The Pistons have assets to make a big-time trade if they'd like before the deadline.
Sinking as far as 10 games below .500 in February after being 14-16 on Christmas, it is clear that the Detroit Pistons have to address some issues before the Feb. 20 trade deadline.
The Pistons will almost certainly be buyers at the deadline because moving up just one position in the lowly Eastern Conference will earn them their first playoff appearance since 2009. And having a coach and general manager with fading job security will only add to the pressure to make the postseason.
The Pistons have an unbalanced roster with some glaring weaknesses. Fortunately, the Detroit front office has a variety of players and contracts to bargain with in order to find some deals that will improve the team.
The Pistons need to find a player who can improve their outside shooting.
If there’s one thing the Pistons can add to easily improve their offense, it would be a three-point marksman.
They have ranked at the bottom of the NBA in three-point shooting percentage for essentially the entire season and currently rank dead last at 30.6 percent.
The guys that Joe Dumars brought in during the offseason to help stretch the floor haven’t cut it: Luigi Datome (18.2 percent), Chauncey Billups (29.2 percent), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (32.6 percent) and Brandon Jennings (32.6 percent) are all shooting below the league average of 35.8 percent, per Basketball Reference.
Three-point shooting is typically in demand for contenders near the trade deadline, but some veterans are available if the Pistons are willing to give up an asset or take on long-term salary.
Anthony Morrow from the New Orleans Pelicans, Mike Dunleavy from the Chicago Bulls, Jodie Meeks from the Los Angeles Lakers or (ironically) Khris Middleton from the Milwaukee Bucks could all be options.
The Pistons need someone who can shut down players at multiple positions.
The Pistons have had a tough time shooting the ball so far this season, but they’ve had just as much trouble stopping their opponents from knocking down outside jumpers.
They need a lot of help in this area, but getting one perimeter stopper will take pressure off the rest of the defense. Josh Smith can be a good defender, but he’s not quick enough to guard many wings. KCP has shown flashes of ability and may grow into the role down the road, but he’s not ready to guard All-Star-caliber players 30 to 40 minutes per night.
The Boston Celtics might be willing to part with Avery Bradley if the price was right, and the Cleveland Cavaliers may have to trade the recently acquired Luol Deng or risk losing him this summer for nothing, per Marc Stein of ESPN (h/t Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk).
The Pistons need a backup big man who isn't a defensive sieve.
One minor upgrade that the Pistons could stand to make—particularly if they trade either Josh Smith or Greg Monroe—is to add a quality defensive big man to come off the bench.
If Smith and Monroe are both with the team on Feb. 21, then adding a backup isn’t of major importance, as those two will play most of the minutes at power forward.
However, if one of them is gone, then Detroit would be down to two veterans who are defensive liabilities—Jonas Jerebko and Charlie Villanueva—plus Tony Mitchell, the unproven second-round pick.
According to 82games.com, Jerebko gives up a player efficiency rating of 17.6 to opposing power forwards. For Villanueva, it goes up to 20.2.
With the way their perimeter defense has been, the Pistons can’t afford to have a below-average defender on the inside.
Someone like Boston's Brandon Bass or the Lakers' Jordan Hill could provide depth at the position.
It would be a luxury, but the Pistons could add a defensive-minded point guard to their bench.
Along the same lines, the Pistons could stand to add a defensive-minded backup point guard to back up Brandon Jennings and Will Bynum.
They already have four players who can play the position (Jennings, Bynum, Rodney Stuckey and Peyton Siva), but none of them is a very good defender (or in Siva’s case, has proved it on the NBA level).
Billups has lost all of his quickness at 37 years old and after a variety of injuries. Jennings is prone to gambling for steals and often gets caught out of position. And Bynum has always been a defensive liability.
The Pistons don’t require someone who will need a ton of minutes, but they need to get a player who can come in at the end of games in offense/defense switches. Players like Jordan Farmar from the Lakers and A.J. Price from the Minnesota Timberwolves would be an improvement.
If the Pistons really want to mix things up, they could add a major talent on the wing.
If the Pistons really want to make a major change to the roster, they will look to turn one of their big men—almost certainly Monroe—into a big-time playmaker on the wing.
Detroit’s weakest link in the starting lineup has been KCP. Although he’s been fine defensively, he’s been a below-average offensive player at this point in his career.
And next to him is Smith, who is playing some of the worst basketball of his career while out of position at small forward.
If Detroit can replace one of them with a two-way player who can get his own shot and shoot threes, as well as move Smith to his natural position, it would be a big-time coup.
There are two players who could fit on this roster and are on teams that are selling rather than buying: Eric Gordon and Arron Afflalo.
Of the two, Gordon poses the bigger risk. He’s played well this season for the New Orleans Pelicans, but he’s struggled to stay healthy for most of his career. And with two years and roughly $30 million left on his contract, it would be very costly if he got injured again.
But when healthy, he’s one of the better 2-guards in the league. He can handle the ball, is a very good athlete and is shooting 38.8 percent from the arc this season. And at 25 years old, he would fit age-wise with the Pistons core. If the Pelicans were interested, a deal of Gordon for Monroe and Villanueva would work financially.
Afflalo, the former Piston, could also slide into the shooting guard spot for Detroit. He’s having the best season of his career, averaging 19.9 points and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 42.7 percent from the arc. He’s also an excellent perimeter defender and would help the team fill that void.
Afflalo’s contract isn’t as burdensome as Gordon’s, but he is already 28 years old. Per Chad Ford of ESPN Insider (h/t Piston Powered), there has been some talk of a deal involving the Pistons sending Monroe to the Orlando Magic for Afflalo. Making a deal of this size would be a risk, but it would balance out the Pistons roster and help to fix a lot of problems.