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2018 NBA Trade Deadline: Forget Kemba Walker, Pistons should target D’Angelo Russell

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NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Detroit Pistons Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

So, it’s pretty clear to anyone that watches any Detroit Pistons basketball right now that there is a problem at the point guard position. The team is in games right up until the final few minutes, until the lack of spacing suffocates the team into oblivion.

Ish Smith is a great player and an excellent back up. Unfortunately, that’s all he’ll ever be and it’s clear to see why. During winning time, teams will just sag off into the paint on him, and with another non-shooter out there already in Andre Drummond, it puts extra pressure on the other three guys.

The reason Reggie Jackson was so effective in the clutch was because he was a threat to score from the outside. Defenders had to play up on him, which allowed him to drive by them, a luxury Ish Smith is not afforded.

Therefore, plenty of point guard trade targets have been tied to Detroit, none more so than Kemba Walker, but Charlotte would want to get a significant young talent back (which Detroit doesn’t really have), a first round pick (at this point, Detroit is likely in the 14-20 range), or salary cap relief (Avery Bradley is an expiring but...).

The last time I did something like this, the Pistons traded for Reggie Jackson a few months later. Therefore, it’s time to forget all about Kemba Walker and say hello to...

D’ANGELO RUSSELL!!!

*thunderous applause

Yes, I know the Pistons literally just faced off against Russell and the Brooklyn Nets, where the Nets hung on for a 101-100 victory because the Pistons couldn’t close out the game, but let me explain why I think it makes some sense for the Pistons to see if this is an avenue worth exploring.

Spencer Dinwiddie is playing out of his mind right now and establishing himself as the starting point guard for the Nets. In an ideal world, he’d be doing this for the Pistons, but let’s be honest, no one saw this coming. Sure, the Pistons could trade for Dinwiddie, but his ridiculously cheap contract and current play, plus his age, make that borderline impossible.

D’Angelo Russell was the second pick in the 2015 NBA Draft after Karl-Anthony Towns and, after a solid first two seasons in Los Angeles for the Lakers, he was shipped out of town for Brook Lopez and the pick that became Kyle Kuzma. During his time in LA, Russell averaged 14.3 points and 4 assists per game over 28 minutes, in 143 games, while shooting 35 percent from downtown.

After being traded to the Nets, Russell has increased his scoring, averaging over 18 points a game this season, and 5.1 assists, although he’s only shot 28 percent from three. The downside? He’s been injured, only appearing in 14 games for the Nets this season, making him a prime buy low candidate.

Now, Russell has played well this season when healthy, although there are legitimate concerns about his long term health (he had arthroscopic surgery on his knee, causing him to miss 32 games before his return last week), but there is confidence this won’t impact his career in the long run, plus the fact he had two relatively injury-free years in Los Angeles.

Why is he buy-low?

Well, slight injury issues aside, the Nets have unwittingly found themselves in a bit of a situation at point guard. It’s fine for this season with Jeremy Lin out for its duration, but once he returns next year, there’s three quality starters in the rotation. Jeremy Lin has a player option for $12.5 million which he’s almost certainly going to exercise, and Dinwiddie is under contract next season for a hair over $1 million, leaving Russell as the odd man out.

Russell had his fourth year option picked up by the Nets, so he’s on the books for a little over $7 million next season before becoming a restricted free agent in 2019, by which time he’ll be 23 years old, nowhere near his prime.

Brooklyn may have some decisions to make, and while they won’t have their own first round pick this upcoming draft, they will have a couple of key free agents hitting the market the same time as Russell in Spencer Dinwiddie and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Dinwiddie has played himself into a contract so far, while RHJ has proven to be an excellent forward in their rotation and someone they would want to keep long term after Demarre Carroll’s contract expires. Coincidentally, both Carroll and Lin will be free agents as well that summer.

To sum up that part for the lazy:

Russell off contract in 2019, same as Hollis-Jefferson and Dinwiddie (priorities), as well as Lin and Carroll.

What do the Pistons offer?

Russell is on the hook for $5.5 million this season, and Brooklyn’s strategy recently has been to take on some bad contracts in exchange for a draft pick. I don’t think Brooklyn would bite at taking on the Reggie Jackson deal unless both a first round pick and someone like Luke Kennard or Stanley Johnson were attached, but they may be tempted into Jon Leuer.

But Ben, who in their right mind would trade for Jon Leuer?

Well, intrepid reader, who in their right mind trades for Timofey Mozgov? In fairness, that deal also got them Russell so...

If the Nets were interested in Leuer (completely hypothetical), the Pistons would have to throw in a sweetener or two to facilitate, or get a third team involved. Now I hate playing with the trade machine, and it’s late, so I’m just going to throw shit at the wall until something sticks. If Reggie Bullock wasn’t playing so damn well his contract would be a great one to throw into this mix. Trading him would mean Stanley Johnson would go back to starting but he’s looked so gosh darn effective off the bench.

I also don’t like the idea of trading Ellenson, especially in a deal with Jon Leuer where you don’t get another stretch big man back (yes I know neither have shown anything this season but Ellenson is young and I’m invoking the Dinwiddie Rule).

HYPOTHETICAL TRADE

Pistons get: D’Angelo Russell, Quincy Acy, Nik Stauskas

Nets get: Jon Leuer, Eric Moreland, 2018 first round pick

Nets can get rid of the expiring deals of Acy and Stauskas and get a first round pick and a center who’s shown some interesting potential this season...

Yeah I’m not crazy on this idea either, especially from the Nets perspective. Also, the Pistons would have to cut a guy to work this...sorry Dwight, the NBA is harsh man.

HYPOTHETICAL TRADE II

Pistons get: D’Angelo Russell, Isaiah Whitehead

Nets get: Avery Bradley, ‘18 1st round pick

If you’re hellbent on getting Avery Bradley off this team (which I’m not), then this is the trade for you. Bradley would probably play better with a guy like Spencer Dinwiddie who has size, rather than a mouse like Ish.

This trade would also push Kennard most likely into starting SG duties unless SVG smoked some good medical shit and ran out the Bullock-Johnson wing duo again, or if he smoked some even stronger medical shit and said “fuck it” and started Galloway.

Again Buycks is probably waived, but the Pistons do gain Isaiah Whitehead out of this deal, a young combo guard who is seemingly buried on the Nets depth chart.

I do think this trade is more likely to pique the Nets interest but it may be an overpay for someone like D’Angelo Russell, who, at 6’5, is one of the best pure playmakers on his day in the entire league who has been held back by some injury concerns.

In the end, I’m trying to trade for Russell because I know he’s an excellent facilitator and playmaker and someone who has the ability to hit the outside shot at a far better rate than his current 28 percent mark this season suggests. It also allows Ish Smith to go back to what he does best...dominating second units.

***

Are you down with Russell or are you too far on board the Kemba Walker Express - No Stops Direct to Detroit?

Poll

Russell or Walker

This poll is closed

  • 39%
    D’Lo is a more cost-effective option
    (471 votes)
  • 6%
    Even
    (77 votes)
  • 27%
    WALKER TRAIN BABY!!!!!!!11!!!6969
    (326 votes)
  • 23%
    Ben you’re an idiot
    (279 votes)
  • 4%
    Finally a Quag article, about f**king time
    (50 votes)
1203 votes total Vote Now