The window for NBA teams to make trades this season ended Thursday at 3:00 p.m. Despite Reggie Jackson, Andre Drummond and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope being rumored in trades, Detroit Pistons president of basketball operations and coach Stan Van Gundy decided to stand pat.
A major reason the Pistons were trying to make a deadline move surrounded their overinflated team payroll. The Pistons currently sit at third in the league in payroll, behind only the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Portland Trail Blazers. This is not to mention the fact that the Pistons still have to re-sign KCP to what will likely be a max contract this offseason.
The Pistons made it quite clear that they were looking to make a move of some sort, which ultimately took away some of their leverage in their trades.
There’s two ways to look at the Pistons trade deadline. One being that the Pistons backed themselves into a corner by letting the entire league know that they wanted and needed to make a move and ultimately came out empty handed. The second point of view is Van Gundy decided to be patient and not blow up the entire roster.
I tend to think more of the latter is true. Since Van Gundy is both the president and coach, he has the luxury of being patient, which is what I believe we saw from the Pistons on Thursday’s trade deadline. When teams knew the Pistons wanted to shake things up, they had the upper hand. Van Gundy saw the offers they were receiving and decided to wait.
A key component in this decision could have been the current state of the NBA. As anybody who follows the league knows, LeBron James and the Cavaliers are the far and away favorites to win the Eastern conference. Other than the Cavs, no team in the East is truly in win now mode. This was particularly clear with the Boston Celtics who decided not to make any deadline moves despite having the best assets to do so and an opportunity to get a top-12 player in the NBA.
The Pistons have talent similar to the teams in the teams in the middle to upper tiers of the NBA’s Eastern conference. However, what they do not have is an identity. They can shoot three-pointers, but not with the league’s best. They can score inside, but center Andre Drummond does not have an efficient enough post game to rely on him consistently. They have good defenders, but do not defend well as a team.
One of the Pistons biggest problems all season has been their participation in lots of blowouts. This is a strong sign of their lacking identity. Offensively, they rely on making a lot of jump shots, and shooting is not necessarily their strength. Thus, they have a lot of blowouts because when they’re hitting, they can beat anyone, and when they’re not hitting, they are consistent with some of the league’s worst teams.
This was on display on Thursday night when the Pistons took on the Charlotte Hornets (Bobcats? Am I the only one still calling them the Bobcats?) The Pistons were losing badly to a far less talented Charlotte team until KCP caught fire in the fourth quarter and single handedly brought the Pistons back. Had KCP not had the out-of-body experience, the Pistons would have fallen in yet another blowout.
The play of backup point guard Ish Smith was a real positive for the Pistons in Thursday’s win. Smith had just five points, but boasted a plus-minus of +20, compared to the -14 that starting point guard Reggie Jackson had. Smith also had a season high 16 assists, which is more than Jackson has had in any game all season. If the Pistons want to make a playoff push, Smith will be a key in doing so. With Jackson still not 100 percent healthy from the knee injury that caused him to miss the first 21 games of the season, Smith is simply the better player for the team right now.
The Pistons currently sit as the eighth seed in the Eastern conference, but are only one and a half games behind the sixth place Indiana Pacers. The Pistons also have the second easiest remaining schedule of teams in the Eastern conference, which also bodes well for a playoff push. Most likely, the Pistons will not have a high draft choice in the upcoming draft whether they make the playoffs or not, so going all out for the rest of the season makes sense for them.
The Pistons next game is Sunday when they take on the Boston Celtics at the Palace of Auburn Hills for a 6:00 p.m. tip-off. The Pistons are 1-2 on the year versus the Celtics, who are currently in second place in the East and within striking distance of the Cavaliers.