What do Richard Hamilton, Andre Drummond, Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Jeremy Lamb have in common? If you guessed that they all played for the University of Connecticut then you would be absolutely right. Would it not be nice if all of them at one point or another played for the Pistons? Well, it may not be that far-fetched to think it could happen sooner rather than later.
Hamilton, Drummond, Gordon and Villanueva have all spent time during the course of their careers playing for Detroit, and now the final name on that list could be calling the Motor City his new home. According to Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, the Oklahoma City Thunder are open to trading Lamb for a more seasoned and consistent bench player.
Enter in Rodney Stuckey, who has filled the role of the Pistons’ sixth man and has been one of the league’s best at it. So far this season, he is averaging 15.7 points per game (PPG), 2.5 rebounds per game and 2.4 assists per game. Those numbers put Stuckey in the top three for bench scoring leaders per game and a viable sixth man of the year candidate.
So what exactly am I getting at? Well, Pistons GM Joe Dumars would be wise to call the Thunder GM Sam Presti and let him know Stuckey is available. Presti would more than likely be somewhat intrigued, due to the fact that the Thunder are one of the best teams in the league and Stuckey makes them more of a championship contender than Lamb.
A 1-1 swap of Stuckey for Lamb seems to make sense, but other pieces would have to be involved in order for the salary amounts to match up. Therefore, a deal that seems to make sense for both sides would be the Pistons sending the Thunder Stuckey in exchange for Lamb, Kendrick Perkins, and a 2014 first round pick.
Why it makes sense for Oklahoma City
The Thunder are one of the best teams in the NBA, and currently are in third place in the Western Conference. At 17-4, they do not necessarily need to make any moves. But of course, every contender is looking to get better.
Two seasons ago, OKC faced off against the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals and eventually lost in five games. Last season, the Thunder traded away superstar James Harden to create financial flexibility. Hoping to get back to the Finals, the Thunder went into last year’s playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the West, but guard Russell Westbrook tore his meniscus against the Rockets in the first round, and the team would eventually lose to the Memphis Grizzlies in the second round in five games.
The Thunder have their eyes again on the NBA Finals, and Rodney Stuckey gives them a much better chance of doing so than Lamb and Perkins. Stuckey thrives off driving it to the rim, something that he has in common with Westbrook and Harden. Stuckey could fill in at the point if Westbrook were to get in foul trouble, but he could also play alongside him at the shooting guard spot and give them a look similar to what they had in ‘11-’12.
This deal would also give them more financial flexibility going forward, which they desperately need after being less than $1 million away from the $71 million luxury tax. Stuckey is in the final year of his three-year, $25 million deal and is owed $8.5 million this year. Perkins is owed close to $8.5 million this year and Lamb is owed close to $3 million. So the deal would save the Thunder close to $3 million. The Pistons are already above the salary cap figure ($58 million) but have plenty of room left until they reach the luxury tax mark, so they could afford to take on the extra few million for a first-round draft pick.
The Thunder do not need to worry too much about losing their first round pick because they have shown that they like playing veterans over those with higher potential. The same year Lamb was drafted, the Thunder took Perry Jones III out of Baylor with the 28th overall pick. In his first two seasons in the league, he has averaged less than 10 minutes per game and is by no means a factor in the Thunder’s game plan.
In order to replace Perkins, OKC would use veteran Nick Collison and their 2013 first round pick, Steven Adams (Pitt), as their primary centers. Collison averages around four points and three rebounds per game in around 18 minutes, while Adams produces four points and close to five rebounds in 16 minutes per game.
Why it makes sense for Detroit
The Pistons are a team that is in a win-now mode, but unfortunately they are nowhere near talented enough to compete for an NBA title. So why not explore the possibility of trading a player on the last year of his contract and who is having the best year of his career? Stuckey without a doubt has been one of the Pistons’ best players this season, but he has had several character issues during his time in Detroit and he doesn’t appear to be in Joe Dumars’ long-term plans.
