The first major trade of the NBA season went down yesterday when the Nuggets shipped Allen Iverson to the Pistons for Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess and Cheikh Samb. The move to break up the foundation of the Pistons isn’t a shocking one, though once nothing happened during the offseason a lot of people, including me, thought they’d stand pat for another year, so from that aspect the deal is a little bit surprising. What’s even more unexpected is that Iverson, a 33-year-old guard, was the acquisition after GM Joe Dumars often paid lip service to adding a young star on the rise.
Before moving on to the meat of the deal, let’s look at the potatoes. Samb was the 51st pick in the 2006 draft and has a physique that would make Shawn Bradley cringe. We can only hope he gets enough minutes to have his own “Top 10 Dunks on Cheikh Samb” video on YouTube.
The other spud is McDyess, who will reportedly have his contract bought out and then can magically return to the Pistons Jerry Stackhouse style (although he’d have to wait at least 30 days he if did choose to head back to Motown). I guess it makes sense from a financial standpoint, but I was critical of Denver’s front court depth with injury-prone starters Nene and Kenyon Martin and McDyess would help address that. However, all signs point to a McDyess/Motown reunion if a deal can be reached on a buyout, which would be bad news for Amir Johnson and Jason Maxiell, who each looked to benefit from McDyess’s departure.
Now it’s time for the meat. Iverson’s arrival in D-town makes him their top scorer and gives them a fiery competitor in the final year of his contract. He’s motivated and his blue-collar style of play should go over well there. I wouldn’t expect him to last beyond this year, though, as his departure (combined with that of Rasheed Wallace) would put the Pistons well below the cap and give them the chance to target the young player of their choice this offseason. They could also choose to hold onto that space for a year when the likes of Dwyane Wade and LeBron James will be hitting the open market. Dumars also reportedly loves Rodney Stuckey, but he was trapped behind Billups, who is under contract through at least 2010-11.
As for Denver, the move does two things: (a) it gives it a better distributor at the point, making Carmelo Anthony the primary option in the offense while moving Anthony Carter to the pine; and (b) it adds value to J.R. Smith (who, even if he doesn’t start, will definitely benefit with extra minutes and touches). Billups also brings a sense of defensive pride and accountability, which the team has to be hoping will rub off on some of their younger talent. The move also should open up some minutes for Linas Kleiza, who no longer has to compete with AI, Melo and Smith on the wings. I like the trade more from Denver’s perspective, and Billups – a Denver native and University of Colorado product – should enjoy his return to the Mile High City.
Smith is the call here over Kleiza. He was stuck behind AI while the team functioned with a sub par point guard. With Billups in place, Smith becomes the No. 1 off guard. Johnson and Maxiell become more intriguing in the short term but could have their wings clipped if McDyess is only on an extended vacation. Still, grab them in deep leagues.
While Stuckey may be the future, Iverson is the present and it’s unlikely to come at the expense of Rip Hamilton. Iverson is built to play a ton of minutes and wants to get his numbers with his last chance at a big-time contract looming. In Denver, Carter becomes even more worthless.