This wasn’t the result that Joe Dumars had hoped for when he signed Josh Smith to a four-year, $54MM contract, and Brandon Jennings to a three-year, $24MM contract, last summer. The Pistons currently have a record of 17-23, are third in the Central Division, and are tied with the Nets for the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. If they hold that seed and make it to the playoffs, they have a first-round meeting with either the Heat, or the Pacers to look forward to. That doesn’t bode well for a deep playoff run.
With the rest of the league trending towards smaller lineups, the Pistons went against the grain with their front court pairing of Andre Drummond (6-10), Greg Monroe (6-11), and Smith (6-9). Josh Smith’s shot selection has come under fire, and Jennings is more of a scorer at the point, than a true facilitator. Currently, the Pistons average 99.4 PPG, good for 20th in the league, while giving up 102.6 PPG, which ranks them 25th overall. The larger front court hasn’t translated into the defensive presence they had hoped for. The Pistons do average 45.1 RPG, which is good for 7th overall.
With the trade deadline less than five weeks away, and the on court results not what they hoped for, the Pistons are expected to be very active on the trade front. Some NBA insiders think the team should take a run at Rajon Rondo, if the Celtics change their minds and make him available. Detroit has a number of assets that may be of value to other teams. Here’s a quick breakdown of the four main players that they could try and use to change their make-up:
- Josh Smith, 28 years-old, is playing out of position at small forward, and would be better suited to play power forward. Smith is in the first year of a 4 year, $54MM deal. He’s averaging 15.5 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and 3.3 APG. His slash line is: .406/.423/.592.
- Greg Monroe, 23 years-old, earning $4,086,454 MM, and set to become a restricted free agent after the season. Monroe is averaging 14.4 PPG, and 8.8 RPG. His slash line is: .503/.000/.632.
- Andre Drummond is only 20 years-old, earning $2,462,400 MM this year, and set to make $2,568,360 MM next season. He also has a team option for 2015-2016, of $3,272,091 MM. Drummond’s numbers are: 12.6 PPG, 12.7 RPG, and 1.8 BPG. His slash line is: .601/.000/.379.
- Brandon Jennings, 24 years-old, and just signed to a 3 year, $24 MM deal. He’s the team’s leading scorer at 16.4 PPG, and also leads them in assists, with 8.4 APG. His slash line is: .374/.340/.781.
The Pistons can choose to stand pat, but could find themselves in a similar position next season. In addition, Monroe can leave as a restricted free agent, with the team getting nothing in return. So the Pistons have some difficult decisions to make. They could trade Monroe, and hope to get an impact player, or a first-round draft choice in return, though teams might be hesitant to deal a pick for a player they could lose after the year. Dumars could admit that signing Smith was a mistake, and attempt to deal him to a team that can let him return to his natural position, but that contract will be difficult to move. They could try and trade Jennings, similar to what they did with Brandon Knight, and attempt to upgrade at the point. Jennings’ contract isn’t unmovable, and as a young player under team control for two more years, he has value. The least likely to be moved would seem to be Drummond, who is under contract at a reasonable salary for two more seasons.
The Pistons also have other assets they could use to sweeten any potential deal. They could have a decent first-round selection this year, if they fail to make the playoffs. The Pistons keep their pick if they land in the first eight picks. If they make the playoffs, or if the pick falls between say, 9-14, then the pick goes to the Bobcats. They also have Rodney Stuckey, who is making $8.5 MM in the final year of his deal, as well as Charlie Villanueva‘s expiring $8.58 MM deal. So, let us know which of the four starters mentioned you think is most likely to leave Detroit by the February 20th trade deadline, and fill us in on your choice in the comments.