Feel good win over the LA Clippers in Staples aside this season has been a frustrating one. There seems to be plenty of blame to spread around and few answers to be had but one remedy for what may ail ya is a trade and the deadline for trades is fast approaching:
Not much time and there hasn’t seemed to be much if any inclination towards any move apart from news of a supposed meeting between Tom Gores, Dwane Casey, Ed Stefanski and Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem last Friday in LA to discuss possible changes to the roster. There of course is no way of knowing what came out of that meeting (if it did indeed take place) but we decided to take the reigns ourselves.
Double phones: check.
Multiple coffee containers: check
CRT computer monitor: check.
We are GO!
For this edition of DBB on 3 we asked our guys to play GM for a day and give us and outline for how they would approach the trade deadline and seek to steer this team going forward. To keep it more coherent we are changing up the format a bit and clustering each writer’s three responses together.
1. Reality Check: Please place in order of likelihood these will occur by February 7th, 2019:
- A. “All In” - A trade approach that will meaningfully impact this season but would compromise long term flexibility.
- B. “Deck Chair Shuffle” - A trade approach that doesn’t necessarily move the needle but doesn’t further hamstring the team financially.
- C. “Slash ‘n Burn” - A trade approach that looks more toward the future.
- D. “Jack Squat” - Nothing
2. Play Pistons Management: (cough*because they might not be able to*cough) Pick whichever option you prefer, A, B, or C, call Sachin Gupta into your office and...to the Trade Machine! Let us know your trade or trades and keep it (relatively) within reason in terms of likelihood the trade partner actually would do the trade.
3. Press Conference time: Present your new lineup, let us know the rationale behind it based on team finances, the landscape of the NBA, etc, and tell us where you envision the Pistons going from here. Feel free to speak as Stefanski, Gores and/or Casey.
1. Reality Check: Please place in order of likelihood these will occur by February 7th, 2019:
- B. “Deck Chair Shuffle”
- C. “Slash ‘n Burn”
- A. “All In”
- D. “Jack Squat”
2. If I’m management, I prefer to land a difference-maker at the deadline. I also prefer that Reggie Jackson turns into Isiah Thomas overnight. In reality, I’m going with a “Deck Chair Shuffle” trade... but one that could be a bit of a “Slash ‘n Burn” too.
The Pistons aren’t far from being .500 -- good enough for the playoffs in the East. They’re flawed, but they aren’t as broken as they seem. I see a trade with another team in limbo, the remnants of the TimberBulls in Minnesota, as a way to make a small move that could go a long way. Say the Pistons sent Stanley Johnson + Ish Smith to the Timberwolves for old friend Anthony Tolliver + Tyus Jones. That deal would save the Pistons about $2 million and would work for both sides. Tolliver is glued to the Minnesota bench and would immediately give Detroit a MUCH NEEDED spark with his energy, defense, shooting and leadership. Jones, a cult favorite among Wolves’ fans, would give the Pistons a developmental guard behind Reggie Jackson. The 22-year-old has had some nice moments, but he hasn’t shown a true NBA skill other than, “steady floor general.” Smith is a better player today, and would give Minnesota a nice three-guard rotation with Derrick Rose and Jeff Teague. Johnson, who has stagnated in Detroit, needs a change of scenery and serves as a low-risk gamble that bolsters the Wolves’ wing rotation after the indefinite knee injury to Robert Covington.
3. This trade isn’t going to push the Pistons into contention, but it would propel them back into the playoff hunt without hindering them financially going forward. Jones has a team option after this year, so the team could retain him for the 2019-20 season as a backup to Jackson going into his contract season. This is important because Smith has probably played himself into a deal that Detroit cannot afford this summer. Tolliver would be something of a rental, but is the type of stretch-four the team needs today. If he can be retained, that’s a bonus. Johnson, for all the glimpses he’s shown, will enter free agency with Reggie Bullock this summer. The latter has developed nicely in Detroit and is a vital piece for today and tomorrow. Johnson has yet to show that type of development.
1. D, B, ... ... ... ... A, C
Call this a vote of “no confidence” in Ed Stefanski. I don’t think the guy has a good feel for the current quality of the team or a meaningful strategy/vision on how to turn this into a squad that can compete in the Eastern Conference. A total dud of a GM hiring.
2. A. A team led by Blake Griffin can win the Eastern Conference if it’s built right. Of course, I’ve made my thoughts known on the first step in how to get there: trading Andre Drummond. I’d love to see him bring back a player who can help initiate offense from the wing, but the biggest goal is to replace minutes of guys who can’t score efficiently with players who *gasp* CAN score efficiently. It’s a wild theory, I know. My most realistic deals I’d prefer in order:
1. Drummond for Bradley Beal
2. Drummond for Otto Porter
3. (the salary dump option) a package around Drummond for DeAndre Jordan, with the Mavs adding more perks in
4. Drummond for C.J. McCollum
5. (the If All Else Fails option) Drummond and Stanley Johnson for Nicolas Batum and Malik Monk
Of course, it’s not a matter of trading Drummond and you’re done. There are still a few other issues with the roster - it’s horribly out of balance with too many shooting guards, point guard is an issue long term, depth at small forward stinks - but depending on the Drummond deal, those may need to wait until the offseason.
