A Two Step Path to Contention

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Since I spent my last two posts criticizing Dumars for the Iverson trade, I think that it is only fair that I offer some solutions. Plus, nothing is more fun for the average sports fan than playing “armchair GM” and coming up with preposterous trades that have no chance of actually happening. Without further ado, here is the moderately realistic plan that I propose to get the Pistons back into contention.

Step 1: Trade Tayshaun. Tayshaun Prince is probably the best and most valuable player on the Pistons. He has no real weakness compared to plenty of strengths and he always plays smart. He is a very good defender, a good long range shooter, a solid post up offensive player, and on broken plays he excels at shooting mid-range jumpers over defenders as the shot clock winds down on. Prince is a borderline all-star in his prime who, as a 28 year old with a reasonable contract, has significant trade value. It might be time for the Pistons to cash in.

When Larry Brown and Flip Saunders ran the show in Detroit, the Pistons almost exclusively used a set half court offense that relied upon timing and execution. Chauncey Billups would walk the ball up the court, the Pistons would run a play that used most of the shot clock and more often than not, the end result was a high percentage shot. Prince’s game has also been very methodical and under control. The slow, execution-based offenses were perfectly suited for his game.

Michael Curry emphasizes a very different approach to offense. Instead of asking his players to walk the ball up the court and set up a play, Curry implores his team to attack quickly. Under Curry, the Pistons are more of a fast break team that tries to take advantage of defenses that have not had time to set up entirely. This style does not suit Prince’s game and many times this season, Prince has slowed down the offense in order to get into a set reminiscent of the offenses of old. If the Pistons are to embrace Michael Curry’s ideals, Prince may have to go.

Here are three possibilities for trading Prince, listed in order of how desirable I consider each deal for the Pistons.

Trade Possibility A: Tayshaun Prince to Philadelphia for Thaddeus Young, Marreese Speights, Willie Green, and Jason Smith. (Trade Machine View)

Last season, the 76ers surprised pundits by making the playoffs with an inexperienced team. Over the summer, the team added Elton Brand in an attempt to solidify their defense and rebounding, while giving them a reliable offensive option in half court sets. So far, Brand is struggling to mesh with the up-tempo athletes that dominate Philly’s rotation. By swapping Young for Prince, the 76ers would add a second reliable offensive option as well as a lockdown defender who could potentially make Philly one of the elite defensive teams in the league. Prince is a much better fit alongside Brand than Young, and along with Miller and Dalembert, the 76ers would have a team much better suited to excel in the half court on both ends of the floor. By making this trade, the 76ers would be either the third or fourth best team in the East, depending on what one thinks of the Magic.

As for the Pistons, Thaddeus Young would be a perfect fit in Michael Curry’s system. The Piston lineup that has screamed “Michael Curry basketball” has included Rodney Stuckey, Arron Afflalo, RIP Hamilton, Jason Maxiell, and Amir Johnson. When those five players are on the court together, they pressure the ball, trap aggressively, and create fast break opportunities on offense. Young is a perfect fit for that style of basketball.

He is a natural small forward who is quickly developing an outside shot, but excelled in last season’s playoffs by making hustle plays and attacking the offensive glass. He is also capable of playing power forward, a position where Curry surely would utilize him in small ball lineups.

Marreese Speights is talented rookie big man whose bulk would allow him to complement either the skinny Amir Johnson or the undersized Jason Maxiell in the frontcourt. Willie Green would be able to return to Detroit, where he grew up, although he has proven to be a marginal player with an unfriendly long term contract that the Sixers would love to dump. Jason Smith showed promise as a rookie, but his career has been derailed by a devastating knee injury. He would be included in the deal strictly for salary cap reasons. If the Pistons struggle this season and Young continues to develop, Speights may need to be taken out of the trade in order for Philadelphia to accept.

Trade Possibility B: Tayshaun Prince to the Lakers for Trevor Ariza, Jordan Farmar, Chris Mihm, and a spare part signed for 1.05 million TBD. (Trade Machine View)

The Lakers would add another star to their already impressive starting lineup. The Lakers, Celtics, and Cavaliers are the three elite teams in the NBA this season and this trade would be just what the Lakers need to push themselves ahead of the class. A seven man core of Fisher, Bryant, Prince, Gasol, Bynum, Vujacic, and Odom would be as good as any the NBA has seen in a long time. While the Lakers are enamored with Farmar and Ariza, the opportunity to replace Radmanovic with Prince in the starting lineup should be too enticing to pass up.

