This season is practically over! Let's look at the kind of return that the Pistons' frontcourt players may fetch in a trade...
Tony Mitchell - PF - 0 minutes played; pedestrian D-League stats
Despite only being 22 years old, it's hard to see Mitchell having much, if any, value on the trade market. Mitchell's greatest value to the Pistons may be helping them tank. We've seen before with Amir Johnson that you can easily regret giving up on a player without giving him time to fully develop his skill-set. While I don't think that's the case here, what's the harm in getting Mitchell some minutes on a team that needs to lose as much as possible?
Suggestion: Commit to getting consistent minutes to aid Mitchell's development, whether that's in Grand Rapids or Detroit
Jonas Jerebko - PF - 5.0 PPG, 14.6 PER, 54.1 TS%, 9.3 TRB%, 31.3 3P%, 13.5 MPG
Jerebko has been a bright spot this season due to his consistent effort and versatility. He's not a starter-quality PF, but he's also not the worst PF on the roster. Jerebko is a below-average rebounder at PF, but can offer a potential trade partner offense and energy off of their bench. Hindering his potential trade value is the fact that Jerebko is only under contract through the end of the season. Injuries will help determine the buyers, as is often the case, but one apparent match right now could be found in Charlotte.
The Hornets have missed the offense that Josh McRoberts brought them as a stretch four, and they could replace some of that with Jerebko. Even more enticing for Charlotte, would be that Jerebko is low-risk due to his short contract, and low acquisition cost. Detroit could ask for a 2nd round pick, and then have Charlotte match Jerebko's salary with a player like Bismack Biyombo, who doesn't factor heavily into Charlotte's rotation. Biyombo is also on an expiring contract, so the Pistons could easily cut ties with him if he isn't a fit. If nothing else, the Pistons get a potentially valuable 2nd round pick.
Suggestion: CHA receives Jerebko, DET receives C Bismack Biyombo, 2015 2nd round pick
Joel Anthony - C - 59 minutes played
Anthony came to the Pistons at the low, low cost of Will Bynum. Stan Van Gundy won't be able to turn around and get anything of value for The Warden (according to B/R, that's his nickname). Anthony is an okay insurance policy for nights where multiple post players get in foul trouble, but he holds no value on the trade market.
Suggestion: Eat more fiber
Greg Monroe - PF - 14.5 PPG, 17.4 PER, 52.4 TS%, 16.5 TRB%, .405 FTr, 46.6 2P%
Monroe may have effectively printed his ticket out of town when he chose to accept the Pistons' Qualifying Offer in the middle of September. The QO makes him an Unrestricted Free Agent following this season, and the history of players signing the QO indicates that Monroe choosing Detroit in free agency is an unlikely scenario. The QO also gives Monroe the power to veto any trade due to the impact a trade would have on his Bird Rights. Bird Rights essentially allow a free agent to re-sign with a team that doesn't have the necessary cap space to acquire him, among other irrelevant things (No, Monroe won't get a max deal). There have been varying reports on whether or not Monroe would consent to a deal, so your guess is probably as good as anybody's as to what he would do if confronted with the scenario.
Personally, I'm more willing to believe that Monroe would accept a deal. While a trade would restrict the amount of teams he could sign with this summer, I think he and his agent realize that enough teams are set up to have cap space this summer that Monroe can still have a sufficient market. With a projected salary cap of $66.5M, there would be roughly 13 teams who could shell out the ~$15M per year that Monroe may believe he's worth. A good amount of those teams, including Boston, Portland, San Antonio, New York and the Lakers have been rumored in the past as fits for Monroe. In other words, Monroe losing his Bird Rights only hurts in theory. In practice, consenting to a trade would likely give Monroe a chance to win and a better chance to demonstrate his value.
Before you can decide what Monroe could bring back, you have to decide who the suitors are. Seeing as Monroe is a rental, it's reasonable to assume that only a team that thinks he could help them this year would want him. That cuts the trade partners down to a select few: Portland, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Phoenix in the Western Conference, and likely only Miami and Atlanta in the Eastern Conference. If Charlotte thinks they can rebound from their dumpster fire of a start and get to the playoffs, they may also be interested. Since Monroe has been the main item of interest in Pistons trade talks over the past half year, let's take a look at what each team could give the Pistons for their young big man.
