Too Close to Call

by November 03, 2008

...and this is about the half of 'em.

By Matt Caputo

When the rumors became reality, both the Detroit Pistons and Denver Nuggets picked-up players that can help their respective teams right away. In Iverson, the Pistons get an iconic scoring guard, great penetrator, who is playing in the last year of his contract. In Billups, Denver receives a pass first point guard who can bring out the best in their scorers like Carmelo Anthony and Kenyon Martin. Saying that, the question remains, which team will benefit the most from the Billups/Iverson transaction?

The Pistons acquire Iverson with one-year and $20.8 million remaining on his deal. At 33-years-old, A.I. is still a capable scorer and threat to most every opponent in the League on the offensive end. In Detroit, he’ll have consistently good shooters to kick the ball out to. Paired with new teammate Rodney Stuckey, the Pistons should have one of the NBA’s quickest backcourts overnight.

While Iverson has long been a better passer than he’s received credit for, he’ll still need to lead a team that has been largely orchestrated by a very efficient Chauncey Billups over the last six years. Iverson’s presence in Detroit will certainly take shots away from Rip Hamilton and by being a constant presence in the lane he’ll likely confuse Rasheed Wallace and Kwame Brown.

In Detroit, Iverson will, effectively, be asked to do the same thing he was asked to do in Denver and that is to make a good team better. While the Nuggets never did make it out of the first round in the two years A.I. was there, the Pistons have been to the Conference Finals or better since 2003.

It’s hard to see if Iverson is really “the answer” the Pistons need to grip their elusive second chip of this century. He’s never had great success in the Playoffs, and you’d have to think that the post season is where Detroit could use the extra push. Joe Dumars shuffled Detroit’s roster a ton over the last few years and if Iverson’s arrival isn’t the solution he’s been aiming at, he’s prepared to continue to shop around.

In Billups, a Denver native and who will be making his second stint with the team he grew up watching, the Nuggets acquire a pass-first floor technician who should make Young Chaunceyyoung players like Anthony and J.R. Smith a lot better. He’s a steady playmaker, and a solid defender. Billups’ addition should force a drop in scoring for the Nugget’s opponents and improve team defense on the whole.

The biggest benefit Billups brings with him is a knack for making good players better and his skill set should have an instant impact on Carmelo’s career from Jump Street. In Iverson’s second year in Denver, Melo’s numbers dropped, which is usually the case when Iverson is paired with another scorer. With Billups, not only should Melo’s shot count increase and scoring numbers go up, but the Nuggets’ shot selection will become much more calculated. He’s a playoff veteran who won a chip, so he’ll fit in fine with Denver’s hungry young team that has made the playoffs in each of Carmelo’s five seasons in the League.

The Nuggets take a bit of a risk with Billups. He’s 32-years-old with three years and more than $50 million left on his contract. His numbers and minutes have trimmed a bit recently, but Rodney Stuckey’s development came too quick for the Pistons to ignore. If Billups does have a few good years left, the Nuggets could use them right now. As a matter of fact, they’re banking on him having some good years ahead of him.

Both Iverson and Billups have seen their best days in the League. Now, they’re each in position to make playoff teams better. With 80 games left to go, they’ve both got their work cut out for them.