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Examining the Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince trades that didn’t happen


Today was the wildest, busiest, nuttiest trade deadline in some time – maybe ever. In all the madness, the Pistons didn’t make a trade, but they had a couple reported possibilities.

The Pistons agreed to send Richard Hamilton and a protected draft pick to the Cavaliers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports! But the deal fell apart when the Cavaliers and Hamilton couldn’t agree to a buyout. I presume the protected pick was a first rounder.

Detroit also turned down a trade of Tayshaun Prince for Caron Butler and the Mavericks’ first-round pick, according to Wojnarowski.

Let’s look a little deeper at what each trade would have meant and what Detroit not making them means.

Richard Hamilton trade ramifications

There are two reasons the Pistons wanted to make this trade rather than buy out Hamilton themselves:

  1. Karen Davidson didn’t want to pay the buyout.
  2. The buyout would count against the cap of the team that pays it.

The first reason was obviously more important, but let’s pretend the Pistons had a committed owner who was willing to pay Hamilton’s buyout. The trade still might have been worthwhile for Detroit. (It’s impossible to evaluate the merits more specifically without knowing the protections on the pick.)

A buyout counts evenly against the cap for each remaining season on a player’s contract. So, if Hamilton had taken a $15 million buyout, $5 million would have counted against his team’s cap each of the next two seasons.

That cap charge can’t be traded. It’s just in the way.

So, from a purely on-court perspective, the trade could have helped the Pistons.

Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.

Tayshaun Prince trade ramifications

I’ve seen so much misinformation about this trade, I barely know where to begin. I’ve seen reasons to make the trade and reasons not to make the trade, valid and invalid explanations behind each. So let’s split it up.

Valid reasons to make the trade

Who knows what will happen with Prince this summer? The Pistons don’t need Prince right now, and this trade would have ensured they got something in return.

  • The Pistons could have signed-and-traded Caron Butler this summer.

The odds of that happening may have been low (and zero if the Pistons bought out Butler), but the possibility was at least a small bonus.

Valid reason not to make the trade

  • Prince is a good player.

He’s worth more than a low first-round pick, but most teams would get fair value for a player like Prince by trading him for the long-term contract of a more valuable player. The Pistons, because Davidson doesn’t want to add salary commitments, couldn’t make a trade like that today.

So, Detroit might get more value from Prince later.

Let’s put numbers behind it on an imaginary scale. I’m not necessarily advocating these numbers and odds. I’m just saying they’re reasonable.

I’m going set Prince’s value at a 10. Dallas’ first-round pick is about a 2. What the Pistons could get in a sign-and-trade is a 4. Prince’s value if the Pistons re-sign him is a six. His value to Detroit if he walks this summer is a 0.

Let’s say there’s a 25 percent chance the Pistons sign-and-trade him, a 20 percent chance they re-sign him and a 55 percent chance he just walks away.

The value of keeping him would be 2.2 (.25*4 + .2*6 + .55*0). The value of trading of trading him would have been 2.

2.2 (keeping Prince) >2 (trading Prince)

Invalid reasons to make the trade

  • The Pistons would gain cap room.

Prince and Butler both have expiring contracts. Detroit’s cap space this summer would have been unaffected.

Daye will be better off spending another 23 games getting the value of defense hammered into his head. If the Pistons just gave him minutes, who knows if that lesson would stick?

Invalid reasons not to make the trade

They wouldn’t lose it by gaining Dallas’ first-round pick.

Draft picks are never bad to have. Maybe the pick won’t become a good player, but if there’s your reasoning, teams shouldn’t acquire players.

Barely, if at all. Low first-round picks don’t make much money, and the Pistons probably won’t have cap room the next two years, anyway.

If their cap situation changes, the Pistons could always dump the player they drafted. There’s not a single former first-round pick on the first two years of his rookie contract (the only guaranteed years) who a team couldn’t give away.

I’ve seen no indication rookie contracts will change much, but if they do, it will probably mean the player the Pistons would have chosen with Dallas’ pick will make less money. I’ll be completely shocked if rookie-scale contracts increase in the next CBA.

Butler and Prince both have expiring contracts. Besides the small amount paid to the first-round pick from Dallas, the Pistons’ salary commitment for next year won’t change. If the money owed to that pick becomes an issue, the Pistons could always trade the player for a future pick.

They would. (Although it probably wouldn’t matter. I doubt he or the Pistons would want him to re-sign.)


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  • Feb 24, 20118:15 pm
    by Terrico


    this really pisses me off.  not only could Joe have gotten a late 1st round pick but it would have give Daye serious minutes to see what he’s worth.  what does he honestly think he can get for him in a sign and trade?? and will he even agree to one?  poor judgement on Joe.  And I lost a little bit of respect for Rip.  He keeps saying how he wants to play basketball well there was his chance.  take a buyout and go play for the Celtics or Bulls and prove you still got it.  Joe has really messed things up in the past few years.  Who woulda thought his championship players will all be in the situations they are all in today..

