Blockbuster Trade in the NBA

Mike LeClair

“Practice? We talkin’ bout practice?”

A sign of Allen Iverson’s early discontent with Detroit? For the Pistons, thankfully, no. Iverson’s oft repeated line was simply a joke at his unveiling to the Detroit media, and the good feelings between AI (the real one, NOT Andre Iguodala) and the city of Detroit are a sign of great things to come. I absolutely love this trade from the perspectives of both Denver and Detroit, but since Iverson is probably my favorite player in the league, I’m slightly biased towards the Pistons side of the deal.

Put bluntly, Allen Iverson is going to be an absolute hit in Detroit. There are very few towns that are more…gritty, for lack of a better term, than the Motor City. Certain cities completely adore their players who hustle and will give up everything they have on the field or the court, and Detroit is one of them. I mean, really, where else could someone like Travis Fryman or Bobby Higginson become cult heroes? AI, given his slight stature and his complete refusal to give up, fits the mold of a Detroit legend almost perfectly. Plus, Detroit has been anticipating his arrival since 2000, when the great Matt Geiger put a kibosh to a deal that would have sent Iverson to the Pistons. Geiger, for his part, was suspended soon after for violating the NBA’s steroid policy, but that’s neither here nor there.

So, Iverson’s going to be a hit with the Detroit fans, assuming he doesn’t pull a Ron Artest on somebody. That said, what does he bring to the team on the floor? They lose Chauncey Billups, who is arguably a better player than Iverson, but certainly not by a considerable margin. Iverson, however, is significantly quicker on the floor than Billups and will allow the Pistons to successfully run a much higher tempo offense than they did with Billups. Plus, AI is in a contract year, so it’s not too far-fetched to think that he could explode in Detroit, a la Manny Ramirez in Los Angeles this year, and look for a big pay day in the off-season. His play alone will, in my opinion, make this deal entirely worthwhile for the Pistons. The really big reward, however, will not arrive for another year or two.

It’s July 2010, and it’s a scorching hot day in Detroit. The Tigers are in the midst of another horribly disappointing season, and everyone is still crushed from the Red Wings losing in the Stanley Cup. Meanwhile, the Lions are, well, still the Lions, and no one is looking forward to that. Pistons’ General Manager Joe Dumars calls a press conference, proclaiming good news for a city in desperate need of it. He steps up to the podium and announces, with no extravagance, “Ladies and gentlemen of Detroit, I’m thrilled to introduce the two newest members of the Detroit Pistons: Chris Bosh, and the King, LeBron James!”

Seem too good to be true? It’s not. This is, by far, the most brilliant part of this trade for the Pistons, and the part that best demonstrates Dumars’ brilliance, as it makes this situation completely possible. The NBA has incredibly convoluted salary cap rules, which means that this deal, one for the expiring contract of Allen Iverson, will allow the Pistons to add two max-salary players over the next two years. Adding LeBron and Bosh to the Pistons as 26-year olds entering the primes of their respective careers would almost ensure a team similar in caliber to Jordan and Pippen’s Bulls, or Shaq and Kobe’s Lakers. Pistons fans could begin purchasing their Finals tickets from 2011 until about 2016, as the duo of Bosh and LeBron would be nearly untouchable by any team in the league, much less the Eastern Conference.

This deal has the potential to completely change the dynamics of the NBA. While Iverson’s impact will not differ greatly from that of Chauncey Billups, the future possibilities for the Pistons should have all Detroit fans salivating and have the fans of every other team cowering in fear. I’m going to make a wild prediction here, and I expect to be held to it: The Detroit Pistons will be NBA Finals Champions in 2011.