Implications of the Impending AI-Billups Trade

It's being reported that an Iverson for Billups swap is about to go down. Let that sink in. Allen Iverson, one of the most inspiring, productive, and perpetually out-of-joint players of his era, for a point guard who epitomizes control, handling big names, and sealing the kill. The Nuggets have become a running joke: High on talent, low on organization, and yet always explosive enough to keep us deluded till the last moment of truth (i.e., the playoffs). The Pistons are a winning formula that's endured all sorts of subtle shifts in personnel.
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↵The question is, can Detroit handle this? I see why Denver's dealing AI. Sure, on a visceral level, it's an insult to beauty, the underdog, and the emotional investment in the NBA of anyone under thirty that Iverson's getting passed around like this. But plain and simple, he's a scorer who dominates the ball and flips off assists casually, once things have broken down. The team desperately needs a sense of order, and a calm hand on the tiller -- that's what Billups brings. Oh, and the salary cap implications are enormous -- no way they want to shell out max money for such an imperfect match, especially an aging one. Between Carmelo and the re-signed J.R. Smith, the Nuggets have firepower for days that doesn't clog the offense in the same way. This saddles them with Billups till at least 2010-11, but he's cheaper, a better fit, and makes for a more logical core. Oh, and he's a hometown hero.
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↵So it's good for Denver. As for Detroit, the key is the huge salary cap relief Detroit gets when Iverson's deal expires this summer. If this experiment doesn't work out, they can try Rodney Stuckey at the one, look elsewhere ... from a contracts standpoint, Dumars hit a home run.
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↵As for this season, while Stuckey came on strong in the playoffs, the plan's still to have AI step into the point guard role. Dumars has long wanted a full-fledged star, a real closer, a dynamo -- it's why they were interested in 'Melo this summer, why T-Mac was once rumored to be headed there. But wait, isn't it the fault of that team's culture that they don't foster this kind of player? And wasn't Billups, once a journeyman gunner, transformed in Detroit into the Pistons' best answer to the traditional closer/superstar/focal point? Maybe Iverson, never a true point guard, could thrive in a Pistons system that's never really asked Billups to be such a traditional playmaker. Maybe it will change him the way it did Billups, the way it seems to have Rodney Stuckey -- one of the rare college combo guards who now looks like he'll be able to manage the point. Then again, isn't Iverson the epitome of stubborn, set in his ways and honestly, an institution unto himself? There has to be some reason for the Pistons to think he'll fit seamlessly into what they're currently working with.
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↵The combination of 'Sheed and Iverson would be mind-blowing, like a less awkward version of what we thought we'd gotten with AI/Webber. And let's face it, if AI can provide an unprecedented spark for the Detroit offense, and not cause too much disorder, he might have his best shot ever at a title. The best thing: With the Pistons' youth on the rise, they can afford to gamble one season on Iverson, and if it doesn't work out, or even if it does, they're in cap nirvana this summer. Heck, why not go ahead and put them in the running for LeBron?↵

This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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