Brandon Jennings for Ryan Anderson: Why It Could Happen

As President of Basketball Operations and head coach for the Detroit Pistons, Stan Van Gundy is a busy man.  Recently, he has been heaping praise on Brandon Jennings.  Jennings played his first game of the season on December 29 after missing time with an Achilles injury and has decent numbers so far.  In his best performance, he scored 17 points and dished out 6 assists in just 18 minutes against the Magic.  However, he is now a backup point guard playing in the shadow of handsomely paid starter Reggie Jackson.

Jennings has been not just a starter but a key contributor throughout his career, and he can only produce so much when barely playing 20 minutes per game.  Furthermore, his contract is set to expire at the end of the season and the Pistons are not expected to retain him.  The Pistons currently sit at 20-16, which so far is good for seventh in the competitive East.  One possible solution for Detroit is to swap him for another player with an expiring contract who would fit the roster better going forward.

On the southern side of the country, the New Orleans Pelicans are having a frustrating season.  An 11-25 record is a major step back from their eighth place finish in the conference last year.  What’s more, they may lose their second most productive player in Ryan Anderson to free agency.  He may play 31 minutes per game, but Anderson actually comes off the bench behind Anthony Davis.  He would be a better fit in a place like Detroit, which lacks a power forward with Anderson’s sort of range.  Coach Alvin Gentry is downplaying the idea of dealing Anderson, but he’s just about the only valuable Pelican with any chance of being dealt.  A power forward who can stretch defenses would be on the wish list of plenty of playoff hopefuls.

Trading Anderson for Jennings certainly works mathematically, as Anderson makes $8.5 million this season and Jennings is earning a similar amount at $8.3 million.  Neither is known as a premier defender, but both can certainly chip in on the offensive end.  It’s true that the Pelicans have quality guards including Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, and Norris Cole.  However, they are already buried in the Western Conference and Eric Gordon is not expected to return for 2016-17.  A few months in New Orleans would potentially allow Jennings to audition for next season’s team.

Anderson makes more threes per game than anyone on Detroit’s roster and hits at about the same rate as Ersan Ilyasova, the Pistons’ best shooter from long range.  He is enjoying a stronger season than last year, which is reflected in a scoring average of 16.7 surpassed only by his superb 2013-14.  Anderson’s 43.1% from the field is superior to that of Ilyasova, who has converted an even 42%. Furthermore, the presence of Anderson wouldn’t overcrowd the frontcourt.  After all, Ilyasova is a borderline starter and his backup is the lightly used Anthony Tolliver.

Better Pistons Power Forward? Points Field Goal % 3-Point % Rebounds PER
Ryan Anderson 2015-16 16.7 43.1% 36.7% 6.3 17.0
Ersan Ilyasova 2015-16 10.9 42.2% 37.0% 5.1 14.1

Despite his limited play so far, Jennings is coming off a 2014-15 that was his best statistical season in terms of scoring and playmaking.  While thumb and toe injuries limited him to 41 games, he put together a true shooting percentage of 52.2% and 9.3 assists per 40 minutes.  His 19.74 Player Efficiency Rating was also a career best.  Jennings is less than a year removed from a game in which he scored 24 points and dished out 21 assists.  He did manage to play 80 contests and average 7.6 assists during his first campaign with the Pistons in 2013-14.  If the Pelicans can trade for Jennings and convince him that a healthier roster will contend with his help next season, both parties can benefit.

As for the Pistons, Anderson would be an upgrade now and potentially for the future.  Other than a certain well-known German, few big men can back down defenders before drilling a fadeaway on one leg.  Nevertheless, Anderson has added that move and uses it with regularity.  Having a player with his range could make the difference between advancing in a playoff round and going home empty-handed.

photo via llananba