Archive → August, 2013
Update: Cap-room numbers corrected from initial post.
But the sign-and-trade that brought Jennings to Detroit likely won’t change the Pistons’ spending flexibility this season. Either way, they have the room exception to spend on free agents.
The real question is how the Jennings deal affects Detroit’s cap space in 2014.
A few underlying scenarios for either estimate:
- The salary cap will be $62.1 million, as the NBA estimates
- Jennings received the maximum allowable salary
- The Pistons pick up team options for Chauncey Billups and Andre Drummond
- Jonas Jerebko opts into the final year of his contract
- Peyton Siva does not count against the cap (due to having a one-year contract, a contract that guarantees no money before he’s waived or a team option that isn’t picked up)
- The Pistons renounce every free agent but Greg Monroe (He would count against the cap at $10,216,135 until he signs. If he signs with the Pistons, his first-year salary would become his new cap number. If he signs elsewhere, he would come off Detroit’s cap.)
- The Pistons would not have waived Khris Middleton, whose 2014-15 contract is unguaranteed
Before the trade, the Pistons projected to have $15,001,475 in cap room. After the trade, the Pistons project to have $10,891,460 in cap room.
That’s a difference of $4,110,015.
Is Jennings worth that? Given the Pistons’ clear goal of making the playoffs this season, probably. Jennings upgrades the point-guard position immediately, so that long-term hit probably takes a back seat.
With $10,891,460 to spend next summer, the Pistons still have the flexibility to upgrade their roster, but Jennings comes at a real cost in the future. Even though my goals for the the Pistons don’t perfectly align with their apparent goals, I’d still say getting Jennings so cheaply this season outweighs the future cost.
However, if the Pistons had amnestied Charlie Villanueva like I wished they would have, they possibly could have signed Jennings outright without giving up Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton and Viacheslav Kravtsov. Perhaps, the Bucks would have matched the offer Jennings ultimately received if it meant losing him for nothing, but the Pistons would have had the upper hand in sign-and-trade talks. Likely, the Pistons wouldn’t have had to give up so much – or nothing at all if they signed Jennings outright and Milwaukee didn’t match.
Accounting for the conditions at the time of the sign-and-trade, I love the deal. But it’s very possible the Pistons chose Villanueva over Knight, Middleton and Kravtsov. Obviously, Jennings would have made Knight more expendable, but Knight could have brought back additional assets – same with Middleton and maybe Kravtsov, too. (Kravtsov’s value may be zero, but the Pistons let his partially guaranteed contract become guaranteed, so they clearly thought he presented some value).
Anyway, with the choices the Pistons made, they don’t project to have enough cap room next summer to sign a player to a max contract. But they still have enough cap room to keep improving – and they have Jennings.
Joe Dumars, among his other problems in the last several years, has done a terrible job of communicating his views to diehard Pistons fans.
Dumars wants to remain behind the scenes, and when he speaks publically, he doesn’t want to reveal too much. I get that.
But when the Pistons are as bad as they’ve been lately, only diehard fans are listening anyway, and simple platitudes won’t placate them.
Thankfully, Zach Lowe of Grantland has pulled incredible information from Dumars in an amazing Q&A. The discussion includes:
- How Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond can learn from the Hawks and Grizzlies (a topic I expounded upon at ProBasketballTalk)
- How the Brandon Jennings sign-and-trade came to fruition
- The subtle differences between Jennings and Brandon Knight
- Dumars’ research into Jennings’ background
- Why Dumars expects more from Monroe defensively (a topic Lowe previously covered)
- Drummond’s simple free-throw mistakes
Here’s one example of the depth of their conversation:
In contrasting Knight with Jennings, one little thing stood out: They are both good 3-point shooters, and Knight has actually been a little better. But Jennings takes a ton of 3-pointers off the dribble on the pick-and-roll, and shoots very well on those shots, while Knight takes most of his from spot-up situations — when he doesn’t have the ball until it is passed to him. Did you notice the same thing? It seems like that fits with what you’re talking about.
