The Three Trades That Could (But Won’t) Save The Pistons

by Brandon James Anderson

The Pistons got blown out last night by the Charlotte Bobcats. Rarely have the words in that previous sentence been arranged in that order. The Bobcats have been a joke for much of their existence since coming into the NBA in 2004 as an expansion franchise. Apart from a season in which Larry Brown guided Charlotte to the playoffs, the Bobcats have not fared well in the Association.

But, lately, neither have the Pistons. Detroit has not seen the playoffs since 2009 when a 39-43 record was good enough for the eighth seed. Losses to traditional basement teams like Charlotte have become increasingly common and last night’s loss sealed the Bobcats’ first sweep of the Pistons since, well, ever.

The 2013-14 season hasn't panned out quite as expected for Josh Smith and the Pistons. (Photo credit: NBA.com)

The 2013-14 season hasn’t panned out quite as expected for Josh Smith and the Pistons. (Photo credit: NBA.com)

Despite a dismal record, the Pistons have hovered around the ninth spot in the Eastern Conference all season. It’s been a disappointing year, which lead to the dismissal of head coach Maurice Cheeks a few weeks ago; yet, the playoffs are still not out of the picture.

A year ago I came up with what I thought was a great three team trade for the Pistons in which Detroit received Jose Calderon from the Raptors while dealing Tayshaun Prince to Memphis and the Grizzlies shipping Rudy Gay to Toronto. About a week later, that trade actually happened (the bench players I had thrown into my fake trade for salary cap reasons were different from those actually traded, but the three main principles were the same).

Does completely pulling a trade idea out of thin air and seeing it come true make me a basketball guru? No, but let’s pretend it does. So, as the NBA’s annual trade deadline nears this afternoon, here are three fake trades that won’t happen but could help get the Pistons into the playoffs:

1. Josh Smith for Rajon Rondo

Smith and Rondo are comparable players in terms of contracts, making a straight up swap for the two possible. Rondo would be an assist to any team he joins while Smith would likely find himself a better fit in Boston without the log-jam that has been him playing alongside Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond this season. It’s unlikely this swap would happen since Smith’s contract is two years longer than that of Rondo’s and Boston is in rebuilding mode. Still, it’s fun to think about the idea of Rondo wearing blue and red given G.M. Joe Dumars years ago was rumored to have declined a trade that would have brought Rondo to Detroit.

Verdict: Unlikely, but intriguing.

2. Greg Monroe for Kawhi Leonard and Cory Joseph

Monroe has been the subject of trade rumors for the last two seasons and those rumors have only intensified with Detroit struggling to find the best way to play him, Smith, and Drummond together. Of the three big men up front, Monroe is the most likely to be traded with Drummond being a freak of nature who still has the possibility of turning into Detroit’s franchise player. Monroe in San Antonio would give the Spurs even more flexibility with Tim Duncan’s minutes which have decreased steadily as the team staggers his playing time throughout the season in an attempt to prolong the future hall of fame power forward’s career. Leonard, admittedly a fan favorite of mine as a former SDSU Aztec, would bring more scoring to a team that sorely needs it.

Verdict: Unlikely, but not implausible.

3. Chauncey Billups and Charlie Villanueva for Steve Nash

In 2005 a trade involving these three names would have shattered the foundation of the NBA. In 2014, swapping these players would mean little to nothing for either franchise. ESPN’s trade machine analysis even states the trade would not affect the winning percentage of either team this season. That said, Nash has something left to prove — the fact that at 41, he’s old and beat up but not dead. And while coming to Detroit will not help him chase the championship that has eluded him his entire career, joining the Pistons in the middle of a season in which the Eastern Conference has been categorically atrocious, the two time MVP would find himself in the hunt for a playoff spot.

Verdict: Unlikely, but whimsical.

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