The struggling Los Angeles Lakers contacted the Detroit Pistons about the availability of Brandon Jennings and Greg Monroe, according to Ramona Shelbourne of ESPN.
The Pistons are 9-1 in their past 10 games and the playoffs look more and more like a possibility. A comment like that seemed crazy a couple weeks ago when the team was 5-23 and still seems kind of crazy as they sit at 14-24. But, well, the post-Josh Smith era has been crazy.
So is the team a buyer, a seller or maintaining the status quo?
Sitting at 5-23, they were definitely sellers. Wining nine of 10 makes one believe they might be buyers. Being on the fringes of playoff contention and 10 games below .500? Who knows!
On the face of it, the rumor makes little sense for both sides. Perhaps, as Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press speculates, the rumor is based on "stale" information when the Pistons were much more in selling mode. Perhaps, as Dan Feldman at ProBasketballTalk says, this is the Lakers putting on airs, pushing stories out into the media about how they're trying to improve their struggling club with no intention of doing anything but losing and securing a top-five pick.
While a large contingent of Pistons fans are interested in an upgrade, especially at small forward, the Pistons are really not in a position to sacrifice future assets in order to help a playoff push. Sorry, Wilson Chandler fans, but giving up a future first-round pick is just not in the cards.
The Pistons are likely to upgrade the small forward position, but it might be in the draft, it might be in free agency or it might be an offseason trade. But it's unlikely to be in the next month.
The idea of trading Jennings is a little more intriguing to me. While I've always been more among the pro-Jennings contingent, the idea of trading him not just for an expiring but for an actual asset is interesting. While Jennings has been lights out on offense lately (unsustainably so, I might say), his defense has still been a liability in the post-Smith era.
Opponents haven't been able to capitalize on it because the overall team defense has really improved but you see a lot of getting lost on screens and losing track of his defensive assignment. The problem is, D.J. Augustin is a defensive liability as well and not nearly the offensive playmaker Jennings can be and has been in the past 10 games. For Detroit to trade Jennings it would need to orchestrate some kind of stopgap upgrade at point guard to ensure it can continue it's winning ways.
But if the Pistons were to trade Jennings for an expiring, say, Jeremy Lin and a first rounder, it would open up $8 million in additional cap room this summer. That would put the Pistons at $38 million in cap space, give or take, with a major ability to sign two max-level players and another player of starter quality at the power forward, small forward and point guard positions.
So you can see why it's not an easy yes or no for head coach and team president Stan Van Gundy. For his part, Van Gundy does admit that this current winning streak has forced him to adjust his thinking. As he told Ellis:
"Of course it does," Van Gundy said amid preparations for tonight's game against the New Orleans Pelicans (7:30 p.m., FSD). "I think you make adjustments, probably, every week in that regard, of looking at where you are and where you want to be and everything else.
"It doesn't mean you won't do anything, but it certainly, if you continue to play really well, it changes the way you look at it, yeah."
"Look, we're not where we want to eventually be," Van Gundy said. "I love the way we're playing now and, hopefully, the rest of the year will go very well, but we're not gonna rest on that until we're in contention.
"There's a long way from 14-24 to being a contender, and we gotta keep that goal in mind and not get overly wrapped up in playing 10 good games here."
Does that sound like a buyer or a seller? I'm not quite sure. Now your thoughts.