Blog Entry

Detroit Pistons--Hit Rock Bottom

Posted on: March 24, 2010 10:40 am
Well, look on the  bright side Pistons fans: There is no where to go but up.

You've hit bottom when you lose twice in a week, including a 15 point loss at home, to the team that has dominated the bottom of your division.  To top it off, it made a season sweep for the Pacers over the Pistons for the first time EVER.  And they are not the only ones, the Pistons were also swept by their arch-rival Cleveland Cavaliers: yes, they are two teams currently heading in different directions--but a sweep!?  Yes, the Pistons have sunk so far as to have a solid hold on the bottom of the division and have worked their way to having nice odds in the lottery.  There is only once chance to even sink lower, and that comes Friday night when they visit NJ: lose a team that is fighting to be the worst ever and you've been knocked down like you were hit by Mike Tyson before the facial tattoos.

But swimming in this season of sewage I can still faintly smell roses.  How, you ask?  I am one of the few remaining who still think that Joe Dumars has a plan that he is executing.  There have been a lot of articles written and people talking that Joe has lost it and his time has past.  They didn't like moving Chauncey Billups and they don't like the signing of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.  And looking through the lens of this season it is easy to understand.  But clearly this is not the finished product, but a work in progress.  Let's step back and look at where we were, what was done to get us where we are, and where I think we are going to be so optimistic.

Flashback, 2008:  After being knocked out of the ECF last year by the up and coming Cavaliers the Pistons finish 2nd in the division and on the opposite side of the draw of th e4th seeded Cavaliers.  They have a surprisingly hard time in the first round with the 76ers and then get to face a team they have owned for some reason in the Magic to make the ECF.  Rodney Stuckey has a coming out party, playing a huge roll filling in for an injured Billups in the Magic series.  Here they are handled easily by the Celtics on their way to the Finals.  It becomes clear that while this team can be solid in the East still that development and moves by other teams have moved them past the Pistons.  The lineup has hit a point people are talking about the 'old' Pistons.

2009: Pistons get off to a fast start to the season, but in an early season shocker Joe Dumars starts his rebuilding by trading away Billups for the expiring deal of Allen Iverson.  Feelings are mixed on this move as Billups is a big part of the Pistons, but Iverson is also an undeniable talent and is saying the right things about being a team player and even coming off the bench.  It starts off okay, but soon the wheels come off as Iverson and a mopey RIP can't coexist, Rasheed forgets he's 6'11" and camps at the 3 line, and in the abscence of the solid menotring of Billups and Lindsey Hunter (now a Bull) Rodney Stuckey does not even look the point guard he did in last years playoffs.

Somehow the Pistons manage to have won enough games early in the season to limp into the playoffs as the #8 seed to be thouroughly embarrassed by the Cavaliers.  Clearly the Iverson move didn't pan out as hoped, and not only did he not work but losing Chauncey dissolved any bond the team had.  The only bright spots of the season were the play of Antonio McDyess, the hustle and hair of Walter Herrmann, both of who are free agents, and the late emergence of Will Bynum.

The 2009 offseason found the influx of a lot of money with the departure of Iverson and Wallace.  The question was what to do.  There were not that many big name free agents this year, but 2010 was only a one year wait with all the big names to be had.  This is where the fanbase gets really unsettled with Joe Dumars.  He decides not to wait and play the 2010 bidding game, but to spend his money now.  On the opening day of free agency he shoots his wad on Ben Gordon, who is coming off an amazing playoff series against the Celtics, and Charlie Villanueva, who put up solid number when he could get on the floor for the Bucks.  Here were the concerns: 1)neither brings defense, soemthing that the Pistons pride themselves on, 2)Is RIP-Gordon going to be RIP-Iverson II, 3)We got no money left and no real big man to play the post. 

