DETROIT — With a playoff spot within reach this year, the Detroit Pistons made a trade they hope will benefit them both now and in the future.
The Pistons acquired forward Tobias Harris from Orlando on Tuesday in a deal that sent guard Brandon Jennings and forward Ersan Ilyasova to the Magic. The 23-year-old Harris gives Detroit another athletic young player, and he’ll be under team control for a while. Harris signed a $64 million, four-year deal to stay with the Magic last summer, when he was a restricted free agent.
"This is a move that can be looked at as a long-term move, as one that will fit with our core group of players, and we’ll be able to keep them together," Detroit general manager Jeff Bower said.
Detroit, which is a half-game out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, gave up its starting power forward in Ilyasova. Jennings was the Pistons’ backup point guard, and they could afford to part with him after making a long-term commitment to starter Reggie Jackson.
Detroit hasn't made the post-season since 2009. Bower said the Pistons were interested in Harris when he was a free agent, but his restricted status made acquiring him hard.
The 6-foot-9 Harris is averaging 13.7 points per game this season, down from 17.1 in 2014-15. His 3-point accuracy is down to 31 per cent after he shot a career-high 36 per cent a season ago.
Harris thanked the city of Orlando, coach Scott Skiles and his teammates in a post on Instagram.
"God closes one door to open up another," the post said. "Though this is not the easiest time it's part of life and part of the business of being a professional."
The Magic are also hoping to make a push for the playoffs, but they have lost 16 of 20 and are now in 11th place in the East.
"We felt like we needed to shuffle the deck a little bit. We needed to try to shake things up, not a ton, but we felt like the roster needed to be balanced in certain ways," Orlando GM Rob Hennigan said. "I don't think it's been a secret that we've been looking for more veteran stability on the roster."
The 28-year-old Ilyasova is averaging 11.3 points. The Pistons acquired him last off-season in a trade with Milwaukee. Jennings is averaging 6.8 points in 18.1 minutes a game. He returned in late December from an Achilles tendon injury that kept him out 11 months.
Jennings is in the last year of his contract. He now joins an Orlando team that has been going with second-year man Elfrid Payton at point guard.
"He was playing the best ball of his career probably, the month prior to getting injured," Bower said. "His long-term outlook was probably one that he was going to examine other situations that would probably offer him a different role for the future. So those are all real parts of the decision."