The Detroit Pistons came into this summer looking to make a splash. A decade ago, Joe Dumars’ group was the crème de la crème of the Eastern Conference and the only legitimate challenger to LeBron James’ inevitable greatness. Although they’ll always be remembered for their one title, a more apt way to recognize the Pistons of 2004-2008 is as the Finals gatekeepers. You had to get past them to get a crack at the title. Once James was actually able to do that, though, all involved with personnel decisions in Detroit realized it was time for a change.
First came Allen Iverson; then, when that didn’t work out, we got the questionable singings of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. What followed, production-wise, was exactly what you’d expect from a team who gave $90 million to Gordon and Villanueva.
Four years later, under new ownership, the Pistons are hoping to return to prominence. Their first big move of the summer was signing Josh Smith. Even though Smith is renowned for his bad decision making and awful shot selection, he’s still a supremely talented star. More importantly, he’s an exciting player – and Detroit has been struggling for fan interest in the worst way imaginable over the past few years. So while overpaying for a guy is never good, per se, overpaying for Smith this year kind of made sense.
What didn’t make sense, however, was the decision to sign-and-trade for Brandon Jennings. Yes, Jennings getting $8 million per year for three years isn’t awful on paper, but there were better options available. Namely: Jeremy Lin.
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It’s no secret that the Houston Rockets are looking to move both Lin and Omer Asik, and a guy like Lin, who is a better passer than Jennings and a more efficient scorer, would be an ideal complement for Smith. Whereas Smith and Jennings will inevitably clash when it comes to who gets to hoist up a terrible shot on any given possession, Lin knows how to work with athletic fours who are at their best when they get the ball while they’re moving.
Unfortunately, Detroit went with Jennings. So the dream of Lin landing with the Pistons is dead, right? Maybe not. Over the past week, numerous sources have reported that Dumars still has interest in maybe prying Rajon Rondo away from the Celtics. And while that’s a fascinating rumor in itself, the most interesting thing about it is the underlying message – this franchise still wants a quality point guard.
In the NBA, surprisingly often, big names are mentioned for a particular position, and then that position is ultimately filled by a big name that wasn’t mentioned. It happened with Pau Gasol and the Lakers, Jennings and the Pistons and so on and so forth.
While nobody is going to come right out and say it, there’s a good chance the Pistons signed Jennings not because they’re in love with him as a fit, but because he was the best option available at the best price available. That means their attachment level to him is, well, low.
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Will Lin to Detroit happen? It’s a longshot. But even a three-team deal between Boston, Detroit and Houston makes sense. Rondo to the Rockets; Lin to the Pistons; and Jennings to the Celtics. Everyone gets something they need.
Chances are, rumors surrounding both Lin and Rondo will get a lot louder as we creep towards the start of the regular season.