The Pistons get graded by Zach Lowe for Tobias Harris trade

Feb 5, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris (left) passes over Los Angeles Clippers forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute during the first quarter of a basketball game at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 5, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris (left) passes over Los Angeles Clippers forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute during the first quarter of a basketball game at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Pistons made quite a buzz across the NBA world on Tuesday after trading for Tobias Harris of the Orlando Magic. Zach Lowe of ESPN weighed in and graded the move.

The Detroit Pistons started Tuesday off with the biggest splash of the early stages of the trade deadline period, acquiring forward Tobias Harris from the Orlando Magic in exchange for point guard Brandon Jennings and power forward Ersan Ilyasova. Pundits from across the basketball world weighed in on the deal, this writer included, and opinions were almost all favorable towards the Pistons’ side of things.

It’s an easy move to like. The Pistons upgraded a position of need, they got younger and more versatile, and they essentially made the equivalent of a free agent pickup in advance of the free agency madness that is sure to come in the offseason when the salary cap explodes.

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It’s not a move without downsides, of course. The Pistons are in dire straights at the backup point guard position, to the point where the early date of this trade might lead us to believe head coach and President of Basketball Operations Stan Van Gundy has another trade up his sleeve for a reserve at that spot.

One of the leading scribes in the NBA world, the aforementioned Zach Lowe, weighed in on the transaction for ESPN.

Lowe’s opinion was fairly in line with the rest of basketball’s cognoscenti. The prevailing feeling is that the Pistons won the trade for both today and the future, but the Magic may not have been as foolish as we first thought.

As Lowe goes on to say:

"Jennings is on an expiring contract, and Ilyasova’s deal is almost totally non-guaranteed for next season; the Magic have cracked open as much as $16.8 million in extra cap space for this summer and could enter July with about $40 million in room. They chased Paul Millsap last season and have positioned themselves to be aggressive again."

Conversely, the Pistons don’t really need cap space. To be sure, they need to ensure that they have enough space to grant them flexibility to make trades, and they want to avoid paying the luxury tax.

It’s no surprise that the Pistons aren’t a free agent market (with apologies to Ben Gordon, Charlie Villenueva and that Josh Smith guy), and are not remotely close to being one.

The Pistons are not going to be able to get into bidding wars for prime free agents as the cap explodes. This means they have to build and improve the roster through the draft and savvy trades, using free agency to fill in the holes with role players instead of on stars.

The plus side of that is that they don’t need to free up money to offer max contracts to any star free agents, because those guys aren’t coming to Detroit anyway.

I’ll let Lowe elaborate as only he can:

"Everyone will have cap space this summer, and that’s why this deal is a home run for Detroit. The Pistons have essentially made their free-agency score without getting into a free-agency period that should bring some of the nuttiest bidding wars in league history. The salary cap will make an unprecedented leap to at least $90 million in July, leaving teams with heaps of space and not enough quality veterans on which to spend it. Harris earning $16 million per year on a deal that declines in the last two seasons is better value than, say, Ryan Anderson earning $20 million per season after a frenzied free-agency auction."

The Pistons will benefit from what is becoming the new big thing across the NBA, which is positional versatility. They now have the ability to switch and rotate defensively in ways that they never could with Ersan Ilyasova at the power forward spot.

God bless Ilyasova and the charges he takes on a regular basis, but he’s not the most athletic big man and watching him try to do things like move laterally can definitely cause the eyes to burn.

The Pistons now have Harris who can play either the small or power forward spot as a main position, in addition to Marcus Morris who can similarly fill both roles. Stanley Johnson can play either small forward or shooting guard, as can Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

The Pistons will be able to rotate quickly on defense and it’s going to make life miserable for teams trying to move the ball around the perimeter.

In the words of Zach Lowe:

"When Detroit has three of Morris, Harris, Caldwell-Pope and Stanley Johnson on the floor, it can switch across three positions — a valuable tool for the notorious SVG. Jackson is physical enough to switch onto wings; Detroit has the makings of a versatile, if green, defensive team."

With every move that the Pistons have made under Van Gundy’s regime, a new piece is added to this puzzle of a team built in his image.

While Harris has taken a dip in his three-point shooting from 36 percent a year ago to 31 percent this year, he still shoots well enough to be a threat that defenses have to attend to. That’s going to help keep the floor spaced in order to allow Andre Drummond to pound and punish defenses in the paint.

Next: Analyzing the Pistons' trade for Tobias Harris

Harris fits the four-out-one-in schematic design very well, and his length and physical attributes complement the defense that Van Gundy wants to put out on the floor.