First Impression of the AI deal? Pistons Win in Landslide

November 3, 2008

It appears Joe Dumars has made a shrewd move. By dealing for AI, he has acquired a proven go-to-guy in the clutch. Even if AI fails to gel, Dumars can let him walk after this year and free up some sizable cap space.

Meanwhile, Denver appeared to shift to a rebuilding mode this year by giving away Marcus Camby for nearly nothing. Now, the Nuggets brass seemingly has gone back to a win-now mode by taking on the long term deals of Billups and McDyess. Are Billups and McDyess enough to put Denver into the Finals? N-o-p-e.

What Detroit Loses

1. A knockdown clutch jumpshooter and good “team guy” in Chauncey Billups. Assuming Iverson eventually starts at point guard, they also lose some size in the backcourt. There will also be a drop-off in on-ball defense, given Iverson’s gambling tendencies.

2. A quality back-up “big.” At this stage in his career, McDyess can provide a solid 20 minutes defensively each night at the four or five, while still stroking a reliable face-up jumper from 18 feet in. Although his best days have long since passed, he is a solid addition to any rotation. His loss puts more pressure on bigs Kwame Brown, Jason Maxiell, Walter Herrmann, and Amir Johnson.

3. A raw, unproven center prospect. Samb is rail-thin, and limited offensively. Although he has shown some ability as a shot blocker, he did not figure to be in Detroit’s rotation this year.

What Detroit Gains

1. Cap Space in 2009. Iverson’s contract runs out this year, as does Rasheed Wallace’s deal. Collectively, it would give Detroit over $30 million in cap flexibility this offseason. Detroit may choose to hang onto that space until 2010 in the hope of entering the Lebron sweepstakes.

2. A clear number one option in crunch time. AI is the one guy on this roster who will not have a deer-in-the-headlights look during the fourth quarter. Iverson is willing to put the onus on himself, and will take all the big shots. Even if he has lost a step, this guy knows how to create contact and get to the line. He also can create offense for others far better than Billups. Most important he is hungry and has a lot to prove.

3. Peace of mind. Let’s face it, the Billups-Rip-Prince-Sheed nucleus was not going to win the East this year. They would have posted 50-plus wins and faltered in the playoffs. The reason? First, their defensive commitment has slipped ever since Larry Brown’s departure. Second, they lacked that number one option on offense capable of matching the Lebron and Paul Pierce-types possession after possession in the fourth quarter. Sheed was the closest thing they had to a number one, and his ability to rise to the occasion, at least offensively, was quite inconsistent in last year’s playoffs.

At least now Detroit brings something new to the table from the past two years. If it fails, no sweat. Rodney Stuckey takes over in 2009, and Dumars gets to play with his new cap room.

What Denver loses

1. Cap flexibility. Both Billups and McDyess are inked to multi-year deals.

2. A prolific scorer and creator on offense in Iverson. Although Chauncey Billups is a great jump shooter capable of posting-up other leads, he is not the offensive equivalent of Iverson.

What Denver gains

1. Perhaps improved chemistry. Billups comes home to Colorado, and plays a more complementary role to Carmelo Anthony. The offense gets run primarily through ‘Melo, giving him more touches and keeping him happy.

2. Backcourt size. Billups’ willingness to distribute likely catapults high-volume shooter J.R. Smith into the starting lineup as well. Such a move was not possible before with ‘Melo and AI getting all the touches.

3. More quality depth in the frontcourt. Losing Camby and replacing him with Birdman Chris Andersen was not going to cut it this year. McDyess will provide needed frontcourt insurance, especially given the injury histories of Nene and Kenyon Martin.

4. Better D. Billups and McDyess are solid defenders.

Bottom Line

A steal for Detroit. They vault into contention in the East as a true threat to make the Finals. Denver now becomes ‘Melo’s team, but they aint going anywhere in this year’s West. The road to the title still goes through Los Angeles.

By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for

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