Beard: Three best, worst Pistons deals in the past decade

Detroit News

With the NBA trade deadline approaching on Thursday, the Pistons likely won’t be involved in any major deals, unless they’re the third team in a multi-team deal. General manager Troy Weaver was very active in reshaping the roster in free agency and during the draft, but with so many young players and just a few veterans, there’s not likely to be any seismic movement this week.

In previous years, the Pistons have done well — and not so well — in trades to try to improve the roster. It’s a hit-or-miss proposition sometimes and the Pistons have had their share of each.

Here’s a look at three of the best and three of the worst trades in the past decade:

All net

1. The fleece market: In what will be remembered as one of Stan Van Gundy’s best trades, he had a huge void at the wing positions and filled it with one deal, getting Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock and Danny Granger from the Phoenix Suns for a 2020 second-round pick. The Pistons took Stanley Johnson the month prior in the 2015 draft, so adding Morris was a plus, especially on his value contract.

For the next two-plus seasons, Morris was a stalwart, starting all 159 games he played with the Pistons and posting 14.1 points and 4.8 rebounds, with 35% on 3-pointers. By himself, he was worth the trade, but they also got Reggie Bullock, who started 101 games in three-plus seasons in Detroit. Granger’s career was done, as he was waived before the season started, but the Pistons got full value out of this deal.

2. A big upgrade: In 2016, when the Pistons saw there was a way to get Tobias Harris, Van Gundy probably salivated at the prospect of adding a scoring forward who wouldn’t cost a ridiculous amount. They only had to give up Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings for Harris, who was just 23 and coming off a season of 17.1 points and 6.3 rebounds with the Orlando Magic. Even better, Harris had three more years at a price tag of only $16 million per season.

Harris played both forward spots and when the Pistons brought him off the bench behind Jon Leuer, things started to get weird and he wasn’t as effective. The following season, he went to the Clippers as part of the Griffin trade.

3. Getting to the point guard: Van Gundy wanted a point guard who specialized in pick-and-roll, and saw potential in Reggie Jackson, who was a backup with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Pistons gave up D.J. Augustin, Kyle Singler and two second-round picks in the deadline deal in 2015. Jackson finished the second half of that 2015 season with some nice numbers: 17.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 9.2 assists and signed a new deal for five years and $80 million — a bargain at the time.

Jackson was an ideal pick-and-roll partner for Andre Drummond, but they never experienced the playoff success that Van Gundy envisioned with that deal. The problem was that Jackson played in more than 52 games just twice over the next five seasons. With time, the Pistons had to go in another direction, and Jackson was bought out in the final year of his deal, before heading to the Clippers.

The misses

1. Blake or bust: At the trade deadline in 2018, the Pistons needed a boost to make the playoffs, and they went for it all with the Blake Griffin trade with the Los Angeles Clippers. By all accounts, it was risky, because of Griffin’s injury history and his humongous contract, but even more, because they were giving up a productive part of their roster in Tobias Harris, along with a valuable 2018 first-round pick and a 2019 second-round pick.

In hindsight, the trade was very costly for the Pistons, because they got just one truly productive season out of Griffin — although it was an All-NBA season. They likely would have had to pay Harris a similar max contract to retain him, so the money isn’t as big an issue as losing the draft pick.

Griffin was bought out of the remainder of his contract last month, so that chapter is closed, but the deal showed how making a risky trade can impact the franchise for several years.

2. Going for Bradley: In 2017, the Pistons and team president/head coach Stan Van Gundy thought they were a piece or two away from having a very solid roster and maybe being able to win a round in the playoffs. With a reassembled roster, and after losing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in free agency, Van Gundy went for it, making a risky trade to get Avery Bradley and 2019 second-round pick for Marcus Morris.

Van Gundy repeatedly had said that he loved Morris because of his very reasonable contract of $5 million per season. Bradley was a stellar perimeter defender but never seemed to fit in the Pistons’ system. He played 40 games and was sent packing to the Clippers as part of the Griffin trade later that season.

3. Future All-Star gone: The Pistons’ roster was packed with wings in 2013 and their need at point guard outweighed waiting on second-year forward Khris Middleton, who was often injured but was solid as a rookie. The Pistons dealt Middleton, along with Brandon Knight and Viacheslav Kravtsov for Brandon Jennings.

On the surface, it was a good deal for the Pistons, who got 15.5 points and 7.6 assists from Jennings in his first season. Jennings was good with the Pistons for two-plus seasons before going to the Orlando Magic in the Tobias Harris deal. In principle, it wasn’t a horrible trade, but giving up so early on a future two-time All-Star in Middleton was one that the Pistons would like to have back.

Honorable mention: Spencer Dinwiddie to the Bulls for Cameron Bairstow in 2016; Ben Gordon and a 2014 first-round pick to the Charlotte Bobcats for Corey Maggette.

Pistons at Pacers

Tip-off: 7 Wednesday, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Outlook: The Pacers (19-23) are adjusting to their new-look roster, with the addition of Caris LeVert (Michigan), who is posing 17.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in his first six games back. The Pistons (12-30) have lost all eight games this season against teams in the Central Division.

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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