You’ve done your homework. We like his ability to score off the bounce, if you will — to be able to pull up and make shots, and come off a pick and penetrate, and dish, and score those little floaters in the lane. We feel it’s imperative to do all of that in today’s game.
And now we have people for him to get the ball to. I’d also say this: We like his ability to see the floor. He shoots a lot, but it’s not that he doesn’t see the floor well. During the four days we were talking about the trade, we broke down hours and hours and hours of film of him, watching him, offensively, just watching his assists. Just watching to see: “Does he see the floor?” And for us, that really hammered it home.
I don’t have a lot to add. Read the whole thing, and you’ll be a smarter fan.
Michael Jordan once said nobody defended him better than Joe Dumars.
Of course, Jordan still had plenty of success against the four-time All-Defensive-team member. Jordan had plenty of success against everybody.
But Dumars defended Jordan well enough – as part of the Pistons’ “Jordan Rules” defense – to help Detroit fend off the Bulls in the 1989 and 1990 playoffs and win championships those years. Eventually, Jordan became too much for Dumars – again, he was too much for everybody – but those Jordan-Dumars matchups have become part of NBA lore. Jordan had many bigger moments, but for Dumars, they were pretty career-defining, at least outside his two championships and 1989 Finals MVP.
So, not many people talk anymore about Dumars’ defense of everyone else. But Zach Lowe of Grantland asked a great question in his Q&A with Dumars:
Last one. Who was the toughest guy to guard in your career, other than Michael Jordan? Again: You cannot say Michael Jordan.
You know, Jackie MacMullan did a great story on him a couple of weeks ago — it was Reggie Lewis for me. He was long, athletic, smooth, he could raise up over you and shoot. He was a really good defender, too. He was a tough, tough cover. Man, he was a tough guy to guard. He was definitely the one, other than MJ, who was the toughest for me to figure out. He was so long, and you couldn’t really get physical with him, because he was so slim, and it always seemed like I was getting called for fouls. He was a great, great player.
Lewis was 6-foot-7 to Dumars’ 6-foot-3, but that really reveals how good a defender Dumars was.
As much as Dumars believed Lewis gave him trouble, Lewis didn’t fare very in the 19 games they both played. He averaged just 13.5 points per game on 46.8 percent shooting. Only three times did he exceed 22 points, and he shot relatively pedestrian (for those outputs) 11-of-23, 12-of-21 and 10-of-20 in those games.
Lewis had a 30-point game in 1991 playoffs against Dumars, but again, Lewis’ playoff averages in the postseason against Dumars – 15.8 points per game on 46.8 percent shooting – are well below his career averages.
Though Lewis was a heck of a player, let’s not forget Dumars was a heck of a defender.
Want evidence the Pistons are more intriguing this season?
Two of their games are scheduled to be televised by ESPN, according to a team release:
- at Sacramento, Fri., Nov. 15, 10:30 p.m.
- at Orlando, Wed., Feb. 5, 8 p.m.
Two more are slated for NBA TV:
- vs. Denver, Sat., Feb. 8, 7:30 p.m.
- at Boston, Sun., March 9, 6 p.m.
I don’t have exact figures, but that seems like more designated nationally televised games than the Pistons have had in recent seasons. Plus, some of the national games in previous years have been switched to local television, because the Pistons were even more lackluster than expected.
Hopefully, the Pistons will be one of the teams that gets nationally televised games added to their schedule.
- vs. Washington, Wed., Oct. 30, 7:30 p.m.
- at Memphis, Fri., Nov. 1, 8 p.m.
- vs. Boston, Sun., Nov. 3, 6 p.m.
- vs. Indiana, Tues., Nov. 5, 7:30 p.m.
- vs. Oklahoma City, Fri., Nov. 8, 7:30 p.m.
- at Portland, Mon., Nov. 11, 10 p.m.
- at Golden State, Tues., Nov. 12, 10:30 p.m.
- at Sacramento, Fri., Nov. 15, 10:30 p.m.
- at L.A. Lakers, Sun., Nov. 17, 9:30 p.m.
- vs. New York, Tues., Nov. 19, 7:30 p.m.