Here is why I think Joe did it and what I think his plan was.  There are those who wanted to target David Lee.  Let's face it, the Knicks were not going to let him go, they would have matched any offer Joe D. put out there.  Even if the Pistons did manage to land him the Pistons would have spent all their money on him and I don't think he would have been as good as advertised: don't get me wrong, Lee is a solid player, but if you look at his numbers the big ones come after D'Antoni arive and that is not the style of ball played in Detroit.  Yes, we would have a post prescence that is missing now,but I don't think it would be as strong as people think it would be.  Next, if the had not made a move in 2009 free agency what would the team have looked like?  Like it does now, but without the scoring of CV and Ben and holding a big bank roll: not any better, likely worse.  And what was the chance if Joe held the money with a bad team he would be able to land a big name 2010 guy?  About the same as if he had no money to spend.  I believe what Joe saw in these guys was range and ability to get their own shot.  The Pistons roster had slashers in Stuckey and Bynum and jump shooters in RIP and Tayshaun Prince, but none of these guys htis the 3 with regularity, and RIP and Prince aren't really adept at getting their own shot.  Both Ben and CV can shoot from anywhere and manage to get it away when you think they can't.  Also, Chalie is 6'11" and, though not a post guy usually, does add size for some boards.  Joe D. drafted a team's worth of small forwards in the off season which was a pretty clear indication that he had at least one more move in the plans for this season, moving Tayshaun Prince.  Likely he planned on moving both Price and Hamilton to try and get some size down low.  I, for one, thought there was going to much more movement of the 2010 free agents with sign and trades because I didn't think that teams would risk them walking for nothing and the guys becoming free agents wouldn't want to risk getting less money if FA with the salary cap likely to fall due to the economy. Turned out I was wrong, but it didn't matter anyways because unfortunately, with the extended injuries that Prince and Hamilton sustained neither could be moved for a bag of turds.  But I think this was a solid plan on Joe D's part that got seriously derailed by injuries.  The Pistons might not be back to their glory days with one big man, but they would certainly be respectable: look at how much better they are with Ben Wallace healthy to defend the center, no imagine if he could score some points too.

So on to now-yes, the Detroit Pistons are in a world of hurt.  But I don't think they are as far gone as their record indicates and I don't think they are rudderless.  The Pistons will have a high draft pick and there are a number of good big men coming out this year that can fill the Pistons clear need.  Hopefully Joe can convince Big Ben to come back another year to help in the center and teach the young guy some NBA-caliber D.  They still have RIP and Tayshaun as piece that they could move, though their value is way down, there may be a steal out there (like the Mav's picking up Haywood).  An idea that I've sent out there on a Pistons thread is to try and work a deal with the cash conscious Hornets.  Taysahun will only have a year left on his contract and the Hornets could use a solid SF.  Trade Prince for Okafor, who has 3 more years on his deal, and swap picks.  This gives the Hornets a top 5 pick where they can get a young cheaper big man than Okafor and a SF.  It gives the Pistons as stable big man and a pick around 12 where they could take a chance on someone like either Artsiom Parakhouski at Radford or Omar Samhan from St. Mary's.  I think with a good draft, or better yet a nice solid trade and draft the Piston will be back to respectabilty, and hopefully truely competitive sooner than people think.  I'm not going to blindly say I Joe I trust, but I think people are too quick to dismiss what he has done by simply looking at the results mid-process.  Yes, it is a world of manure right now, but used correctly that manure can be good fertilizer for the future and Joe has shown an ability to work the land before- just have a little patience until harvest time.
Category: NBA

Since: Nov 14, 2006
Posted on: March 24, 2010 12:45 pm

Detroit Pistons--Hit Rock Bottom

Thanks for the read Go!
I do agree with you about the moves.  Looking back at the results they may seem bad, but they weren't such a bad call at the time and in the context: just like the Darko pick that eveyone still brings up.  Then there is the whole point of it being completely unproductive to just rail about something (though the fans don't hav the power to really do anything but complain), how about moving on (especially about the Darko pick).

