At the 17 game mark of the 2014-15 season, it's more than obvious that the Pistons don't have what it takes to get the job done. The Pistons' glaring lack of talent and cohesion is so obvious now that it would be impossible for sweeping changes not to occur between now and the start of the 2015-16 season. Sitting at 3-14 on the eve of December, it may already be time to start looking ahead to those changes, which are much more important than the daily happenings at this point. Stan Van Gundy's tenure isn't off to the start that most of us had hoped for, and it's hard to imagine Jodie Meeks' return within the next month or so will be enough to rescue a start that has the Pistons even in the standings with the hapless Lakers. Between now and the February trade deadline expect the front office and SVG himself to work the phones and find out what they can get for the expendable pieces on the roster; in other words, what can they get in return for anybody on the roster not named Andre Drummond? Let's examine the issue by first taking a look at what the Pistons' perimeter players may fetch in a trade.
Brandon Jennings - PG - 16.0 PPG, 21.7 PER, 56.7 TS%, 37.7 AST%, 13.7 TOV%
Jennings is off to a start that has him on track for the best season of his career, despite sometimes receiving inconsistent minutes from Stan Van Gundy. He still doesn't show the best discretion on offense, and he remains a liability on defense. On the other hand, he's shooting the ball better than he ever has: his 56.7 TS% would be nearly 6 points higher than his previous career high, and his 37.7 AST% would also be the top mark of his career. With one year remaining on his contract following this season at $8M, Jennings wouldn't be a terribly expensive pickup for a team with holes in the backcourt. His often explosive offense could be a boon for a team with a weak bench.
While Jennings is still young (won't turn 26 until September), he's been in the league long enough now that there should be no confusion over what he is (or, hypothetically could be): a starter on a bad team, a sparkplug off the bench on a good one. Based purely off my own speculation (as all of these suggestions will be), Portland could be a good fit for Jennings if the Blazers decide they need more offense from their bench unit. Portland's current options behind star PG Damian Lillard consist of the aging Steve Blake and the unproven C.J. McCollum, who is definitely more of a two-guard and is still finding his way after missing most of his rookie season with a foot injury. In this scenario, the Pistons get out of the last year of Jennings' deal, freeing up $8M in cap space for the summer of 2015. Also, for their trouble, they essentially swap picks with Portland, moving up from what figures to be an early 2nd round pick to a late 1st rounder. Due to the Stepien Rule regarding trading consecutive 1st round draft picks, the Blazers cannot trade their 1st round pick this year unless they acquire a different 1st rounder. Therefore, the pick swap would have to occur in 2016.
Suggestion: POR receives Jennings, 2016 2nd round pick; DET receives C Joel Freeland, PF Thomas Robinson, 2016 1st round pick
Another possible fit for Jennings could be found in Boston, if the Celtics wish to give Marcus Smart another year to ease into the starting PG role. This would be an option only if they choose to trade Rajon Rondo. It doesn't seem likely that Boston would want a placeholder, as Brad Smart had already made it a priority to squeeze Smart into the rotation prior to his ankle injury five games into the season. Oklahoma City could also be a sneaky fit as the deadline approaches in February, and continuing into the summer. While there's no denying that Reggie Jackson is a better player than Brandon Jennings, OKC may be hesitant to pay him the $12-$14M per season that Jackson may command on the open market in the off-season. Is Jackson truly worth $6M more per season than Jennings? The Thunder certainly wouldn't be willing to immediately cut bait with Jackson due to his contributions to this year's team, so this may be a deal that could take place next summer. Either way, it too seems highly unlikely. Other suitors for Jennings will become evident if he continues his strong play and injuries hit the backcourts of playoff contenders.
D.J. Augustin - PG - 10.3 PPG, 11.8 PER, 50.1 TS%, 23.7 AST%, 16.3 TOV%
Augustin signed with the Pistons over the past summer after revitalizing his career in Chicago, so he won't be eligible to be traded until December 15th. Even once he is eligible, it's hard to see SVG trading one of the first players he brought to town. However, if a decision is made to trade Augustin, it's hard to see him being able to fetch more than a late 2nd round pick or a fledgling prospect. There just isn't a place in the NBA for undersized PGs who can't shoot the ball consistently or create for others at a high level. That appears to be what Augustin truly is, now that he has reverted back to mediocrity after an astonishing half season with the Bulls in 2014.
