Anyone can have a blog about an NBA team, but some set themselves apart from the rest with the dedication and valuable insight they bring to their craft. We’ll be sharing some knowledge from these dialed-in writers on Hoops Rumors in a new feature called Top Bloggers. As with The Beat, our ongoing series of interviews with NBA beat writers, it’s part of an effort to bring Hoops Rumors readers ever closer to the pulse of the teams they follow.
Hoops Rumors: Brandon Jennings isn’t expected back from his torn left Achilles tendon until mid-to-late December. Right now, Detroit sees Jennings as a strong sixth man when he returns, but one has to imagine that they’ll be listening to trade offers if he looks sharp. Do you envision the Pistons trading Jennings before the trade deadline?
Braden Shackelford: Jennings has actually said he likes Detroit and willing to accept a role off the bench. Then again, he is in a contract year and coming off of a serious injury, so what else can he say? If Jennings comes back strong, I fully expect the Pistons to explore offers for him. But, if he’s healthy, why not see if he’s willing to return as a long-term sixth man too? At the right price, Jennings would be a great sixth man in Van Gundy’s offense.
Braden Shackelford: Yes, the Pistons should have tried, but I’m not sure it would have mattered. Even if the Pistons decided to offer Monroe a contract, I doubt he’d accept. As a free agent he can choose who he plays for. Why sign with Detroit knowing that there’s a good chance you could be flipped at any time? Sure the money was a little better if he signed with the Pistons, but Monroe said it’s not about the money.
Monroe was a bad fit next to Drummond, but the Pistons could’ve flipped Monroe later on for a piece that did fit the nucleus of the team. The argument for not pursuing Monroe is that money would’ve been tied up, hindering the pursuit of other free agents. Of course, the Pistons swung and missed on all of their free agent targets early, so it wouldn’t have been a huge deal.
Hoops Rumors: After giving Reggie Jackson a hefty $80MM deal, it’s clear that the Pistons think very highly of him. Exactly how good is Reggie Jackson and where do you think he’ll rank amongst the league’s top point guards after this season is through?
Braden Shackelford: Statistically, Jackson has a very good chance of finishing as a top ten point guard. In 27 games under Van Gundy he averaged [17.6 PPG and 9.2 APG] and it’s not far fetched to think he can do the same this season. He’s also reportedly been working on the mechanics on his jump shot, which is his most glaring flaw. I think Jackson has a very good chance at making the All-Star team this season, but it remains to be seen just how high his ceiling is.
Hoops Rumors: Speaking of big contracts, the Pistons gave Aron Baynes a three-year, $20MM deal that includes a player option after year two. Many consider that deal to be an overpay. Where do you stand on that?
Braden Shackelford: I would say that it wasn’t a great deal, but not because of the salary, but rather the terms of the contract. $20MM over three years with a rising salary cap isn’t overspending – it’s the player option on the deal that makes this a reach. If Baynes doesn’t live up to the salary he will opt-in and play an extra season at a salary he isn’t worth. If he outperforms his contract, he will opt-out and get more money in free agency. His contract puts the Pistons in a lose-lose situation.
Braden Shackelford: I love the pick. The Pistons would’ve been happy with either player, but Johnson’s personality – tough, confident, competitive, hardworking – really embodies the city of Detroit. He felt underappreciated, falling all the way to the eighth pick and he’s on a mission to prove he’s the best player in the draft. I don’t know that he’s the best player in the draft, but he has a chance to make a tremendous impact in his first season. I expect him to be in the Rookie of the Year discussion all season long.
Hoops Rumors: Do you think Markieff Morris will end up in Detroit this year? If so, what do you think the Pistons would have to give up?
Braden Shackelford: I don’t think it would take a [big] package of players to land Markieff Morris. He’s a really good player, but his attitude brings his value down. We answered this question in-depth on PistonPowered and came to the conclusion that the risks far outweighed the reward. There are a number of factors to consider here, but one thing that tipped the scales was that Marcus Morris said he wanted to grow as a player, something he felt he couldn’t do playing next to Markieff. The Pistons like what they have in Marcus and getting away from his often troubled brother is probably the best thing for him.