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Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince are proving Joe Dumars made the right decision with Chauncey Billups

It’s become widely accepted: trading Chauncey Billups was a mistake. Joe Dumars should’ve traded one of Detroit’s other core players. They’re useless at best, in the way of rebuilding at worst.

But Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince are playing like they’re on a mission to disprove those beliefs.

Hamilton has seemed genuinely happy to be with the Pistons since they fired Michael Curry. I questioned whether Prince was playing hard just to get a trade, but he has continued to play well since the deadline.

Both their numbers have been stellar the last four games.

  • Hamilton: 30.5 points per game on 54.5-percent shooting.
  • Prince: 15.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.3 blocks per game.

They might even be proving Dumars made the right call by keeping them around instead of Billups.

Before we go further, I want make clear that I’m not dealing with Dumars’ execution with the Billups trade and the subsequent cap space it created. I’m just talking about his decision to trade Billups instead of one of Detroit’s other core players.

The season before the trade, the Pistons lost in the Eastern Conference Finals for the third straight year. It seemed like a bit of a stretch they even made it that far again. The team was getting older, complacent and disinterested.

By this point, the Pistons had four key players: Billups, Hamilton, Prince and Rasheed Wallace. It made sense to break up that core, at minimum, to create a spark.

Let’s look at each of them to see why Billups was the one to go.

Rasheed Wallace

With his reputation and hard-headedness, Rasheed Wallace is virtually untradeable – at least for any real value. That’s why the Pistons got him so cheaply, and it’s why they had to hang onto him last year.

I have to believe Dumars thought Wallace would continue to decline. But what’s the point of trading him for pennies on the dollar? You trade for a Rasheed Wallace. You don’t trade a Rasheed Wallace.

So, the Pistons were stuck. They couldn’t trade him to improve their team. And if they kept him, he would likely struggle.

Stuck in that conundrum, I think the best option was to hold onto him and pray for the best. If a miracle happened and a light clicked in his head, you had an excellent player.

And if it didn’t, you ccould let him walk in the summer – which ended up happening.

Tayshaun Prince and Richard Hamilton

Of the core group, Prince and Hamilton are the youngest. So, there’s a simple reason it made sense to keep them.

It’s easy to point to their production since Billups was traded and say they weren’t worth keeping around. But they’ve been faced with a slew of challenges:

  • They played all of last year under Michael Curry, a failure as a head coach.
  • They spent last year with a point guard, who was not only in his first season as a starter, is still working to be more than a shooting guard who brings the ball up the court.
  • Last year, they shared the court with Allen Iverson, who completely disrupted the team’s chemistry.
  • And they’ve been hampered with injuries this year.

So, I don’t think we’ve had a great look at Hamilton and Prince post-Billups. Yes, their last four games have been awesome. But I don’t think that’s a large enough sample size. So, I’m going to try to use a bigger sample, but still remove some of those mitigating factors.

So how have Prince and Hamilton done in:

  • The two games after Billups was traded but before Iverson arrived
  • The games last year after Richard Hamilton permanently returned to the starting lineup (excluding the final game of the season for Prince because he played just nine minutes in an effort to continue his streak of games played)
  • The first game this season, when both were healthy
  • The games since they returned from injury Dec. 27

Hamilton: 20.1 points, 5.4 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game.

Prince: 14 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game.

Keep in mind that still includes games with Curry, Iverson, a young Stuckey and when they were getting acclimated after injuries. Those stats could improve.

Evidenced by the last four games, they are.

Chauncey Billups

That just leaves Billups.

Billups is two years older than Hamilton and four years older than Prince. His numbers had been dipping, and as a post-up player who thrive on getting to the free throw line, you had to wonder if his body was breaking down.

And, interestingly enough, he might have had the highest trade value on the Pistons. I have no idea what Detroit could’ve gotten for Hamilton or Prince, but the expiring contract of a high-end player is quite the get.

Allen Iverson averaged 22.8 points, 6.2 assists and 1.7 steals per game the season before the trade. Although there were signs his body was wearing down, too, there was a chance the Pistons were acquiring a heck of a player. And if they weren’t, they’d get a ton of cap space. Basically, Iverson represented two tries to make it work.

