The Detroit Pistons have been interested in Rajon Rondo for a while. Since Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were shipped off to Brooklyn, most teams have been. But what makes Detroit different is it might have a player whom Boston would actually want in return for its franchise point guard.
That player is emerging big man Andre Drummond, who was described by The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn in July (when the Rondo-to-Detroit rumors were swirling) as "as close to untouchable as a younger player can get."
Why is he such a prized possession for the Pistons? Well, 6'10", 270-pound players with 7'6" wingspans and 34-inch vertical leaps don't grow on trees—at least not in Detroit. And those physical tools helped Drummond to be effective despite his epic struggles at the free-throw line.
Per 36 minutes, he averaged 13.8 points, 13.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks and posted a player efficiency rating of 21.8, which is impressive since he shot 37.1 percent from the free-throw line.
But even with such enticing numbers, who knows how long Drummond will remain untouchable? Situations and storylines change all the time in the NBA, and we've all seen deals go down that never seemed possible (Kwame Brown for Pau Gasol, anyone?).
Detroit's situation could be as fluid as any in the league. The Pistons have been bad for a few years now, so they loaded up on talent in the form of Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings this summer. And based on that talent alone, you have to think they'll improve.
But raw talent doesn't always equate to success (I'll go ahead and point to the Los Angeles Lakers again). The pieces don't seem to fit in Detroit, at least if the histories of all these players are any guide.
Let's start with the new guys, Jennings and Smith—who both need to bid some of their mid-range jump shots adieu. Jennings wasn't awful, but he wasn't great either—chucking up 199 attempts in the range between 16 feet and the three-point line and connecting on 38.2 percent.
On the other hand, Smith was horrible from there, hitting 32.9 percent of a whopping 301 attempts. And to compound his problem, he took 221 threes and hit just 29.9 percent.
Honestly, would anyone be surprised to see these two openly fighting each other for the ball if they're both in that range?
On the bright side, the Pistons' new chuckers will create a lot of offensive rebounding opportunities for Drummond and Greg Monroe.
But there again, we may have another fight on our hands. Those two players work best in the paint. In fact, they only work in the paint. And that's where Smith should be as well.
Take a look at these Basketball-Reference heat maps for Monroe, Drummond and Smith and tell me the Pistons won't need a plumber to unclog the lane.
Suffice it to say, these Pistons might not fit in or fire on all cylinders. And considering how bad Detroit has been for a few years, if things don't start to turn around this year, general manager Joe Dumars might find himself on the hot seat.
If it gets warm enough, he may pull the trigger on a deal that could unclog the lane and balance the roster a bit. And there might not be a better option than Rondo—whom Detroit once coveted.
I always run trade ideas through ESPN's NBA Trade Machine to make sure they work under the rules of the current collective bargaining agreement. And to land Rondo on the Pistons, I had to turn one of Detroit's expiring contracts over to Boston. Since Rondo is a guard, I went with Rodney Stuckey as an expiring contract paired with Drummond.
It would principally be Rondo for Drummond and Stuckey. There could also be some draft considerations or small-contract players either way.
Why It Works for Boston
They're rebuilding, and hanging onto Rondo just slows that down a bit. Does the Celtics' brass really think they can make the playoffs this year? And do they really think Rondo will re-sign after next season to play for a team on the brink of playoff contention?
The Celtics are better off saving some money now (Stuckey's deal is off the books this summer, while Rondo's isn't until 2015) and bottoming out in the hopes of landing a top-three or four pick in the 2014 draft.
It would be a pick they could add to a potentially nightmarish inside-out frontcourt of Drummond and Kelly Olynyk.
Why It Works for Detroit
Right now, the Pistons have a lot of guys who love to score, but no one to set them up. Jennings has the capacity to do it, and maybe he will, but history is not on the side of that argument.
Rondo is a master of creating shots for others; he may be the best in the NBA. He's led the league in assists per game for the last two seasons and is fifth all time in assist percentage. The amount of dunks he would get Smith and Monroe would keep both happy.
And he could spend some time on the floor with Jennings as well, giving the shooting-guard-at-heart a chance to fire a few more open shots than he's used to.
Losing Drummond would hurt, but gaining arguably the best pure point guard in the NBA might be worth it.
A Big If
I cannot stress this enough: This trade would only be entertained in Detroit if all the pieces struggle to come together. Like I said from the outset—based on pure talent alone, this team should be a lot better.
But you and I both know I'm not crazy to worry about the chemistry.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless otherwise noted.
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