Suggestion: Keep him for the time being; no sense in trading a guy when his value is low
Spencer Dinwiddie - G - 64 MP, all other stats fairly meaningless
Dinwiddie has seen inconsistent minutes as he nears full recovery from a torn ACL suffered last January at the University of Colorado. The 6'6 combo guard showed a flash of his potential in a 10 point, 4 assist performance in a loss to the Clippers last week. Yet there is still little to go off of besides what Dinwiddie showed in his college days. The rookie is still too raw to evaluate, but based off of what seems like starter upside due to his size and prolific shooting (39% 3P shooting at CU), there's no sense in rushing and trading Dinwiddie. Instead, the Pistons should be making trades that free up minutes for the 21-year old.
Suggestion: Trade other Gs and get Dinwiddie more minutes
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - SG - 12.5 PPG, 9.4 PER, 47.5 TS%, 36.4 3P%, .476 3PAr
KCP isn't off to the fairly tale start that many envisioned after he lit up the Orlando Summer League, but if you look hard enough and want to find positives, they're there. Despite being asked to do way more than any rookie coming off a sub-10 PER season should be asked to do, Caldwell-Pope has improved his three-point shooting by 4.5%. He's also managed to keep his TOV% low despite a fairly significant increase in usage. The warning signs are also there; he's only shooting 36% on two-point attempts and down to a paltry 62% at the FT line and he doesn't fill the stat sheet in any other ways (low REB% and AST%). His defense is of value, and he's only 21 years old, but if the Pistons were to deal last year's 1st round pick right now, they would be trading low. I would suggest holding onto KCP, but if they were to deal him, perhaps the 76ers would be interested in the following deal, which would give the Pistons a knock-down, low usage shooter to replace Singler if they don't re-sign him this off-season.
Suggestion: PHI receives KCP, DET receives G/F Hollis Thompson, ORL's 2015 2nd round pick
Jodie Meeks - SG - Scheduled to return in late December/early January
Meeks is in the same boat as Augustin in that it's hard to see SVG dealing one of the first players he brought to town. It's even harder to see Meeks getting shipped out considering he has exactly what the Pistons need right now: perimeter offense.
Kyle Singler - SF - 6.9 PPG, 10.2 PER, 58.0 TS%, 40.4 3P%, .115 FTr
Singler has, for the most part, picked up where he left off last season. His three point shooting is enough to make him a potential value commodity at the trade deadline, even if he doesn't offer much else. Singler will be an unrestricted free agent in the off-season, and while it's not a done deal that he won't be back, he's not a guarantee to return either. Teams may find him valuable enough that they're willing to throw more money at him than the Pistons are willing to match for a guy with his limited skillset. Singler has been good to the Pistons the last two years, but he hasn't been good enough to not consider dealing him if the return is there. Any playoff contender could use Singler at the end of their bench to come in and knock down shots and add depth. The Clippers especially could use a player like Singler to provide offense from the corners. Due to the limited amount of time Singler would be under contract, return in a trade may be diminished. In this case, Cunningham is simply there to match the dollar amounts.
Suggestion: LAC receives Singler, DET receives BKN's 2016 2nd round pick, SG Jared Cunningham
Luigi Datome - SF - Ain't nothing but a (Lui)Gi thang baby
Suggestion: Go back in time, don't sign Luigi Datome
Cartier Martin - SF - Fresh off of 36 week recovery from stubbed toe; career 38 3P% shooter
Martin is now back in the lineup after missing Detroit's first 14 games of the season recovering from a foot injury. His outside shooting was seen to be a much-needed boon for the Pistons, and we will have to allow more time before we know whether or not that's the case. In three games since his return, Martin has played 23 minutes and is 1-7 from beyond the arc. His trade value at the moment is practically non-existent, as his value was hardly high before the team signed him in the off-season; this means that he cannot be dealt until December 15th.
Suggestion: Let Martin build his trade value back up during the season, re-evaluate this summer
Caron Butler - SF - 6.7 PPG, 7.6 PER, 52.1 TS%, 36.5 3P%, 8.9 TRB%
Butler seems like the most likely of the off-season acquisitions to be dealt when you consider the veteran leadership and outside shooting he could offer a contender. If you don't think the leadership thing has any value, remember that the Heat paid Juwan Howard to ride the bench on a team with no post depth. Butler has given the Pistons reliable outside shooting this season, along with extremely inconsistent scoring inside the arc. Even though he could maybe fetch a late 2nd round pick or a younger player with some still unexplored upside, don't expect the Pistons to move Tuff Juice this year.
Suggestion: Go back in time, don't let your team reach a point where 34 year old Caron Butler is playing 25 minutes per night.