribution department. He actually recorded a lower assist rate than Stuckey this season.

Verdict: Pass. While he may shoot better, he doesn't pass as well as Rodney Stuckey. That is saying very little about his ability as a floor leader.

5. Kirk Hinrich

Back Story: Hinrich has been the subject of trade rumors for years, especially since the arrival of Derrick Rose. Expect that to continue until his contract expires in 2012.

Rationale: Chicago will be a player in this year's free agent market, bringing in either a big name PF like Stoudemire, Boozer or Bosh or an SG like Joe Johnson. Whichever position they don't fill, you can expect Chicago to make a move for the other position with a trade involving Hinrich.

Value to Detroit: Hinrich's 2009-10 numbers are skewed, as he was played out-of-position at the 2 and as such saw his passing rate drop. Even before that, he's never been an efficient scorer and his assist numbers leave plenty to be desired.

Verdict: Pass. Hinrich doesn't represent value to Detroit, but don't be surprised if you hear mention of his name in trade rumors elsewhere and possibly including Detroit. He's on this list because he's a point guard on the trading block.

6. Mike Conley Jr.

Back Story: It's looking likely that Memphis will start the season without Rudy Gay in a Grizzlies uniform. Should that happen, one of the Grizzlies' frontcourt players will go on the block as well as Mike Conley Jr, whom they haven't been very happy with.

Rationale: Memphis surprised a lot of people this season, thanks to a roster of unlikely underdogs with four potential all stars (sound familiar?). The "other guy" in the starting lineup was Mike Conley, a player who just hasn't lived up to his potential. If Memphis can find themselves an upgrade at the point, they'll take it-- and they might just be interested in giving Rodney Stuckey a shot.

Value for Detroit: Conley's only value to Detroit is as part of a larger trade package. With Rudy Gay gone, Memphis may include Conley and a frontcourt player in a package for Tayshaun Prince. Depending on which frontcourt player that is, Detroit may consider the idea.

Verdict: Pass. Conley is not as productive as Stuckey, despite the decent shooting efficiency. If he's involved in a trade package for a big, that's the only way I could see Detroit making a move involving Conley.

7. JJ Barea

Back Story:Jose Juan Barea is a fan favorite in Dallas, and it'll be quite difficult to pry him away from the Mavs thanks to his contract's team option worth less than $2M this year. The Maverick's backcourt is quite loaded, including Jason Kidd, Jason Terry and rookie surprise Rodrique Beaubois. One of those four players could become a trade piece, and while JJ Barea is a solid player he can't be scratched off the list of possible trade bait in Dallas.

Rationale: Despite their first round exit, the Mavs team is almost comically stacked. A roster including Jason Kidd, Caron Butler, Shawn Marion and Dirk Nowitzki sounds like a sure thing fantasy basketball champion a few years ago. However, Eric Dampier is almost 50 and Brendan Haywood is a free agent, giving Dallas a bit of a pickle at the 5. While Detroit isn't at all thick at the center position, it's safe to assume that Dallas and Detroit could start chatting on the trade market depending on how Detroit's primary trade and draft options turn out.

Value for Detroit: Barea is essentially Will Bynum, but with an emphasis on 3-point shooting and not as much of a focus on to-the-basket slashing. Is he a starter? Probably not, but when his contract expires it is possible that someone gives him a shot at starters minutes. When taking his 3-point game into account, he's still not as productive as Bynum, and it'd cost us valuable trade pieces for what could be a loss at that position.

Verdict: Pass. Nice player, but Barea doesn't present an upgrade over Will Bynum, let alone Rodney Stuckey.

8. Darren Collison

Back Story: In a draft stacked with solid point guards, Darren Collison was the steal of the century. Falling to the 21st pick in last year's draft, Collison filled in for an injured Chris Paul to the point where some considered that Paul might wind up on the trading block. While trading Chris Paul would be a revolutionary brand of foolishness, Collison is so damned good that some have considered CP3 as a possibly expendable superstar trade chip. Think about that-- what level of talent do you need to make the league's most talented point guard worry about his job security?

Rationale: If New Orleans decides to move Collison, they'd likely look for a first round pick, some contract relief and some help at small forward. With their other draft surprise of Marcus Thornton, they don't need to trade for a shooting guard, which takes Hamilton or Gordon out of consideration. It's possible that offering Tayshaun Prince, and our first round might interest NO. In that scenario, Collison, Wright and Posey would work financially. The Hornets would have two lottery picks, a veteran glue guy at the 3 and roughly $27,000,000 in 2011 expiring contracts after this trade.

