After squandering their cap space in the summer of ‘09 on two of the worst contracts of the past decade, Joe Dumars has begun to embrace the tried and true approach to rebuilding a team in the NBA – keep payroll flexibility, acquire lottery picks, don’t miss on those picks. But Dumars must also properly and proactively evaluate the talent on his own roster. His most important evaluation this season, is Brandon Knight.
Knight won’t turn 21 for another month. Although he showed flashes last year, he raised many doubts as to what his future ceiling may actually be. Certainly rushing to judgement on a young point guard is senseless. But this is precisely why Dumars must soon identify whether Knight will ever be capable of dominating games. If Knight is not destined to be a difference maker, then his trade value will never be higher than it is right now. He has the perfect combination of an appealing trade piece: a cheap contract, talent, and youth.
To win in this league today, you need a core unit of 3 elite level players. Greg Monroe looks close to getting there. Andre Drummond is capable of getting there. Beyond that, no one on this roster projects to coming close, meaning they should all be expendable with the ultimate goal of finding that 3rd piece. The 1st round pick sent to Charlotte in the Ben Gordon trade leaves the Pistons with one fewer coveted asset to build with. But it also gave them the cap flexibility to facilitate trades. Detroit may not be able to attract a high level free agent on the open market. But they can trade for one looking for a new deal like the 76ers did with Andrew Bynum and the Rockets with James Harden.
Dumars will likely be patient with Knight and hold onto him at least until his rookie deal expires. Patience is defensible. Though it’s fair to wonder how much of it Tom Gores will have. Brandon Knight is most likely destined to be a solid scoring guard who will have a long and productive career. That’s not a bad outcome for the 8th pick in the draft, but it won’t be enough to get Detroit back in The Finals. And really, isn’t that all that matters?