The Pistons weren’t going to stand pat ahead of the trade deadline. That much was clear the moment they traded for Blake Griffin on Jan. 29 and embarked on their current five-game win streak.
What they had wasn’t going to work, and team president/coach Stan Van Gundy and general manager Jeff Bower could see that plainly. They, along with Pistons owner Tom Gores, had been coveting an elite-level player to help carry the load, along with franchise centerpiece Andre Drummond.
In giving up Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley and Boban Marjanovic, along with two draft picks, the Pistons also gave up much of their depth. They replenished some of that with the other two acquisitions in the Clippers deal: Willie Reed and Brice Johnson.
The Pistons made a pair of shrewd deals ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline — getting veteran guard Jameer Nelson from the Chicago Bulls for Reed and small forward James Ennis from the Memphis Grizzlies for Johnson — to restock their reserves. Nelson played for Van Gundy with the Orlando Magic from 2007-12 and provides veteran leadership and more depth at point guard, behind Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith. Injuries at the position have hampered the Pistons the last two seasons, and all their progress is just a Smith injury away from hurting their season again.
Nelson, 35, played in 43 games for the New Orleans Pelicans before being traded last week to the Bulls. He averaged 5.1 points and 3.6 assists and shot 36 percent on 3-pointers in roughly 21 minutes per game.
His role in a crowded backcourt is unclear, but if nothing else he provides a veteran voice in the locker room and another option to run pick-and-rolls.
Ennis, 27, has a more defined role. He’ll fill a void on the roster created when Stanley Johnson moved into the starting spot after the Clippers trade. At 6-foot-7, 210 pounds, Ennis has good size, defends well and is a 37-percent 3-point shooter in his four-year NBA career. He posted 6.9 points, 3.5 rebounds and shot 36 percent beyond the arc this season in 45 games, including 14 starts.
Prior to the trade, the Pistons had used some three-guard rotations. Getting Ennis plugs that hole and allows them to have lanky defenders who can hit from 3-point range in the second unit, with Luke Kennard and Anthony Tolliver. With Reggie Hearn and Kay Felder, the Pistons also have some other options in case of injury.
The position that seems thinnest is center, where the Pistons only have Drummond and backup Eric Moreland. One of the residual effects of the Griffin trade was that he can play some backup center against perimeter-based or smaller centers. They've done that significantly in the four games since the trade and the early results have been good.
Overall, the Pistons got better, both with the Griffin deal and Thursday's additions. They're in ninth place in the East, but the path forward is clear and they can make up plenty of ground before the All-Star break and throughout the last 29 games of the regular season.
Friday night deals
The Pistons are offering several ticket promotions for tonight’s game against the Clippers. One is a “Guys’ Night Out” package with two tickets, two beverages and a postgame meet-and-greet with the Pistons Dancers, starting at $45 per ticket.
A Sprite Family Four Pack includes four tickets, four hot dogs and four drinks, starting at $4 per ticket, with costs varying by seating area at Little Caesars Arena. More information is available at ticketmaster.com.