To say that this year’s Detroit Pistons have underachieved compared to what everyone expected prior to the season would be an understatement. As we enter All-Star weekend the Pistons have a 27-30 record and currently sit in the 8th seed in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. That’s right around how they ended last season when they entered the playoffs as the 8th seed and got swept in the first round by the eventual champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Right now they seem to be headed for a similar fate and most people think that the team will make some kind of trade to shake things up on the roster and try to jump start a playoff run.
The NBA trade deadline is next Thursday, February 23rd at 3 p.m. ET. The Pistons won’t play another game before then so it’s possible that this roster as it is currently assembled may have played their last game together. In a year when this team was supposed to take the next step towards competing for a championship it would be a giant disappointment to the players and the fans to see the season end the same way it did last year. There’s no doubt that this team needs a spark, but from where should that spark come?
Many people think it should come from trading away a marquee player in order to obtain multiple pieces that fit into coach Stan Van Gundy’s system. The two players who would seem to garner the most interest, Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond, are also two of the more controversial players among fans of the team. Both players are young and have a ton of potential so they should be able to get a big return in a trade but both also have some flaws and have disappointed this year.
These two should be the cornerstone of many a successful playoff run but instead the team seems to be worse with both of them on the court. The Pistons defense ranks 11th in the league but sadly this is coming almost entirely on the backs of the bench players. When Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson are on the floor together the Pistons are giving up 110 points for every 100 possessions and when it’s Drummond alone on the floor that number only drops to 108 points. Clearly they both shouldn’t be on the team but less clear is which one should go.
When Andre Drummond came into the league in 2012 he was a physical freak with a ridiculous amount of potential. His game was raw and there were concerns about his offensive skills and his overall effort. He couldn’t shoot the ball and couldn’t hit a free throw to save his life. He was a project to be sure but in the mean time could be a great asset in the interior defense and rebounding department. And he was. But his growth has not been what many people had hoped it would be.
There are still times when he looks lost on the offensive end and ever since he signed a 5-year max deal last summer it seems as though is effort and attention to detail have tapered off. Sure, he’s only 23-years-old and players like him don’t usually blossom until 25 or older, so there’s a good chance that the Pistons are going to want to hang on to him. It also helps him that there isn’t a huge market for players like him right now.
Reggie Jackson on the other hand could net some really good value in a trade and many people, including myself, would say that the team was actually better before he returned from his early season knee injury. Back up, Ish Smith, has played well all season and with Jackson off the floor the offense moves much more smoothly. Jackson is only 26-years-old and has the ability to take over a game on offense, but for some reason it hasn’t worked this year with the Pistons. There’s a good chance he is still working back to 100% from the knee injury that kept him out for the beginning of the season but coach Van Gundy could be under pressure to improve this roster immediately and start putting together more wins.
The time to make a move might be right now and while I think that trading away Drummond could be better for the future, trading away Jackson could provide more substantial immediate returns. If the team does make a move before they return to action next Thursday against the Hornets it seems much more likely that it will be Reggie Jackson who is wearing another jersey. We are a society of instant gratification and trading away Reggie could provide just that. The right deal could provide an addition-by-subtraction type boost and help the Pistons obtain a higher playoff seed, thereby avoiding another first round exit at the hands of the Cavaliers.
Sorry Reggie, but your time in Detroit might be over. And that might be best for everyone.