Pistons Lead

Should Detroit Make Another Franchise Altering Trade?

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The point guard position is something that has plagued the Pistons for many years.  Since the days of prime Chauncey Billups, the team has been searching.  Stan Van Gundy thought he found the answer when he traded for Reggie Jackson.  This post game interview with Blake Griffin last night is a perfect encapsulation of why that answer is incorrect.

 

https://twitter.com/SportsCenter/status/1088292861370613760

Reports surfaced earlier this week that the Grizzlies were making their long time core of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley available in trade discussions.  Much debate has arisen on Pistons’ Twitter following this report with some fans wanting the Pistons to make the call.  The argument has strong points on both sides, but ultimately both players would make some sense for the struggling Detroit squad.

Woj Bombs

When Woj speaks, the NBA listens.  So it should come as no surprise that fans around the league began firing up the NBA Trade Machine and all the Sports Talk shows made this tweet below a point of discussion.

Both players have regressed from their peaks, but Conley is still a borderline All-Star in a tough Western Conference.  He makes the most sense for a team close to contention or at least close to the playoffs.  So this begs the question:  Why Detroit?

The Case for Conley

Mike Conley may not be the same player he was when Memphis was a perennial playoff team, but his numbers tell a different story.  Conley is averaging 20.0 points and 6.0 assists per game, both very close to his career-highs.  He has a reputation as a great teammate and locker room guy, something franchise star Blake Griffin is clearly clamoring for.

Adding someone like Conley would change the makeup of the team.  He brings a strong, team-first attitude and a defensive mentality that the team is sorely lacking.  While the price will be high both in terms of contract and draft capital, Blake deserves better and it’s hard to find someone who fits better than Mike Conley on any team in the league.

A market like Detroit will always have to pay a premium for star-caliber players and needs a spark to boost the recently reported lowest attendance mark in the league.  The moment the team traded for Blake, they committed to being in win-now mode at least in terms of being a playoff team in the east.  A point guard rotation of Reggie Jackson, Ish Smith, Jose Calderon and Kalin Lucas is not going to cut it.

The point was really hammered home by Blake in the aforementioned post game interview following the win over New Orleans on Wednesday.  The team is unfocused and doesn’t know how to take things seriously.  Conley is a true professional and is putting up the kind of numbers the team has not seen from a guard since the Goin’ to Work days.

The Other Side of the Coin

Price is the biggest issue holding up any Conley move, both in terms of contract and trade value.  Conley is slated to make $67 million over the two seasons following this one.  For a team close to the luxury tax, that is a steep price to pay and matching contracts in the trade would likely be a priority.

Furthermore, the trade demand for a pseudo-star putting up these numbers is unsurprisingly high.  The reports circulating are that the Grizzlies would want a package along the lines of Reggie Jackson, Luke Kennard, Langston Galloway and a 1st round pick.  Some Piston fans will balk at moving on from Kennard, who has shown flashes of being a key rotation piece.  Fans are also nervous about moving another first round pick.

Finally, Mike has a history of injury issues, including spine and achilles injuries.  Paying so much money for someone with such health risks can be frightening.  Given these factors, some Piston fans and media members have voiced their concerns over a win-now move such as this.

Final Determination

While the cost and risk is high, the answer should be simple.  None of the players mentioned above (no, not even Luke Kennard) are unmovable franchise building blocks.  To get a star player, you must surrender assets.  While the governing body is different, the Pistons committed to winning the moment they traded for Blake.  Owner Tom Gores has reflected that as the teams’ only mission.

Mike Conley is the kind of player who can change a team’s culture.  He is a winner and a grinder.  Blake Griffin has made the call for a better attitude and style for this team.  It is time for the Detroit Pistons to answer.

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