I do still support both Gordon and CV pickups.  According to ESPN trade machine they are both 4 year deals.  They had to offer some stability to these guys as I don't hink any free agent is going to sign jsut a one or two year deal with the frequency of injuries and all; so no problem with the duration.  Did they overpay for Gordon? Maybe a little, but he is making less than Hamilton, whom he should replace in the starting lineup and likely was the plan to replace all together with a  trade of RIP.  And, although I've loved RIP, Gordon is better.  He can shoot as well, has longer range, and can create his own shot.  Charlie is also a little overpayed.  It wuldn't be the case if he could play down low or was more solid on the D.  He never got solid playing time in Milwakee, so hopefully he can still learn to step up those parts of his game here and earn his contract. 

But even if they are a little overpayed, my point is that I think they are just pieces to Joe's puzzle and it will look much better when completed.  RIP, Ben, and Chauncey weren't all that heralded until the final piece was in place with Rasheed.  Once they all fit together it made much more sense (and restored my faith in team basketball in the era of superstars).  I think it is a similar thing happening now.  A piece of two down low could make all this look better.  The trade I mentioned with the Hornets to get Okafor (the Hornet should be able to get a nice rookie center with a top five pick) and maybe a sign and trade for Boozer/Hamilton and Maxiell with the Jazz.  Suddenly the lineup is PG:Stuckey/Bynum, SG:Gordon/Daye, SF:Jerebko/Sommers, PF:Boozer/Villanueva C:Okafor/Wallace/rookie from St. Mary's, there isn't the weakness in the middle, the jump shooters are a little more open.  It's dreaming, but it keeps me going during a bleak season.

Since: Nov 17, 2006
Posted on: March 24, 2010 11:19 am

Detroit Pistons--Hit Rock Bottom

I can read your pain in this!  I feel for you.  There's a few things we agree on.  First of all, the Pistons were in the middle of a good run, but it was obvious they weren't going to take the next step again with that current roster.  Although NOBODY will admit it, there was a lot of criticism when Chauncey Billups got his new contract back in 2007.  A lot of people thought the Pistons just otubid themselves and payed a lot (and gave 5 years) for a player past his prime.  Then when Rodney Stuckey emerged, it seemed natural to take the chance on Billups rather than on anyone else.  I don't know if anyone will remember, but at the end of 2008, I thought it would make sense to trade anyone but Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince but we were all just wrong.  The Billups for Allen Iverson deal didn't look great but made sense for a few reasons.  First of all, it saved the Pistons money and second of all, Iverson was talented enough to believe that you could still stay at your current level while making moves for the future.  I personally didn't think Iverson was a perfect fit for the system and he proved to not be, but it was still worth the chance.  Nobody could have envisioned the resurgence Billups would have in Denver.  I think Billups succeeding in Denver is what makes it difficult for Pistons fans.  The losing is bad, but seeing Billups succeed just makes people blame Dumars more.  When, in all honesty, it was a move not a lot of fans were opposed to when it happened.

However, I still don't agree with the Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva signings.  It's not that they don't fit the Pistons system.  After all, they're volume shooters and volume shooters can fit into any system.  However, it's just the amount of money that was invested into them.  They both got 5 years and, if I'm not mistaken, it was a combined 85 million dollars.  That's a lot of money to invest into players that play the role they play.  I agree that Detroit still wouldn't be an attractive destination for potential free agents and that they couldn't have signed one of the big players.  And I don't know what Dumars should have done with the money, you obviously don't just want to save it for the sake of saving it, so I get making the moves.  But it reeked of making a move to make a move.

Lastly, if the Hornets could land a big time center in the draft, I would love to give the Pistons Emeka Okafor for Tayshaun Prince.  I think fans of both sides have kind of lost patience with their respective players and they could both fill a void.  But the Hornets would immediately have no center in the lineup and have very few options to work with this offseason.  So I don't know if they would do it. 

Good read!!

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