On Wednesday afternoon, after Josh Smith was introduced and questioned by the local Detroit media, Detroit Pistons GM Joe Dumars voiced a message similar to the one he sent out after draft night when the team drafted Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the team's hope for the future at shooting guard. Dumars told the crowd that the team's offseason was not done, that although they'd gotten their main free agent target in Smith, they would be pursuing more pieces in the trade market after free agency died down. After hearing Dumars' commitment to making a trade, many believed (and still do) that Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo will be the main target, as the Pistons still need a strong presence to start at point. Well, Thursday has come and gone and the Pistons did add a new point guard to the roster…but that all depends on your definition of "new."
On Thursday morning (via Yahoo! Sports) news first broke that the Pistons would be welcoming back Chauncey Billups, 2004 NBA Champion and Finals MVP, with a two-year deal worth $2.5 million per year. The Pistons hold a team option for the second year while the first year is guaranteed.
Billups is expected to come off the bench for the Pistons next season, serving as an offensive spark and a mentor to Caldwell-Pope and Brandon Knight (mainly Knight). As Billups has served primarily as a pass-first point guard in the better parts of his career (mainly spent with the Pistons), one with excellent feel for the game, tempo and court vision, he's expected to be a great help towards improving Knight's score-first style. But that all depends on whether Knight remains on the roster, and Billups' arrival could mean two very different things for the third-year combo guard.
A lot had been made of Maurice Cheeks' work with Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook before Cheeks was hired as the Pistons head coach. Many still point to Cheeks' hiring as a sign that the Pistons are committed to Knight at the point guard, hoping Cheeks will be able to "coach up" Knight with Westbrook'esque results. The main thought behind the Billups signing is that "Mr. Big Shot" has been brought back to Detroit to mentor Knight, being the player-coach figure to supplement Cheeks' future work with Knight. If you view both Cheeks' hiring and Billups' signing as being "for Knight" then the Billups signing means the Pistons are betting on Knight for their point guard future.
Besides signing Josh Smith and Luigi Datome, the two remaining free agent signings have been used to address the point guard spot (Billups and Will Bynum). With four point guards on the roster (including Peyton Siva and Knight), and the Pistons having just signed Bynum and Billups, one could guess that Billups' arrival signals the organization coming to terms with including Knight in a trade later in the offseason. Remember, Dumars said he'd be in the trade market hard and the team has yet to be a part of a trade. If they were to make a serious push for a Rondo trade with Boston, in what would most likely be a three-team deal, the Pistons would have to part with Greg Monroe and Knight as well.
Perhaps having Billups on the roster for at least this season gives the Pistons the sense of having a security blanket. Just in case they don't trade Knight and he doesn't pan out this season, or in case they do pull off a Rondo trade and the Celtic point guard isn't 100-percent coming off his season-ending torn ACL injury. Either way, while the signing of Billups predicts a soon-to-come warm welcome from the Palace crowd, there's no telling what it could predict for Knight and the Pistons' future at point guard.
Tags: Basketball, Brandon Knight, Chauncey Billups, Detroit, Detroit Pistons, NBA
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