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Adding Blake gives Pistons cover at a position where SVG vowed not to get caught short

In early June as Stan Van Gundy was talking about the steps necessary to fill out his roster and the element of uncertainty caused by the timeline of Brandon Jennings’ recovery from Achilles tendon repair, he said, “The two positions where you don’t want to get caught short are point guard and center.”

On Sunday, after introducing another piece to the equation at center in Aron Baynes, he made the same point in a different way in discussing why landing Baynes was a critical component of the off-season strategy: “The only positions left in the NBA in reality are point guards and centers. Everybody else just sort of plays. I think we needed quality depth there.”

At some point soon, he’ll say similar words by way of explaining Monday’s trade that brought Steve Blake to the Pistons in exchange for forward Quincy Miller.

That gives them four point guards, one more than an NBA team customarily carries. But the Jennings injury makes it necessary and Blake’s versatility makes it palatable.

Blake has the smarts, size and shooting stroke to make him just as valuable playing off the ball as on it. But don’t make the mistake of calling him a “combo guard.” Blake’s a point guard – a point guard with the size and wing span to defend shooting guards and the shooting stroke to match the profile for the position, but a point guard by calling. As recently as 2013-14, he averaged 7.6 assists in 33 minutes a game for the Lakers.

As news of the trade broke Monday night, fans took to social media to parse the motivation and came up with two theories: (1) landing Blake is the precursor to trading Jennings or (2) landing Blake signals lack of faith in Spencer Dinwiddie.

Except that doesn’t jibe with what Van Gundy has said all along – that the Pistons would explore the possibilities for bringing in another point guard to protect themselves against a less-the-full recovery for Jennings. He didn’t want to wait until August to do it for fear the crop would be badly picked over by then.

Van Gundy spoke about that, too, on Sunday. He said all reports from the medical side on Jennings are positive. His recovery is on course. All Van Gundy takes from that, though, is that Jennings will resume a completely normal life. As a coach, he needs to see the same change-of-direction explosion in Jennings to really know. And that won’t come until training camp in October under the best-case scenario – perhaps, even likely, too late to address the issue with an option remotely near the quality of Steve Blake.

It’s not impossible that the Pistons trade Jennings, of course, but it’s unlikely. Right now he’s almost certainly more valuable to them than whatever a recovering point guard with one year left on an ultra-reasonable contract could fetch in trade.

If Jennings comes back 100 percent healthy and resumes playing at the level he was at when injury struck, he’ll be a huge weapon for Van Gundy – likely off the bench behind Reggie Jackson, but carving out a role that could equal a starter’s impact. If the gap between what Jennings provides and whoever wins the backup shooting guard job is pronounced, it’s surely not inconceivable Van Gundy goes to a three-guard backcourt rotation made possible by Jackson’s size and versatility to play the two.

If he’s playing at a high level by mid-season and Blake and Dinwiddie have proven fully capable of handling the minutes Jackson doesn’t, then Jennings would give Van Gundy the luxury of an attractive trade chip to address another roster need if one arose and such a move was warranted.

If Jennings comes back at less than that – or if he simply needs another month or six weeks to get up to speed – then the Blake addition covers the Pistons perfectly. The Pistons always viewed Dinwiddie as a play for the future when they drafted him off an ACL tear. If that future isn’t as soon as October 2015, that’s OK.

They got off to a 5-23 start a season ago and Van Gundy surely doesn’t want to risk a repeat by getting caught short at a critical position to start his second season as Pistons coach. Monday’s trade guarantees they won’t.