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Roster Analysis: Detroit Pistons Trade Billups and McDyess to Denver Nuggets for Iverson

ESPN is reporting the trade of Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess and Cheikh Samb of Detriot to Denver for Allen Iverson.

This would be the Piston’s roster shake-up that has been threatened since their play-off exit. The Nuggets also have been widely expected to play with their line-up given the obscenely competitive nature of the Western Conference, where 50 wins doesn’t exactly guarantee a play-off spot anymore.

On the Pistons side of the ball, you’re seeing the gamesmanship being played in three directions. 

First up, if you go by the popular theory that you need three stars to win a championship (Jordon/Pippen/Grant or Rodman; Garnett/Allen/Pierce; Duncan/Parker/Ginobili; etc.), the Pistons are looking at Iverson/Hamilton/Wallace (not that Prince is chopped liver, either). While I’d argue that Billups is a better playmaker and true point guard, Iverson is the more dangerous scorer and a better overall talent. If you’re worried about needing somebody to take the burden of scoring on his shoulders in a tight game, Iverson is willing and able to do that. Wallace is capable, but has always seemed more comfortable as the number two option.

Second, you’re seeing a strong statement of confidence in the bench. By pulling the trigger, Pistons GM Joe Dumars is saying that if anything goes astray with Iverson, chemistry-wise, he’s comfortable sticking Rodney Stuckey in. It says he’s comfortable with Jason Maxiel and Amir Johnson getting more minutes. It even speaks confidence in Kwame Brown, who for the moment remains the only other center on the roster, past Rasheed Wallace.

Third, there’s the cap game. Don’t ever think Dumars isn’t trying to win this year, but if Iverson doesn’t work out, that’s an expiring contract acquired for three contracts that weren’t expiring. He’s still got youth that he trusts in Stuckey, Maxiell and Johnson, plus he’s got some money to either go shopping with in ’09 or he can sign some one-years deals and go shopping in 2010 with everyone else in what might be a genuine free agent feeding frenzy.

If you figure Iverson is going to start, that gives you a three-guard rotation with Iverson, Hamilton and Stuckey. Not bad at all. Your Pistons depth chart probably looks like this

PG- Iverson
SG – Hamilton
SF – Prince
PF Johnson/Maxiell
C – Wallace

Bench is still primarily Stuckey, whoever doesn’t settle in as starter between Johnson and Maxiell (I’m not convinced that’s been 100% settled, given the fluctuation in minutes between the first two games), Kwame Brown and Walter Herrmann. Figure the bulk of extra minutes will be eaten up by Johnson/Maxiell/Brown.

Does this make the Pistons better? Maybe. It certainly makes them more dangerous if they get into a position where they need to match points. A lot of this will depend on chemistry. If Iverson doesn’t fit (and doesn’t pass enough), the wheels could come off a contender. Dumars is rolling the dice (and McDyess) on a calculated risk.

On the Nuggets side, things are a lot less clean cut. As a point guard and playmaker, Billups is a lot more apt to put Carmello Anthony in a position to score, and let’s face it, the Nuggets have scorers. The McDyess situation is going to be a little more touchy. Word is, he _really_ doesn’t want to leave Detroit and the Nuggets have a few big men. Something’s going to have to give there. I don’t know that trading or cutting McDyess ought to be your first option though.

McDyess is a tweener, playing PF/C. Your starting PF is Kenyon Martin. Your starting center is Nene. Is McDyess starting over either of them? Depends on how healthy Nene is. Your backups are Juwan Howard and Chris Anderson. Would McDyess leapfrog them on the depth chart? I don’t there’s any way he doesn’t. If he can be persuaded to stay, that is. 

Samb (the throw-in center) is likely to either be collecting splinters on the bench as a low salary or cut.

Figure Anthony Carter, the current starting point guard, goes to the bench and JR Smith moves up to starting SG. You might see Linus Kleiza playing a little more SG, too. Depending on a secondary move involving the PF/C rotation and McDyess, be it a buy-out/waive/trade, you’re probably looking at a starting line-up of:

PG – Billups
SG – Smith
SF – Anthony
PF – Martin
C – Nene

Your sixth man will either be McDyess or Kleiza. Carter is back-up point. If McDyess stays, you’ll see a minutes decrease with Anderson and Howard in the front court.

Does this make the Nuggets better? Probably. Billups is more used to a team defense concept and passing. He’s got weapons to pass to, so scoring will probably go up a little. Part of that question can’t be answered until the McDyess situation (which could all be media speculation) is resolved and we see if another trade is consummated. At least you don’t expect this risk of chemistry clashes with Billups and McDyess, the way you wonder how Iverson will fit into the team-ball concept of Detroit. Both have been in Denver before, with Billups the native returning as conquering hero.

The trouble with Denver is, even with a mild upgrade, it’s the West and they’re still going to have to sweat it out for play-off position.

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