Potential Trade Scenarios for Detroit Pistons to Shake Up Roster
For the Detroit Pistons, there's very little confusion as to what the objective is. After just 50 games, the Pistons fired head coach Maurice Cheeks in an effort to turn the team around and reach the playoffs.
Despite the lack of depth in the Eastern Conference and the amount of talent on Detroit's roster, the Pistons are currently on the outside of the playoff picture. With the trade deadline coming in just 10 days, there's very little time left to add new pieces for a playoff push this year.
Assuming the Pistons are buyers based on the firing of Cheeks and GM Joe Dumars being in the final year of his contract, let's take a look at a few different scenarios that the Pistons could explore to shake up the roster and make a run at the playoffs.
Move Expiring Deals
Trading the expiring deals of Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva ($8.5 million each) seems like the most obvious way for Detroit to add talent.
With so many teams looking to shed cap space and/or tank for a better draft position, Detroit shouldn't have a hard time turning an expiring asset like Villanueva into a useful rotation player on a long-term deal. Considering the gaping holes on the wing and a need for shooting all over the roster, using Villanueva as a trade chip makes sense.
While Villanueva's value exists only because of his expiring deal, Stuckey could be a good target for a handful of teams. He's played well recently as a scoring sixth man, and teams in need of a player who can create their own shot could certainly do much worse.
Stuckey has been useful in spots for Detroit because of his scoring skills, but he's a luxury the team can't afford right now. Finding perimeter shooting and better defenders before the deadline should be the main priorities, and Stuckey doesn't satisfy either need.
Detroit could elect to hang on to both Villanueva and Stuckey and let their deals come off the books, but with Greg Monroe in line to receive a max contract in restricted free agency, the normal benefit of creating massive amounts of cap space will be nullified if Detroit chooses to match on a Monroe offer. The time to cash in on one of these deals is probably now.
Trade Greg Monroe
While it may seem counter-intuitive to trade one of your most talented players at the deadline, you could argue that fit should take precedent over everything else in Detroit right now.
Monroe is a very talented post player who can score, rebound and pass well, but he's a rough fit next to Josh Smith and Andre Drummond, who both appear to be in Detroit's plans long term. There just isn't enough space on the floor for all three to survive, and Monroe undoubtedly has the least impact defensively of the trio.
Will Detroit actually consider trading Monroe before the deadline in order to shift Smith to power forward and get a better fit on the wing? As of a few weeks ago, that didn't seem like an avenue Detroit was willing to explore, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein.
Sources briefed on the situation told ESPN.com this week that the Pistons have been telling teams with Monroe interest that the restricted free agent-to-be -- no matter what you've heard -- is not available.
If the Pistons don't see Monroe as a max player or as a good fit next to Smith and Drummond, you'd have to think something close to an equal swap of talent would get the job done. That may be difficult to find on the trade market, but it would likely be the one move that would have the most impact on Detroit's season.
Trade Josh Smith
Detroit firing Maurice Cheeks probably has a lot to do with his failure to get the most out of Josh Smith. The two butted heads quite a bit this season, and Smith never really shied away from airing out his frustrations in the media. Here's what Smith told J. Michael of CSNWashington.com after he was benched for an entire second half earlier in the season:
To me it is over with. But you know some people hold grudges longer than others. I don’t know. I’m not saying he does. I’m not the type of person that really likes to go all the time in coach’s office and have a one-on-one sitdown. I’m more of a team morale guy.
We know how that sort of thing works. When a coach comes up against a player who just signed a contract worth $54 million, it's easy to guess who will win out. Cheeks probably needed to go for reasons separate of his dealings with Smith, but surely it didn't help his cause.
Does that mean Detroit should stick with Smith, though? He's been a huge bust this year with a career-low 46.6 true shooting percentage and PER of 15.2, and his defense is worse than it has ever been. Smith certainly hasn't lived up to his contract in the least bit, and it's yet unseen whether he will under a new coach or not.
It's not out of the question that Dumars would be willing to pull the plug on the Smith experiment and deal him if it was at all possible, according to ESPN.com's Chris Broussard:
The Josh Smith experiment in Detroit is not going well, and there’s strong opinion around the league that the Pistons would trade him if they could — and “could” is the key word. Since Smith is in the first year of a four-year, $56 million deal, he is one of the most untradable players in the league.
Smith's contract will make him tough to deal, but it's not impossible, so long as Detroit is willing to accept much less than full value in return.
That being said, trading Smith seems like a move Dumars' successor would make to clear the books and start a rebuilding process and not something Dumars would do in the final year of his contract when he wants the Pistons to make the playoffs.
Trade Future Draft Picks
If the Pistons want to make a playoff push without moving bigger talents like Monroe or Smith, trading future draft picks could be an option.
Detroit has the ability to trade first-round picks starting in 2016 and beyond, as well as the ability to move any of their second-round choices.
Considering the shaky situation with Dumars going forward, convincing Pistons owner Tom Gores into sacrificing future pieces may be difficult. That being said, the Pistons did acquire Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings this offseason, so you could argue that Detroit is too far down this path to turn around now.
Detroit is one of the few teams that can offer cap relief and future picks, which sets it up nicely to be a big buyer at the deadline if that's what the plan indeed is. There's obviously a lot of risk involved when dealing future picks, but it's hard to argue that something doesn't need to be done to fix this current roster.
Instead of making a big splash at the deadline, it's possible that the Pistons elect to ride this season out.
Oftentimes after a coach firing, a team receives a boost and begins to play much better. Given the clashes Cheeks had with some of his biggest players, it doesn't seem all that unlikely that Detroit will at least play a little harder in the temporary.
Honestly, not much more is needed to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference anyhow. Detroit is currently just a half game back of the No. 8 seed and only four-and-a-half games back of hosting a first-round playoff series, as crazy as that might seem.
This isn't exactly a highly competitive race, and given the new acquisitions made this offseason, allowing a little more time for things to jell might be beneficial. The Pistons probably have their best basketball in front of them.
It seems most likely that Detroit will settle somewhere in the middle of both being a buyer and sitting tight at the deadline. Using one or two of the expiring deals to add talent is probably the most reasonable and logical move given the goals and circumstances in Detroit.