February 18th not only marks the fourth day of apologies from guys who forgot to buy their wives or girlfriends Valentine’s Day gifts, it also stands as the NBA’s trade deadline.
Just three weeks ago, Detroit Pistons head coach, president of basketball operations, and “Form a f***ing wall” founder Stan Van Gundy said that he fully expects the team to pick up starting power forward Ersan Ilyasova’s team-option for next year.
SVG's direct quote on Ilyasova option for 2016-17: "That's what we anticipate right now. … That certainly would be my thing."
— VinceEllis (@AlabamaScribe56) January 1, 2016
However, that vote of confidence from Van Gundy doesn’t mean that he isn’t looking to upgrade the starting power forward position.
A little over two weeks, ago ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on his podcast The Lowe Post:
“They want a four in free agency this summer, the Pistons, really badly. They’re going to look at Stan’s old friend Ryan Anderson. I’ve heard they’re hot on Motiejunas from Houston who’s always hurt. So, who knows how hot they actually are?”
It can be assumed that the Pistons would be more focused on acquiring Anderson than Donatas Motiejunas, given the latter’s chronic back issues, not to mention Anderson’s previous work relationship with Van Gundy.
Anderson emerged as a legitimate threat at the NBA level under Van Gundy’s direction in Orlando. He excelled at playing as a stretch four next to Dwight Howard and would look to mimic that success playing in Detroit next to All-Star center Andre Drummond.
So why don’t the Pistons make a run at Anderson before the Feb. 18 deadline?
Although Detroit could certainly use Anderson’s sharpshooting and ability to stretch the floor (17.4 ppg on a nearly 40% clip from beyond the arc), ESPN’s Marc Stein reports they’re waiting for free agency, when they’ll have a clear path to pursue Anderson without surrendering any of their current assets.
The Pistons project to have $20 million-$25 million in cap space, and while waiting for Anderson to hit free agency would be ideal for Detroit, that would require them banking on the unlikely probability that Anderson isn’t traded before the deadline, or that Anderson gets traded to a team for which he opts not to re-sign.
The other elephant in the room concerns the Pistons not having many tradable assets. They certainly wouldn’t want to give up Stanley Johnson or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and while they wouldn’t be opposed to trading guys like Ilyasova, Marcus Morris, Steve Blake, and Anthony Tolliver, much of the Pistons’ trade power relies on how teams around the league view backup point guard Brandon Jennings.
In a perfect world, the Pistons wouldn’t have to give up anybody, opting to sign Anderson in free agency while moving Ilyasova to the bench and letting Tolliver, an impending free agent, walk.
The Pistons could also waive Ilyasova and clear extra cap space but they would have to do so before his salary becomes fully guaranteed July 1. In that scenario, the Pistons would have a few more dollars they could throw at Anderson, but put themselves in a bind if Anderson decides to sign elsewhere.
The marriage between the Pistons and Ryan Anderson seems so perfect on paper, and if Stan Van can make it happen it would catapult the Pistons into the next tier of NBA teams where they wouldn’t just be fighting for a playoff spot, but fighting for a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals and beyond.