Value to Detroit: Of all the potentially available point guards on the trade market, Collison is the marquis player. He averaged 19 points and 9 assists on 49% shooting (43% from three) in 37 games as a starter. In that stretch, he had 13 double-doubles, scoring as much as 35 points and dishing out as much as 20 assists in a single game. To get him in a Pistons uniform, however, we can kiss our frontcourt rebuilding goodbye. We'd have to spend our first round pick and our top trade asset for a position we don't have to fill. If Collison is available in that case, however, it might be foolish not to give it a shot (especially if we fall to 10th in the Draft Lottery).

Verdict: Consider it. Detroit would have to put off the frontcourt rebuilding project for another year, but would acquire a top tier point guard of the future.

9. TJ Ford

Back Story: Ford recently exercised his contract's player option for $8,500,000 for the 2010-11 season. It's pretty amazing that Ford put up 14 and 8 on 44% shooting in his last year in Toronto, because he has shat the proverbial bed in Indiana. While the Pacers might just let Ford expire, it's likely they'll move him closer to the trade deadline to a team looking for cap relief.

Rationale: If Detroit gets involved, it'd likely be as part of a larger trade. Detroit probably won't look to be a player in the 2011 free agent market, so the cap relief alone will pose little value. From Indiana's perspective, the Pistons don't have a lot that Indy needs, and it's doubtful they'd even consider moving a big that Detroit would be interested in.

Value for Detroit: TJ's career has gone entirely down hill in Indiana, with dwindling numbers and uninspired performances. He'd be our third best point guard-- and not worth spending any of our trade pieces on.

Verdict: Pass. Double Pass.

10. Ramon Sessions

Back Story: Regular DetroitBadBoys readers will likely be shocked, SHOCKED that it took me this long to mention him. He's on this list because 1) his $4M/yr. contract is one of the longest on Minny's books, 2) that kind of money may be necessary to make a Jefferson or Love trade work financially, 3) Minnesota appears to value Flynn (and the ghost of Ricky Menudio) greater than Sessions.

Rationale: I'm going to save this section for a post entirely to itself (which I will dedicate to Kriz). In short, Sessions has averaged 15 and 8 on 44% shooting in 47 career starts. That's enough to warrant consideration by any GM. Expect Minnesota to get plenty of calls from point-hungry teams, especially Mike D'Antoni's Knicks and the aforementioned Indiana Pacers. What makes Sessions all the more attractive is his contract, which is far more than reasonable. As John Hollinger put it last summer when Sessions signed with Minnesota, "This was the steal of the summer, people." Should he be traded, those words will ring true by the end of his contract.

Value for Detroit: I'll illustrate this in greater detail in a forthcoming article, but for now-- he's more efficient than Stuckey and a much better passer. That hits both of the primary needs Detroit has at the point position. Due to the size of his contract, he could be acquired after we rebuild our frontcourt, making him a very special option for the Pistons.

Verdict: Above and beyond Kevin Love and Al Jefferson, this is precisely the kind of trade Detroit should consider making. We can spend our trade assets and draft picks on bigs AND upgrade our point guard all in the same summer.

In Summary

On this list, two names stand out as inexpensive upgrades that can be acquired after Detroit rebuilds their frontcourt. Jarrett Jack and Ramon Sessions have cheap contracts that could be traded for after Detroit's primary trade assets are spent. Both teams, Toronto and Minnesota, have plenty of talent at the point and currently value their starting PGs over these players. Additionally, both allow Detroit to retain Ben Gordon, as they are both apt defenders who have the size to switch over to guard SGs as necessary.

Beyond these two, Detroit shouldn't blink if discussions open up with New Orleans about Darren Collison. 20/10 point guards who score efficiently and are committed to defense are rare, with only a handful in the league per decade. It might be worth putting off our frontcourt rebuilding project to get him in a Pistons uniform, if it is even possible.

There are more trade options out there, but these 10 involve players who are likely to be on the block this summer. However, the entire point of this article series leads to one simple point. Out of all of the free agent and trade block point guards, only three present a significant upgrade over Rodney Stuckey, and only two can be acquired without interrupting our frontcourt rebuild. Beyond that... sticking with Stuckey is the smart option this summer-- for better or for worse.