The Detroit Pistons have finalized a sign-and-trade to acquire Brandon Jennings from the Milwaukee Bucks. As the Associated Press reported via the Boston Herald, Detroit will send Brandon Knight, Viacheslav Kravtsov and Khris Middleton to Milwaukee.
Upon completing the trade, the Pistons have become a legitimate postseason team.
Detroit is still far removed from competing for an NBA championship, but that hardly discredits its progress. Not only have the Pistons acquired Jennings, but they also signed Josh Smith and hired Maurice Cheeks to be their head coach.
With a starting lineup of Jennings, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or Kyle Singler, Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, Detroit has itself a postseason core.
It's important that we go further than name value in our evaluation, though, as there are polarizing names in that lineup. From Jennings' and Smith's shot selection to Drummond's questioned rise in popularity, skeptics will inevitably doubt Detroit's validity.
Here's why they'll prove their critics wrong and make it into the 2013-14 postseason.
If there's one thing that every great perimeter player benefits from most, it's the presence of a reliable low-post scorer. When said player can slow a game down, force a defense to collapse and score close to the basket, it opens lanes for slashing and jump-shooting from their perimeter teammates.
Prior to coming to Detroit, that's a luxury Jennings was never granted.
Now, Jennings prepares to team up with one of the better interior players in the NBA in Monroe. While he may not have the most high-profile name, he's capable of scoring and facilitating with his back to the basket and finishing off of the pick-and-roll.
Per Synergy Sports, Monroe averaged 1.05 points per pick-and-roll play when he was the dive man.
With Smith also working well off of high screens, all the while displaying the ability to shoot from the low block, Jennings' job becomes significantly easier. His shot selection must improve, but in Milwaukee, his best scoring option after Monta Ellis was Mike Dunleavy.
It's safe to say that he's in better hands with the Pistons.
Jennings will have two legitimate pick-and-roll options with Monroe and Smith, adding a potential third if Drummond progresses as planned. He also has spot-up shooters he can trust in Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Singler.
Paired with the leadership of Chauncey Billups, we may see Jennings become the star point guard we know he can be.
Today's NBA is becoming overrun with the false theory that small ball is taking the league by storm. The truth of the matter is, the Miami Heat's ability to win without a true center hardly sets a standard, but instead makes them an exception to the rule.
With that being said, it's pivotal that teams can work the open floor, and few will be able to as proficiently as Detroit.
How will the Detroit Pistons fare in 2013-14?
Jennings and Smith are two of the most revered open-court players in the NBA. The former uses his creativity around the rim to finish, while Smith finishes as powerfully as any player in the world.
Throw in Caldwell-Pope, Billups and Singler's respective abilities to hit the pull-up jumper, and this is a team that can exploit a defense in a variety of ways during the fast break.
This strength may not be enough to secure a postseason berth, but the Pistons' balance makes them a favorite for a low seed in the East. With the previously acknowledged low-high game established, the Pistons can both speed it up and slow it down.
The only question at this point is how disciplined they'll be when they shoot the basketball.
No one is guaranteed to make the playoffs, especially after we saw the Los Angeles Lakers nearly miss out in 2012-13. With that being said, the Pistons have offensive balance and the type of firepower that most young teams would dream of.
Once you get past names and reputations, you'll also realize how dominant they can be defensively.
It's been established that the Pistons have the tools necessary to make a powerful impact on the offensive side of the ball. What is understated, however, is just how dominant Detroit can be as a defensive unit.
Put your ideas of reputation aside and let's acknowledge the facts.
Smith is, arguably, the most versatile defender in the NBA today. That label may be commonly placed upon LeBron James, and with good reason, but let's do more investigation.
Here's what the numbers say about James and Smith:
Why don't we just call it a draw and admit that Smith is one of the NBA's premier defensive players?
With Drummond displaying elite defensive upside, Caldwell-Pope specializing in on-ball sets and Jennings forcing turnovers, Detroit has the potential to smother its opponents. While name value may suggest otherwise, this group has been carefully and deliberately constructed.
The idea here is, clearly, a return to what worked when they won the 2004 NBA championship.
Shot selection will be an issue, but in terms of what they bring to the table as a unit, we could be in for a surprisingly strong display. There are defensive specialists down low and along the perimeter, two star playmakers and a cast of shooters.
Development is the key word for this young team, but by signing Jennings, the Pistons have booked their ticket to the 2014 NBA playoffs.