Monday November 3rd, 2008

The Pistons' bold decision to trade for Allen Iverson is a move that helps Detroit in two eras: Rasheed and post-Rasheed.

The Rasheed Wallace era might be on its last legs in Detroit, and the acquisition of Iverson could put the Pistons over the top. They're gaining a crunch-time star in the final year of his contract who has millions of reasons to try to win a championship immediately. Iverson may yet deliver the focus and energy the Pistons have been lacking in recent postseasons.

More intriguing still is the post-Rasheed era, which will take bloom this summer when Wallace ($13.7 million) and Iverson ($20.8 million) provide Detroit with almost $35 million in cap relief. The Pistons will have myriad options: They could use their newfound cap space to recruit a max free agent -- Carlos Boozer is likely to be the top potential free agent next summer -- or they could re-sign Wallace at a reduced number and still have enough to trade for a max talent from a team looking to shed salary.

Both teams in this deal have renewed their commitment to winning. The easy move for the Nuggets would have been to let Iverson's contract lapse this summer and save money. Instead, they've taken on the additional expense of Billups' contract (three more years and $36.3 million, with a $14 million team option in 2011-12). (Now we see why the Nuggets backed away from awarding Linas Kleiza a new contract before last Friday's deadline.)

Billups fills a hole at point guard while providing Denver with needed backbone and leadership. J.R. Smith becomes the starter at shooting guard, and all of a sudden the Nuggets possess the roster balance of a playoff team again.

But the big news of this deal is centered in Detroit. Would team president Joe Dumars have made this kind of move if not for the emerging talent of Rodney Stuckey (who should be ready to take over at point guard next season)?

The idea that Dumars could instantly create cap room next summer is the revelation here. He can spend the next year seeking to add a fresh headlining star to lead the core of Stuckey, Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince.

The bonus of this overhaul is that it doesn't necessarily ruin the Pistons' chances this season. The trade would seem to weaken Detroit's front line and force the Pistons to rehab Kwame Brown's confidence so he could pick up some of McDyess' minutes at center behind Wallace. But if it turns out that the Nuggets waive McDyess and he re-signs with the Pistons after 30 days, he'll provide enough depth to keep them in contention this spring. And look at the Pistons' starting unit: Iverson, Hamilton, Prince, Amir Johnson and Wallace. That's a lineup drooling with potential.

At 33, Iverson is going to view this as perhaps his last opportunity to win a championship. He will bring star power and urgency to a team that has made a bad habit of flatlining during the playoffs. To those who view Iverson as a selfish scorer, he may yet seize this opportunity to reinvent himself -- much as Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and even Kevin Garnett did last season in Boston.

A week into the season, the NBA has become more intriguing. If the Pistons get off to a fast start with Iverson, it will be interesting to see if the other contenders try to make improvements of their own.

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