    • Feb 25, 20111:55 am
      by Jerome


      Please do not hate on Mr. Dumars. If you are a Pistons fan you should just appreciate that he gave the organization a chance to play for multiple championships and actually win one in the last decade. His philosophy of putting a team together has always been sketchy at best. Do you not remember him trading away one of the top 5 players in the league for Ben Wallace when he was just an undrafted bench player? Mr. Dumars takes chances and he just got lucky with the team he assembled in 2003-2008. Right now the Pistons are just suffering from the decisions he made in the last few years. But don’t be so quick to throw just Joe Dumars’ name into the dirt. He is not the one coaching the team or the one playing the games out there.

  • Feb 24, 20119:36 pm
    by detroitpcb


    thanks for clearing up the many misconceptions about the possible Prince trade.

  • Feb 24, 20119:38 pm
    by jgk281


    I understand Rip not wanting to gve up money, and cant be mad at him, but there’s no reason turn down a 1st round pick for a player that could leave you with nothing.

    And if you plan to re-sign, then the 2009 1st round pick turns into a wasted pick because Daye will be a FA in a few years, and wont sign here just to back up Tay, and we will lose Daye.

    A S&T will never benefit the Pistons because no team is going to give you equal talent for a player they could just sign for nothing. They will offer you a couple bench players at best.

    It just makes no sense to keep Tay or do a S&T. The best thing to do is let him walk and use his capspace elsewhere. The fact that we could’ve done that AND gotten a valuable asset in a 1st round pick, and didnt is very disturbing.

    • Feb 25, 20114:24 pm
      by Dan Feldman


      Daye will be a restricted free agent. The Pistons have leverage to keep him, and re-signing Prince doesn’t mean the Pistons can’t trade him later.

  • Feb 24, 20119:47 pm
    by Rodman4Life


    Trading Tay would’ve changed the air around here a little at least.  And if I’m not mistaken, that 1st round pick would be somewhere in the neighborhood of where Tay was drafted years ago.  Oh well, let the sucking continue . . . . .

  • Feb 25, 201112:41 am
    by Mike Payne


    Trading Prince would have four values not explored here:
    1) Developing Austin Daye.  Your article kinda said something about the Pistons being able to trade Prince because of Austin Daye, but that’s not the point.  The point is that Daye is guaranteed to be a Piston next season, and the coming 23 games would provide plenty of starter-level burn for Daye to sink or swim.  As the ONLY small forward guaranteed to be on our roster next season, trading Prince and giving him burn is precisely the kind of development this team needs for 2010-11.
    2)  Developing Greg Monroe.  I’ve been pissed about the Isolayshaun offense the Pistons have been running this season, and while Tay has been effective at it, it has killed our offense.  He went from a 4th option in 2004 to the number one option in 2010-11.  Those added possessions and attempts need to go to Greg Monroe.  I’ve personally been arguing this for a few months now, and we’ve seen it happen after the all star break.  It’s working too.  Without Tayshaun Prince, the Pistons would be forced to find other offensive options, and Monroe is an obvious pick for more usage.
    3)  The only way to justify Dumars’ preference for Tayshaun’s “leadership” is an impact on the team’s record.  If losing Tay means further losses, bring them on.  Tay won’t be a Piston next season, but if there’s anything we can do to improve our chances at Sullinger a few percentage points, you take it.
    4)  This is the least important point, but one to consider.  We hold the bird rights of Jerebko and Summers.  Without Tay, Summers could get more burn.  While I’ve been down on dude since he was drafted, it’s worth giving him a chance to justify an NBA career if it means we can fill our SF holes on the cheap in 2011-12.  Most importantly, Jonas Jerebko might still return this season.  If he does, having Tayshaun will only cause further roster clusterfarks that will prevent the right players from getting the right minutes at their true positions.
    “The value of keeping him would be 2.2 (.25*4 + .2*6 + .55*0). The value of trading of trading him would have been 2.
    2.2 (keeping Prince) >2 (trading Prince)”

    • Feb 25, 20112:16 am
      by jgk281


      @MikePayne: “The Isolayshaun Offense” - So true! Great wordplay, man, props. :-)

  • Feb 25, 201112:52 am
    by Laser


    1) yeah that bogus little tayshaun value math problem bullsh*t is a shining example of why i will never QUITE understand how feldman’s mind works. there’s so much wrong with it i don’t know where to begin. but i’ll start here: if tayshaun is a 10, re-signing him has got to be somewhere in the negatives, because it would be a BAD idea. plus, can someone PLEASE explain to me what they could POSSIBLY expect to get for tayshaun in a sign-and-trade. my best guess is “absolutely nothing.” i just can’t figure how someone is going to give something of value for something they can just have outright instead. i just don’t get it. not even in the slightest sense one can “get” anything.
    2) can we get some kind of exploration of other options the pistons had? i feel like continually putting the focus on these two guys just plays into the pistons organization’s preferred spin on this mess. if the pistons weren’t so busy wasting time trying to unload the unloadable rip hamilton, they could have thought of a backup plan. you know, the thing that smart people use when their plan A is entirely unrealistic.

