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Why The Detroit Pistons Didn't Win The Trade Deadline

Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Just like it does every year, the NBA's trade deadline has come and passed us all. Just as it always seems to do, it disappointed. None of the superstars that were rumored out were never really close to being shipped out, Dwight Howard is still a Rocket, Matias Testi still shares a city with Blake Griffin, Kevin Love is still apart of LeBron James' Cleveland crew and Al Horford remains in Atlanta. But players were still flying around as usual. 

Arguably the biggest trade in the days leading up to and including the deadline was the dealing of Tobias Harris from the Orlando Magic to the Detroit Pistons, in exchange for the Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova expiring contracts. 

Seemingly everyone loved this trade from the Pistons' point of view, I personally, am not entirely convinced.

Sure, from the outset, Tobias Harris is a vastly talented player. He is a natural scorer inside of 20 feet and when his jump shot is going down, he is extremely difficult to stop. The Pistons need a long-term option at the forward spot to complete their starting lineup for years to come. When you look at it at first, a group of Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Tobias Harris and Andre Drummond is a really solid squad and could get you deep into the playoffs, but we can't just look at it from names and talent. 

The Pistons' entire offense is revolved around the Reggie Jackson-Andre Drummond pick and roll, which has devestated opposition defenses, much like the Jameer Nelson-Dwight Howard PnR back in Stan van Gundy's Orlando days. What makes this play so devestating is that they surround the pair with shooters galore, meaning it is impossible for defenses to help and bring a third guy over. Adding Harris to the supporting group only disrupts this. Harris is not a good shooter, he is shooting in the low 30s from deep and struggles to find any form of consistency from out there. Combine this with Marcus Morris and KCP, who are also draining their threes in at a low 30s rate and the spacing just isn't there. 

Harris is also a renowned ball-stopper. He always looks to get his looks first, before anyone else's, a reasonably large reason why the Orlando offense didn't evolve the way it should've. He took the ball out of Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo's hands and forced them to play off-ball, despite owning horrific three point numbers. When he doesn't decide to take his own shot, he isn't able to create anything for others. For players that have recorded more than 100 assists this season, of which there are around 120 of, Harris is the 12th worst in the league in terms of assist to turnover ratio. Averaging just 2 assists per game and turning it over 1.6 times per contest. 

Now just imagine that plugged into a Detroit offense that relies completely on Reggie Jackson/Andre Drummond pick and rolls to generate opportunites and points. He doesn't help the spacing and is probably going to make that play become less frequent with the amount that Harris loves to take his own shot and not create looks for other guys. 

Many have been quick to jump on the "Tobias Harris is going to help Detroit's defense immensely" bandwagon, including a personal hero of mine, Zach Lowe. They have pointed out that with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris and Tobias Harris, you have three long, reasonably athletic guys that will be able to switch on a lot of plays against most teams. With the NBA moving towards defense suited like this (watch the Warriors' death ball lineup), having three guys that can switch would be a undoubted plus...right?

Well, I've got news for you Tobias lovers. Tobias Harris is long and somewhat athletic, but that's it defensively. 

Last season he was absolutely atrocious. One look at the tape and you'll notice straight away that his defensive stance was non-existent and the opposition blew past him time after time. This year, it seems Scott Skiles has coached him into being a more committed defender with a stance that actually looks like he wants to compete, but it still hasn't really helped the fact that he doesn't stay focused a lot of the time and lets easy buckets through quite a bit. 

The worst part about the Tobias Harris defense point it the fact that everyone keeps saying the Pistons will be able to switch a lot more. I've got more news for you, Tobias Harris is not going to be good at this. Harris is a 6'9'' tweener who can't keep up with quick small forwards and can't bang with big fours. Clearly meaning that the type of guy Harris needs to guard is a very specific type of player. What does this signal? Well, simply put it, you won't be able to switch a whole lot with Tobias Harris.

The last reason why I didn't particularly like this trade is because of the money they have committed to Tobias Harris. By trading two expirings, the Magic have mortgaged a lot of cap space for Harris. Most experts have liked this, explaining that picking up someone now is better than hunting a player in free agency, due to everyone having a lot of cap room, thus trading for Harris is essentially signing your free agent now. 

However, when the acquisition of Harris, the Pistons are going to be struggling to find any sort of cap space for the upcoming summers ahead. Many would tell you that the Magic still have around about 20 million left for next season that is yet to be spent, but that is without taking into account that the Pistons will have to extend both Andre Drummond and new addition, Donatas Motiejunas for a ton of cash, filling up the rest of their cap and making it near impossible for them to sign anyone else of relative notability that will help them improve in the Eastern Conference hierarchy. 

This means that the roster the Pistons have now is essentially the one that Stan van Gundy wants for years to come as it will be hard for him to improve it any further without blowing the team up. So basically, if the Pistons want to win the championship or at least go deep in the playoffs, they have to do it with this team.

Is Tobias Harris going to take them from the 9th seed in the East to that point? Probably not.

Game. Set. Magic.

Follow me on Twitter: @BradWinter12


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