Detroit Pistons’ Deadline Deals Lead Playoff Push

Jan 4, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris (12) dribbles the ball against Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris (13) during the first quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 4, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris (12) dribbles the ball against Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris (13) during the first quarter at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Pistons made the most noise at the 2016 NBA Trade Deadline by making two deals that set them up for a run at the playoffs this season, and for years to come.

The Detroit Pistons have solidified themselves as playoff contenders as the 2016 NBA Trade Deadline has passed. Head coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy made two trades during deadline week, one with the Orlando Magic and the other with the Houston Rockets.

On Tuesday, the Pistons acquired forward Tobias Harris from the Magic. It would eventually be the deal of the week with the highly anticipated trade deadline.

All that the Pistons had to give up were an underperforming Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova, according to ESPN‘s Chris Broussard. What speaks volumes about Harris is that he honored a speaking commitment to young kids in Orlando after he was traded from the Magic and before leaving for Detroit.

The first “big” deal of Thursday’s deadline day trades wasn’t as big of a home run as the Harris trade. Detroit received forward Donatas Motiejunas and guard Marcus Thornton in exchange for Joel Anthony and a top-8 protected 2016 first round pick, according to The Vertical‘s Adrian Wojnarowski. This deal is a low-risk, high-reward trade that is dependent upon Motiejunas’ health, who has suffered back issues since late last season.

Once Motiejunas gets healthy, he may start for the Pistons but for now it’ll be Anthony Tolliver. The bench got exponentially better by adding guard Marcus Thornton, who will likely average 15-20 minutes per game. He’s averaging 10.0 points in 18.8 minutes per game this season.

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Thornton’s experience and three-point shooting will bring a lot to the second unit, which is the league’s worst scoring bench, averaging 13.9 points per game. Thornton was a necessary addition with the news of Jodie Meeks‘ having a setback with his broken right foot, according to the Detroit News. Thornton is shooting 40 percent from the field and 33.8 percent from three-point range this season.

A healthy Motiejunas and Thornton coming off the bench gives the Pistons two scoring threats to go with an improving Stanley Johnson. Tobias Harris will come off the bench to begin his Pistons career, according to, but will likely move into a starting role as he gets acclimated with Van Gundy’s system. His will certainly be the go-to scorer off the bench for the time being, but he will also give the Pistons a go-to scorer on the wing and will eliminate a lot of the pick-and-roll offense.

In fact, all three players acquired at the deadline can score on the wing and will take a load off of either the starters or bench players. The lack of ability to score from the perimeter, particularly three-point shooting, is something that has killed the bench. Once Harris gets inserted into the starting lineup, he will become the go-to scorer when the offense needs a bucket or is in a dry spell. The 23-year-old is going to have to stop up and mature quickly.

The Pistons will begin the home stretch with a 27-27 record and in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. Despite playing average basketball, the team is only 4.5 games behind the Boston Celtics, who hold the 3-seed in the East. The Pistons have set themselves up for a playoff run this year while most of their Eastern Conference foes stood pat at the trade deadline.

But this isn’t only about the short-term goals. It’s obvious that Van Gundy wants to end the Pistons’ seven-year playoff drought, but he also wants to make a deep run. The Pistons’ core is very young and under team control through the next few years with Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Andre Drummond, Morris, Johnson, Harris and Motiejunas all 26 years of age or younger.

This Pistons must finish the season strong. With their first-rounder only protected in the top eight of the 2016 draft, they need to make the playoffs and ascend to the fifth or sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. In doing so, the Pistons will get the most out of not having their draft pick in what could be a weak draft.

More hoops habit: 2016 NBA Trade Deadline: Grades For All 30 Teams

Health is going to be key going forward. Caldwell-Pope is set to return after the All-Star Break and Motiejunas’ ability to stretch the floor will be helpful when he’s ready to play. But the Pistons have taken the appropriate steps to end their playoff drought and set them up for future playoff runs.