Numbers Game: Pistons swap Billups for Iverson

Scott Cullen
11/3/2008 4:10:59 PM
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Seeking a new answer, the Detroit Pistons split up their championship backcourt to get Allen Iverson from Denver.

Numbers Game breaks down the Pistons-Nuggets trade.

The Pistons Get: G Allen Iverson.

Iverson, 33, has actually scaled back his offensive domination since arriving in Denver in early 2007, averaging just under 19.0 field goal attempts per game with the Nuggets -- well below his career average of 22.6.

In Detroit, Iverson may be required to take on more of a scoring role, since the Pistons' top scorer -- Richard Hamilton -- isn't at the level of Carmelo Anthony, who will easily fulfill the alpha dog scorer's role with Iverson gone.

While Iverson obviously adds a go-to scorer in the backcourt, he also brings 40-plus minutes per night, which could make it challenging for the Pistons to incorporate promising second-year guard Rodney Stuckey, unless Detroit is going to run a small lineup (with Rip Hamilton at small forward) more frequently. 

Iverson still has enough quickness to be effective defensively.  It's all a matter of how much he'll commit to it.  If the Pistons can get AI motivated to play hard at the defensive end, then he'll be a real asset.

Iverson is in the final year of a contract that pays him more than $21.9-million this season.  If the Pistons want to go into a full-scale rebuilding mode next summer, they'll certainly have the cap room to make some significant acquisitions.

By moving McDyess, the Pistons also make it clear that the frontcourt is moving to the next generation with Amir Johnson and Jason Maxiell poised to play bigger roles.

Johnson, in particular, should benefit.  The 21-year-old has opened this season as the starter at power forward and should be confident of getting significant minutes ahead of Maxiell and Walter Herrmann.  None of them are likely to get a great number of touches, especially with Iverson around, but unprecedented playing time will provide unprecedented opportunities for production.

The Nuggets Get: PG Chauncey Billups, PF Antonio McDyess and C Cheick Samb.

Billups, 32, developed into a very good point guard while with the Pistons.  Even if his "Mr. Big Shot" moniker wasn't entirely appropriate, Billups is a very good shooter (38.5% from beyond the arc for his career) and can be an effective distributor at the point. 

In Denver, with Carmelo Anthony on the wing, Billups should have little trouble this season maintaining his pace of the last three-plus seasons of producing better than seven assists per game, while bringing an efficient 17 points per game on about 11-12 field goal attempts per game. 

As Billups gets older, however, that production will surely start to decline.

While he's not the quickest point guard in the league, Billups still uses his size and strength effectively on the defensive end.  He doesn't play the passing lanes as well as the much quicker Iverson, but overall Billups has been the stronger defensive player in recent seasons.

Billups has three years and more than $36-million remaining on his contract (as well as a team option in 2011-2012), so the Nuggets are committed to the Denver native, who played collegiately at the University of Colorado and played for the Nuggets in 1998 and 1999, after leaving the Toronto Raptors. 

There is some concern that McDyess, 34, may consider retirement, as he reportedly doesn't want to play anywhere but Detroit.  That would be unfortunate for the Nuggets, since they are so thin in the frontcourt that McDyess would immediately warrant a prominent spot in the big rotation behind Nene and Kenyon Martin.

He's obviously not the explosive leaper that he was in his first stint with the Nuggets (from 1998-2002), but McDyess has evolved into a reliable big man who is at his best playing about 20 minutes a night in a reserve role.

McDyess has two years and more than $13.6-million remaining on his deal.

Samb is a 7-foot-1 project from Senegal.  Samb has added some weight since he was drafted and could, with further development, work his way into a rotation.  Again, given the state of the Nuggets frontcourt, it doesn't hurt to have another big body.

With Billups taking over at the point, ahead of journeyman veteran Anthony Carter, both J.R. Smith and Linas Kleiza will likely see more action at shooting guard in Iverson's absence.  If his head is on straight, Smith can be a productive scorer.

While the move gives the Pistons a push towards the future, particularly since Billups' contract may exceed his production in a couple of seasons, there isn't a huge winner on either side of the deal right now.  Both teams will have a different look than what they had to open the season, but both are still likely to be a step (or two, in Denver's case) behind the contenders in their respective conferences.

Scott Cullen can be reached at

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