The Pistons struck out in the lottery and are stuck at No. 7. They need a game-changing player and chances are slim that one will be available at No. 7. It is widely believed they want a big man that could be an impact force both on defense and on the low block, but the two bigs that most fit that profile, Demarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors, are likely to be gone by the seventh pick. That means Detroit either has to pick a “lesser” player (Ekpe Udoh, Cole Aldrich, Greg Monroe) or trade up.
So how likely is it that the Pistons trade up in the draft? To answer that question, you have to look at the few assets the Pistons have at their disposal, and you have to look at who in the draft would be willing to move down.
As far as trade partners are concerned, two teams stick out: Philadelphia 76ers and the Sacremento Kings.
And the Pistons do have a few assets, primarily the No. 7 pick as well as the expiring contract of Tayshaun Prince, a young player that a team might be high on in Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum, who could be had in a sign and trade, and a trio of players coming off promising rookie seasons: Jonas Jerebko, Austin Daye and Dajuan Summers.
It is a given that the No. 7 pick would be involved in any trade up. And expiring contracts are practically the most valuable comodity in the NBA, so a trade isn’t out of the realm of possiblity. But it takes two to tango, so do the 76ers or Kings have the long-term contracts they would want to unload for an expiring deal? Why yes, they do.
The Kings two highest-paid players next season will be Andres Nocioni and Beno Udrih. If that doesn’t help you understand why the Kings are a bad basketball team, I don’t know what wil. Nocioni fell out of the rotation last year and has publicly asked to be traded. The 76ers are stuck with the truly abysmal Elton Brand contract and have made no secret of their desire to wash their hands of his contract. Sadly, the talent-starved Pistons could find productive roles for all three of these players.
Nocioni is a bad player, but he has a hard-nosed style of play that would be a welcome reprieve from what Detroit has displayed most of the past two seasons. And his 38 percent 3-point shooting would have made him the best long-range shooter on the Pistons last season.
Udrih actually had a good season last year, ranking in top 15 among point guards in true shooting percentage and also shooting well (by Pistons standards) from 3-point land.
Putting on my GM hat, I think a swap of first-round picks, Prince and Nocioni would be valuable for both teams. Prince is a valuble do-everything vet that a young team like Sacremento could covet. Assuming that one of Cousins or Favors would still be available at No. 5, it would allow the Pistons to have a legit big man for the first time since Ben Wallace was winning Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Brand has been an absolute disaster in Philly, and the even less-mobile version of EB doesn’t really fit in Philly at all. I know the Pistons say they are ready to change their style from the glacial pace of the past decade, but I’ll believe it when I see it. If the Pistons had Brand, he could play at a slow pace and focus on getting down on the block and run set plays. That being said, he has lost a lot of his explosivness and spends less time in the post than ever and his rebounding numbers have fallen off a cliff.
The good news is that in exchange for being willing to put that millstone of a contract around his neck, Pistons GM Joe Dumars might be able to extract something of a little more value from the 76ers. If the Pistons were willing to trade Prince and Chris Wilcox and No. 7, the Pistons might be able to nab the No. 2 pick, Elton Brand and a young asset like Thaddeus Young or Marreese Speights. Young is a great, athletic combo forward while Speights is a beast on the block with an admittedly shaky defensive game.
The Pistons would go from having an extremely thin frontcourt to a crowded one featuring Cousins or Favors, Ben Wallace (assuming he re-signs), Speights, Brand and the combo-forward tandem of Young and Charlie Villanueva.
If the Pistons were intent on keeping Prince, perhaps using him in a separate deal, and instead insisted on swapping first-rounders and sending a less odious contract in exchange for Brand, would the 76ers bite? Richard Hamilton’s contract runs the same number of years, but is worth about $15 million less. New coach Doug Collins has made it clear that he is a big Hamilton fan over the years. What if the Pistons threw in a Jerebko or Daye into the mix?
That would free up the Pistons to trade Prince for a legit point guard and open up space for Stuckey to play more of a shooting-guard role off the ball with Hamilton gone.
Is it likely? Maybe not. But as a Pistons fan, all I have in between watching the Celtics and Lakers face off in the NBA finals is a faint notion that somehow my favorite team can become a contender again. What crazy ideas are out there, that I’m not thinking of?