Finally: Pistons trade makes team better now and in future, increases odds of playoffs

Jose Calderon |

Jose Calderon |

By Patrick Smith

As I am sure most of you know, last night the Detroit Pistons traded Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye to the Memphis Grizzlies in a three team trade in which Rudy Gay went to the Raptors and the Pistons netted Jose Calderon.

Obviously this is great news.

You would be hard pressed to find anyone calling this a loss for the Pistons, so I am not going to spend too much time explaining why it’s so great for Detroit, but I need to spend at least a few paragraphs spiking the football here. As others have pointed out it’s probably the first trade since 2004 that the Pistons and Joe Dumars actually won, and they won it in a big way. This trade made the Pistons better right now and increased their salary cap room to around $30 million next season. The trade also increased the Pistons chances of making the playoffs, although it still seems unlikely they will catch the Celtics.

First off, Jose Calderon may be the best player involved in this trade across all teams, his player efficiency rating (PER) this season of 19.38 is five points higher than Rudy Gay’s, and ranks as 38th in the league, and he has a higher win share than Gay or anyone else. How you feel about these combo stats will determine your excitement about this, but it is arguable the Pistons got the best player and gave up the least in this trade.

What is not arguable is that the Pistons got the absolute best fit. If you were to make a list of needs for the Pistons, regardless of position it would go in some order like this:

  1. More playmaking
  2. Less turnovers
  3. Better 3-point shooting
  4. Better free throw shooting
  5. Better perimeter defense

Calderon hits on four of those five needs. He is a weak defender (so he will fit right in) but he is an excellent playmaker who takes care of the basketball and is a lights out shooter. This season, Calderon is averaging 7.4 assists and just 1.7 turnovers, while shooting 43 percent from three and 90 percent at the charity stripe. Calderon ranks second in the league behind only Chris Paul with a 4.45 assists-to-turnover ratio, and his assist and turnover numbers are almost exactly even with his career numbers, so there isn’t any concern about regression.

I’ll admit, as excited as I am about Calderon, much of the excitement just comes from the Pistons finally doing something. Obviously it is much easier to enjoy a good trade like this one, but any shakeup of this roster was welcome. I will root for Tayshaun in Memphis, and I think he could fit in really well there, but I will not miss him on the Pistons. The biggest problem with this team the past two years has been that even while they are bad and rebuilding, they have remained boring and old. No one is asking you to tank, but what is the point of playing mediocre veterans over younger players while flailing your way into the lottery? Tayshaun is a fine player who was absolutely not suited to this Pistons team. Even if he didn’t actually hold the team back, his presence was a symbol of Joe Dumars’ inability to move on from the ’04 squad and embrace the chaos and possibilities of a new era.

As for Austin Daye, I am going to put it at a 5 percent chance he develops into a useful player for the Grizzlies. He was never going to work in Detroit and considering the team’s glut of below average forwards, it is better he is gone now.

This trade presents two questions for the Pistons, one obviously more important than the other: what will the Pistons rotation be for the rest of the season, and what are the Pistons planning to do this summer and beyond?

Because I am a slave to instant gratification, let’s start with the less important question of the rotation. According to MLive, Calderon will be starting at point guard alongside Brandon Knight on Friday against Cleveland. The tandem of BK and Calderon is clearly the Pistons best offensive option, Calderon is the best point guard on the team and as the team’s best shooter, Knight will benefit from some open looks. The question is how terrible a defensive backcourt of Knight and Calderon will be. Knight has grown into an average defender at the point guard spot this season, but he has done so by using his size to his advantage. As a two guard Knight will be dwarfed by most of the players he is checking, and Calderon is a weak defender.

Defensively Stuckey makes a good deal more sense than BK. Stuckey is no defensive stopper, but he is a better defender than Knight and is much more equipped to guard shooting guards. If the team is making the calculation that the better offense with BK is going to help the team more than the better D with Stuckey, I am OK with that, and only time will tell. Part of me does worry that this is a decision based more on the team’s insistence that Knight is part of the future core. Even after trading away Tay, the organization may not have the balls to demote their “point guard of the future” to backup shooting guard. That being said, Stuckey would really not be good on offense with Calderon. If Jose’s time with Demar DeRozan is any indication, Calderon’s passing could inspire Stuck to shoot more three pointers, which is the worst thing that could happen ever. (Seriously, it is a horrendous dereliction of duty by Lawrence Frank that he takes Drummond out for little mistakes but doesn’t raise an eyebrow to Rodney jacking up horrible threes).

There is one way the Pistons could help offset the weak defense of BK and Jose, START DRUMMOND.

Whatever the backcourt rotation, this trade also opens up a number of opportunities elsewhere on the court. With Tayshaun and Daye gone, Kyle Singler should get an extended look at the starting small forward spot, and that is important. Obviously if the Pistons are able to add an impact player at the 3 this summer they should, but it is worth seeing if Singler, playing in his natural position, is good enough to be the fourth or fifth best guy on a good team, and I am excited for Jonas Jerebko to get a shot at small forward minutes as well.

As for the playoff race, the Pistons are currently 5.5 games back from the Celtics for the 8th spot, with 36 games to play. Considering the Pistons just gained a point guard and the Celtics just lost one it seems possible Detroit will overtake them, but it isn’t likely. If the Celtics go 18-19 the rest of the way, the Pistons will have to go 23-13 in order to tie them at 40 games. Adjust the Celtics down if you like, but the truth is the only way the Pistons will make the playoffs is if the Celtics choke it away.

Now, onto more important matters. The Pistons are going to have somewhere between $22 million and $35 million in cap space next year, and they may be able to add more if they decide to amnesty Charlie Villanueva. What are they going to do with all that space?

The first option is free agency, throw out any dreams of Chris Paul, and let’s pray to God the Pistons aren’t considering another shoot first point guard like Tyreke Evans, Brandon Jennings or Monta Ellis. Here is a position by position list of free agents I think the Pistons should at least look at next season. In many cases I am not suggesting these are saviors, or even necessarily starters, just quality players who may provide value for the dollar. The shooting guard position offers the most excitement, although that may be bad news if it turns out BK is suited for the two guard spot.

Point Guard

  • Jose Calderon
  • DJ Augustin
  • Jarrett Jack

Shooting Guard

  • OJ Mayo
  • Kevin Martin
  • JJ Redick
  • Kyle Korver

Small Forward

  • Andre Iguadala
  • Corey Brewer


  • Carl Landry
  • JJ Hickson
  • Andray Blatche

There are obviously a number of other players out there, and please let me know in the comments who you think the Pistons should go after. What seems more likely than free agency are trades. With cap space to burn, the Pistons could serve as an ideal dumping ground for teams looking to shed salary and stay under the luxury tax level. As the Grizzlies trade just showed, it is possible to get a big name from a team in desperate need to shed salary. Let’s just hope the Pistons get someone better than Rudy Gay.

Image | Source


About pksmid

Reporter based in Chicago, focusing on the Brazilian community in Chicago and news from South America.
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