The other day, one of my employees came into work and his first words were "so why didn't your boys deal?"
"In all honesty, there is no real easy answer," was all I could muster.
This may sound like a cop-out, or it may sound like an employer wanting to get back to the business at hand, but that was not the case. There truly are a lot of reasons why the Detroit Pistons did not make a deal.
First off, team president Joe Dumars was not in salary dumping mode. If he was, he could have made plenty of deals that would have cleared space. Tracy McGrady probably could have been had for Tayshaun Prince, Rip Hamilton, Jason Maxiell and draft picks. That would have cleared the way for a potential run at some of the super free agents that will be available this summer.
Another potential trade that Dumars laughed off before the season began involved swapping Prince and Rip for Boston's Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen...Do you think Dumars wishes he had that one back?
However, I really don't think any of those players see Detroit as an attractive destination. More importantly, I think Dumars knows it, and he feels his team would take a beating for swinging and missing on one of those players. Many fans still remember the feeling of devastation when Grant Hill turned us down for Orlando.
Secondly, this season's injury woes could not have come at a worse time for Dumars and the Pistons. Sure, this team was amazingly healthy for the better part of a decade and a dose of injury-Karma was a long time coming, but in a pivotal year that could help define the next decade of basketball in Detroit, he needed everyone healthy.
Given that Hamilton, Prince and even Will Bynum and Ben Gordon were unhealthy for long stretches of time this season, not only was Detroit in a tough spot competitively, but those players were unable to showcase their talent for potential trading partners.
Lastly, with the salary cap likely shrinking substantially next season, far fewer teams were interested in buying, unless they were buying expiring contracts.
All in all, it represented a perfect storm in which Dumars was unable to get fair value for his players.
Some have argued that Detroit could have made a deal or two that would have allowed them to make the playoffs this year.
I can't argue with that. But then what?
The difference between the top four teams in the Eastern Conference and the next four or five teams is staggering. The Cavs, Celtics, Magic and Hawks are head-and-shoulders above everyone else in the conference. If Detroit had made a move for someone like Utah's Carlos Boozer, then-Washington center Brendan Haywood or Camby, they likely would have been able to springboard to the edge of the playoff picture.
However, we would have likely seen another blowout playoff series like we saw last year in which our team is clubbed to death like a baby seal. Nobody wants to see that again, least of all Dumars.
So instead, Dumars will let his team get healthy and use the rest of the season as an extended tryout. Not only for his players, but for his coaching staff.
Truly, the only person tied to this organization with a lot of job security is Dumars himself. Even with ownership in flux, whoever owns this team next year will view Dumars as an asset based on his reputation around the league and his proven ability to win.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I will explore which of the current Pistons will likely find themselves playing in Detroit next year. Furthermore, I will take a look at potential players, college and pro, who could fit into Detroit's plans as well.
Despite the position Detroit finds itself in the standings, this is not a bad team. However, it is a team in transition that is likely still one or two players away from contention.
The first player we will discuss is probably the most controversial amongst Pistons fans. At the very least, he is the most talked about. Whether you love him or hate him, everyone has an opinion on guard Rodney Stuckey.
Reasons he will return
Everyone connected to the organization seems to be in his corner. Dumars has a vested interest in him due to what he represents: what he was able to salvage from the Darko Milicic debacle.
If Stuckey succeeds and becomes a star, Dumars can say that he made lemonade out of lemons.
However, if Stuckey is dealt, Dumars had better get something amazing for him. For this reason alone, he is the most important Pistons player moving forward.
Ignoring this aspect, Stuckey represents something tantalizing: superstar talent. Stuckey has a great combination of size and speed, showing the ability to get to the hoop at will with an almost Chauncey Billups-like ability to draw contact.
He has a nice mid-range jumper and he has shown glimpses of being a very good defensive player.
Reasons he'll leave
On the other hand, not everyone thinks he is cut out to be a point guard. While he does have solid court vision and his passing ability, especially after penetrating the defense, is good, he has been guilty of many costly turnovers. Furthermore, the offense tends to get fairly stagnate when he plays long stretches at the point.
More importantly, Stuckey has shown limited range on his jump shot. He can hit the 10-15 foot jumper consistently, but he has yet to prove he can extend his range beyond the three-point arc.
From a personnel standpoint, some people feel like he may be on the verge of stardom, but not with Detroit. Right now, he does not work well with Hamilton, because neither can extend the defense. He has the same problem with Bynum as well.
Potentially, he would be the player most likely to bring back something big in a trade, perhaps a lottery pick and/or a talented young player.
Three-point shooting is the key to Stuckey's development. If he can extend his range to include at the very least the threat of a three-pointer, the rest of his game will fall into place. This would allow Detroit to pair him with anyone they want at guard.
Having the ability to hit the three will also help his passing, since teams will be forced to play him from 25 feet out, allowing him to penetrate and find open teammates cutting to the hoop or camping out on the perimeter.
Great point guards are not always born, but rather developed. Look at the man Stuckey is replacing: Billups spent the early part of his career bouncing from place to place before he finally started to put it together while subbing for an injured Terrell Brandon in Minnesota. That was his fifth season in the league.
For those of you wondering, Stuckey is about to complete his third season in the league.
Many fans will point out that he has yet to show that he understands this concept, and for the most part they are right.
But the best evidence is usually the freshest evidence. As such, take a look at Sunday's game against San Antonio.
In this game, Stuckey essentially took over at the end, hitting two shots that were outside of his usual range, including a three-pointer. For the game, he hit three triples in only three tries, improving on his season total by nearly 50 percent.
After the game, he was asked about the range issue. "I don't know why I don't shoot 'em. ... That's a part of my game I got to build on and get it right, which I will," Stuckey told Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.
The results of this game are hard to ignore. His added range led to more productive point guard play, resulting in 20 points, six assists and only one turnover. More importantly, it led to a win.
Therefore, the next few months will be critical for his future in Detroit. Look for Stuckey to start shooting a lot more three-pointers this season.
Detroit has 27 more games left this season. If Stuckey can make between 25 to 35 triples over the course of the rest of the season and improve his three-point effectiveness to something close to 30 percent, he will prove Dumars right and could allow Detroit to throw everything they have at getting an effective big man.
The feeling here is that Stuckey will be wearing Detroit red, white, and blue next year.