A universally recognized weakness of the Pistons is backup point guard. Steve Blake, bless him, got us through the regular season well enough but is more suited to a suit than a jersey at this point in his career. The Spencer Dinwiddie experiment has never really gotten off the ground (much like Spencer himself). The Pistons could turn to a rookie (Wade Baldwin? Tyler Ullis? Demetrius Jackson?) for backup help, but a team with playoff expectations shouldn't expect a rookie to come in and help them right away.
Which means the Pistons' future backup point guard is already in the league.
Here, by tier, we take a look at who the Pistons should acquire in the offseason:
AKA Guys maybe worth trading the No. 18 pick and more:
Jeremy Lin (Player Option for 2016):
Lin had a great season for Charlotte. He's top percentile in PNR production, can shoot threes (career 35 percent), not a bad negative defender (not a good one, but not a negative), and has experience playing next to a ball-dominant guard in crunch-time if that's what's needed (did it with Harden and Kemba). He's said he loved Charlotte and would love to come back, and he could exercise his player option and do just that.
However, this team is going to be a lot worse next season after Nic Batum gets $90 million from the Lakers, Marvin Williams gets $60 million from Dallas and Courtney Lee gets $50 million to return to Memphis; if they try to steer into the curve with a Kemba/MKG/Zeller/Kaminsky/1st rounder/1st rounder core, they could be back in the playoffs in a few years. If they're not going to be good, MJ would totally try to just replace Lin with Marcus Paige on the cheap, and they could use the No. 18 pick to do that (Charlotte has the No. 22 pick).
As a not-completely-unrelated aside, my NBA2K16 Simulation Detroit Pistons took OFF in the regular season after adding Lin, going something like 24-10 after the trade during the All-Star break. Yes, I evaluate players on how they help me in 2K. Don't judge me too harshly.
Jordan Clarkson (Restricted Free Agent in 2016):
Jim Buss has a personal interest in making this team good RIGHT NOW. You know what doesn't make you good right now? 23-year-old guards that still don't have a position. You know what DOES make you good right now? Signing two ball-dominant swingmen (DeMar Derozan and Nic Batum) and a cleanup big with growth potential (Festus Ezeli) to contracts so big you can't RFA your 23-year-old guard without a position.
With the Lakers set to add the No. 2 pick in the draft to the massive free agent bounty everyone thinks they will go for, they are desperately going to need cheap contracts to fill out that roster, and Clarkson - an above-average, improving offensive talent languishing under low expectations and poor coaching - is about to get expensive. Offering the Lakers a cheap piece (Reggie Bullock?) and a first-rounder for a guy that's going to be out of their price range pretty soon could be a win-win.
Ricky Rubio (4 years, ~$55 million left on extension):
Everyone agrees that Minnesota is primed to take a leap in the West under new President of Basketball Operations Tom Thibodeau. However, Rubio's inability to shoot could leave him out of that equation for the Timberwolves.
With the No.5 pick in the draft, Minnesota is in a prime position to select one of the Jamal Murray/Kris Dunn/Buddy Hield triumvirate, getting younger, cheaper, and more perimeter-oriented at the point guard position immediately. Thibs' defensive system doesn't require a plus defender - which Rubio is - at point guard to work (he's hidden the likes of Aaron Brooks, John Lucas III, and DJ Augustin convincingly), but his offensive system - like everyone else's in today's NBA - operates more smoothly with a perimeter shooter at the helm.
Rubio is many things and a perimeter shooter is not one of them.
However, Rubio's perimeter defense, court vision, and ballhandling would make him an outstanding bench addition for the Pistons. Rubio wouldn't be asked to score, just to distribute to the many perimeter shooters on the bench (stay healthy, Jodie). He would essentially be Warren Buffett's version of Steve Blake for Detroit.
AKA Guys worth chasing in free agency:
Matthew Dellavedova (RFA in 2016):
Good (physical) perimeter defender with an underrated three-point stroke and pick-and-roll game. Would get to come off the bench and run an all-Aussie PNR with Aron Baynes, which would make Ben Quagliata squeal.
However... if LeBron stays, would YOU leave that Cleveland team? Yeah, me neither. Delly's dirty, but he's not a dummy.
Shane Larkin (PO for 2016):
Would YOU leave Brooklyn?
