Lost in the shuffle of the trade deadline was Bill Simmons’ annual trade-value column. I look forward to this column every year. It’s one of my favorite reads and really interesting to think about.
But this year’s edition didn’t do much more than make me feel bad about the Pistons. It marked two firsts for Detroit since Simmons began writing the column for ESPN in 2002.
They didn’t have any players who were at least honorable mention for the list of 40 players with the most trade value. And not only did they have a player on Simmons’ list of 25 worst contracts for the first time, they had four:
- 6. Ben Gordon
- 9. Richard Hamilton
- 15. Jason Maxiell
- 16. Charlie Villanueva
The Pistons barely avoided having Nazr Mohammed’s 10th worst contract in 2007. He was traded to Charlotte nine days before the column was published.
Here’s a look back the Pistons’ previous positing in Simmons’ rankings:
Honorable mention: Rodney Stuckey (explanation combined with Rudy Gay):
Either 1-2 or 2-1 for this year’s "Most Overrated Young Player" Award. Although Trent from Royal Oak, Mich., makes a good point: "Stuckey was drafted with the pick acquired from Orlando (aka the Darko pick) and was the sole reason for the Chauncey trade. He’s potential redemption for two horrific moves directly tied to Dumars. He ain’t going nowhere." Good point. I’d put him higher if he played defense.
Honorable mention": Richard Hamilton (explanation combined with Richard Jefferson, list went to 50 this year):
Rip was intriguing because of his reasonable contract (three years, $32.6 million remaining); Jefferson would have been intriguing except for his contract (four years, $54.6 million remaining). By the way, I nominate "Rip" to replace "Rich," "Richie," "Dick" and "Dicky" as the new cool nickname for "Richard." If we called him "Rip Jefferson," wouldn’t Jefferson seem more imposing? Same for Rip Seymour, Rip Gere, Rip Hidalgo … really, everyone except exercise guru Rip Simmons.
44. Tayshaun Prince
It’s weird when anyone earning $39 million through 2011 can be deemed "cost effective," but when you’re paying that sum to an unselfish, playoff-proven, A-plus defender and all-around good guy who shoots 40-plus percent from long range, that’s good business. Especially when he’s only 27.
37. Rasheed Wallace (explanation combined with Marcus Camby)
Approaching their mid-30s, both possess higher than usual value because of their big-game experience, defensive prowess, basketball IQ, testicular fortitude and surprisingly appealing contracts. You can win with these guys and continue to win for the next three or four years; that’s more appealing than Gasol, who has never won anything. Anyway, Sheed gets the paper-thin edge only because of the inspiring way he reinvented "Jingle Bells", joining the Christmas Song Pantheon along with Band Aid’s "Do They Know It’s Christmas," Elvis’ "Blue Christmas" and the David Bowie/Bing Crosby duet of "Little Drummer Boy."
26. Chauncey Billups (explanation combined with Gilbert Arenas):
Here’s where you have to love the "Trade Value" game: Who turns down a Billups-Arenas swap, Wizards GM Ernie Grunfeld or Pistons GM Joe Dumars?
The answer? Both would turn it down even though it’s a fairly logical trade for both teams. Detroit increases its ceiling as a team (right now, it’s second round and out) and gets a blue-chip scorer and gate attraction to keep up with LeBron in the Central; Washington gets an unselfish winner who makes everyone else better and gives it stability for once. That’s a nice trade. In the end, Joe Dumars would flinch well before Ernie Grunfeld did — he’d worry about Gilbert’s impending free agency, he’d worry about going over the luxury tax and wrecking his salary structure this summer, and he’d definitely worry about Gilbert’s knee problems and the curious way the Wizards came together as a team as soon as Gilbert went away. Ernie would flinch only because of the age difference (four years) and the local ramifications of dealing the most popular Wizard/Bullet in 30 years. Either way, a fun argument.
40. Tayshaun Prince (explanation with Caron Butler):
Two playoff-proven guys with reasonable six-year extensions kicking in next season ($49.5 million for Prince, $48 million for Butler). That’s right, these guys will make 20 percent less than Nene through 2012. You figure it out.
33. Richard Hamilton
Now here’s a good contract for an All-Star: $40.6 million and an unlimited supply of schnozzaroo masks over the next four years.
25. Chauncey Billups
Can we still call him Mr. Big Shot when he’s playing for a 40-42 team next season? But you’re looking at the best dollar-for-dollar value for any veteran in the league — two years remaining at $13.1 million. Did I mention this is the same league that guaranteed Nene $60 million last week? I mentioned that, right?
(By the way, congrats to Joe Dumars for parlaying Ben Wallace, Carlos Arroyo and the No. 2 pick from a draft that featured LeBron, Wade, Bosh and ‘Melo into Nazr Mohammed and Orlando’s 2007 No. 1 pick. Well done.)
Honorable mention: Rasheed Wallace
The toughest omission on this year’s list. And yes, I still feel cheated that we never saw ‘Sheed hand his championship belt to Duncan last week and pull the "you’re all right, LaRusso, you’re all right" routine.
28. Richard Hamilton
I’m down with the Reggie Miller analogy here, right down to the goofy looks. Although Reggie was a little more valuable because he could shoot 3s. Then again, Reggie never won a ring.