- at Atlanta, Wed., Nov. 20, 7:30 p.m.
- vs. Atlanta, Fri., Nov. 22, 7:30 p.m.
- at Brooklyn, Sun., Nov. 24, 2 p.m.
- vs. Milwaukee, Mon., Nov. 25, 7:30 p.m.
- vs. Chicago, Wed., Nov. 27, 7:30 p.m.
- vs. L.A. Lakers, Fri., Nov. 29, 7:30 p.m.
- vs. Philadelphia, Sun., Dec. 1, 3:30 p.m.
- at Miami, Tues., Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m.
- at Milwaukee, Wed., Dec. 4, 8 p.m.
- at Chicago, Sat., Dec. 7, 8 p.m.
- vs. Miami, Sun., Dec. 8, 6 p.m.
- vs. Minnesota, Tues., Dec. 10, 7:30 p.m.
- at New Orleans, Wed., Dec. 11, 8 p.m.
- vs. Brooklyn, Fri., Dec. 13, 7:30 p.m.
- vs. Portland, Sun., Dec. 15, 6 p.m.
- at Indiana, Mon., Dec. 16, 7 p.m.
- at Boston, Wed., Dec. 18, 7:30 p.m.
- vs. Charlotte, Fri., Dec. 20, 7:30 p.m.
- vs. Houston, Sat., Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m.
- at Cleveland, Mon., Dec. 23, 7 p.m.
- at Orlando, Fri., Dec. 27, 7 p.m.
- at Washington, Sat., Dec. 28, 7 p.m.
- vs. Washington, Mon., Dec. 30, 7:30 p.m.
- vs. Memphis, Sun., Jan. 5, 1 p.m.
- at New York, Tues., Jan. 7, 7:30 p.m.
- at Toronto, Wed., Jan. 8, 7 p.m.
- at Philadelphia, Fri., Jan. 10, 7 p.m.
- vs. Phoenix, Sat., Jan. 11, 7:30 p.m.
- vs. Utah, Fri., Jan. 17, 7:30 p.m.
- at Washington, Sat., Jan. 18, 7 p.m.
- vs. L.A. Clippers, Mon., Jan. 20, 1 p.m.
- at Milwaukee, Wed., Jan. 22, 8 p.m.
- vs. New Orleans, Fri., Jan. 24, 7:30 p.m.
- at Dallas, Sun., Jan. 26, 7:30 p.m.
- vs. Orlando, Tues., Jan. 28, 7:30 p.m.
- at Atlanta, Wed., Jan. 29, 7:30 p.m.
- vs. Philadelphia, Sat., Feb. 1, 7:30 p.m.
- at Miami, Mon., Feb. 3, 7:30 p.m.
- at Orlando, Wed., Feb. 5, 8 p.m.
- vs. Brooklyn, Fri., Feb. 7, 7:30 p.m.
- vs. Denver, Sat., Feb. 8, 7:30 p.m.
- vs. San Antonio, Mon., Feb. 10, 7:30 p.m.
- vs. Cleveland, Wed., Feb. 12, 7:30 p.m.
- vs. Charlotte, Tues., Feb. 18, 7:30 p.m.
- at Charlotte, Wed., Feb. 19, 7 p.m.
- vs. Atlanta, Fri., Feb. 21, 7:30 p.m.
- vs. Dallas, Sat., Feb. 22, 7:30 p.m.
- vs. Golden State, Mon., Feb. 24, 7:30 p.m.
- at San Antonio, Wed., Feb. 26, 8:30 p.m.
- at Houston, Sat., March 1, 8 p.m.
- vs. New York, Mon., March 3, 7:30 p.m.
- vs. Chicago, Wed., March 5, 7:30 p.m.
- at Minnesota, Fri., March 7, 8 p.m.
- at Boston, Sun., March 9, 6 p.m.
- vs. Sacramento, Tues., March 11, 7:30 p.m.
- at Toronto, Wed., March 12, 7 p.m.
- vs. Indiana, Sat., March 15, 7:30 p.m.
- at Denver, Wed., March 19, 9 p.m.
