Joe Dumars has proven in his time as an NBA head man to be a shrewd negotiator when it comes to trades. He tends to lurk in the shadows until a desperate team meanders by and agrees to do business with him.
As a result, he managed to get Ben Wallace for an already leaving Grant Hill, the undervalued (at the time) Rip Hamilton for a sliding Jerry Stackhouse, and Rasheed Wallace for spare change as part of a multi-team deal. These trades made possible two Finals appearances, one title, and essentially a highly successful run for the better part of a decade.
With the jury still out on the Chauncey Billups for Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva deal (considering that's what an expiring Iverson essentially gave them) and the current season slipping away, now seems as good a time as any to keep an eye out for the cunning Dumars, ready to strike when an advantageous deal comes along.
What the Pistons have is a very complementary backcourt in Gordon and Rodney Stuckey, proven commodities in Tayshaun Prince and Hamilton, some young forwards in Austin Daye, DaJuan Summers, and Jonas Jerebko, some short-term patches in the post with Chris Wilcox, Kwame Brown, and Ben Wallace, a scoring four in Villanueva, a non-scoring four in Jason Maxiell, and a soon-to-be free agent in Will Bynum.
What they need is a post presence capable of drawing attention on offense and clogging the lane on defense, and a fix to the log-jam at the two spot (essentially better balance between their best three guards).
With that in mind, here are three deals Dumars should try to pull off in an effort to right the ship and begin the new era of greatness in Pistons history.
Detroit gets: Spencer Hawes (C), Kevin Martin (SG/SF), Andres Nocioni (SF).
Sacramento gets: Hamilton, Prince, Jerebko, and a lottery protected first round pick.
Why it works for Detroit: Hawes can develop into the solid five man the Pistons are sorely lacking, whereas Martin can play mainly the three and fill in at the two from time to time, getting Gordon on the floor more. The youth/offense theme is preserved (and amplified for that matter), and the team is given the chance to grow into a contender in a 3-4 year time frame.
Why it works for Sacramento: Martin is being talked about in quite a few trade rumors these days. Getting Hamilton and Prince give them a pair of vets who can help bring along the young nucleus of Evans and Thompson. They would have a very balanced starting five and a solid bench, instantly making them competitive against a wider variety of teams. Jerebko helps curb the young talent they gave up by bringing in some of his own.
Detroit gets: Jason Terry (PG/SG), Josh Howard (SF), and a 2010 or 2011 second round pick.
Dallas gets: Hamilton, Prince, and a lottery protected first round pick.
Why it works for Detroit: A three guard lineup of Stuckey, Terry, and Gordon is about as balanced as anyone could hope for. Any two of those three could be on the floor at once, depending on the situation. Howard gives Joe D flexibility with his 2010 option. If he likes what he sees, he keeps him around for another year. If not, he gets cap room to shore up weaknesses and Daye and Jerebko step in to fill the void.
Why it works for Dallas: Much like the Pistons of two years ago, this Mavericks team just doesn't seem to have enough to get over the hump. However, a starting five of Kidd and Rip (who should play wonderfully together), Prince, Dirk, and Dampier would give them a run for another year or two at getting the title. And you have to assume that this is what Cuban is aiming for. The first helps curb the loss of youth in Howard.
Detroit gets: Eddy Curry (C) and a 2010 or 2011 second round pick.
New York gets: Hamilton.
Why it works for Detroit: Solves the problem of the log-jam at the two spot and gives Dumars the option of attempting another resurrection project in Curry. Admittedly, this wouldn't be as easy as 'Sheed and Billups were, but all Detroit would need is a 30-minute-a-night five man who can give them double-digit points and clog the lane. Curry, when healthy, can do that. If Joe doesn't like what he sees, he can exercise the option in his contract and have $10 million more in cap space, as in the Dallas deal.
Why it works for New York: The Knicks are primed for a run at LeBron, and they will be at $27 million in salary even if they exercise Curry's option. They don't need his space; they need a reason for LeBron to come. As with Kidd, I see Rip fitting in pretty well with LeBron. He would be a great complement, should the Knicks win the jackpot and convince LeBron to sign.
As you can see, I think Rip is the one that has to go. I may be wrong, but I bet if you asked Joe D if he would tear up that extension he signed Rip to a year ago, he gladly would. I think Rip still has value in the league, it just has to be in the right situation.
In the meantime, the Pistons are having a tough time finding a good balance with their current roster, even when healthy. A trade may not happen this winter, but it probably should. Time will tell if an opportunity presents itself to Dumars that he simply cannot refuse.