Portland: The Blazers have LaMarcus Aldridge and Robin Lopez in the frontcourt, but Monroe would be a definite upgrade over Lopez, who would serve nicely off of the Blazes bench. Portland finds themselves in 4th place out West (as of 12/17), only three games behind the unstoppable Warriors. Monroe could offer the most attractive, affordable upgrade for the Blazers, whether it be soon or at the deadline. Portland may not be willing to shake up their rotation, but they may have a few pieces that are attractive to the Pistons beyond their top eight, such as young SGs C.J. McCollum and Allen Crabbe, C Meyers Leonard or their 2016 first round pick. Due to the Stepien Rule, which prohibits teams from going two straight years without a first round pick, the Blazers cannot deal their 2015 first rounder. There's certainly a deal that could be made if Monroe consents and the Blazers are interested.
Suggestion: POR receives Monroe, DET receives SG Allen Crabbe, F Victor Claver (salary filler) and Portland's 2016 1st round pick
Oklahoma City: The Thunder don't lack depth in the frontcourt, with Serge Ibaka firmly entrenched at the PF spot and Steven Adams irritating the world at C. Behind those two, veterans Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins are joined by rookie Mitch McGary to provide three more viable options. Aside from Ibaka, the Thunder frontcourt lacks any amount of scoring punch. That's where Monroe would provide the most value for OKC: serving as a 4th option behind the Thunder's big three. This scenario would hopefully also appeal to Monroe, who would go from toiling in obscurity in Detroit, to contending for a title in the city where his hometown New Orleans Hornets moved after Hurricane Katrina.
The Thunder have a few assets that may be enticing to the Pistons. While a player like Reggie Jackson or Jeremy Lamb may draw interest from Pistons fans, it's unlikely that the Thunder would want to trade from what is already a thin backcourt. Lamb may become available if OKC can maneuver a rumored deal for Denver G/F Wilson Chandler, but for now, he likely stays put. With Lamb and Jackson off the table, the next-best young asset OKC has is Mitch McGary, who would get a chance to play big minutes off the Pistons bench the remainder of the year. In the years following, McGary could play alongside Drummond with his quality passing and energy, or blend in nicely as a young piece off the bench. His upside is the kind of thing that Detroit should be looking to acquire in a deal. Injury concerns somewhat restrict McGary's value, as he has already had two setbacks in his young pro career.
Suggestion: OKC receives Monroe, 2016 2nd round pick, DET receives F/C Mitch McGary, PF Nick Collison* (salary filler) and PF Grant Jerrett
*Should the Thunder not want to part with Collison, Perry Jones III and Andre Roberson could make up the necessary salary.
San Antonio: The Spurs rarely make in-season roster changes that move the needle, simply because they've put together a good team and know not to tinker with the rotation. This year could be different, as the Spurs face increased competition in the Western Conference, and find themselves facing the very realistic scenario that they may need help to secure home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Now 25 games into the season, the Spurs are in 7th in the West, sitting two full games behind the 4th-place Blazers. Making up two games doesn't sound like a lot, but none of the teams in front of San Antonio appear to be set for a decline, and the red-hot Thunder are storming up the standings behind them. With Tony Parker set at PG, Ginobili, Green and Belinelli a more than adequate rotation at SG, Kawhi Leonard at SF and Tim Duncan at C, the obvious spot for an upgrade is at PF. This season the Spurs have given frontcourt starts to Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter, Matt Bonner and Aron Baynes. While Diaw and Splitter are both reliable contributors, Monroe would offer the Spurs more scoring at the PF spot, with no discernible decrease in defense.
In terms of assets that the Pistons may get in return, the Spurs appear to have the least attractive set of trade pieces among the Western Conference options. There's zero chance Detroit could make a play for any of their rotation pieces. Besides, any of the Spurs role players lose value when they leave San Antonio faster than a new car leaving the lot. That leaves the Pistons with two pieces to ask for in return for Monroe that may be desirable: 2014 30th overall pick Kyle Anderson and the Spurs' 2015 first round pick. Both of those assets hold small enough value that the Pistons may be able to start negotiations by asking for both. If San Antonio balks at the suggestion, the Pistons would be wise to sweeten an offer by dangling Kyle Singler, whose contract expires at the end of the season. Obtaining both Anderson and the Spurs' 1st round pick (21st overall should the Spurs finish where they are now) would be well worth giving up half a season each of Monroe and Singler. Whether the Spurs would accept that deal is hard to say, but both players seem like they would fit in the Spurs' rotation and system.
