Billups-Iverson trade: which team got the better deal?

By this time, you’ve probably heard that Allen Iverson of the Denver Nuggets was traded to the Detroit Pistons for Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess. That’s when the internet erupted, as armchair basketball pundits weigh the implications of the blockbuster exchange.

There are two ways of looking at this deal: through a business or basketball perspective.

From a business standpoint, the Pistons seem to have gotten a steal. Getting Iverson could potentially free the team’s cap space when AI’s contract expires at the end of this season. If Detroit fails to re-sign forward Rasheed Wallace, we’re looking at over $20 million in salary cap space. The free agent market at that time may be so-so (i.e. Ben Gordon, Lamar Odom, Mehmet Okur, Carlos Boozer, etc), but that’s not what Pistons GM Joe Dumars is eyeing.

Dumars is looking at an even bigger prize. Summer 2010’s free agent roster includes the following: Dwayne Wade, Amare Stoudemire, Chris Bosh, and LeBron James.

As for the Nuggets, the business side may be something that bears some looking into. Kelly over at BTL explains:

This [trade] keeps the Nuggets well over the luxury tax level this season, and it means Denver will be right near it in 2009-10 even with just seven players signed and Linas Kleiza’s contract situation in the air. Give Linas seven million a year, and the Nuggets are paying six or seven million in luxury tax with only eight roster spots filled.

And assuming Kleiza gets the sort of contract I mentioned, even with McDyess’ contract expiring, the Nuggets are on the books for nearly $70 million in 2010-11 with just Chauncey, Nene, Kenyon Martin, Kleiza, Carmelo Anthony, and J.R. Smith on board. Just six players, well over the cap, and approaching luxury tax territory.

On a basketball perspective, both teams are expected to benefit from the trade.

The Nuggets get an elite-yet-aging point guard in Billups. As fans may have noticed, Denver is in need of a pure point guard that can run an offense, play defense (something Denver lacks), and lead the floor with a steady hand. However, Chauncey hasn’t been his old Mr.-Big-Shot self as of late, so we still don’t know how this would pan out. However, expect the other Denver players to benefit from Billups’ unselfish play, like J.R. Reid and Carmelo Anthony.

With Billups in a Nuggets uniform, expect Anthony’s scoring to go up, not only because of the new point guard’s assists, but also because Chauncey takes fewer shots than AI. Observe: according to Stan McNeal, AI averaged 19 shots last season, while Chauncey took 11.2. That 7.8 shot difference would likely go to Carmelo, who averaged 19.2 shots last year. McNeal predicts that Anthony would probably attempt 25 shots and average 27 to 30 PPG.

Unfortunately, several reports mention that McDyess doesn’t want to leave Detroit, and might opt to have the Nuggets buy out his contract. To date, this has yet to materialize. If McDyess does play for Denver, the team would get a big boost at its frontcourt now that Marcus Camby has left for the Clippers. For some strange reason, Kenyon Martin and Nene have yet to play a complete season. Granted, McDyess was injury-prone in the past, but he has been pretty healthy these past three years.

When Iverson joins Motown, expect things to change—but there are no guarantees that the change would necessarily be for the better. While AI has proven that he can co-exist with another ball hog like Carmelo, it’s still hard to say whether Iverson would mesh with the Pistons’ core players.

Since Rip Hamilton is locked in as the starting SG, AI is definitely going to start at point. Here’s the tricky part: who’s the playmaker? AI is a shoot-first type of player, so expect head coach Michael Curry to give more minutes to backup Rodney Stuckey at point, rotating AI over to SG when Rip gets his rest. Detroit would definitely benefit from Iverson’s scoring and scrappy Motor City mentality. However, despite AI’s penchant for steals, his size (6 feet) could become a defensive liability when matched up against bigger guards.

Denver would immediately improve after the trade, but it’s still currently iffy for Detroit. The Pistons may still be playoff bound, but considering the developments, it’s hard to gauge how far the team would go. Still, I can’t help but think that Detroit is the overall winner of this trade because of its future implications. There’s also the chance that AI would make the Pistons better overall and help the team gun for a championship. Is this new-look Pistons team better than the Celtics? Who knows? Since James Posey left for New Orleans, the chances of the Celtics repeating have slimmed considerably, making this year’s championship race wide open.

5 thoughts on “Billups-Iverson trade: which team got the better deal?”

  1. belated welcome to ballex, Mike 🙂

    As far as I’m concerned, it’s purely a move by Dumars for the future, no more no less. If Detroit improves (which I doubt), it’ll just be gravy. Detroit management has always been good at positioning themselves for a chance to get good players and this is yet another example.

    The interesting aspect to this trade for me is the fact that Superstar AI, just 33 years old, has now been relegated as a mere commodity in the trade game. I’d be sorry to see the AI era come to pass.

  2. Thanks Gary!

    I agree that it’s rather unsettling to see AI, one of the league’s premier players, turn into trade bait. However, I think this is the downside of Iverson’s skill set.

    You can’t expect a selfish player that takes too many shots to win a championship. MJ needed a system like the triangle offense to distribute the ball before he could win a ring.

    As a result, AI has turned into an expendable commodity.

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