For me there are two reasons to think about breaking up the starters. - The current Pistons’ starters are among the least athletic in the league. No speed, no high flying, no ability to create a shot, and little clutch scoring. - Perhaps the sense of complacency we’ve all felt won’t be dissipated just by the coaching change, and change needs to be made just for the sake of change. I think the coaching change is enough for the latter. Notice has been served. But the open question is of course whether Stuckey, Johnson, and Affalo can provide quickness and the ability to create shots the team needs. That’s a lot to lay on young players. Maybe with another season of experience under their belts, but the team as currently configured (assuming a back up small forward appears somewhere), doesn’t get past Boston unless they take a step back. Maybe another ECF, but probably not a finals appearance. So, that leaves making a trade. And, any trade has only four possible outcomes… - Acquire a comparable or better player at the position traded - Replace the traded player with a current bench player who doesn’t miss a step - Acquire talent so much better at another position that the downgrade to a current bench player at the traded position doesn’t matter - Take a step backwards Below I’ll look at the big four and evaluate them based on these criteria. My conclusions are… Billups – Can’t make the team better by trading Billups. He has to stay. Hamilton – Can upgrade the team by moving Rip and he should be shopped. Prince – Can upgrade the team by moving Tay and he should be shopped. Wallace – Can’t make the team better by trading Wallace. He has to stay. Billups CB took a bit of a step back this year, ranking 10th among point guards in total Sprocket points. Still, he was the second most productive member of the Pistons (behind Amir) relative to the minutes he played. Acquire a better player – Probably not possible. Paul, Kidd, Nash, Williams, Calderon, Ellis, and Miller are probably untouchable. Davis might be possible given recent rumors, but why would Golden State take on slow footed Billups? Iverson seems to be available, but probably costs too much to make a trade work. No one else is better. Replace CB with Stuckey – Stuckey was impressive last season, for a rookie. But, he’s still got a long way to go to make up for all the things Billups does on the floor. Stuckey gets to the line (11th in free throws per 48 minutes among point guards, Billups is 4th), but is 37th in points per 48 minutes, 50th in assists per 48, etc. Stuckey would need to raise his statistical production by nearly 40% to equal Billups’ 48 minute Sprocket Points numbers. Stuckey’s 19% shooting from three isn’t going to force anyone to guard him on the perimeter. Acquire better talent elsewhere – Maybe possible, but a lot hinges on the point. Take a step backwards – If Billups goes, this is where I’d place my bet. Hamilton Rip is also down a bit from last season in the Sprocket Points ranking, coming out 13th in total Sprocket Points and 16th on a 48 minute basis among shooting guards. Among the Pistons Rip ranks 7th in production efficiency (% of Sprocket Points / % of team minutes), below the average. Acquire a better player – McGrady (8th) and Redd (11th) have been mentioned and would be upgrades. Mike Miller might be had at the continuing Memphis fire sale, and is ranked 9th among shooting guards. Could you pry away Jason Richardson or Brandon Roy? Anthony Parker or Ricky Davis aren’t too much of a step down. Replace Rip with Affalo – Affalo is a fine young prospect. If he were to play Rip’s minutes, and increase his production by about 37% there would be no letdown at the two spot. That might be too much to expect, but his defensive intensity might help to make up the difference. Paired with Stuckey there just isn’t enough firepower though. Acquire Better Talent Elsewhere – Possible. CB, Tay, Sheed, et al with a new top line player could make up the Rip gap. Take a step backwards – It seems to me less likely this would happen by trading Rip. Prince Prince is 12th in total Sprocket Points among small forwards, but only 31st on a 48 minute basis. He’s just above Hamilton for the Pistons ranked by production efficiency. Not an earth shattering year for Prince, in fact a step back. Acquire a better player – Anthony is second only to LBJ in Sprocket Points among 3s and is clearly an upgrade. Might Rudy Gay be available ranked 6th? Josh Howard ranked 7th? Jefferson, Kirilenko, Maggette, and Gerald Wallace are all comparable players in terms of total Sprocket Points, and all but Richard Jefferson are better in production efficiency. Replace Tay with ??? – No one in the wings. Acquire Better Talent Elsewhere – Any incoming trade would need to upgrade another position and supply a second player to replace Prince with at least similar production. Seems a long shot. Take a Step Backwards – Unless you can upgrade, then I suspect losing Prince and the calming influence he has on the floor makes for a step backwards. Wallace Sheed ranks 15th among centers in total Sprocket Points and 30th in Sprocket Points per 48 minutes. On the Pistons he’s third best in production efficiency, just behind Billups and just above McDyess. Acquire a Better Player – Kamen, Horford, and Biedrins have been mentioned and are upgrades at the five spot. None provide the defensive presence Sheed brings nor the ability to hit the three. Either playing beside Sheed would be formidable tough if Wallace were moved back to the PF spot. But, trading Sheed and making the team better up front seems tough. And, as has been mentioned, saving his expiring contract until next February is likely a better choice. Replace Sheed with ??? – Samb? I like him, but not this year. Acquire Better Talent Elsewhere – Tough. Incoming players would be acquired for what they do on the offensive end. None would replace what Wallace does on the defensive end. Take a Step Backwards – Unless an amazing blockbuster is sitting out there with multiple players moving, I don’t see a way to move Sheed without making for a poorer team.