Yeah, I thought so. Larkin is undersized, but productive (averaged 12 points and seven assists per-36 minutes for Brooklyn, which is more impressive when you consider how few actual NBA players he was on the court with at times) and increased his three-point percentage to 36 percent last season. Think of Larkin as a younger DJ Augustin, and a reasonable acquisition for the Pistons.
Brandon Jennings (Unrestricted Free Agent in 2016):
We at DBB know $wag. We love $wag. If he fancies a runback, he'd be more than welcome here. If he fancies getting paid (which I don't blame him for), he's probably not coming back.
Ramon Sessions (UFA in 2016):
He's making noises about being a starter, which, sure. But if he wants to accept a backup role and do the same thing he's always done in his career (attack the rim and draw fouls) there are worse places he could do that than Detroit. Plus, his addition would certainly draw DBB legend Mike Payne back to these comments.
AKA Guys worth getting once the dust settles in free agency:
D.J. Augustin (UFA in 2016):
D.J. played good ball two years ago under SVG, and there's no reason to think he wouldn't continue to be solid if he returned to the Pistons. He was a bit turnover-prone last season, but that'll happen when you get traded twice in a year and don't know the plays. The Pistons could do much worse than bringing back D.J.
Jerryd Bayless (UFA in 2016):
I've always had a soft spot for Bayless, an unrepentant gunner with a career 52.6 True Shooting percentage who also has shot 36.5 percent from three in his career. More than HALF of his shots last year were from three if I'm reading this BBall Ref chart correctly, and he shot a career-high 43.7 percent on those shots, so either he figured something out or Jason Kidd is a mad genius on par with Victor Von Doom. Replicate that in Detroit, and he'd have a home.
Ish Smith (UFA in 2016):
Smith bounced around the league for six years before finding a place on the Sixers, a team desperate for even a mediocre point guard. And he played well for the Sixers, averaging 14/4/7 in 50 games. However, he's a career 30 percent three-point shooter (who shoots less than one a game) who only shot 40 percent from the floor last season. He probably doesn't shoot well enough to be a fit in Detroit.
AKA Guys who are worth more than what we'd pay to get them:
George Hill (1 year, ~$8 million left on contract):
Hill is a good point guard, a guy who shoots well (49/37/80 career shooting splits) with a low usage rate, shares the ball (career 18.3 assist percentage), and plays decent enough defense. He's also on the wrong side of 30, has been a starter his entire career, and plays for a division rival. What the Pistons would be willing to part with to acquire him is probably too little to actually get him.
Darren Collison (1 year, ~$5 million left on contract):
Collison has quietly been an effective point guard at his stops Dallas, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. A career 37 percent three-point shooter, who draws FT's at a decent clip, and averages 8.4 assists per 100 possessions for his career would be a welcome addition. His drawback? His stature means he underperforms defensively, which we saw be an issue last year for the Pistons.
Unfortunately, all signs point to Rajon Rondo being out of Sacramento, which would make Collison the starter, and Sacramento wouldn't give up two starting-level point guards in the same offseason. Again, the price of his acquisition would probably be more than what the Pistons are willing to pay.
AKA Guys with cheap acquisition costs, but you get what you pay for:
Trey Burke (1 year, ~$4 million left on contract):
Would any potential Piston point guard list be complete without Michigan Legend and John R. Wooden Player of the Year award-winner Trey Burke?
Burke has been inefficient (38/33/82 career slashline), turnover-prone (career 4/2 assist-to-turnover ratio), and couldn't even hold down a consistent backup role for the Jazz after the acquisition of Shelvin Mack (not exactly a point god himself) at the trade deadline. The one thing Burke has going for him is his price; with Dante Exum set to return from his ACL injury next season, Burke could be had for a future second-rounder (the basketball equivalent of a sack of baseballs).
Michael Carter-Williams (1 year, ~$3 million left on contract):
Former Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams has the physical profile of a prototypical NBA point guard, and the career efficiency of a fringe NBA point guard. MCW has been a model of inefficency: Good raw numbers (14/6/6) on atrocious shooting percentages (41/25/69 slashline, TWENTY-FIVE percent from three for his career) who's also averaged three turnovers a game. He's 24 years old and rapidly ossifying into a player that won't remain in the league. Again, MCW's main attraction is his presumably low acquisition price.
Any one of these guys (ok, maybe not Trey Burke) would be an improvement over Steve Blake. The next move is completely up to Jeff Bower, Stan Van Gundy, and the massive professional scouting team they've built.
Have your say in the comments below.