Can Pistons Still Salvage This Season? How Chris Paul Figures In Mix

Jay WierengaCorrespondent IJuly 25, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - DECEMBER 16:  Peja Stojakovic #16, Chris Paul #3 Emeka Okafor #50 and Marcus Thornton #5 of the New Orleans Hornets talk  during the game against the Detroit Pistons at New Orleans Arena on December 16, 2009 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The Hornets defeated the Pistons 95-87. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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So far this offseason, Pistons nation has been somewhat unimpressed with the state of their team. Let's take a look at how the summer has shaken out.

First, Pistons president Joe Dumars came out and declared that his team had lost its way and needed to rediscover its aggressive and tough roots. The fans loved this, although to most it sounded like lip service from a befuddled general manager.

Dumars then promptly drafted former Georgetown big man Greg Monroe, a skilled player to be sure, but someone whose primary knock seems to be a lack of toughness.

The optimists pointed to free agency, hoping that Dumars could pull a rabbit out of his hat, though only armed with the mid-level exception.

These optimists pointed to the Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess deals in years past (although I didn't hear a lot of Kwame Brown or Jarvis Hayes chatter).

However, the market was incredibly overpriced and the resulting free-for-all has left many teams lousy with horrendous deals (Darko Milicic and Amir Johnson come to mind).

As a result, Pistons targets Brendan Haywood and Raymond Felton received nearly double what Dumars hoped to offer each player, and most of the remaining players who could help Detroit have been snatched up.

So where does this leave the Pistons?

As of right now, this team remains incredibly guard-heavy. They have begun to address their front court, but they still have a glaring need at center.

Ben Wallace was re-signed to help strengthen the depth chart. However, going into the season depending on a 36-year-old Wallace continuing his surprising play from a year ago is not a recipe for prolonged success.

The Pistons have some talent, but as presently constructed they are not in a position to succeed.

All along, most pundits believed that Dumars would bide his time at the beginning of the free-agent bonanza and wait until the dust settled.

Then, after a few teams struck out on the big names, he would entice them with one of his well-known veterans like Rip Hamilton or Tayshaun Prince.

The thinking is that this would help a fellow general manager assuage their fan's ire, and potentially sell some tickets.

By following this logic, the time line would put a potential Pistons move somewhere between now and mid September when teams begin getting together for camp.

However, a recent development that began with a joke at Carmelo Anthony's wedding in New York has put the Pistons back in play.

New Orleans point guard Chris Paul recently joked that given the LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade triumvirate in Miami, he (Paul) could potentially team with Anthony and Amar'e Stoudamire to form another super team.

Though this was intended to be a joke, the ensuing fallout has put Paul's name squarely on the trading block.

There was a time when Paul appeared to be untouchable in New Orleans (although I predicted Paul would be traded months ago ), but now he has given his team a wish list of possible destinations.

Obviously, the Pistons were not on that list. So why would they figure into a deal for Paul?

First off, any deal for Paul will have to require a third team to make the salaries work. None of the teams that Paul has requested have the necessary parts available to make a deal work. Those teams include Dallas, New York, Orlando, and Portland.

One of the sticking points in the Paul deal is that New Orleans will be looking to dump not only Paul's salary, but probably Emeka Okafor's as well.

This is where Detroit figures into the mix. With their need for a big man, Okafor would be a welcomed addition.

Although his deal is somewhat unappealing, given the recent trend of bloated salaries it definitely appears less so today.

So where would Paul go? Although the media has been focusing on the Knicks, the likeliest destination would probably be Portland. The Blazers have the best mix of talent available to make a deal happen.

So what would it take to move Paul and Okafor? New Orleans wants two things: young talent and salary flexibility. Between Portland and Detroit, both of these criteria could be met.

There are plenty of options, but a likely combination would go something like this:

New Orleans would receive Nicolas Batum, Rudy Fernandez, Joel Przybilla, and Tayshaun Prince.

Portland would get Chris Paul and Jason Maxiell.

Detroit would get Andre Miller and Emeka Okafor.

The key to a successful deal is that all sides feel like they gained as well as lost something. If you have to cringe a little bit, you know you are onto something.

In the above deal, all teams would be sacrificing a little in order to get what they want and need.

Portland loves Batum, Fernandez, and Przybilla. They are fan favorites and classy individuals with plenty of talent. But in order to get a superstar point guard, they would need to give them up to entice New Orleans.

New Orleans similarly loves Paul, but they need to move him, and they need to re-load with young players. Fernandez and Batum are studs and still very young, and Przybilla and Prince are workers that have expiring deals.

The key to this deal, however, is Detroit. Does Dumars have ownership's blessing to make a move like this and take on multi-year contracts? Remember, this is a team that is trying to get sold in a struggling state.

If Dumars gets the go-ahead, this deal immediately makes them better. Okafor is the perfect compliment to Monroe, as he would take the tough defensive matchups and allow Monroe to play in the high post on offense.

This would free him up to find open teammates with his tremendous passing ability.

This also brings Detroit something they have desperately needed since they lost Chauncey Billups: a true point guard. Miller can score, but most importantly, he can pass the ball.

This also would give Dumars the flexibility to make another move down the road, potentially shipping out Hamilton or even Ben Gordon or (heaven forbid) Rodney Stuckey.

You can also put Miller's name on this list since there is no guarantee that Dumars keeps him.

However, this would give the Pistons a lineup of Okafor, Monroe, and Jonas Jerebko up front and the potential to pair up either Stuckey, Hamilton, or Gordon with Miller.

This deal would make Detroit a playoff team with a young and talented core.

Portland would become a title contender out west and the obvious winner of the trade.

New Orleans would be able to rebuild with a very good nucleus that includes ultra talented Darren Collison, Batum and Fernandez and the cap flexibility to make a move next year, seeing as they would be clearing nearly $60 million off of their salary (which would make their financially struggling owner ecstatic).

Obviously there are different ways that this deal could be tweaked to make everyone happier. The most likely deterrent to this deal (besides the Pistons owner situation) would be if New Orleans decided they wanted more talent coming their way.

In order to make this work, Detroit would be asked to throw in one of their talented young players such as Jerebko, Daye or Summers.

Would this sour the deal? Only time will tell.

The most important thing to remember is that the Pistons are back...or at least back in the conversation.