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Detroit Begins Rebuilding Project, Charlotte Adds Talent

Detroit’s decision to trade Ben Gordon for Corey Maggette and a 1st rounder is a good one – it saves Detroit money, balances their rotation, and begins the rebuilding process. Here’s what we know:

  1. At best, the Pistons are a borderline playoff team as currently constructed. Miami, Indiana, Chicago, the Hawks, and the Knicks are all but certain to make the playoffs in 12-13. After that, Detroit could be competing with a Boston team that’s reloaded, an Orlando team that somehow manages to hang on to Howard, the Bucks, Philly, and perhaps even the Wizards – 11 teams in all. If we assume that only 3 playoff spots are up for grabs, that’s 6 teams competing for 3 spots.
  2. More likely, the Pistons are a lottery team. The odds of Detroit making the playoffs ahead of Boston, Philly, Milwaukee, the Wizards, or maybe Orlando aren’t too hot. 50% seems generous.

Lottery Teams Are Supposed to Rebuild

The generally accepted best practice for a lottery team is to trade away veteran players, acquire draft picks and young players, and maintain cap flexibility. The Maggette trade is the first move in this direction, and depending on how patient the Pistons can be, they’re only one or two more trades away from where they need to be. There are only two more players that Detroit needs to try and move:

  • Tayshaun Prince is under contract through the 14-15 season, for an average salary of $7.23 million
  • Villanueva is under contract through the 13-14 season, for an average salary of about $8.25 million

While Villanueva is likely impossible to move (he’s a grossly overpaid rotation player), Prince would seem to be a trade candidate. He’s still a capable starter, and his combination of defense, rebounding, passing, outside shooting, and playoff experience would benefit numerous teams (I’d bet the Lakers would love to have Prince were it not for the massive salary cap implications). His salary is also very reasonable for a starting SF.

Of course, Tay’s contract length is an issue, as he’ll be turning 35 in the last year of his contract. The gamble with trading for Prince is that he’s going to age well, and as a result I expect Detroit will have to take back a contract that runs through the 13-14 season. I also expect Detroit will have to trade Prince for a lesser player – exactly the same sort of deal they made for Maggette. Outside of swapping Prince for Golden State’s Richard Jefferson, I don’t see a lot of options on the horizon right now.

But, as we’ve seen dozens of times before, the situation can change rapidly. While Joe Dumars has laid some massive eggs in the last few years (trading Billups, overpaying Gordon and Villanueva, offering Hamilton a ridiculous extension) it seems that he’s finally moving the team in the right direction.

Additionally, it wouldn’t surprise me if Detroit tried to move Stuckey this year. He’s a little too old to stay on a rebuilding team, and he has what is essentially an expiring contract (it’s only partially guaranteed for the 13-14 season). Numerous teams would have an interest in Stuckey; Portland, Toronto, and Utah for sure, with Dallas, Orlando, the Lakers, and Phoenix in the mix depending on how free agency goes.

Why Charlotte Traded for Gordon

Charlotte added salary and gave away a 1st rounder to get an overpaid player…and in my opinion they didn’t do too bad. Gordon is a gunner who can stretch the floor, and he’s coming off one of his more efficient seasons in his career. Considering Gordon is only 29, and considering that Charlotte desperately needs talent, this is a relatively low risk move for the Bobcats.

What’s more, Gordon might just surprise everyone in the NBA if he’s given 30-35 minutes of run on a nightly basis. If he were to hold his shooting percentages from last season while playing 33 minutes a night, Gordon would be averaging 16pts a night while passing out 3 assists and grabbing 3+ rebounds. It wouldn’t be $12.4 million worth of production, but it wouldn’t be bad.

Finally, Gordon will push Gerald Henderson to improve, and depending on his production, Charlotte just might be able to flip Gordon again for an asset.

Bottom Line: It’s not the sexiest trade, but it’s a smart move for both teams. Detroit officially begins to rebuild, while Charlotte adds an underrated scorer for nothing more than 1st round pick and a broken down old guy named Corey.

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