How Detroit Pistons' Draft Reshaped Their NBA Free-Agency Plans
Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports
In the weeks and days leading up to the 2013 NBA draft, the Detroit Pistons were expected to use the No. 8 pick to select a top point guard or small forward, then to address the other position in free agency.
With three previous lottery picks on the roster, they had an up-and-coming team built to grow up together, becoming a championship contender in a couple years.
They didn't need a big man, as Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond made up one of the best young frontcourt duos in the league.
Brandon Knight had played both guard positions in his first two years, but GM Joe Dumars saw his future at shooting guard, according to ESPN Insider Chad Ford (h/t John T. Greilick of The Detroit News).
"The team believes Brandon Knight is more suited to play the 2 and would like to bring in a "pure" point guard to run the team."
When it came time to select, the Pistons had their choice of the top three point guards in the draft: Trey Burke, Michael Carter-Williams or C.J. McCollum. But instead of choosing Knight's backcourt mate of the future, they used their pick on a true shooting guard, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from Georgia.
Now the Pistons have chosen to forego their roster's organic development, instead attempting to acquire big-name players at the start of free agency.
The Pistons began free agency by meeting with one of the top players available, enigmatic forward Josh Smith.
While he did play small forward at times in Atlanta, Smith is at his best offensively when he plays at the 4. He finishes very effectively near the basket, but he is a below-average jump shooter with questionable shot selection. In 2012-13, he took 201 three-pointers, but only shot 30.3 percent.
The Pistons need help defensively, and Smith is one of the best stoppers in the league. But with Monroe and Drummond already on the roster, his fit for the team as currently assembled is questionable.
If they plan to use most of their cap space on Smith, the Pistons would be limited to making trades for any other big move this summer.
With a major hole to fill at point guard, the Pistons have contacted the Boston Celtics about the availability of Smith's high school teammate Rajon Rondo.
Since the Celtics agreed to trade Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets, they seem more likely than ever to listen to offers for the point guard. The Dallas Mavericks have also shown interest in him, according to a report by Ken Berger of CBS Sports.
At just 27 years old and with a very reasonable $11 million salary, the Celtics aren't exactly desperate to give him away. It will take a strong offer from the Pistons to acquire him.
If they were able to sign Smith, either Monroe or Drummond would become expendable. Financially, a package of Monroe, Knight and Jonas Jerebko would work for Rondo.
To fill their small forward vacancy, according to a report by Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, the Pistons have offered the expiring contracts of Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva to the Toronto Raptors for Rudy Gay.
With Masai Ujiri taking over for Brian Colangelo as Raptors GM, they may be looking to blow up the current core this summer. They are a borderline luxury tax team, which is hard to justify after winning just 34 games last season.
Owed over $35 million over the next two seasons, as outlined by Spotrac, Gay has the most cumbersome contract on the roster. If they do want to press the reset button, moving him would be a big start.
Now that they are in win-now mode, acquiring Gay would be a clear upgrade at small forward for a team that started Kyle Singler last season. He averaged over 18 points and six rebounds per game last season.
By bringing Gay and Smith to Detroit, the Pistons could have one of the longest, most athletic front lines in all of basketball.
There are a lot of things that would have to go right for the Pistons to make all three moves, but it's not out of the question.
They may not be able to make these exact three moves happen, but the Pistons are clearly looking to return to the playoffs sooner rather than later.
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