Joe Dumars had said that he was going to shake up the Pistons after their repeated playoff ‘failures’, that he wasn’t going to stand still, but that was several months ago. The blockbuster transaction that happened last Monday took everyone by surprise. What does it augur ? Who came out ahead ? Who lost ? It depends on whether you think short-term or long -term.
Short-term, I feel the Nuggets got the better of the deal. They traded away an undersized ,trigger happy , 33 year old shooting guard who was a defensive liability .In return they got a pass-first point guard who will share the ball ; Carmelo Anthony, for one, will definitely be happier playing in Denver. Billups is a good defensive player and a leader who will make the players around him better. True, he has been injury prone but, if he stays healthy, he will make the Nuggets a better team . Allen Iverson is a terrific offensive player but he tended to hog the ball. Besides, the Nuggets were not going any deeper into the playoffs with the present cast of players. At least , with Billups, they have more balance and a chance of advancing past the first round of the playoffs. I’m not even considering Antonio McDyess, whose contract will probably be bought out, enabling him to return to the Pistons at a reduced salary , after 30 days. Nor am I considering F-C Chek Samb who is a long term project at best. The down side is that this trade is not going to propel the Nuggets to a championship .It also means that the Nuggets are committed to Billups long term ( 4 years, $ 45 million) and that will reduce their ability to enter the free agent market in 2009 and 2010 when there will be a bumper crop of free agents.
As for the Pistons, the trade will definitely make them a more exciting team but it is also going to cause some headaches. Part of the reason they traded Billups was that they wanted to give more playing time to Rodney Stuckey, who was so impressive filling in for Billups in the playoffs. However, SG Rip Hamilton is also on the roster and has several years on his contract. If Iverson is going to be on the floor as a shooting guard cum point guard, can he and Hamilton co-exist ? And where does that leave Stuckey ? The bigger problem is that, unless the Pistons re-acquire McDyess, they will be seriously short of big men. As well as Rasheed Wallace plays , he is foul prone ( espescially when it comes to technicals) and has been slowing down of late. The only other reliable big man they have is Jason Maxiel ; I wouldn’t count on Kwame Brown ( there is a reason he’s been traded so often!). How can the Pistons possibly counter the size of Toronto and Boston ? Some Pistons fans are thinking a return to the Finals is in the cards but I don’t see that happening. New coach Michael Curry will have his hands full holding the team together and I don’t think the team as presently constituted will go beyond the second round of the playoffs.
Joe Dumars, the Pistons GM, is one of the smartest men in baseball. I liked him as a player ( even though his team beat my Lakers way back when) and I like him even more as a GM. He has shown a knack for trading away palyers when their trade value is still high and the way he put together a championship caliber team without any superstars or high draft choices has been admirable. In initiating this trade, he seems to have been thinking of the future and an opportunity to free up cash for a superstar free agent in 2010. Allen Iverson is due $ 20 million in 2008, the last year of his contract and Rasheed Wallace $ 14 million. The best case scenarion would be for the Pistons to play exciting basketball this year and challenge for the championship. If they fall short, Dumars can shed Iversons’ and Wallace’s salaries next year and position himself for a run at the free agent market in 2010 , when Lebron James, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire will be available. That could be the foundation for long term success. Whew! You almost have to be a mathematician or a CPA to figure out the ramifications .