No Deal

With momentum building, Pistons opt for patience at trade deadline
PHOENIX – The Pistons didn’t fit the profile of a team likely to make noise at the trade deadline. They aren’t hellbent on making a playoff run – they aren’t in that position just yet – so they weren’t about to dangle draft picks or underutilized young players for veteran talent. They aren’t on the downhill side of a long stretch of contention – they’re two-plus seasons past that point – so they aren’t bloated with veterans who hold obvious appeal to teams eager for a grab at the golden ring.

So Thursday’s trade deadline came and went with the Pistons, like a healthy percentage of NBA teams, as bystanders. That should come as no surprise. All along, another attractive draft choice and perhaps a selective foray into free agency were the most likely avenues to the next leap forward.

If I had to guess, my bet would be that the player who might have generated the most interest among the Pistons was Jason Maxiell. There’s a lesson in that. Trade appeal isn’t normally based solely on talent. It’s based on what a player can offer relative to his contract. In both average annual pay and length of term, Maxiell was a win-win for suitors – one win because he’s playing perhaps the best basketball of his career, the other because no long-term commitment to him was involved.

I can’t tell you if a credible offer was made for anyone, Maxiell included, but don’t confuse Joe Dumars’ lack of activity with lack of interest. He was open for business and willing to deal.

But – and as buts go, this is a big one – there’s a difference between willing and desperate. With momentum on high simmer for the Pistons these days – Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Lawrence Frank, et al, etc. – Joe D was able to stay firmly on the “willing” side of the divide.

The upshot: Offer me something that makes sense tomorrow around that Monroe-Knight-Stuckey core and I’ll be happy to talk turkey with you. Offer me something that improves my cap situation going forward and I might even be willing to bend a little on the talent-for-talent end of the equation for now. But offering a less favorable contract for a player no surer to help make me a better team now or later? Thank you, no.

The latest evidence of the Pistons’ dramatically improved outlook was on full display in Wednesday’s thoroughly impressive win at Sacramento. Monroe and Knight put up double-doubles, the former with an efficient 32 points to go with 11 rebounds, the latter with a flawless 11-assist, zero-turnovers performance as the Pistons put up a season-best 124 points. Stuckey dropped 35 on the Kings, his game flourishing under Frank just as Joe D predicted it would.

The finality of the trade deadline sometimes forces teams into hurried decisions. Teams that face mounting urgency to get something done sometimes expose themselves to personnel mistakes in those moments. Had such an opportunity presented itself to the Pistons at Thursday’s deadline, Joe D was willing to pounce. Willing, not desperate. He knows the Pistons still have work to do. But all along, the best chances to get that work done were in June’s draft and July’s free agency.