Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.
1. With holidays upon us, what should Joe Dumars set as his New Year’s Resolution?
Dan Feldman: Start building a championship-caliber core around Andre Drummond. Dumars has gone for the short-term fix, shedding a first-round pick — a very valuable commodity — just to rid Detroit of Ben Gordon‘s contract a single year early. Then, Dumars used that cap space on Josh Smith, the best player he could get at the time, but someone whose contract might become burdensome down the road. Drummond is a special talent, and he’ll be hitting his prime in a few years. The Pistons should maximize those seasons rather than squandering resources for marginal upgrades now.
Patrick Hayes: No sacred cows?* I don’t really know. Joe Dumars has had a tendency in recent years to think much more highly of his roster than anyone rightfully should. And those past few teams that he talked up positively before seasons started and quickly shifted blame to coaches when they performed predictably poorly weren’t even close to as good as the teams he has now. Now he has a roster that is performing at least mediocrely and looks to be a lock for the playoffs. So … mission accomplished? Most who cover the team seem to agree that Dumars’ job security is dependent on the Pistons getting into the playoffs. Thanks to the East’s dreadfulness, he’s going to achieve that goal. The roster is certainly nowhere close to a finished product that can contend with the league’s elite in the postseason. If just getting there is the goal, there’s little incentive to do anything but watch the team middle its way into the playoffs. Then, with that job securing imperative out of the way, perhaps Dumars can be more comfortable addressing the roster in the offseason.
* Note: Drummond is totally a sacred cow, obvs.
Brady Fredericksen: Make the playoffs. It’s been thought that this could be a playoffs-or-bust season for Dumars, and considering the Grinch-like tendencies (i.e., making basketball terrible), he’s probably cooked if this team doesn’t make the playoffs. The Pistons’ success helps more than just Dumars’ job, too. He needs to hope for the best possible record out of this team so the draft pick they’ll be losing to Charlotte is as low in the first round as possible.
2. Who can help him achieve that as quickly as possible?
Dan Feldman: Tom Gores. Dumars went for the quick fix, because Gores wanted it and everything that came with it. And Gores got his wish. Detroit will probably make the playoffs, adding at least two home games worth of playoff revenue. The Pistons’ attendance is up from where it was the last two seasons, but it still ranks just 26th in the NBA. Upgrading from bad to mediocre helps draw a few extra fans, but the difference is minor. Want big gains? Sacrifice the short term for the long term if necessary.
Patrick Hayes: Andre Drummond. He’s already an All-Star-worthy big man, game-changing defensive presence and one of the most exciting young players in the league. He’s also still very young and has never been asked to shoulder this type of burden — best player on a playoff team — before. He underachieved on a UConn team that underachieved and drastically exceeded expectations as a rookie in way too minor a role last season. If he can maintain this level of production throughout the season, the Pistons will cruise into the playoffs and, depending on how the anyone’s guess seeding in the anyone’s guess 3-8 spots plays out, they could even have home court and a chance to win a first round series, something even the most optimistic of Pistons fans wouldn’t have predicted prior to the season.
Brady Fredericksen: Maurice Cheeks. The pieces are definitely there for the Pistons to make the playoffs and give somebody a competitive series; it’s just a matter of Cheeks putting things fully together by then. These guys show flashes of good, great, terrible and bad — they’re well-rounded. But if this team is going to maximize it’s talent/chances, Cheeks needs to be the guy to do it.
3. How can Dumars make his fictional resolution happen?
Dan Feldman: Supporting Maurice Cheeks. Dumars has typically taken a hands-off approach with coaches, but for Dumars to have the leeway to build long-term, the Pistons must make the playoffs this season. That means Dumars should do everything in his power — from advising on strategy to easing tension with players — to give Cheeks the best chance of taking Detroit to the postseason.
Patrick Hayes: Well, making the playoffs is probably going to happen regardless of whether Dumars does anything more or not. And simply because that seems to be enough to satisfy Tom Gores’ demands for now, I think any kind of major move involving any key rotation member is probably remote at best. So with a move like that likely off the table, why not make a minor move to net a future asset? They have Charlie Villanueva’s salary to absorb a long-term dead weight contract from a team looking to cut salary. If they could extract a future first round pick or a couple of second round picks to do take on some salary obligations, that’s probably worth it, since they’re probably losing their first rounder in 2014. Or maybe they could use bit players who have been reliable at times in the past like Will Bynum or Jonas Jerebko to pick up a shooter languishing on someone else’s bench.
Brady Fredericksen: Trade for LeBron, Chris Paul or Kevin Durant? I kid, I kid, but he can try to find that one piece. Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to what exactly that piece is, but there’s definitely ways to improve this product. Could it be a Rajon Rondo trade? Could it be as simple as skimming that “hidden” trade market for a wing player that we might not know is on the market? Whatever it is, there are moves to be made.