The Detroit Pistons radically transformed their roster at the trade deadline, adding three rotation players in Tobias Harris, Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton. The aggressive Stan Van Gundy saw an opportunity to not just improve his team for a playoff push the rest of this season, but long-term upgrades that solidify the core of the franchise for years to come.
With these moves, the Pistons might not have just won the trade deadline, but by being aggressive early might have won next year's offseason as well.
Let me explain.
Van Gundy was always going to go shopping this summer to improve his team, that much was clear when he convinced Andre Drummond to delay his extension to free up additional cap space for the franchise. As an executive, he had done wonders in adding pieces on the periphery but prior to Wednesday his only significant move was trading for Reggie Jackson (for peanuts, it should be noted), and then signing him to a lucrative multi-year deal.
Everything else was child's play. Trading nothing for Anthony Tolliver -- it helps. Trading nothing for Ersan Ilyasova -- the Pistons needed shooting. Trading jack squat for Marcus Morris -- a useful rotation guy on a steal of a contract.
But then Wednesday happened and Van Gundy swung for the fences. He traded (peanuts again) for Tobias Harris, who will earn a cool $17 million next season. That ate significantly into his cap space. Next, he traded a top-eight protected first-round pick for Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton.
Motiejunas has been injured nearly the entire season and Thornton is simply a useful bench piece. Giving up a potentially hugely valuable first-round pick for an injured guy and a bench guard? Seems like a massive overpay. But this deal, just like the one with Harris, is about more than this season. It's about this offseason -- and more importantly, avoiding having to join the insane bidding war that is likely to occur for just about every free agent on the market.
Van Gundy got his Christmas shopping done in July, in essence. More precisely, in Harris and restricted free agent Motiejunas, he's added two huge pieces without having to enter (and possible lose) a bidding war this summer.
Harris is a good, if slightly divisive player, locked into a reasonable contract for the next three seasons. Motiejunas might get a huge offer but similar to Reggie Jackson, I am sure Van Gundy has already made peace with the idea of matching any offer and locking DMo in for the next four seasons.
Van Gundy has added two pieces to his ever-expanding core, can ensure himself of their services for the next several years, and they are young enough to not only improve, but enter their primes on same timeline as Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson.
Make no mistake, this offseason is going to be nuts. 20-plus teams have the cap room to offer somebody a max contract. A few teams have enough room to offer multiple max contracts. But what happens when Kevin Durant re-signs in Oklahoma and Dwight Howard re-signs with Houston?
Then players like Al Horford, Pau Gasol and Bradley Beal either re-sign or move to a new team. However, there are still dozens of teams with too much money to spend all fighting over the right to pay Hassan Whiteside and Nicolas Batum.
When rumored Van Gundy target Ryan Anderson signs a multi-year deal starting at $20 million this offseason, Pistons fans will see why making these trades was the prudent course of action.
Van Gundy was smart enough to avoid that madness. He now has Drummond, Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tobias Harris, Stanley Johnson and Donatas Motiejunas as his core. KCP, Harris, Johnson and Motiejunas all have positional flexibility to give Van Gundy options on offense and defense.
He can play DMo as a backup center or power forward. He can have Harris play either power forward or small forward. Johnson has the defensive abilities to guard players from 2-4 and KCP is already being asked to guard the biggest threat on the perimeter.
Yes, the Pistons gave up a first-round pick. But Van Gundy sees an opportunity and he is seizing it. The East, while more competitive, is full of teams with big question marks and injury concerns. The Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls and Charlotte Hornets, all above Detroit in the standings, have health issues and consistency concerns, and if Detroit can gel with this new-look lineup, the Pistons are no longer a question to make the playoffs, they're a question to get the fourth or fifth seed in the East and win a round in the playoffs.
While a lot of teams made noise around the trade deadline, and promised for big things to come in the future. Van Gundy decided now was the time to act. And the Pistons are better for it.