26. Ben Wallace
This seems about right, although hearing announcers and writers constantly pimping him has become tiresome – he went from being wildly underrated to slightly overrated in the span of two seasons. If he’s so invaluable, then why did Detroit seem more effective in the Finals with McDyess and ‘Sheed playing together? More important, does anyone else keep waiting for Wallace to look into the camera, tilt his head, unleash one of those Eddie Murphy smiles and sing, "Unce … tice … fee times … a mady … "
18. Chauncey Billups
Before Game 7 of the Finals, everyone kept saying how Duncan had the most at stake … in retrospect, wasn’t it Billups? If he made a few big shots and the Pistons prevailed, he would have been included in every future discussion about clutch guards who elevated their play when it mattered, along with guys like Dennis Johnson, Clyde Frazier, Isiah Thomas and Sam Jones. And maybe there’s still time for that. But Chauncey has gotten it done enough times that another heroic Game 7 would have altered his place in history. Too bad.
Honorable mention: Rasheed Wallace
He gets a championship ring and a multi-year contract … so now what happens? Does anyone else keep hearing the chorus to Prince’s "Let’s Go Crazy"? Remember, we’re still only eight months away from the infamous "CTC" speech. I don’t trust him at all.
Honorable mention: Chauncey Billups
The latest beneficiary of L.A.’s spring-time policy of turning opposing point guards into Hall of Famers. Bottom line: He’s a 40-percent shooter playing for the perfect team. Good defender, decent ballhander, clutch shooter if he’s open. But if you think they wouldn’t have won the same title with Mike Bibby in Billups’s place, you’re crazy.
40. Darko Milicic
By trading him now, Joe Dumars would basically be admitting, "Yeah, we won the title, but I screwed up with that pick." And that’s not happening.
Then again, out of the next 39 guys on this list, none of them would ever, ever, EVER be offered straight-up for Darko, who capped off a memorable playoff run by getting infected earlobes from a bizarre piercing accident, then breaking his hand in garbage time of the clinching game. In the Pantheon of Unfortunate Playoff Performances, this was right up there with Curtis Jackson getting shot in the liquor store before Carver High won the city title. So I don’t know. Let’s stick him here to be safe.
(And yes, that’s two "White Shadow" references in one column! Memo to ESPN Classic: Start running the old episodes again. I’m getting the shakes.)
24. Richard Hamilton
Three months ago, he wouldn’t have made the list. Now he’s the next Reggie Miller — not someone who can carry an offense by himself, but someone who makes big shots and wears out opponents. He lost the name "Richard" for the much-tougher sounding "Rip." He’s even strange-looking like Reggie, one of the few guys who’s actually better off with the Broken Nose Mask. It’s been a breakout season all around.
(By the way, don’t we need to come up with a nickname for the Broken Nose Mask? What about the Septumator? Or the Schnozzaroo? More importantly, why are they such an afterthought? NBA players care so much about hair, tattoos, shoes … yet they happily slide on these ugly plastic masks for two straight months, no questions asked. Wouldn’t you think they would paint them like hockey goalie masks, or even go with the intimidating Hannibal Lecter-style mask for a big playoff game? We need to spruce up the Schnozzaroos.)
17. Ben Wallace
This seems about right.
(By the way, has Big Ben let go of the championship trophy yet? He’s like a dog with a new bone — during the post-Game 5 ceremonies, I kept waiting for him to start growling at teammates that came up to him. Can’t you picture him standing in a nightclub with Rip and Tayshaun, clinging to the trophy with one hand as the guys keep asking him, "Come on, let us hold it for a little while." And Wallace gruffly responds, "No." We should have a webcam on him at all times.)
30. Chauncey Billups
You can’t penalize him for the Nets series, playing on a bum ankle against the best point guard in 15 years. Judge him by all the clutch shots he drained from November to May, including those backbreakers in Game 6 of the Philly series. Only a handful of guys made as many big shots this season. Have I mentioned that Rick Pitino and Chris Wallace gave up on him after 50 games?
17. Ben Wallace
Can you win a title when someone who can’t score is one of your two best guys? Of course not. But if you already have a 50-win team, then you stumble into the No. 2 pick and have eight figures in cap space to play with … well, suddenly the Ben Wallace Era is looking better and better. Perfect situation for him right now. Especially if Darko is for real. Would you bet against a white guy named Darko? Me neither.
(Just out of curiosity, who blinks first if there was a "Wallace, Darko and Tayshaun for Shaq" trade on the table, Detroit or LA? Hmmmmm.)
16. Ben Wallace
That’s right, Ben Wallace … and no, I’m not kidding … he’s like a 21st century version of Dennis Rodman, only without the baggage … you think the Pistons are 44-29 right now simply because of Jerry Stackhouse? … I didn’t have the gonads to place Wallace higher than Chris Webber on this list, but believe me, I thought about it … and we haven’t even mentioned his hair yet … "Nobody is more underrated than Ben Wallace!" will be a running theme of the first few weeks of the NBA playoffs … just wait.
12. Jerry Stackhouse
Maybe the most surprising development of the season: Jerry Stackhouse becoming a cerebral player who makes his teammates better … frankly, I’m still stunned … even Hillary Swank making the leap from "90210" to "Academy Awards, Best Actress" wasn’t this shocking … there’s hope for Stephon Marbury yet.