Detroit Pistons: A trade that changed the franchise

HOUSTON - 2000: Grant HIll
HOUSTON - 2000: Grant HIll /

The Detroit Pistons made a trade that would impact the franchise for many years to follow. It was at the expense of their best player at the time.

One would think when you trade away your best player, things get worse. For the Detroit Pistons, it would be a trade that would help not only bring them a championship.

It also helped them to their second most successful era in franchise history.

Before we discuss this trade, one cannot write an article like this without recognizing just how great Grant Hill was for the Pistons. From 1996-2000, Hill was playing at a level the NBA rarely witnesses.

Hill averaged 30.3 PPG, 11.3 RPG, 9.0 APG, and 2.2 SPG per 100 possessions. Quite impressive.

What’s even more amazing is the other players who have managed to do so more than twice in a season. Those other players are LeBron James and Russell Westbrook.

Larry Bird came close to these numbers but only averaged 8.5 APG.

Hill was ahead of his time. He was a point forward in an age where that team was not used in circles around the NBA. It wasn’t  applicable to any other players at that time besides maybe Scottie Pippen.

Hill was traded away in 2000. It was not a surprise but what resulted from this trade would be.

In return for Hill, the Pistons received PG Chucky Atkins. They also received an undersized, undrafted back-up center named Ben Wallace from Virginia Union.

At the time, a perceived steal for Orlando for arguably the best small forward in the NBA at the time.

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History is not a kind tale. History is fraught with pitfalls and shortcomings. In literature, the story of the tragic hero has been written upon dating back to the works of Aristotle himself with Oedipus.

While Hill did not suffer the fate of that of Oedipus, his downfall was tragic. Upon his arrival in Orlando, Hill was not entirely healthy. He played through an ankle injury during the 2000 playoffs. As a result, also sat out the 2000 Olympics.

It would only grow worse from here. Hill’s ankle would never heal properly again. In what should have been the prime of his career, Hill would suffer a near death experience as a result of his ankle injuries and surgeries and played just 47 games from 2000-2003.

A chance to pair the best small forward in the NBA with arguably the best  rising star it had with Tracy McGrady lost to injury.

Meanwhile, Ben Wallace would blossom. Wallace, despite his lack of any real offensive skill set, took upon himself the Dennis Rodman-like ideologies of dominating a basketball game.

Wallace used his athleticism, strength, and lateral quickness to become the best defensive center and rebounder in the NBA. Wallace became the first and still the only NBA player in history to be traded for a multi-time All Star and then become one himself after the trade.

His impact was immediate. The Pistons went from 32 to 50 wins. That was not all. Wallace helped create the Pistons’ identity.

As the defensive anchor on the team, the Pistons also went from 25th in OPPG to 6th in 2001-2002 with Wallace. They would give up 92.9 PPG that season. That’s the highest they would allow from 2001-2006.

Wallace would go on to rack up four All Star appearances as a member of the Pistons. He also won four Defensive Player of the Year awards along with the best defensive rating in the NBA .

He had the best defensive rating in NBA postseason history for the 2003-2004 season. He helped lead them to their first championship since 1989. Not bad for an undrafted, under-sized center from Charles Oakley‘s old stomping grounds.

One thing is for certain among people from Detroit. They can always say thank you to Grant Hill for helping them get the best Afro to hit the NBA since Dr. J.