Another reason trading Billups made most sense: his replacement.

In Rodney Stuckey, the Pistons had a good, young alternative for Billups. What young player was going to replace Hamilton or Prince?

Don’t say Arron Afflalo. I wish the Pistons still had him, too. But he’s not nearly the player Stuckey is and likely won’t come close.

Afflalo’s PER this season is 11.3. His defensive rating (110) is ninth on the Nuggets. And J.R. Smith still plays more minutes per game than him.

And I’ve covered this many times, but the trade rejuvenated Billups. There was no way the Pistons would have had the same Billups Denver got.

Takeaway

If Hamilton and Prince continue to play well, especially if that’s due to Stuckey becoming a better point guard, you have to give Dumars more of a break on the Billups trade.

13 Comments

  • Feb 24, 20105:58 pm
    by mat

    Reply

    A superficial analysis heavily dependent on points per game belongs in a newspaper.
    Billups was and is a top 10 PG.  PG and Cs are the toughest positions to fill from a roster management perspective.  Hamilton and Prince are, at best, mediocre starting SG and SF, respectively.  These are also the easiest positions to fill.
    You can make a case that Billups is the one that should be traded, but Rip and Tay’s performance after the trade are pretty irrelevant to the matter.  And of course, if the best players you can get for Billups are Iverson or Gordon then that’s certainly not a good return.
    If Hamilton and Prince continue to play well (or if they don’t) you have to give Dumars NO break whatsoever for the Billups trade. It was a disaster, particularly when viewed together with the corresponding moves.

  • Feb 24, 20106:31 pm
    by wilford brimley

    Reply

    imo stuckey is too much of an inefficient scorer to be an effective point guard, so I don’t think you can consider him a decent replacement, much less an above average point guard.  He still has room to grow though.
    As far as Iverson, everyone knew he was going to be let go at the end of the season, so there was no motivation for him to play.  Moreover, everyone recognized that the Celtics and Cavaliers had bypassed the pistons, so the whole team knew they didn’t have a chance to win the title (orlando’s improvement notwithstanding).
    As mat mentioned above, SG and SF are two easy positions to plug-in swingmen, and I wouldn’t put too much value on Prince as his defensive game has seemed to be diminished (could be because ben hasn’t been around for a few years).  Hamilton is a decent scorer, but he’s not particularly unique.
    The Billups trade was about creating cap space.  It was not about trying to win that season.  Quite simply, Joe butchered the cap space with gordon and villanueva

  • Feb 24, 20106:34 pm
    by kris

    Reply

    I dont know why everybody gets mad at Dumars for that move, like the number 1 poster ….come on, Dumars put that team together, and if it wasnt for Joe, Billups probably would be hopping around tryin to get a chance to play since he was unknown before he became a Piston. I dont blame dumars for the trade, it was a great move…2 sides to the coin, a good pg (hall of famer) and expiring contract.. but to honestly say I think it couldve worked better if Curry wasnt the coach….Honestly…but just cus Gordon n charlie arent doing good now, people think dumars suck, etc etc etc…I like Gordon, charlie not so …maybe we coulda gotten someone else but it is what it is…and let dumars do his job and you guys do yours

  • Feb 24, 20106:51 pm
    by aj "frazzizil" macksoud

    Reply

    even if stuckey does become a better player, you dont give dumars no break at all. how r u gonna trade the mvp of the 2004 nba finals 4 allen iverson whos out of his prime and literally did noting.that makes no sense at all. now look what billup is doin 4 denver. he is 2nd in points(behind carmelo anthony) and 1st in assists and he made the all star team.what kind of gm is dumars.

  • Feb 24, 20107:13 pm
    by papa

    Reply

    You are brain dead! If Dumars would have kept Chauncy, along with Tay, Rip, Ben, Will, Charlie, and Jonas, they would be a shoe in for the play off’s now.  I watch every game. You must be watching  a different channel.

    • Feb 24, 20108:24 pm
      by bob

      Reply

      If Dumars had kept Chauncey, we probably wouldn’t have Charlie and Ben ( do you mean gordon?), and we probably wouldn’t have drafted Jerebko, either (our draft spot would have been too low).

