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November 3, 2008, 04:46 PM ET
SCHOENE on Iverson for Billups

by Kevin Pelton

We’ve got an old-fashioned blockbuster trade in the NBA today, it appears, with numerous outlets reporting that the Denver Nuggets are set to deal Allen Iverson to the Detroit Pistons for Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess with second-year center Cheikh Samb also a throw-in on the Detroit side.

As soon as I caught wind of the deal, I threw it into my “alternate scenario” spreadsheet that uses the SCHOENE projection system to evaluate hypotheticals. The results are generally predictable from the Detroit end–a projected drop of about two and a half games in the standings, which is approximately the projected difference between Billups and Iverson this season. As I wrote in my Northwest Division Preview, up this morning, I think Iverson’s drop might be a bit on the harsh side because Iverson is such a historical oddity that there are few appropriate comparable players. However, Iverson has been relatively quiet thus far this season (18.0 points per game despite the Nuggets playing two games without Carmelo Anthony) and it’s not unreasonable to think that when Iverson drops off it could come all at once.

From the Nuggets’ perspective, the projected gain is enormous–nearly eight games. Why the difference? As I explained in the Northwest preview, a large reason SCHOENE is so down on Denver is the lack of a projection for Chris Andersen. Giving minutes previously played by a generic replacement-level player to McDyess results in an enormous leap. So part of it is getting the Nuggets to a more reasonable projection in the first place. Also, keep in mind that Billups rates as more valuable than Iverson in fewer minutes, and the players picking up the extra minutes (J.R. Smith in particular, whom we now have projected to average nearly 18 points per game) add some value.

The big caveat to the deal, then, is whether McDyess ever suits up in Denver. Reports have suggested he might request a buyout because he wants to play in Detroit, while the Nuggets might be amenable if they can get under the luxury tax. That would hurt Denver’s frontcourt depth, as McDyess is a huge step up from the long-done Juwan Howard.

Bottom line, Detroit takes a step backwards out of the top tier of contenders in the East and into the second group with teams like Cleveland, while the Nuggets make a playoff run much more reasonable, especially if they hang on to McDyess. Look for a more complete analysis of the trade on Basketball Prospectus tomorrow after we’ve had some more time to see how things shake out.

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