It’s crazy time in the NBA.
The final week before the trade deadline generally brings a few more cups of coffee for beat writers, a few frenzied fans’ misguided, Monopoly-inspired proposals from the ESPN Trade Machine against the reality of maybe one trade that realistically could come to fruition.
It’s a time for speculation, wild rumor and downright Hail Mary to try to improve before the Feb. 7 deadline. The Pistons find themselves in something of a quandary as the sands of the last few days disappear.
It comes down to this: Go big or don’t go at all.
News & Views takes a look at the Pistons’ position going into the deadline.
News: The Pistons are 22-28 and in ninth place in the Eastern Conference.
Views: They sit just two games behind the Hornets for eighth place and another half-game behind the Heat for seventh. They could make up that ground with a decent win streak and some solid play.
Even that has been hard to come by as the Pistons are just 9-21 in December and January. It makes the job harder for team owner Tom Gores and the front office to decide whether to be buyers or sellers at the deadline.
The thing to consider is that even getting the seventh or eighth seed likely would mean a first-round matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks — who swept the four games in the season series — or the Raptors. The Pistons rightly view making the playoffs as a significant step forward, as they’re mired in a streak of just one appearance in the past decade.
The Pistons, as currently constructed, aren’t ready to make a playoff run and don’t look to have a long-term roster. From the team perspective, the best path forward is to try to make a big splash in the trade market. Listen to offers on everyone — including Blake Griffin — to gauge the market value and put all the options on the table.
Gores said Tuesday that Griffin and Drummond are the core that he’d like to build around, but apart from those two, there isn’t a bustling trade market for the rest of the roster. Smaller deals for role players could help, but the objective should be to gauge the market for big-name, star-caliber players and see what’s available.
A week ago, Kristaps Porzingis wasn’t a realistic option; the Mavericks got their big man before Thursday’s game against the Pistons. Gores did it last year, getting Griffin almost out of the blue. They can aim high at names such as Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Kemba Walker.
Salespeople are trained that every "no" gets them closer to a "yes." I’d imagine it’ll be a busy week for the Pistons’ front office to continue pursuing deals that can change the trajectory of the franchise for the short and longer term.
Almost any move — big or small — likely would send the Pistons into the luxury tax, which Gores said he’d be willing to do for the right player. That doesn’t seem logical for a mediocre addition; rather, they’d be more likely to yield with a bigger catch in their big-game hunting.
News: The Mavericks made a blockbuster deal Thursday, headlined by Kristaps Porzingis.
Views: That’s the headline, but they also got a good shooter in Tim Hardaway Jr. and a good point guard in Trey Burke, both from Michigan. They went from mediocre to West-relevant with one gutsy move.
The trade has a Pistons connection as well: Dennis Smith Jr., who went to the Knicks, was on their trade radar. He fits the profile of a perfect trade target — young and athletic, under a rookie contract and star potential. The potential trade cost was unclear but it would have been cheaper than most of the other comparable options on the market.
The Knicks were looking to clear cap space so that they potentially could bring in two elite max-salary players in the summer. It’s a bold and aggressive swipe — along with their increased potential of getting a top pick in the draft this summer.
News: The Pistons needed a fourth-quarter rally to beat the shorthanded Mavericks, 93-89, on Thursday night.
Views: It was a dubious win for coach Dwane Casey and Griffin, who lamented that the game was so close, and the Pistons had such a sluggish start. It would have been their most embarrassing loss of the season — and maybe in the whole NBA — with Dallas using just one of its normal starters.
The Pistons often have to pump themselves up mentally and Casey said he was leery that a motivated group of Mavericks reserves might surprise the Pistons if they didn’t come out properly focused and ready to play. It almost happened.
The next two games, Saturday against the Clippers and Monday versus the Nuggets, could be the litmus test before the trade deadline to determine whether the Pistons have enough push to make a playoff run. The next two games will be against the new-look Knicks.
Clippers at Pistons
Tip-off: 5 p.m. Saturday, Little Caesars Arena
Outlook: The Pistons (22-28) have one two-game win streak since December and look to sweep the season series against the Clippers (28-24) who have lost two straight and are clinging to eighth place in the West.