Before I get started, I want to say "thank you" and "so long" to Chauncey Billups. He came to Detroit when the Pistons were struggling to find an identity. He gave Pistons fans six seasons of all-star level play and one of the most enjoyable and unexpected championships in Detroit sports history. He handled himself with class and was a great role model for the city and state. It was time to part ways but I will always root for him and he will always be a Piston in my book.
Moving along... Joe Dumars is a bad man. He just pulled off what amounts to Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson straight-up. Antonio McDyess tried his best to Geiger the trade but Denver apparently wanted to make the deal so badly that it didn’t even care if McDyess actually ended up on the team. McDyess will likely re-sign with the Pistons once he clears waivers and waits the requisite 30 days required to rejoin the Pistons.
Iverson is a better player than Billups. He’ll bring crunch-time scoring. He won’t be as big of a downgrade defensively as most people believe (Iverson will likely finish his career in the top five all-time in steals). In fact, you’ll see fewer PGs blowing by Iverson than you saw with Billups. Iverson will get his teammates better looks by getting to the rim. There is no doubt in my mind that I’d rather have Iverson than Billups right now. However, that’s not the best part of the trade. Joe D was able to rid himself of Mr. Big Shot’s contract. Billups wasn’t exorbitantly overpaid but his presence on the payroll through 2011 would’ve made it difficult for Detroit to make a splash in free agency. Iverson comes off the books after this season potentially giving the Pistons enough money to sign two max contract players over the next two seasons.
Pistons fans should get excited about what this could mean for the “Summer of LeBron.” Henry Abbott has already opined with the suggestion that the Pistons could sign both LeBron and Chris Bosh. Adrian Wojnarowski says the Pistons are now the frontrunners for LeBron’s services. Theoretically, they may have a point. Realistically, LeBron is not going to agree to play in Detroit. He has bigger cities to fry. Bosh, however, might be a possibility. There are so many superstars who will be free agents in 2010 that the Pistons are bound to run into someone who likes what they have to offer. Plus, there are only going to be so many teams that can offer a max contract. Amare Stoudemire, Dirk Nowitzki, and Yao Ming will also be available among many others.
Still, it’s never a good idea to assume that a superstar player will sign a contract with a Detroit team not named the Red Wings. It doesn’t happen very often. In fact, I can’t think of a single example when a superstar free agent chose to play in Detroit. There have been players who were traded here (i.e. Miguel Cabrera and Rasheed Wallace) and then chose to re-sign. There have been over-the-hill superstars who agreed to take more money (i.e. Pudge Rodriguez) to play in Detroit. There just isn’t an example of a top-flight player who could’ve played anywhere and chose Detroit. I don’t think this is news to Joe-D. His best option is to make the Pistons as healthy for long term success as possible. He took a step in the right direction by signing RIP to an extremely reasonable extension. He has a talented young roster that would compliment a superstar or two. It won’t be easy to sell Detroit but it might not be as hard to sell Auburn Hills and a championship-caliber team. The Pistons haven’t gone superstar shopping for a while. Maybe Joe D has turned Detroit into a viable destination for NBA superstars since then.
Even though this trade was made mostly to help the Pistons when Iverson will be long gone, I think the addition of Iverson gives the Pistons a better chance of winning this year. The Pistons were not going to the NBA Finals with Billups let alone win a Championship. That will still likely be the case with Iverson but at least the Pistons will be able to counter the Eastern Conference superstars with a superstar of their own. The Pistons couldn’t score when it mattered in the playoffs. They couldn’t combat LeBron or KG. Their “team” philosophy was good enough to beat bad teams but wasn’t good enough to beat good teams or great players. Iverson improves their chances. Iverson has gotten a reputation of being a selfish, ball-hog. Some of that is warranted but it’s not nearly as bad as most think. Iverson has not been on good teams. He certainly has never played for a team as talented as the Pistons. He has been at his best in All-Star games where he could be a distributor first and a scorer second. That’s what he’ll get a chance to be for the Pistons. I would not be surprised if the Pistons finish with the best record in the Eastern Conference. Boston still gets the edge come playoff time—and probably in the regular season as well—but the gap has closed enough to make things interesting.
If nothing else, Iverson will make the Pistons watchable for the rest of the season. Nothing was more discouraging than turning it to FSN Detroit and—for a brief second before senses could be gathered—not knowing if it was 2006 or 2008. Now, I’ll know the Answer.