Detroit would also be receiving a very nice package for a player that many experts consider expendable. There is no doubt that Lamb is the centerpiece of this potential deal and he would be immediately inserted into the Pistons’ rotation, something that he has not quite been able to do in Oklahoma City. So far this season, Jeremy is averaging 9.4 PPG, one assist per game and 2.2 rebounds per game in just around 20 minutes per game.
The former 12th overall pick in 2012 has already been traded once from Houston to OKC as part of the James Harden trade. He spent a lot of time last season playing in the NBA D-League and really has not gotten much of a chance to prove his worth with the Thunder. A change of scenery and an opportunity to play would finally give the 21 year-old out of Connecticut the ability to flaunt his skills. If you don’t know much about Lamb, his expertise is shooting the ball which, fortunately for the Pistons, is their biggest weakness. Lamb this season is shooting 40 percent from the three, and 47 percent from inside the arc. Stuckey is shooting at around the same pace from inside the arc (46 percent), but is substantially worse from outside the arc, shooting only 32 percent from downtown. It also happens to be the best percentage from three Stuckey has ever had.
As mentioned earlier, the Pistons would also be getting Kendrick Perkins who, over the next two seasons, is owed close to $18 million. Even though he has not quite been the same since he was traded to the Thunder in 2011, Perkins is still one of the scariest players in the league. He is known for his intimidating stare and ability to shut down the paint. He has never stood out on the stat sheet, but he does a little bit of everything a little bit better than most big men. This season, he is averaging a measly three PPG, 3.5 rebounds, and .5 blocks in around 18 minutes per game, which is the lowest in his career since the ‘04-’05 season. He probably would not see too much time on the court, but back when he was with Boston, he was one of the core pieces during their championship run. Players like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo were incredibly discouraged when he was traded to OKC, and Boston has yet to play another championship game since he was moved.
Finally, the Pistons would also gladly accept the Thunder’s 2014 first round pick. If Oklahoma City wants to get out from Perkins’ bad contract, they need to entice Detroit to take it. If the Pistons make the playoffs this year, they would be required to send their first round pick to Charlotte as part of the Ben Gordon trade a few years back. If that happens, Detroit would be without a first round pick in arguably the deepest draft class since 2003, which included Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and the infamous Darko Milicic.
Obviously, the Thunder’s first round pick would be towards the bottom of the round, but Detroit could use all of the young talent they can get. Someone like Michigan State’s own Adreian Payne would be a great candidate for a late-round pick to fill the stretch four role.
The Pistons are one of the youngest teams in the league, with an average age of 25.4 years. Getting Jeremy Lamb would lower that statistic even further which, at the surface, does not make a lot of sense. But this team is not even close to competing for a title. Lamb has tremendous upside and there was a reason he was a lottery pick. In 75 games with the Huskies, Lamb averaged 32 minutes per game, 14 points, and a .48 shooting percentage.
Aside from his personal stats, Lamb also had time to play with the Pistons’ young superstar Andre Drummond during the ’11-’12 NCAA season. In that season together, the Huskies went 20-14, and would eventually lose to the Iowa State Cyclones in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
If the Pistons were to complete this deal, they would presumably have a starting five of Jennings, Caldwell-Pope, Smith, Monroe, and Drummond, with Lamb and Singler being the first two players off the bench. This would be an incredibly exciting group to watch, and a team with a lot of future promise. The deal would not produce that much of an immediate impact, but getting a young potential stud such as Jeremy Lamb would do wonders to this team going forward.
“I think the Pistons should trade Stuckey sooner rather than later because for all we know, he could fade out and go back to the player he’s been for the last three years,” said Blake Froling, a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports and a Pistons fan.
The classic saying goes, “strike while the iron’s hot.” For a team with an NBA championship in their sights, the Rodney Stuckey iron is scorching, and Joe Dumars would be wise to strike.
Cameron Billes is the host of Horsepower for Impact Sports.