  • Feb 24, 20107:17 pm
    by koz

    Reply

    Yeah, Billups was rejuvenated to go to Denver, it’s home for him, right?  But weren’t the pistons 4-0 before he went? Weren’t those wins by a wide margin as well with Curry coaching? I never seen Billups dog it once here in Detroit or have anything less than a winning attitude. Detroit would have won with Curry coaching, with Billup’s experience it’s like having a coach on the floor. He would have made Curry look good just like he’s making Karl look good.  The idiotic Milicic draft and this trade have killed Detroit basketball. With Melo in Detroit you would have had several titles to hang from the Palace rafters.

  • Feb 24, 20108:11 pm
    by The Rake

    Reply

    Mat makes most sense here. Koz, keep in mind that Melo took a while to come around. His first few years (yes we had Prince and most thought he would become better than he is) Melo was a headcase. The Milicic thing hurt, no doubt, I actually think we would have been better served with Bosh or even Wade. Hindsight is one thing though, the Billups trade is the 2nd worst blunder JD has made, the Milicic draft tops. Claiming Chauncey wouldn’t be what he is is both assinine and self-serving.  Billups always was and will always be, the best player from the recent Detroit era. He is more than a top 10 PG, he is top 2 or 3.  Losing him still hurts, but getting CV and BG were poor moves with the team we had.  JD really hurt himself by sticking his neck too far out for Stuckey and we will have a long haul ever trying to return to glory as a result.  Thats why I appreciated the title so much, I knew that there was a chance that this could happen.  Been a sports fan far too long.

  • Feb 24, 20108:19 pm
    by cut it out

    Reply

    you people need to get a grip lol.. I guess you all think chauncy should be a piston untill he’s like 80 rolling the ball up the court in a wheelchair let it rest.. the team was old and stale and joe had to amke a move for cap space to try and make something happen… But here is food for thought which piston has had a hand in all three pistons championships… Exactly joe dumars so cut the man a break you can’t win forever let it go

  • Feb 24, 20108:20 pm
    by Ty

    Reply

    Im tired of hearing about the Darko bust. Do you really think that Larry Brown would have started D-Wade, an unproven NBA rookie, over Rip, a proven starter? Do you really think Melo would have started over Tayshaun, who’s ceiling was very high at the time? Larry Brown never plays rookies, except in garbage time. Plus, the Pistons won the championship the season they drafted Darko. What more can you ask for?
    Also, the Chauncey trade, although maybe a little early, had to be done eventually. Nobody wanted to see the Pistons get old and rusty like the Spurs are becoming now. They weren’t going to win another championship. I remember the feeling of pity every time the Pistons lost in the ECF’s. They got lazy. This new team hasn’t proven themselves yet, they’ve been too injured.  Let’s give them another season before we start chewing them out.

  • Feb 25, 201010:23 am
    by Bryan

    Reply

    The smartest comment has been ty look, I’m a Piston fan til I die but i have to understand all the ECFs we lost and the one chanpionship we won come on yall be real we needed a change. I loved chauncey being a Piston but were gettin old and we needed hunger we were gettn lazy yall lazy dosent cut it. So I agree with Joe D unfortunately we just have to wait and see where this goes, give them a year then you can harp on him but for now just take a seat.

  • Feb 25, 20102:28 pm
    by brgulker

    Reply

    Good post, Dan.
    And I’ve covered this many times, but the trade rejuvenated Billups. There was no way the Pistons would have had the same Billups Denver got.
    I think there’s a flip side to this coin (even if it’s just hypothetical). Who’s to say shaking things up in Detroit wouldn’t have similarly motivated Chauncey and/or rejuvinated his career?
    Obviously we don’t and cannot know. But it’s interesting to think about.

  • Mar 1, 20102:56 pm
    by Emanuel

    Reply

    I have always loved Tay Tay and Rip Hamilton since that 2004 finals. Those guys play a lot of defense. But the Pistons are in a rebuilding status. They just need to make a lot of trades and they will be fine with their remaining core players.

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