What does the Jose Calderon/Tayshaun Prince, three-team trade mean for the Detroit Pistons future?

While not exactly an earth-shaking transaction, the landscape of the Detroit Pistons future has been significantly altered with the recent acquisition of point guard Jose Calderon. In the three-team deal finalized late Wednesday night, the Pistons received Calderon from the Toronto Raptors, while the Memphis Grizzlies shipped Rudy Gay and Hamed Haddadi to Toronto. In return, Memphis received Ed Davis from the Raptors and Austin Daye and Tayshaun Prince (the last remaining Piston from the 2003-2004 NBA Championship team) from Detroit.

So how does this affect the team in the short-term?

Well, as far as point production, Calderon and Prince actually cancel each other out, as both veterans hovered around 12 points per game thus far this season. Daye was in and out of the rotation all year long so it’s safe to say that either Corey Maggette or Jonas Jerebko will replace his meager 5.1 PPG average. But Calderon’s value transcends scoring the ball. In his eight years as an NBA point guard, Calderon has averaged 7.2 assists per game. He will be the purest point guard in terms of ball distribution that the Pistons have had, well, ever. The loss of leadership that comes with dealing Tayshaun away is a slight concern, but Calderon’s ability to make his teammates better should ultimately trump that.

There is one concern, though; if this deal catapults the Pistons into the playoffs come April, it will be bittersweet for the organization, as they will lose their 2013 first round draft pick to the Charlotte Bobcats as part of the terms of the Maggette/Ben Gordon swap last summer.

[caption id="attachment_253" align="alignright" width="198" caption="Former longtime-Raptor Jose Calderon will add an element to the Pistons that they haven't had in a long time. (Photo credit: Bree from flickr.com)"]Jose Calderon[/caption]

The primary purpose of this trade, at least on the surface, seems to be to save money. Calderon’s contract is coming off the books this summer, along with Maggette’s, Jason Maxiell’s and Will Bynum’s. Add the fact that Prince was the highest-paid player on the roster and you got yourself a boatload of dead presidents to throw around this off-season.

And how will that affect the team in the long-term?

The Pistons have to be wary about spending money just for the sake of spending money. As a guideline, general manager Joe Dumars can look back at the summer of 2008. You remember right, when Joe D blindly signed Gordon and Charlie Villanueva to unreasonably hefty contracts and watched them promptly park themselves on the bench and throw up career-lows across the board whenever they did manage to check into a game? Yeah, I remember too. Let's NOT recreate that.

The top unrestricted free agents this off-season include Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, Josh Smith, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Kevin Martin. We all know that CP3 and “Superman” won’t be trading their shades and tank-tops for beanie hats and parkas this year, but what about Smith? He just recently turned 27 so theoretically he is entering the athletic prime of his life. However he’s having a bit of a disappointing season in his contract year with the Atlanta Hawks. With Joe Johnson out of the picture, making Smith the franchise guy, he has hardly stepped up, averaging only 17 PPG while shooting an absolutely abysmal 50% from the free throw line. Smith is a post-up player with a plethora of strong finishing moves in the paint, with either hand, but stands around from 16-20 feet heaving up jumpers most of the time because he’s scared to get fouled. And that’s evidenced by his 44.8% field goal percentage this season.

Smith can do a lot of things, including block shots, steal the ball and even facilitate, but considering how inefficient he is and how much money he will demand (he’s already gone on record of saying he thinks he is a max-deal type player), the Pistons would be wise to think twice, three times, hell, 50 times before signing “J-Smoove” to the dotted line this summer.

And hey, who says that all of this new found cap space has to be spent on free agency? The Pistons could also find a team looking to dump off what they consider to be a bad contract for cheap (ahem, what the Grizzlies just did with Rudy Gay) and swoop in and retool the franchise via trade.

Regardless of the direction they choose to go in with this money, Dumars and Tom Gores need to make sure they hit a home run. After all, with nearly $35 million to spend this off-season, this summer could very well dictate whether the Pistons become a perennial Eastern Conference title contender or stay meddling around the thick of the draft lottery for years to come.

So as we officially turn the page on the NBA Championship-contending Pistons of the mid-2000's, let's look back at the moment in which Tayshaun Prince forever etched a place in every Piston fan‘s heart. So long, Tay:


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