At one time, Rodney Stuckey appeared the most likely to be moved at trade deadline. (Clarence Tabb Jr. / Detroit News)
Auburn Hills — The rumors are beginning to swirl with Thursday’s trade deadline rapidly approaching, but many around the NBA say the Pistons aren’t being very active.
It’s a change compared to recent weeks, when it seemed a near certainty at least a minor move would get done, possibly to acquire a shooter in a reserve role, considering they’re the worst shooting team in the NBA.
Pistons president Joe Dumars still had the expiring contracts of Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva to dangle at teams, with both making around $8.5 million each before their deals come off the books.
Stuckey seemed more likely a candidate to be moved than Villanueva because he provides on-court value. He has found a niche as a sixth man and likely will bolt via unrestricted free agency this summer, so the school of thought was the Pistons would get something for Stuckey as opposed to letting him walk for nothing.
But since the unexpected firing of Maurice Cheeks by owner Tom Gores after just 50 games, it doesn’t appear the Pistons are in any rush to make any moves — either out of haste or foresight for the future.
“I think it’s dead over there,” one league executive said. “They’ve been dead silent for a while.”
Other league executives echo the same sentiment, with Dumars in the last year of his contract and the team having playoff expectations, it could be taken as a curious stance.
The Pistons discussed smaller deals in recent weeks, such as moving reserve forward Jonas Jerebko, who hasn’t been the same high-energy player he was in the past — for a shooter like Anthony Morrow, who hits a league-high 48 percent from 3-point range for the New Orleans Pelicans — but there doesn’t appear to be anything on that front.
League executives believe Will Bynum was in play, too but after Cheeks was fired, again, everything has quieted down.
Players like Bynum and Jerebko are hard to trade because they have affordable salaries, and aren’t viewed as game-changers for most teams. Bynum, more than Jerebko, could be valuable to playoff teams because he can score in bunches.
Greg Monroe’s restricted free agency status this summer would make it tricky to trade him even if the Pistons were seriously interested in exploring it. Opposing teams, even the ones who like Monroe, would have a hard time assessing his contractual value this summer because any form of free agency is a risky proposition.
There’s been whispers of Monroe’s agent, David Falk, having a team in place willing to give Monroe a maximum contract this summer that would be difficult for a team to match.
The Pistons would want to avoid a standoff with Monroe, much in the same way the Indiana Pacers couldn’t avoid it with center Roy Hibbert, also a Falk client, a few years ago. When negotiations stalled, Hibbert received a maximum contract sheet from the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Pacers inevitably matched, and while Hibbert has helped the Pacers reach the top of the Eastern Conference this season, there was skepticism about Hibbert being worth it.
The same question surrounds Monroe now, whose production has taken a dip with the emerging Andre Drummond and new addition Josh Smith playing alongside him.
Whether he’s underutilized or his game has somewhat plateaued, it’s difficult to assess market value and there isn’t exactly a plethora of young swingmen on the market — at least not one worth trading a 24-year old big man approaching his prime.
As always, though, the Pistons could have something up their sleeves before Thursday’s deadline, as their needs have been apparent since November.
“Make no mistake, they’re in really good financial shape, the books are in order for now and the future. They’ll have cap space,” a player agent said. “It’s the personnel they need to get in order.”