But unless if you’re bringing back a center in the deal, they’d have to do something to fill the position back up. So in all likelihood they need to tack on Henry Ellenson to open up a roster spot. I mean, they’re not playing him, not developing him, not bringing him back next season. Just get him off the roster. (I still think the guy will turn up down the road as a NBA rotation caliber player, but when a franchise drafts a 19 year old and gives up after two seasons...fine, whatever. Awesome job with the player development, Pistons. Nice work.) Then replace him with Willie Reed. This guy belongs in the NBA. He’s posting 20/11/1.8 in the G-League right now on 67 percent true shooting percentage, and has always been rock solid when he’s gotten minutes in the NBA.
3. Our press conference, of course, depends on what we’re able to get from Drummond. I think the most likely deals would either be the Porter or salary dump deals. The press conference for the Porter deal would be kind of obvious, so let’s say it’s the Dallas salary dump that happens. That one is more interesting.
First, the formal trade: Drummond, Leuer, Galloway, and Ellenson for Jordan, Matthews, and Brunson. The Pistons then use their open roster spot to sign Reed. The new rotation is:
Starters: Jackson, Brown, Bullock, Blake, Jordan
Rotation: Ish/Brunson, Kennard, Matthews, Zaza/Reed
Bench: Calderon, Johnson, Glenn Robinson III, Khyri Thomas, Keenan Evans, Zach Lofton
The rationale for Dallas to do the deal is that they haven’t had a ton of luck going the free agent route in the past and this gives them the chance to add a reasonably young player with a couple of All Star appearances who plays a spot that they don’t currently have a long-term option at. That’s probably not happening on the open market. Plus, DeAndre Jordan has been weirdly antagonistic with Luka Doncic, so just getting him off the team probably would be something of a relief. So they’re basically getting Drummond at the expense of a second round rookie and just taking on one extra year of Galloway and Leuer’s deals, both of whom are decent fits for their rotation.
The rationale for Detroit is that they now have the freedom to build in earnest around Blake Griffin. For the short term, Jordan and Matthews are helpful players at positions of need. But for the longer term, they open up $44 million in cap space for the summer. Retaining Reggie Bullock suddenly becomes a possibility. You’re probably not chasing any marquee free agents like Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, or Kemba Walker, and it probably wouldn’t be a great use of resources to do so. But you can address the point guard situation. There’s plenty of young mid-market talents like Quinn Cook, Delon Wright, Terry Rozier, Emmauel Mudiay, Trey Burke, and Elfrid Payton available, as well as veterans like Ricky Rubio, Eric Bledsoe, Cory Joseph, Patrick Beverly, Isaiah Thomas, Darren Collison, or Jeremy Lin. It’s not a bad summer to be shopping for a point guard.
At center, you can put a platoon next to Blake for reasonably cheap. Get a guy who can do the dirty work, one who can shoot, and one who can be something of an offensive threat. And going inexpensive at center means there’s still room to shore up depth on the wing.
The nice thing about this route is, yes, you are slashing and burning. By next season, you’re left with only four Stan Van Gundy players - and that’s if you re-sign Bullock. But you’re slashing and burning in a way that doesn’t come at the expense of either this season or next year. It’s just as reasonable to see this team go on a winning streak with DeAndre Jordan in the middle of the as with Drummond - perhaps even more so with the Blake-DeAndre reunion. And next year you’re able to really move forward with Blake Griffin as the centerpiece of the franchise with the players next to him that fit for a run in the Eastern Conference.
1. B, D, A, C.
2. I would be reaching for the reset button on the Blake Griffin trade with all of my energy. Look, he’s very talented offensively, but his mediocre to bad defensive and rebounding and his ever-increasing turnover rate place pretty clear limits on how far he can carry a team. Short of some sort of blockbuster trade that manages to bring in two very good perimeter players for Andre Drummond, the Pistons simply don’t have the resources to put together a complete roster around Blake Griffin. And even then, they’d still have significant roster holes to fill and have all the same cap and luxury tax problems.
Realistically, they could probably piece together something that gets the Pistons to competing for .500 and a first-round exit over the next 2-3 seasons without trading Griffin or Drummond... but so what? Being capped out on the fringe of the tax with a .500 roster is the definition of the mediocrity treadmill.
Andre Drummond also has limitations, but (re)building around him over Griffin has two key advantages. First, he’s not even twenty-five and a half years old, so his five prime years are still ahead of him. Drummond won’t be 28 for three more years. That’s enough time to wait out some of the SVG contracts, add 2-3 mid-level free agents, and draft and develop 1-2 additional rotation pieces. That rebuild seems much more achievable to me than the 2-3 year window with Griffin.
Second, Drummond is one of the most durable big men in the NBA. The Pistons know what it’s like to miss a healthy Reggie Jackson, Reggie Bullock, and Luke Kennard. We don’t know what it’s like to miss a healthy Andre Drummond because it’s never really happened. His durability is one of the most overlooked, under-appreciated assets of the Pistons’s last decade.
I realize what I’m proposing is both wildly unpopular and extremely unlikely, but I think it’s the most realistic path to sustained relevance available.
3. If I were to trade Blake Griffin, I wouldn’t call a press conference. I’d sit down with Keith Langlois for a series of interviews and explain what “The Process” will be for Detroit, and I’d be very honest that we are taking a long view of the rebuild and aiming to peak during Andre Drummond’s prime.
Do you find yourself agreeing with any of these three quite different plans? Please play along, I am full well expecting at least ScottFL - who has let us know of his availability on many occasions to serve as Pistons GM - to play along. Fire up the Trade Machine!!!