For now, we're in the offseason doldrums. There's precious little Pistons basketball to consume. League Pass replay for 2015-16 expired after the Las Vegas Summer League ended, Orlando Summer League highlights can only tide you over for so long, and USA Select Team scrimmages, though entertaining, don't have the same urgency to them as actual game action.
So, now that we have the time, we can offer the 1000-yard view of the moves Stan Van Gundy has made to turn a 28-win team (with the talent of a 25-win team) into much more.
Since Stan was made President of Basketball Operations in Detroit three years ago, nearly every move he's made has been to the benefit of the Pistons. Stan, Jeff Bower, and their tireless pro scouting department have made incremental improvements time and time again. One move, of course, stands head and shoulders as Stan's best; the waiving of Josh Smith, which sent shockwaves through the NBA (and waves of joy through DBB).
There's no reason to repeat the celebration of Smith's waiving (I mean, if you WANT to, I certainly will not stop you, and will help you inflate the bouncy house if you give me enough notice). So what's the second-best move Stan Van Gundy has made for the Pistons?
By my count, Stan's waived four players, drafted five youngins, made nine trades, and signed 12 free agents - if I forgot any transactions, be sure to let me know in the comments below.
The instinctual choice is to name the Reggie Jackson trade the second-best move; adding a franchise cornerstone at low cost (D.J. Augustin, Kyle Singler, and two future second-round picks) is definitely a sweet deal. But D.J. Augustin is a good point guard (as evidenced by the 4 year, $29 million dollar deal he got from Orlando this summer), and Reggie was definitely not valued as a franchise cornerstone by Oklahoma City, so it's hard to call that transaction a straight-up heist.
Drafting Stanley Johnson is definitely worthy of the title; there are only two other rookies drafted after Stanley that I would have considered drafting ahead of him (Devin Booker and Myles Turner) and you have to give SVG credit for not falling for flawed prospects such as Justice Winslow, Kelly Oubre Jr., and Frank Kaminsky. Of course, Stanley has only played for one year; the potential for a breakout player from that class to emerge (Sam Dekker under Mike D'Antoni? Bobby Portis with more minutes?) remains, or Stanley could never live up to his basketball potential (unlikely, but possible).
In my mind, from a value perspective, there's only one answer to this question, though: The trade of a 2020 second round pick for Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock, and Danny Granger.
At the time, it was a trade of a borderline starting NBA forward and a potential backup guard for a future second rounder... and the cap space Phoenix needed to sign their free agent target, LaMarcus Aldridge. At that level, it's a defensible trade for Phoenix and a good one for Detroit, who needed help on the wing to replace the traded Caron Butler, the expired contract of Tayshaun Prince and the void left by Cartier Martin's unfulfilled promise.
Then, LaMarcus Aldridge went to San Antonio instead of Phoenix. Whoops. Now, on the surface, Phoenix literally gave away two usable wing players for nothing that can be realized in the next five (FIVE!) years. At this point, the trade is solidly in favor of Detroit.
Then, Marcus plays at a career-best level for the Pistons, shooting 43/36/75 for the season and carrying the team into the postseason (45/45/71 slashline after the All-Star game, 49/50 - YES, FIFTY PERCENT FROM THREE - /75 in 15 games in April). Additionally, Reggie Bullock contributes efficiently off the Pistons' moribund bench (53/48/91 post-ASG) after Stanley Johnson gets hurt and works himself into the 2016-17 rotation. Phoenix still has nothing but cap space to show for this trade. Big win.
Then, the NBA salary cap inflates to $94,143,000 for 2016-17, causing the remaining 3 years, $15 million on Marcus Morris' contract to look like the first five minutes of The Dark Knight. THAT'S how you fleece someone. THAT'S the second-best move Stan has made since he got to Detroit.
Of course, with Stan, a move that tops that one could be right around the corner.