Detroit would add two players who fit Michael Curry’s system perfectly. Ariza is the type of aggressive athlete Curry covets and – with the exception of the three point shot – would provide many of the same skills as Young. Farmar would be a perfect backup to Stuckey at point guard and the two could also play together. Mihm is merely being included for salary cap reasons.

Trade Possibility C: Tayshaun Prince to Utah for CJ Miles, Ronnie Price, Kosta Koufos, and Matt Harpring. (Trade Machine View)

I’m not certain if that deal can work as presently constructed due to Miles’ base year compensation status, but spare parts can be included if needed. The deal makes obvious sense for Utah. They have been looking for a star player to man one of the wing positions for years and Prince would fit the bill. He would essentially take up the minutes that Miles and Harpring combine to play and would provide a major upgrade for the Jazz. Brevin Knight is more than capable of taking over backup point guard duties from Price, while Koufos is a project that Utah can afford to sacrifice.

On the Pistons side of the things, this deal would bolster the team’s depth at the expense of its star power. Miles had a breakout season last year and has been ever better this season. He is a solid all around player at small forward and should develop into an above average starter. Price is a serviceable backup point guard, which is a position the Pistons will need to fill after Iverson is let go and Stuckey moves into the starting unit. Price and Miles do not add up to fair value for Prince, so including Koufos would be a must if Dumars is to accept. Harping has been a very good role player throughout the decade, but with Prince, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and Andrei Kirilenko manning the wings, Utah would have little need for his tough play. His contract needs to be included for the contracts to match up.

Step 2: Be patient and only sign players (such as Rasheed or any available free agents) to one year deals in the summer of 2009. Then, in the summer of 2010, hope that either Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire can be convinced to take Bill Davidson’s money.

If the Pistons simply made the one of the above trades and did nothing else, their roster entering the 2010 season would look something like this:

PG: Rodney Stuckey, Jordan Farmar/Ronnie Price/Will Bynum?
SG: RIP Hamilton, Arron Afflalo
SF: T. Young/T. Ariza/CJ Miles, W. Sharpe
PF: Amir Johnson, J. Maxiell
C: _______, M. Speights/K. Koufos/K. Brown?

By making the moves suggested above, the Pistons would have plenty of available cap space for the summer of 2010, some of which will be needed to re-sign Amir Johnson. The only way to complete that roster would be to add a stud at center. The Pistons would have the flexibility to offer a maximum contract and there are plenty of stars who will be on the market that summer. The two that make the most sense for the Pistons are Amare Stoudemire and Chris Bosh. Each of their teams could be in terrible shape entering that summer and if they want to win, there are plenty of reasons that the two young stars should consider Detroit.

In Stoudemire’s case, the appeal is obvious. Phoenix could be a disaster zone 18 months from now. Shaq, Grant Hil, and Raja Bell will be done, Steve Nash will be a free agent nearing the end of his career, and Nash and Stoudemire are the only players on the current roster who should be starting in the NBA in 2011. If Stoudemire wants to compete for a Championship, he will want to get out of Phoenix. In Detroit, he would be the focal point of the offense – which he very clearly desires – and his ability to attack the basket would fit perfectly with Michael Curry’s approach. However, because of his shortcomings on defense, he is not the best case scenario signee for the Pistons.

Chris Bosh is just as lethal as Amare offensively, except he also brings his A-game on the defensive end of the floor. Bosh is already one of the ten best players in the NBA and he still has room to grow. There is a good chance that he will try to join forces with LeBron, either in Cleveland or with one of the New York teams, but if not, the Pistons would love to have him.

By following that plan, the Pistons could quickly re-emerge as contenders – a status they lost when they dealt Billups.

(Note: Anyone who has read my previous posts is probably wondering how I can write that the Pistons’ chances of landing Bosh or Amare are slim and then advocate a plan based on getting one of those players. I stand by my belief that the team’s chances of landing one of the stars is less than 50-50 and I do not think it was wise of Dumars to trade Billups – an elite point guard – for cap space that may or may not help land a start two years down the road. With that said, the Pistons absolutely need a replacement for Rasheed in the frontcourt and Kwame Brown is not the answer. The Pistons have no internal options and are unlikely to find such a player late in the draft, so the best they can do is hope to lure a star free agent.)


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Welcome to Count That Baby And A Foul. I am an obsessed Piston fan with a passion for sports journalism. Here at CTBAAF, I intend to offer opinions on the Pistons and the NBA as a whole.

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