By: Will Burchfield
Continuing a season-long trend, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson have popped back up in trade rumors.
With the usual caveat: They’re probably not going anywhere.
The latest comes from ESPN’s Zach Lowe, who, in light of Drummond’s stalled development and Jackson’s diminishing role, examines the trade market for each player:
Detroit has quietly explored the trade market for each of its franchise centerpieces, according to sources across the league, and come away disappointed with the potential return. (Van Gundy himself has said anyone is available for “the right price.”)
In regard to Drummond, Lowe points to a points potential rift with coach Stan Van Gundy.
They have their tense moments. Both are close with Tom Gores, the Pistons’ owner, and each freely admits they talk with Gores about the other in terms that might not always be the most flattering.
“Whatever we talk about with the owner is between us,” Drummond said. “But Stan and I leave nothing unspoken.”
“I think we like each other personally,” Van Gundy said. “Like most young bigs, he needs to be pushed really hard. Sometimes, he’s more willing to hear hard coaching than others.”
Van Gundy addressed his relationship with Drummond in an interview with 97.1 The Ticket last month.
“Look, here’s the thing on coach-player relationships that I think is the most important: These are business relationships that need to result in performance,” he said. “Thats what matters. If the performance is good, the relationship is good; if the performance is not good, the relationship’s not working. So it’s not a matter of how much people get along or like each other, it’s whether or not it works.”
Drummond’s numbers have regressed in his third season under Van Gundy. After averaging 16.2 points and 14.8 rebounds and making the All-Star Game in 2015-16, the 23-year-old center is down to 14.7 and 13.9 in 2016-17.
“This year he hasn’t been bad,” Van Gundy said, “he’s pretty well just leveled off.”
But the coach still seems to be pleased with Drummond’s development.
“I think Andre, even though he didn’t make the All-Star team this year, has certainly taken a jump forward in the time we’ve been here,” Van Gundy told 97.1 The Ticket. “That relationship works. I think people miss the point on coach-player relationships.”
Transitioning back to Lowe’s report, he calls a deadline deal involving Drummond an “extreme longshot.” Here’s more:
Any Drummond move now would be a shocker. There aren’t many teams with a glaring long-term need at center. Phoenix may face one if it lets Alex Len, but the Suns wouldn’t include (Devin) Booker in any package for Drummond. Ditto for Portland and C.J. McCollum.
Jackson is a more interesting candidate to be traded. The 26-year-old point guard is in his worst stretch of play as a Piston, was infamously called out in a players-only meeting in December (“a few guys hammered Jackson for his desultory play,” according to Lowe), and has more often looked like sludge in the team’s offense than fuel.
Since Jackson returned from a knee injury on Dec. 4, the Pistons are 14-20.
“Reggie came back,” Van Gundy said, “and we’ve struggled ever since.”
Per Lowe, “Jackson moves are more plausible, since Detroit would settle for a lower return.” Lowe lists Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay, Orlando’s Elfrid Payton (or D.J. Augstin), New Orleans’ Jrue Holiday and Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio as players the Pistons could seek in return for Jackson:
Mudiay is available, per several league sources, though it appears Denver has no interest in Jackson. Orlando remains an intriguing fit; Rob Hennigan, the Magic GM, was part of the Thunder front office that drafted Jackson, and the team is starting freaking C.J. Watson over Payton.
Jrue Holiday could ignite another point guard shuffle if he indicates he won’t re-sign in New Orleans; the Pelicans have kicked the tires on Jackson, league sources say, though nothing ever got serious.
All of which brings the Jackson rumors back to square one. Per Lowe, “Rubio may be the only semi-comparable starter they could get for him.” Of course, Van Gundy squashed that idea less than a month ago.
Lowe speculates the Pistons could deal Marcus Morris and fill his spot in the lineup with the improving Stanley Johnson, but figures the organization isn’t in the right position to do so:
A team less hell-bent on making the playoffs might even think about promoting Johnson, and seeing what sort of future assets (Marcus) Morris — working on a crazy good contract — might fetch at the deadline. The Pistons, with a new arena to sell, are not that team.
Here’s how Lowe concludes:
The Pistons will likely hold off on any major moves until the draft. They aren’t in severe distress; they’re a .500-ish team in the playoff hunt, with a young roster that can still grow. They regard the playoffs as a must; they won’t make any move that amounts to a huge in-season downgrade.
The bigger-picture downside is severe: an average team with limited upside, and trade chips that won’t yield enough for Detroit to change directions without tanking.
But the Pistons aren’t going there. They’ve perked up lately, and they have the easiest remaining schedule in the East. Drummond is only 23. Jackson gets healthier every day, and the team is projecting unity around him.