- at Phoenix, Fri., March 21, 10 p.m.
- at L.A. Clippers, Sat., March 22, 10:30 p.m.
- at Utah, Mon., March 24, 9 p.m.
- vs. Cleveland, Wed., March 26, 7:30 p.m.
- vs. Miami, Fri., March 28, 7:30 p.m.
- at Philadelphia, Sat., March 29, 7:30 p.m.
- vs. Milwaukee, Mon., March 31, 7:30 p.m.
- at Indiana, Wed., April 2, 7 p.m.
- at Brooklyn, Fri., April 4, 7:30 p.m.
- vs. Boston, Sat., April 5, 7:30 p.m.
- at Cleveland, Wed., April 9, 7 p.m.
- at Chicago, Fri., April 11, 8 p.m.
- vs. Toronto, Sun., April 13, 3:30 p.m.
- at Oklahoma City, Wed., April 16, 8 p.m.
As he sat down for his new conference to introduce Brandon Jennings, Joe Dumars muttered, “Oh my god.”
I don’t know what Dumars was referring to at that moment, but I cant think of a better way to describe the experiment he’s conducting with the Pistons.
Jennings at point guard with Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond in a supersized front court.
Oh my god.
“We could bring the Lob City to Detroit this year,” Jennings said.
Or they could be a mish-mash of talent, too undeveloped and/or too stubborn to fit together. Or anything between.
The Pistons had to sign Peyton Siva.
With the No. 56 pick in the draft, Siva was fine value, but I didn’t really like the pick, because the Pistons were clearly running out of roster spots. I would have preferred they drafted someone who’s already playing overseas and didn’t plan to join the NBA next season.
Fortunately, the Pistons’ trade of Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton and Viacheslav Kravtsov for Brandon Jennings cleared a roster spot for Siva and rendered my concerns moot. Predictably once that trade was made, the Pistons signed Siva.
The trade surely wasn’t made to clear a roster spot for Siva, but the deal saved Detroit a little embarrassment. The Pistons knew their roster breakdown when they drafted Siva rather than an overseas player, when they allowed Kravtsov’s contract to become guaranteed, when they allowed the amnesty window to close without using the provision on Charlie Villanueva, etc. They also knew they’d have a limited window after the draft to assess Siva.
And, man, did Siva look good in that window. During summer league – an extremely chaotic environment, given the players’ inexperience and lack of time working with their teammates – Siva had 24 assists and just six turnovers. His 4:1 assists to turnover ratio led summer leagues, counting both Orlando and Las Vegas.
Here’s just how much Siva’s care of the ball bested every other team’s assist leader:
The only other player in Siva’s stratosphere, Dwight Buycks (24 assists, 7 turnovers), got a guaranteed contract. The other two assist leaders with assist-to-turnover ratios even half Siva’s, Nate Wolters and Kendall Marshall, also have contracts for the next season.
Summer league stats reveal only so much, but Siva did everything possible to impress in his lone opportunity to do so after being drafted. The Pistons obviously liked what Siva showed before the draft, and to let him go after he aced his post-draft test would have been foolish.
I’m not convinced Siva will ever become a difference-making NBA player, but he definitely deserves a chance to stick with the Pistons into training camp, and I’m glad he’s getting at least that.
Siva’s status wasn’t clearly known prior to the Pistons exchanging three players for Brandon Jennings last week. Before that trade, the team didn’t have a roster spot for him and there were rumors that the Pistons may have been hoping to have Siva play overseas for a year while maintaining his rights, similar to what Kyle Singler did during the lockout shortened 2011-12 season.
Terms of the deal are unknown. Despite Siva’s notable skills that helped him excel at the college level — an ability to run an offense and play great defense — he’s unlikely to play much this season based on the current construction of the roster. Along with Jennings, the Pistons re-signed Will Bynum, brought back Chauncey Billups and still have Rodney Stuckey hanging around. All four players can play minutes at PG. But Siva is still an intriguing prospect as a backup and the backcourt is surely not a finished product — Bynum is aging, Billups is really aging and Stuckey doesn’t seem to have much a of a long-term future in Detroit, plus his expiring contract makes him a potential trade candidate. If Siva can improve his jumper while practicing with the team this season, he’ll become an even more attractive long-term prospect.