Suggestion: SA receives Monroe, Singler, Mitchell (roster filler); DET receives Anderson, Baynes* (salary filler), F/C Jeff Ayres (salary filler) and San Antonio's 2015 1st round pick
*Baynes must consent to a trade and cannot be traded until January 15
Phoenix: The Suns are in an interesting position, now in year two of appearing to be the odd team out in the Western Conference. They sit a game out of 8th place in the West (as of 12/19), but have to realize that the top seven teams in the conference aren't going anywhere, and it's only a matter of time before the Thunder take over the 8th spot. Still, if the Suns are going to make a run for the playoffs, now is the time, with Goran Dragic approaching free agency this summer (he has a player option, but he won't opt in). Phoenix has capable bigs in Miles Plumlee and Alex Len, but neither of those players are reliable options on the offensive end of the floor. Greg Monroe would be a certain upgrade for the Suns, but would he be enough to get them over the hump and into the playoffs? I don't think so, but should the Suns choose to pursue Monroe, there is certainly a deal to be had, should Monroe consent.
In terms of trade assets, the Suns have a treasure trove of 2015 first round picks, including protected picks from the Lakers and Wolves, as well as their own. The Suns also own their 2nd round pick, which could be added as sweetener in a deal otherwise involving players going to Detroit. Players on Phoenix's roster that may entice the Pistons include SF T.J. Warren, PG Tyler Ennis, C Alex Len, C Miles Plumlee and SG Archie Goodwin. Any other player on the roster is either Shavlik Randolph, Anthony Tolliver or part of the Suns' core. Of the players mentioned, Warren may be the Pistons' desired target. While minutes with the big league club have been hard to come by, Warren put up impressive 40 and 32 point performances in his two D-League games. Warren wasn't a strong outside shooter in his time at N.C. State, but is a natural-born scorer. The Pistons would be smart to request Warren as a starting point in any deal for Monroe.
Suggestion: PHX receives Monroe, DET receives T.J. Warren, SG Archie Goodwin
Miami: The Heat are likely to sneak into the playoffs this year thanks to the horrible Eastern Conference. How they fare once they get there will likely be determined by their health. Dwyane Wade has already missed 7 games this year, and Chris Bosh is out for an unknown period of time with a strained calf. On top of that, their main off-season acquisition, Josh McRoberts, may miss the remainder of the season with a torn ligament in his right knee. With Bosh and McRoberts out, Miami's frontcourt consists of Hassan Whiteside, Justin Hamilton, Chris Andersen and Udonis Haslem. Whiteside and Hamilton are fringe NBA players, Andersen is who he is at this point, and the same could be said of Haslem. This makes the Heat, whose window is closing with Wade and Bosh aging, a candidate for Greg Monroe's services.
A potential problem is that the Heat have little to offer the Pistons in a trade. They owe this year's first round pick to the Sixers and their youngest player is 23 year old Shabazz Napier, who the Pistons would have little use for. A third team may be needed to make a deal work between these two teams if the Heat truly want Monroe. 24-year old, rookie SF James Ennis may catch the Pistons' eye, and would likely have to be a part of any two team deal between Miami and Detroit. Ennis played in Europe last season while some other guy manned the SF position for the Heat, but has shown up with an improved talent level in 2014. Ennis was one of the top performers at the Orlando Summer League, averaging 16 PPG and 6 RPG while shooting 48.4% from three. Ennis' performance with the Heat this season hasn't been mind-blowing, but aside from Napier, he's the only potentially useful, young player the Heat have. Of any trade partner mentioned here for Monroe, Miami is the weakest match and likely a long shot to make a move for Monroe without a third team involved.
Suggestion: MIA receives Monroe, DET receives SF James Ennis, F/C Justin Hamilton (salary filler), SF Danny Granger (salary filler), 2017 1st round pick
Atlanta: According to Vincent Goodwill of the Detroit News, Greg Monroe was sought by the Hawks as a Restricted Free Agent this summer. The Hawks wisely rebuffed the Pistons' request for Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver in return, but the point is that there is a level of interest there from Atlanta. Despite the presence of Millsap and Horford, Monroe would still be a good fit in Atlanta. The Hawks, entering action on 12/19, sit half a game back of the 2nd spot in the Eastern Conference, riding the ever-improving play of Teague, the ridiculous outside shooting of Korver and the steady presence of Horford in the post. Entering the year, it would've seemed crazy to put the Hawks on the same level as the Cavs, Bulls and Raptors, but as of December 14th, the Hawks were the only Eastern Conference team ranked in the top ten in Offensive and Defensive Efficiency. As planned when Mike Budenholzer was hired by the Hawks, it appears that Spurs East is in the process of being established. Adding Greg Monroe as further post scoring punch could help the Hawks do battle with the Cavs, Bulls, Raptors or Wizards come playoff time. Post depth isn't a necessity for the Hawks, but Monroe would be a certain improvement over Mike Scott and Pero Antic, who both see regular minutes in Atlanta's frontcourt.
