Joe Dumars, Detroit Pistons president of basketball operations, has given his first clue about what we can expect from the team as it approaches the trade deadline -- it will probably be boring.
That's not necessarily a bad thing but it all just plays into the more of the same malaise that fans have seen for the past four years.
Specifically, Dumars says that he isn't willing to sacrifice the financial flexibility that the team bought itself when trading Ben Gordon and a first-round draft pick to Charlotte for Corey Maggette and his expiring contract.
That's both good news and bad news, I suppose.
The good news is that as fans and writers start flirting with the idea that perhaps the Pistons are a playoff team (only four games back of the eighth seed!) after a string of confident play, Dumars will not sell his long-term rebuild plan short just to eke out a couple extra wins and possible playoff berth.
The bad news is that it appears that Dumars fully intends to restock the team through free agency -- at least at first blush.
The NBA trade deadline is still weeks away but for all the fans plotting along with Dumars in how to improve the Pistons by Feb. 21, the president of basketball operations made clear that any deal must take one overarching theme into account: It must preserve the team's financial freedom going into next summer's free-agency period.
"We like the flexibility that we have going forward," Dumars said. "Our plan is not to give up that flexibility going forward. So anything that we may or may not do, we don't intend to give up that flexibility that we do have going into the summer."
As has been discussed ad nauseam on this site rebuilding through free agency (and most likely overpaying for free agents) is the exact wrong way to move forward.
But Dumars hasn't committed to doing that -- at least not necessarily. Writer David Mayo throws in the names Josh Smith and O.J. Mayo as but two examples of potential free agent targets but it is pure speculation. When asked point blank if it was "fair to assume the team was looking for a top-shelf wing shooter" Dumars said no. And his quote is about as vague as you can get:
"Everything we did, all our decisions starting last summer, were to put us in the position to have freedom and flexibility to change whatever we needed to change going forward," Dumars said. "That was the whole basis for all of the decisions last summer. When you create a plan, as to a path that you're going to take, you have to see it through. That's what we're doing here."
With all that said what does it mean we can expect to see at the trade deadline?
Crudely, from a pure talent standpoint I imagine that it would mean the team would "lose" any possible trade. If Maxiell is traded it's going to be for a lesser expiring player and a pick. It makes moves for, say, a Ramon Sessions unlikely.
It doesn't rule out, however, how willing the team is to dump salary to garner even more financial flexibility going forward -- Tayshaun Prince, Rodney Stuckey and Jonas Jerebko being the obvious candidates for that kind of move.
But in the end it probably will mean not much changes. After a strong start Maxiell has regressed and is a less attractive trade candidate for true contenders, Will Bynum or Austin Daye could go to a team in desperate need of bench scoring punch. And there is a chance a team like Dallas, Brooklyn, or a up-and-coming team on the fringes of the playoffs will be willing to kick the tires on Prince or Stuckey.