June 23, 2009
There's too much smoke surrounding the proposed and summarily shot-down Pistons and Celtics deal for the proposal not to be true.
First off, Adrian Wojnarowski is a trusted source, a connected sort who knows his stuff.
Secondly, the deal in question (Boston's Ray Allen(notes) and Rajon Rondo(notes) for Detroit's Rodney Stuckey(notes), Tayshaun Prince(notes), and Rip Hamilton) involves too many players who, if they haven't already been mentioned in a series of trade rumors before, should be on the block.
The deal isn't going down, it should be noted. Woj even pointed out that C's and Pistons bosses Danny Ainge and Joe Dumars didn't even take to the phones to discuss it. A Celtics underling called to propose it, with Ainge's blessing, and a Pistons colleague turned it down, with Dumars' blessing.
And, bless Joe Dumars, but what the hell is he thinking?
For 2009-10, yes, this could be a big deal for the Celtics. Hamilton could have a bounce-back year, same with Tayshaun Prince, and Rodney Stuckey should improve. Based on sheer depth, alone, Detroit could have handed the hated C's another Eastern Conference championship. Not unlike the way the Celtics possibly handed Detroit the same thing five years ago.
Beyond that? They would have handed Boston an above-average offensive shooting guard with a three-year, $34 million dollar contract. A 29-year old defensive stalwart, already on the decline, who is owed about $21.5 million over the next two years. And Rodney Stuckey, a nice player, possibly a point guard (his assist ratio rivaled that of Shane Battier(notes) and Derek Fisher's(notes) in 2008-09), and definitely a guy looking for a contract extension after next year.
What would Detroit have gotten? Sweet, sweet relief.
Relief (in the form of Ray Allen's expiring contract) from an awful extension Dumars handed to Hamilton last fall. Relief from the second half of a massive two years owed to Prince, a fine player who is probably worth half of what he's owed. And a huge upgrade from Stuckey to Rondo, even if Rondo is looking for a contract extension this summer, as opposed to next.
Best? Assuming the Pistons submit to a rebuilding process, no easy decision, this would ensure that Detroit had, possibly, around $37 million in cap space for the summer of 2010 before Rondo's extension takes hold. That's including a pair of first round contracts to take to both this summer and next, and with a conservative estimate regarding the NBA's payroll structure for semi-famous offseason.
This is a direction you have to head toward. You're rebuilding. Deal with it. Deal, aware of it.
I'm sorry, but you can only blame Allen Iverson(notes) and Rasheed Wallace(notes) for so much. The Pistons, clearly, aren't doing anything with Hamilton (aged 31) and Prince right now, and as good as Stuckey can be, his career arc doesn't exactly scream "All-Star!" to these eyes.
Let's say the Pistons kept the triptych, and watched as the best-case scenario took hold. Ben Gordon(notes), possibly, and Carlos Boozer(notes). Add a solid draft pick taken just outside the lottery, and where does this leave you? A championship? With Prince fading and Hamilton having already started his decline? With Boozer and Gordon tossing up jumpers and Stuckey still fitfully trying to balance his scoring and distribution instincts?
Does that really sound like a championship core? No? Well, that's your team, Pistons fans, if Dumars decides to spend his money in 2009. That's a team that could still be under the salary cap, somewhat, in the summer of 2010. But it would be under the cap with 11 players on the roster, including first round selections in 2009 and 2010, and several slots to fill in order to boast a sound rotation (unless you were banking on Walter Sharpe(notes) turning things around).
There are various permutations that could result in Chris Bosh(notes) becoming a Piston if Detroit only signs one big free agent this summer, and has a piece in place (Stuckey) for a sign and trade, but where does this leave you? Bosh and Gordon and Hamilton and Prince? Yay?
Turning a team around and shooting for the fences depends on a lot of guts, and a whole lot of luck. And while Dumars knew exactly what he was doing, he had a lot of luck on his side when he helped put together a sign-and-trade for Grant Hill(notes) in the summer of 2000, or (finally ensconced as a full-fledged GM) took to a depth-based rebuilding plan during the summer of 2001.
It paid off in 2004, as the Pistons won a championship, but how many things had to go right? Ainge helped, needlessly taking on extra salary in February of 2004 to allow a trade that sent Rasheed Wallace from the Atlanta Hawks to the Pistons to go through. The Pistons then had to work through an injury-riddled Pacers and Lakers team (who downed an injury-riddled Timberwolves team, and a shell-shocked, and arguably better, San Antonio Spurs team) to win the championship.
This also involved taking advantage of a clueless Michael Jordan (then a Wizards GM, looking to make a big splash for 2002-03, and damn the rest) by acquiring Hamilton for Jerry Stackhouse(notes). This involved Tayshaun Prince being available late in 2002's first round. This was based on both the Washington Wizards and Orlando Magic undervaluing Ben Wallace(notes). This championship was won when the Pistons struck gold with Chauncey Billups(notes), after five other teams gave up on him.
Make no mistake, Detroit earned that championship. But timing and luck played a huge, huge role. And until you can back into such luck, with that sort of timing, you have to create your own destiny.
And basing your destiny around Hamilton and Prince's declining fortunes, while thinking Stuckey some sort of answer, doesn't really seem like the best plan.
Yes, Dumars is savvy, and has options galore (it doesn't have to signing players outright, he can also trade for a pair of studs) this summer, but grabbing Rondo and Ray Allen's expiring contract for this lot seems like a chance well worth taking.