The Hawks have plenty of player assets to offer the Pistons and also own all of their future 1st round picks. Working out a deal with the Hawks could offer the Pistons the best possible return of any team mentioned here. Atlanta could part with any of the following young players without severely altering their rotation for a playoff run: PF Mike Scott (26), PG Dennis Schröder (21) and F/C Adreian Payne (23). Both Scott and Payne would give the Pistons a sharpshooting big to play alongside Drummond, and Schröder likely has the highest upside of the trio, as some believe he's the heir to Rajon Rondo's do-it-all throne. Through 24 games on a per-36 basis, Schröder is averaging 17.9 points, 6.7 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 2.1 steals. He's a horrendous three-point shooter at this point (23.5% on 2.9 att./36), but he's been proficient inside the arc (54.9 2P%). You can tell that isn't a fluke, due to his size (6'2) and length (6'8 wingspan). Acquiring Schröder and committing minutes to his development would be an excellent long-term move in my opinion.
Suggestion: ATL receives Monroe, Singler; DET receives Schröder, Scott, ATL's 2015 2nd round pick
Josh Smith - PF - 13.1 PPG, 14.2 PER, 42.0 TS%, 12.2 TRB%, 1.8 BLK/36, 1.4 STL/36
Smith is the player that most Pistons fans would like to see go, for essentially anything in return. After rampant speculation over the summer about a deal sending Smith to Sacramento, he has remained in Detroit and has remained mediocre. He's rebounding the ball better than last season, but is somehow shooting the ball even worse. With little positive on-court production and $28,000,000 remaining on his contract past this season, moving Smith will be very difficult. Should the Pistons receive any offer for Smith that doesn't involve them attaching a 1st round pick, they should jump on that deal immediately.
Seeing as Sacramento's front office philosophy is "do something crazy", they may still have an interest in bringing Smith to town. The Kings themselves have plenty of dead money to offer in return that may help arrange a somewhat fair deal. That dead money includes $6M per season each to Jason Thompson and Derrick Williams, as well as $6.5M to Carl Landry. The Pistons likely wouldn't want to take all three PFs, but may have an interest in Thompson and Williams. Thompson, who is also under contract for two more seasons, makes half of what Smith does. Williams is only under contract through the remainder of the year, which would offer the Pistons a trial run to evaluate him at little risk.
Suggestion: SAC receives Smith, DET receives Williams, Thompson, locker-room chemistry
Andre Drummond - C - 12.3 PPG, 18.5 PER, 22.0 TRB%, 48.7 TS%, 2.1 BLK/36
Even mentioning the idea of trading Drummond is seen as offensive on certain parts of the Pistons internet. Nonetheless, here we are, 27 games into Drummond's 3rd season in the league and staring a large regression in the face. Drummond is still the same excellent rebounder he's always been, but his scoring has been horrendous in 2014. He's seen his TS% dip from 59.9% in 2013-14 to an ugly 48.7% this season. The 6'11, 270-pounder is shooting a Roy Hibbert-esque 48.6% on 2-point attempts.
An increased role in the offense that he's clearly not ready for is partially to blame, but Drummond simply isn't finishing at the rim as he has in the past. Drummond is shooting 57.1% at the rim this season, as opposed to 68.2% last year. While this issue is cause for concern, it's not necessarily cause for panic. There's not even a hint of spacing in the Pistons offense, and Drummond is often paired with a PF who can't pull their defenders out of the paint. For instance, Drummond has only played 127 of his 788 minutes with Jonas Jerebko this season. That means that Drummond has played 84% of his minutes with a PF who isn't a threat to shoot the ball. Finding more minutes with Jerebko may be helpful for Drummond's development.
Even considering the struggles on offense this year, Drummond would still have massive trade value should the Pistons make him available. He's a 21-year old post player with the ability to affect the game on the glass at both ends and the size to be a defensive force. There's two players like that in the league right now; the other is Anthony Davis. While I don't believe that the Pistons should trade their franchise cornerstone, he hasn't developed enough this season to the point that you hang up on anybody who calls with an offer. Come next June, the Pistons may be in a position where Jahlil Okafor, another dominant young big man, is the clear-cut best prospect on the board when it comes time for the Pistons to pick. If that situation occurs, I may have opinions on potential Drummond trades. Until that time, I wouldn't be willing to consider it.
Suggestion: Hold onto Drummond and commit all resources to developing him.