Troy Murphy would help Detroit Pistons’ rebounding, 3-point shooting

If the proposed New Jersey-Denver-Detroit trade is finalized as hoped, the key player the Pistons receive will be power forward Troy Murphy.

Now, Murphy’s value is mostly financial — his expiring contract would free the Pistons from the pricey final two years on Rip Hamilton‘s deal. But if Murphy is healthy, he’s also an upgrade on the court for the Pistons.

Even if Murphy doesn’t figure into the team’s long-term plans, he’s still going to spend at least half a season with the team, so it’s worth looking at how he’d fit. Remember, though, the major caveat with Murphy is health. He’s only played in 18 games this season, and he’s been in and out of the New Jersey rotation, so it’s hard to gauge how healthy he is right now. But with that in mind, here are some of his strengths and weaknesses.

What he’ll bring

Besides being a licensed spray tanner (maybe he would be cheaper than whomever Jonas Jerebko goes to?), Murphy should also pay dividends on the court.

While mired in by far the worst season of his career statistically, Murphy is still grabbing more than 15 percent of all available rebounds when he’s on the floor. That rebound rate would put him third among Pistons regulars, trailing just Ben Wallace and Greg Monroe. Murphy has always been a very solid rebounder, surprising because he’s far from the strongest or most athletic power forward in the league. He simply understands how to position his body well and is very good at picking up the ball as it’s shot to figure out where the carom will end up. He’s averaged a double-double five times in his career. Only 14 players in Pistons’ history have averaged a double-double in points and rebounds in a season (and if you guessed the last player to do it was Olden Polynice, well, you have obviously watched a lot of horrible Pistons basketball during the past 20 years or so).

Murphy also will shoot the 3 pretty reliably, his 17 percent shooting this season not withstanding. He shoots 39 percent from distance for his career, which would put him just behind Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye this season among guys with more 30 attempts. Murphy is probably rightfully considered a stretch four because of his 3-point shooting ability. But he’s also not allergic to scoring inside the arc. In his career, 1,466 of his 6,130 field goal attempts have been threes (23 percent). Compare that to Detroit’s resident stretch four, Charlie Villanueva, with 1,192 career 3-point attempts in 4,441 shots (27 percent). Both guys shoot 3s a lot, but Murphy scores in other ways a bit more.

Murphy’s other contribution will be an intangible element. His presence means the Pistons can play less of Jason Maxiell and Chris Wilcox, which helps. It also means there will be more shooting guard minutes for Ben Gordon and Daye, also good things.

What he won’t bring

Don’t expect Troy Murphy to play much defense. It’s weird that a guy who is an above average defensive rebounder is a terrible defender, but that’s the reality with Murphy. He’s nearly 7-feet tall, but doesn’t really block shots. He’s far from the weakest player in the league, but he just doesn’t provide much resistance to opposing bigs, which is why he was losing minutes in New Jersey to the more defensive-minded Kris Humphries.

If the Pistons eventually return to the hard-nosed version of Detroit basketball fans here demand, Murphy won’t be the guy to get them there. He’s largely a finesse player, he stretches the floor, and he doesn’t require an abundance of shots to be effective, as long as he knocks down the looks he gets when penetrating guards kick him the ball. The Pistons still need that culture-changing young star who will bring excitement back to Detroit, and although Murphy isn’t that guy, his presence gives the Pistons added flexibility to go out and find that player.

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