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Analysis: AI's addition calculated risk for Pistons

By Art Garcia,
Posted Nov 3 2008 9:35PM

We normally don't see blockbusters three days into November, so when word leaked of a possible Allen Iverson-Chauncey Billups swap, a double-check of the calendar was needed.

Yep, the season is less than a week old. Still, with the trade deadline more than three months away, two playoff teams have apparently seen enough to send a couple of All-Stars packing.

Denver is giving up on Iverson less than two years after prying the former MVP out of Philadelphia. The Nuggets receive a package from Detroit that includes Billups and Antonio McDyess.

Declaring a clear-cut winner in this deal is like debating that Tina Fey does a better Sarah Palin than Will Ferrell does George W. Bush. Both sides make a compelling case.

You don't need to live in Motown to grasp what's going on with the Pistons. Celebrate their string of 50-win seasons and yearly status as a serious title contender. The majority of the league's teams would gladly change places.

Also realize the vibe has grown stale. Joe Dumars promised change after last season and that turnover finally included players and not just coaches. Exchanging Flip Saunders for Michael Curry is one thing. Bringing in AI is another risk, albeit a calculated one.

Billups has been the Pistons' heart and soul this decade. He's also the most tradable high-salaried piece. And with Rodney Stuckey waiting in the wings, Billups became expendable.

Scratch that ... he became expendable for AI. The Nuggets have been shopping Iverson all summer. Though money played a part, this isn't the strict cash dump that the Marcus Camby trade was.

The Iverson-Carmelo Anthony experiment failed. The Nuggets didn't and weren't going to get out of the first round with their Mile High scorers. Billups, a Denver native who made a brief stop in his hometown early in his career, is the classic point guard this team needs.

Anthony, J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin should benefit from Billups' steady hand. Sure, the Nuggets are still in that 7-9 seed range in the Western Conference. The playoffs aren't a sure thing, but Iverson leaving via free agency after the season was.

Billups is under contract through 2011, with a team option for another year. Getting a player of his caliber for one with a foot out the door is a coup for general manager Mark Warkentien. McDyess, also a former Nugget and solid role player in Detroit, may decide to retire instead of reporting to Denver.

The Pistons have a season to figure out if Iverson can mesh with Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince. Detroit remains Boston's most serious challenger in the East, though LeBron has other ideas.

If the recalibrated Pistons don't fire come the postseason, Dumars can retool again next summer. With Iverson and Wallace potentially off the books, Detroit could have $25 million or more to spend.

Or the Pistons could be planning another parade. Dumars rolled the dice in 2004 with Wallace and a championship followed. Iverson is still seeking that elusive first ring.

It's never too early to think big or make big changes.

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