Let me preface this writing by saying that nothing you are about to read is anything more than JUST my own personal opinion.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the last couple of days, you’ve surely heard by now that the Detroit Pistons have been linked (quite heavily in some cases) to Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook. Some have even gone as far as saying that Detroit has been the most aggressive in their attempts at landing him.
Plenty of mock trades have been thrown around while trying to figure out how to make the money work, which we’ll talk more about in a bit. But, the biggest question that needs to be asked is the following: SHOULD Detroit be considering this move?
Plain and simple, the answer is a massive, resounding YES!
I’m not saying that general manager Ed Stefanski and owner Tom Gores should throw all caution to the wind and let themselves be fleeced in any potential trade with the Thunder, but that they should most definitely be putting together an aggressive offer for the point guard who has averaged a triple double each of the past three seasons.
To fully understand my perspective on the matter, let’s go back to January 29, 2018: the day that the team acquired Blake Griffin in exchange for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, a first round pick, and a second round pick.
This was the first step towards Detroit taking the initial step on the path of relevancy in the NBA again. Alongside Andre Drummond, the Pistons had finally found a big time play-maker who had the ability to make their roster much more respectable. But, without reliable play from the point guard position (I’m looking at you, Reggie Jackson), Detroit’s two biggest threats have not had enough opportunity to make the biggest splash together that they possibly could.
That being said, does Detroit simply bide their time until Griffin and Drummond’s contracts come off the books (which is the end of the 2020-21 season for Drummond, and the end of the 2021-22 season for Griffin), and let their window with these two simply pass by? I would certainly hope that is not the plan.
Simply put, Detroit does not have enough time to keep waiting. If their goal with bringing Blake Griffin (whose knees are not getting any younger at 30 years old) to the Motor City was to be relevant in the Eastern Conference and the NBA Championship conversation with him on the roster, then they will need to follow through on those intentions by nabbing a legitimate threat at point guard. That threat is indeed one Russell Westbrook.
The two teams can make the money work with very little complication. After that, Detroit has to figure out what OKC truly wants in a trade for Westbrook. Is it draft picks? Detroit has all of their upcoming first round picks intact, as well as a plethora of second rounders coming in the next couple years. I would draw a line at two picks though, which would likely mean one unprotected first rounder and possibly a protected first rounder as well, or a second. Young players? Ok, pick between Luke Kennard or Sekou Doumbouya (preferably not both).
Basically, the bottom line is this: would you rather see this team continue to fall into the middle of the pack, qualify for a low playoff seed, and get dusted in the first round (a la this season), or take a shot at making something big happen with another All-NBA talent on the roster?
One argument against this idea, which is a fair one in my opinion, is whether or not the team would be mortgaging the future to make this trade. The answer is yes, but with an asterisk. Sure, losing a couple of first round picks could sting. But, by showing the rest of the NBA that they are serious about establishing a winning culture again, quality free agents again become a possibility for the team. Not to say that they will be able to live and die on signing high-end free agents, but wouldn’t it be nice to see a few big names be legitimately interested in coming to Detroit on their OWN accord?
So, let’s get down to brass tax: what would the trade look like? To make the money work, Detroit would have to send some big contracts to Oklahoma City. To match Westbrook’s $38.5 million salary, the obvious starting point would be Reggie Jackson’s $18 million expiring contract. Tony Snell, who the team recently acquired for Jon Leuer, would likely have to go as well. His $11.3 million contract would leave the teams about $9 million away from matching. Langston Galloway‘s $7 million contract makes the money work. From there, it’s all about figuring out what it takes to satisfy the Thunder, whether that means adding Kennard, Doumbouya, and a combination of picks.
To Detroit: Russell Westbrook
To Oklahoma City: Reggie Jackson, Tony Snell, Langston Galloway, Sekou Doumbouya, a first round pick, and a second round pick (or two).
Yeah, it might sound like a lot, but it’s what the Pistons NEED to make happen.