Sometimes you have to take a swing.
The Detroit Pistons are 18-24, 10th place in a bad Eastern Conference. They have big money allocated out to Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond, and Reggie Jackson. By gurus around the league, Detroit was widely projected to make the playoffs before the season began. But, now past the mid-way point of the season, Detroit is on the outside looking in.
The Pistons need to take a swing.
It’s no question that the roster Detroit currently has does not have a super high ceiling. If everything went right they would be fighting for the fourth seed, and that’s where they would top out. But so much has gone wrong. Injuries, an inability to settle into Dwane Casey’s offensive system, unsuccessful 3-point shooting, and other issues have plagued the Pistons this season.
So here Detroit is 42 games into the season, six games below .500.
The opportunity to take a swing is staring them straight in the face.
Dallas Mavericks’ point guard Dennis Smith Jr. is available. The Pistons are one of the reported three teams to have an interest or to have talked with Dallas about the second-year guard.
Detroit should be all in on acquiring him.
Smith has quickly fallen out of place in Dallas. Adrian Wojnarowski, who dropped the report of the Mavericks wanting to move on from Smith, relayed that Dallas’ Head Coach, Rick Carlisle, has grown frustrated with Smith and his decision-making. With the Mavericks newfound rookie sensation, Luka Dončić becoming the primary ball-handler, Smith has moved into an off-ball role. There, he has struggled to adapt and fit in as Dončić now owns the keys to their offense.
While his time in Dallas has been tumultuous, there’s no denying that Smith has a high dosage of talent and upside. This season, Smith has averaged 12.6 points per game on 44.3 percent shooting from the field and an effective 37.5 percent shooting from the 3-point line. While he’s scoring the ball less, his efficiency numbers have risen, a good sign for the recently turned 21-year old. Aside from scoring, Smith is averaging 3.9 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game. Turnovers have been an issue, as he is averaging over three turnovers per game, but that can be expected from one of the league youngest point guards.
Smith grades out pretty well as a young prospect, and with Detroit’s limited cap space, is the type of high reward talent they should be taking a chance on.
But if the talent is so clearly there, why is Smith available? Why is Dallas already willing to break up with their lottery pick after just a season and a half long relationship?
The fit with Dončić is non-existent. Together on the court, the two boast a minus-2.4 +/-.
Dallas’ starting lineup of Smith, Dončić, Harrison Barnes, Wesley Matthews, and DeAndre Jordan is a minus-3.1 in 17 games this season. Insert rookie Jalen Brunson in place of Smith and the number improves to minus-0.4. Smith does not fit with the team, making him expendable.
The price for Smith will be high, as it should be for a player with his potential. He isn’t out of the realm of possibility for Detroit however, who has the talent and players that would fit Carlisle’s system, to put a deal in place.
One trade idea would be a package centered around Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard for Smith and an expiring contract on the Mavericks.
Detroit receives: Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, Ryan Broekoff
Dallas receives: Reggie Bullock, Luke Kennard, Ish Smith, Langston Galloway
If Detroit wants to be able to acquire Smith while being able to hold onto their first round pick, they’ll have to give up valuable players on the roster. Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard are the main course of the trade, as two uber-efficient shooters who move well off the ball. Ish Smith ends up being a very useful addition as well, as he can fill the void left by JJ Barea, who just underwent surgery for a torn Achilles over the weekend. Langston Galloway makes his way into the deal to match salary and also provides value as a third guard for Carlisle’s well patented three-guard lineups.
Outside of Smith, Detroit gets a placeholder wing in Matthews. Wojnarowski reported that Dallas wants to find a new home for Matthews, which entices them to make this deal even more. He is set to hit free agency in the offseason, but Detroit could re-sign him to a cheaper deal if there is mutual interest come July. He’s shooting 38.4 percent from the distance, a skillset in dire need for Detroit, especially considering the shooting they would be sending out in this trade. Broekoff provides shooting as well, but likely wouldn’t see many minutes with the slew of wings still available on Detroit’s roster.
While this trade does thin out the wing spot a bit for Detroit, minutes would be absorbed by, Khyri Thomas, who has been inching his way into the rotation as of late, and Glenn Robinson III, who has been out of the rotation since retiring from injury. On top of Bruce Brown, Stanley Johnson, and the newly acquired Matthews, Detroit would have five capable options on the wing. Broekoff could fill minutes as well, as his shooting alone makes him a useful player, especially in Casey’s offensive scheme.
If Detroit were to acquire Smith, Reggie Jackson may be pushed into the backup point guard role, or be moved by the Pistons, who have been looking to get his money off the books. It seems unlikely for Dallas to take on Jackson, who has guaranteed money for not only this year but the 2019-2020 season as well. The Phoenix Suns, another team interested in Smith, could be a suitor for Jackson if Detroit decides to move him. Jackson seemingly does not have the trust of Dwane Casey, as in Ish Smith’s first game back from an adductor injury that cost him 19 games, he ended the game in place of Jackson.
Dennis Smith Jr has superstar potential. It’s why he was drafted as high as he was in the 2017 NBA Draft, and why the Mavericks expect a good return for him. With the future of the roster Detroit currently possesses appearing to be rather bleak, Detroit should play ball, and be willing to part with the few assets they have to take a chance on the explosive and tantalizing young guard.
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