Just because the Pistons acquired Brandon Jennings in a sign-and-trade deal with the Bucks doesn’t mean they’ve lost interest in Rajon Rondo. In fact, they could eventually use Jennings as a trade chip and seek to acquire Rondo. There are going to be several interested parties in Rondo, and that number could increase when he shows he’s fully recovered from anterior cruciate ligament surgery
Of course, the Pistons still have interest in Rajon Rondo. The Pistons want Rondo, as do other teams, because he’s one of the NBA’s best point guards. The Pistons acquiring Brandon Jennings has absolutely no bearing on that.
Upgrading from Brandon Knight to Jennings was a helpful step, mostly, given the Pistons’ objectives, because Jennings can help immediately. If the Celtics aren’t yet ready to trade Rondo, who’s a much better player than Jennings, at least Jennings can help the Pistons win early in the season. In what figures to be a crowded race for the Eastern Conference’s final few playoff spots, every win matters. Even if the Pistons would be a better team with Rondo than Jennings, they’ll probably have a better record with Jennings for a full season than a chance at half a year of Rondo.
Perhaps, that could become half a season of Jennings and half a season of Rondo, though. Jennings likely will hold more value than Knight would have in a trade – though it’s unclear whether the rebuilding Celtics would want the higher-priced and better player.
Jennings can be used in a multi-player trade two months after the sign-and-trade became official, and it’s not yet clear when that is. He can be traded by himself immediately, and the Pistons and Celtics could potentially structure a larger trade as technically multiple smaller trades.
With Jennings in tow, the Pistons have more leverage in trade talks for Rondo. But Rondo is still really, really good. Some things have changed, but others have not, including the Pistons’ wanting one of the league’s top point guards.
A lot went wrong during the two years Knight started for Detroit, and a large majority of it was not his fault, but his presence was particularly felt in one area:
Knight ruined the Pistons’ offense.
He didn’t do it singlehandedly, and the powers that put him in position to fail deserve more blame, but as far as players go, he’s the main culprit.
It largely went unnoticed, because the Pistons have been mostly terrible on both sides of the ball for so long — they’re the only team besides the Charlotte Bobcats with bottom-10 offenses and defenses each of the last two years — but Detroit actually had a better-than-NBA-average offense during their 30-52 2010-11 season. That offense wasn’t pretty, relying heavily on isolation play, but it was much more effective — ranking 15th in offensive rating — than the last two years, when the Pistons ranked 26th and 21st.
So what went wrong?
Dean Oliver developed what he calls “Four Factors of Basketball Success”: shooting, turnovers, rebounding and free throws. In the two seasons since 2010-11, the Pistons have rebounded better and converted more free throws, so those aren’t the issues. Their shooting got substantially worse in 2011-12, bouncing back a bit last season, and Knight played a small part in that problem.
But their turnovers got horrifically worse.
Detroit’s turnover rate in 2010-11 ranked fourth in the NBA. In the next two years, it plummeted to 28th and 27th.
On the court, that was Knight’s fault more than anyone else’s. He turns the ball over a lot, which isn’t terrible if a player is gambling to get high-percentage shots at the rim or set up his teammates, but Knight did neither particularly well.
For someone so smart — Knight was Ivy League material in the classroom — how could he play so foolishly on the court?
As Damon Bryant of Adaptive Assessment Services explains well, there’s a difference between Verbal/Linguistic processing in the brain and Visual/Spatial processing in the brain. Knight clearly excels at Verbal/Linguistic, the type of reading-and-writing skills that help someone excel in school. But Visual/Spatial — like seeing plays develop on a basketball court — is a different skill set, one in which Knight is lacking.
In other words, one of the key reasons the Pistons valued Knight — his intelligence — was too broad of a measure to mean he’ll become a good point guard. There are different types of intelligence, and the area in which Knight had proven to excel doesn’t necessarily translate to the type of intelligence high-end point guards possess.