    • Feb 25, 20115:40 pm
      by Dan Feldman



      1. If they re-sign him, that doesn’t preclude them from trading him later. He’s an asset. They have him now. It’s not terribly irrational to hold that asset until you can maximize its value.

      2. Maybe the Pistons didn’t have other options because their other players are unappealing, not because they were focused on Rip and Prince.

  • Feb 25, 20112:13 am
    by BIG MARV


    Cant wait to see the new look pistons tommrow !! if yall didnt know they made a trade finally!!!!…. They traded their top 2 water boys to the Los Angeles Lakers for a future 12yr old waterboy with an A+ average in towel folding, and also 6 boxes of Gatorade G2 fruit punch powder mix and some icy hot heat patches. LETS DO IT BABY DEEEEEEEEEEEEETROIT BASKETBAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL!

  • [...] Turkish centre Omer Asik in a purported deal for Houston’s Courtney Lee. Detroit agreed the principles of a deal to send Rip Hamilton to Cleveland but he couldn’t agree a buyout with the Cavs. The Bulls [...]

  • Feb 25, 201111:34 am
    by Tim


    About your numbers. You kinda ignored the possibilities of resigning or sign-and-trading Butler. Those values would probably be almost as high as Prince’s. Really, the main reason Prince is worth any more than Butler right now is because Butler is out for the season. Apart from that detail, they are pretty equal players. And since the Pistons aren’t going anywhere this season anyway, there is virtually no reason not to go for the trade.

    • Feb 25, 201112:31 pm
      by Laser


      great point.

    • Feb 25, 20114:46 pm
      by Dan Feldman


      Tim, I think there was a decent chance the Pistons would have had to buy out Butler as part of the trade. The Mavericks like what he brings to their locker room, and he’s been working to be ready for the playoffs, even if there’s only a slight chance.

  • Feb 25, 20114:44 pm
    by Dan Feldman



    1. In the short term, Daye would benefit from the trade. But in the long-term, I think he’s best served by earning minutes. He’ll develop a toughness going through that process. I still believe Stuckey might be a different player today if the Pistons didn’t trade Billups to give him the starting job.

    2. Love “Isolayshaun offense.” That’s fantastic. Pistons haven’t run a ton of plays for Monroe in the time Prince doesn’t have the ball, though. He still gets a lot of his points from putbacks and dumpoffs. Not sure they’d call Monroe’s number much more with Prince out of the equation.

    3. That’s a fair point, but I don’t think Prince would radically affect the Pistons’ final record one way or the other. Most of the team’s record is already locked in with him on the team. Plus, a malcontent Prince might be worse than Daye the rest of the way.

    4. Jerebko playing out of position for a few meaningless games won’t matter. The games only help Jerebko get back game shape.

    And I know you’re smart enough to understand me quantifying the situation.

    • Feb 25, 20115:03 pm
      by Mike Payne


      1.  The reason Daye hasn’t “earned” minutes is because he’s played behind a sure-thing lock who has held that position for 7 years straight.  Kuester wanted to get him starter minutes at the start of the season, but because of Prince he was played out-of-position, he naturally lost those minutes since he couldn’t hang at the 4.  I don’t understand the argument of “earning” minutes given the context of the situation– that Daye did earn minutes at the beginning of the season, and he can’t earn further minutes behind Prince.  It’s cute, idealistically, but this cliche doesn’t hold any water.
      2.  With Prince out of the equation the last game-and-a-half, Monroe has averaged 15 attempts per game, nine higher than his season average and six higher than his February average.  Without Prince as the team’s number one option, Kuester will have to find other options, and Monroe is naturally going to get more attempts as a result.
      3.  Radically, no.  But even a single loss would be valuable in terms of lottery standings.  If Daye finishes the season hot, awesome.  If he doesn’t and we lose an extra game or two, awesome.
      4.  What is Jerebko’s natural position?  He’s about as cross-positional as it comes, with the offense of a PF and the defense suited to guard SFs.  If he’s at the 3 or the 4, he’s not really out-of-position, so I don’t understand this point.
      And I know you’re smart enough to understand me quantifying the situation.
      I understand what you’re trying to do numerically, I’m LOLWUT’ing at the loose, arbitrary bases you’re operating on.

      • Feb 25, 20115:38 pm
        by Dan Feldman


        1. I sort of think Daye started to appease Dumars. Similar scenario with Amir Johnson a couple years ago. Guys a coach wasn’t high on all of a sudden became starters.

        2. One, small sample size. We’ll see. But isn’t it possible Monroe could have gotten expanded role with Prince playing? Are Monroe’s touches coming at the expense of the ones Prince would have gotten or at the expense of somebody else’s? Monroe also has 13 offensive rebounds in those two games. A lot of his shots still come from putbacks.

        4. Didn’t you say keeping Prince will increase the logjam if Jerebko comes back this year?

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