As Pistons fans, we figure to be faced with a harsh reality in the somewhat near future, regarding the composition of the frontcourt. While the situation isn’t quite as bleak as it was merely a week ago (it’s amazing what a couple wins can do), the Pistons don’t appear to be getting the maximum return from the talent on their roster. It isn’t hard to tell that Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond are three of the Pistons’ four most talented players. So why are two of those three performing below the standards they’ve established to this point in their careers? A clash of styles between Monroe and Smith may force the Pistons to split up the trio.
For the sake of being reasonable, let’s assume that the Pistons won’t be trading the guy they just signed this past summer and that Andre Drummond is untouchable. While it’s true that Smith hasn’t been as good as advertised up until recently, it’s hard to see a situation where Smith is dealt. Monroe is the more logical trade candidate for a few reasons. Monroe is a Restricted Free Agent this offseason, and is almost certain to draw a max contract offer from a team desperate to draw in talent, even if it is at a premium cost. Monroe is a good player, but his limitations raise red flags when considering him as a guy worthy of a max contract. First, Monroe’s inability to step out to the perimeter and guard a stretch four is troubling when you consider the NBA’s trend towards shooting Power Forwards in recent years. And, despite his quick hands and attractive steal totals, Monroe doesn’t do much defending in the post either. Another red flag is Monroe’s lack of diversity in his offensive game, which has been on display this season and in his shot chart. Greg Monroe converts 55.5% of his shots in the restricted area; 60% near the foul line, and at or below league average from everywhere else on the court. Monroe is very good at what he likes to do, but if his back to the basket game, or his quick first steps from the elbow are stopped, Monroe is due for a long night.
While the Win Shares show up in Monroe’s favor in a simple Smith-Monroe comparison, the additional value that could be had from dealing Monroe for assets might be just what the Pistons need. A Monroe trade would move Smith to PF, opening up a spot in the starting lineup for a SF. The NBA is currently in a state where the SF position is very weak across the board. In this case, the Pistons could also trade for a Shooting Guard and choose to start Kyle Singler at Small Forward. I’m inclined to think that the first situation would be better for the team. There’s one quality that the Pistons should be looking for in their perimeter player interests: the ability to shoot the three. The Pistons rank ahead of only Charlotte when it comes to dialing up the long ball. A shooter to stretch the floor might work wonders for Smith and Drummond. Let’s narrow down some targets and do some fake dealing.
DET receives: SF Chandler Parsons, SG Francisco Garcia, PF Greg Smith, PG Aaron Brooks
HOU receives: PF Greg Monroe, G/F Kyle Singler, PF Tony Mitchell
This trade probably favors Detroit and would likely require a pick to go Houston’s way. Giving Houston the right to swap 1st round picks with the Pistons might tilt the scale just enough to make it fair. In this deal, Detroit gets a sharp-shooting SF (shooting 40% from three this year) in Parsons. Parsons isn’t a great rebounder or defender, but he’s a low-cost scorer who has added to his game every year in the league. Greg Smith fills Detroit’s new-found gap in the front court, becoming the first post player off the bench, and Garcia fills Singler’s role. Aaron Brooks is buried on Houston’s depth chart, and is merely a salary matching throw-in here. Meanwhile, Houston gets a steady presence to put next to Howard, an adequate wing and a high-potential project in Mitchell.
DET receives: G/F Arron Afflalo, SF Mo Harkless, PF Glen Davis, 2014 1st Rd pick (via Denver)
ORL receives: PF Greg Monroe, F Jonas Jerebko, SG Rodney Stuckey
In this deal, Detroit welcomes Arron Afflalo back, with arms wide open. Afflalo is having a career year, ranking 4th in Player Efficiency Rating (PER) among SGs. A lock-down defender with the ability to play SG or SF, Afflalo is shooting 41% from three (38.6% for his career). He’s a solution to a couple of the Pistons’ different problems. Harkless is a promising Small Forward with plenty of room to grow. Only 20 and in his second year in the league, Harkless is probably a year or two away from being a starter-quality player. Glen Davis is included as salary relief for Orlando, essentially trading his two years for Stuckey’s one. Orlando also gets Davis’ toxic personality away from their young core. Orlando includes Denver’s 1st round pick (probably late teens to early 20s) as compensation for taking Davis’ contract off their hands. This is essentially two deals in one. Afflalo and Harkless for Monroe and Jerebko; Stuckey for Davis and the 1st rd pick.
DET receives: SG Eric Gordon, PF Ryan Anderson, SG Anthony Morrow
NO receives: PF Greg Monroe, SG Rodney Stuckey, PF Charlie Villanueva, PF Tony Mitchell, 2015 or 2016 1st rd pick(top 10 protected)
This trade with New Orleans keeps Josh Smith at SF, slightly defeating the purpose of the exercise. However, Ryan Anderson works perfectly as a stretch four, opening up driving lanes for Smith and allowing Drummond to hover around the paint. Eric Gordon is a dynamic Shooting Guard when healthy. He would bring Detroit consistent scoring punch on the perimeter that it hasn’t had since Rip Hamilton’s glory days. Anthony Morrow is another option to stretch the floor for the Pistons’ big men. On the other side, New Orleans pairs Greg Monroe and Anthony Davis in a terrifying frontcourt of guys who complement each other well. Stuckey and Villanueva work as expiring deals for the Pelicans, Mitchell is a developing chip, and the 2015/2016 pick bridges the value gap. The pick could only be for 2015 if Detroit were to acquire another first rounder, as teams aren’t allowed to go two straight years without a 1st round pick.
Feel free to discuss these suggestions and offer your own in the comments. All trades meet the league’s salary requirements.