The Pistons and Bucks pulled off a rare mid-Finals trade Thursday, with Yahoo.com reporting Detroit has acquired power forward Ersan Ilyasova in exchange for Caron Butler and Shawne Williams. For Milwaukee, this is a trade that likely doesn't make much of an impact; both Williams and Butler are expected to be waived because their contracts for next season are unguaranteed.
The move frees up money for the Bucks, a significant amount of which is likely to go to re-signing restricted free agent Khris Middleton. It could also open up some room for them to make a run at a premier free agent besides their own, but that is totally speculative at this point. The meat on this deal is on the Pistons side, especially when it comes to the Fantasy side of things.
Though it doesn't guarantee it, this move seems to provide the biggest hint to the question of whether Greg Monroe will re-sign in Detroit. I'm sure the Pistons wouldn't mind re-signing Monroe -- he's too talented to be happy about letting walk without any return -- but the writing seems to be on the wall. And has been since last summer, when Monroe opted to take the qualifying offer as a restricted free agent.
The Pistons tried to make nice with Monroe throughout the season, especially when they waived Josh Smith last December. However, without the ability to match any offers he receives this summer, this seems like an obvious move to give themselves a contingency plan.
Wherever Monroe ends up this summer -- assuming it isn't Detroit -- he should be in a better position for his Fantasy value. The Pistons didn't have the roster to take full advantage of his skills, but he should be a focal point wherever he ends up. Given that we've seen him average 17.4-10.4-3.8 in a season before, the upside is ridiculously high if he ends up as a No. 1 option somewhere.
But the really intriguing part of this news might be what it means for Detroit more specifically. The Pistons have the most intriguing young big man in basketball north of New Orleans in Andre Drummond, who is coming off the most disappointing campaign of his three-year career. This move, however, should make Fantasy players who are waiting for his massive breakout very happy.
Drummond's usage rate skyrocketed in 2014, as Stan Van Gundy made him much more of a go-to option on offense. That should be a good thing for his long-term development, but Drummond's new offensive role played a big part in his disappointing Fantasy campaign, as his efficiency disappeared entirely.
Drummond shot 51.4 percent from the field overall, a solid mark, but a huge dropoff from his first two seasons, when he was well north of 60 percent overall. Because of his disastrous free-throw shooting, Drummond really needs to be in that 60-plus percent range from the field to sustain his efficiency and maximize his Fantasy value. The 21-year-old still averaged 13.8 points and 13.5 rebounds per-game -- massive numbers -- but he wasn't as valuable as he could have been due to that inefficiency.
According to NBA.com's Synergy data, Drummond took 279 shots out of post-up opportunities this season, a full 27.5 percent of his possessions. In 2013-14, when he was basically just asked to cut off the ball, crash the glass and finish on pick and rolls, he took just 77 shots out of the post, according to Grantland.com. If you remove those 279 attempts from Drummond's line, he actually shot 56.9 percent from the field, much more in line with what we expected.
Van Gundy's usage of Drummond wasn't entirely to blame for his struggles, however. Part of it was the fact that Monroe and Drummond are an awkward fit offensively, at best, especially in a spread pick and roll offense. The degree of difficulty on every Drummond post-up was made even higher when Monroe was on the floor, because the man guarding him knew he could cheat off with impunity. Drummond isn't a particularly savvy post-up player, and he found himself hoisting shots amid a forest of arms too often this season.
It was when Drummond was surrounded by shooters that he was finally able to flourish. Stick Anthony Tolliver on the floor next to him, as the Pistons did for 621 highly effective minutes, and all of a sudden, the game becomes so much easier.
The Pistons ran their opponents off the floor when Tolliver and Drummond played together, outscoring them by 7.3 points per 100 possessions, per NBAWowy.com. And Drummond shot 55.5 percent from the field in that time, compared to below 50 percent when Tolliver was off the floor. Just look at the numbers Drummond posted when Tolliver was on the floor, compared to other pairings:
|Drummond, no Monroe||24.8||50.6||17.28||16.06|
|Drummond, plus Monroe||22.2||52.5||14.88||15.73|
|Drummond, plus Tolliver||25.8||55.5||18.90||16.52|
This is where Ilyasova steps in. Or out, more accurately. For all Tolliver's presence did for Drummond, he isn't Ilyasova. Tolliver is a career 35.6 percent 3-point shooter on 1,079 attempts; Ilyasova is a 37.0 percent shooter on more attempts. And Ilyasova isn't quite so one-dimensional, logging 9.1 rebounds per-36 minutes for his career and boasting at least some ability to attack closeouts if opposing defenders sell out too hard on his jump shot.
Ideally, Ilyasova should be a perfect fit next to Drummond. He can be a better version of Tolliver when asked, and he isn't nearly as limited a player. This should be a big upgrade over the Pistons' stretch-four options from a year ago, and might even help them improved in the event of Monroe's departure.
But for Fantasy owners, the main focus should be on what this does for Drummond. The obvious comparison is to Dwight Howard, another unbelievably talented young big man who developed into an All-Universe player while surrounded by shooters under Van Gundy's tutelage. The similarities between the two through their first three seasons are striking:
In his fourth season, Howard increased his scoring by 17 percent and his rebounding by 15 percent, as he blossomed into one of the best players in the league. Drummond has that kind of potential, and if nothing else, this move should get the Pistons closer to finding out what the best version of Drummond can be.
Fantasy players with Drummond in a keeper league should be thrilled about this move, because it only increases his value. Everyone else should still be excited about it too, because Drummond looks to be in line for the huge breakout season we were all waiting for last summer. He could be a top-five Fantasy center next season.