Uncertainty is a major principle for the Pistons when you look past this season, and it’s a different type of uncertainty than we’ve become accustomed to. In year’s past we’ve gotten used to pondering who on the roster would be back, and who on the roster would be gone. This year is different. Of the players who aren’t under contract for next year, it’s not hard to guess who will be gone. Charlie Villanueva certainly won’t be back, Rodney Stuckey probably won’t be back either. Jonas Jerebko has a player option that he’s likely to exercise, and we’ve covered Greg Monroe’s Restricted Free Agency extensively. This year’s uncertainty is based on the expiration of Joe Dumars’ contract. We have a good idea of who won’t be back, we just don’t know who will be replacing those players.
There’s a long list of reasons why Joe Dumars shouldn’t have his contract renewed. Signing Josh Smith to play SF, trading Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson, hiring any of the coaches he’s hired in the last six years and the contracts given to Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. Those are just the major complaints. Winning one championship a decade ago will buy you some staying power, but how long should that last? I think it should only last as long as you can demonstrate that you have the skills and savvy to do it again. Reading that list above, does Joe Dumars qualify? Truth is, if it weren’t for the ownership of the team being in flux while Dumars was most craptacular, he probably would have been let go by now. That’s why, I think the first step to fixing this team long-term is to replace Joe Dumars. It’s never easy letting one of your franchise’s legends go, but neither is watching the teams he’s assembled. Here’s a detailed explanation of how I think the Pistons can right the ship:
REPLACE JOE DUMARS
The Pistons have really missed the boat in the past few years with chances to replace Joe Dumars with well-established GMs. Charlotte snatched up the architect of Portland’s current powerhouse/ former injury-destroyed powerhouse, Rich Cho, back in 2011. Cho assembled what could’ve been a title contender in the mid-2000’s if it weren’t for injuries. Portland’s core of Brandon Roy and Greg Oden never took off. His latter work, trading Tyrus Thomas straight up for LaMarcus Aldridge on draft night in 2006 and finding Nic Batum in France, is the basis for Portland’s success this year. Sure enough, he’s also been successful in Charlotte, turning one of the league’s laughingstocks into a playoff team by signing Al Jefferson and hiring Steve Clifford. Last summer, Toronto picked up the man who orchestrated Denver’s rise to playoff contention, Masai Ujiri. Ujiri’s moves have optimized the talent on Toronto’s roster and have freed up the team for future growth. Watch out for Toronto in years to come.
We need a move similar to Toronto and Charlotte’s hirings. Who could bring Detroit a better recognition of talent and smarter management of the salary cap? Anybody. But here’s a list of a few guys who might fill Detroit’s GM vacancy competently:
* Phil Jackson: Jackson’s name has already been brought up for the vacant Cleveland GM job. The Zen Master is probably going to appear on the short list for a lot of jobs, but I won’t believe that he’s coming back to the game until I see it. Don’t hold your breath for him to take over the Pistons.
* Scott Perry, Assistant GM – Orlando: Perry has a history with the organization, having worked under Dumars. Perry has coaching experience at the college level and has worked for the SuperSonics, Pistons and Magic at the NBA level. Perry would bring knowledge of the rebuilding mentality. He was a member of Orlando’s executive team when they turned Dwight Howard’s free agency into Nikola Vucevic, Arron Afflalo and Mo Harkless, as well as J.J. Redick for Tobias Harris. He’s an intriguing candidate.
* Allan Houston, Assistant GM – New York: I know, I know, it probably wouldn’t look good bringing over a member of the Knicks’ organization. However, it’s hard to decipher how much of a say any of the Knicks executives have with James Dolan crowding the picture. The same James Dolan who earlier this season blocked a trade of Iman Shumpert for the Eastern Conference’s most productive PG, Kyle Lowry. Houston has also been mentioned as a candidate to replace Mike Woodson on the sidelines.
* Bryan Colangelo: It’s hard to imagine Colangelo not being a candidate for any front office job that opens up, due to his bloodlines and former experience. Colangelo has won NBA Executive of the Year twice and was the architect of the Phoenix Suns teams that featured Shawn Marion, Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire. Much like Dumars, his better years are now almost a decade into the past. However, the contract he gave to Rudy Gay doesn’t look so bad when you see what he’s doing in Sacramento. Mixed feelings about Colangelo, would prefer to stay away.
FIRE MO CHEEKS, ACQUIRE SHOOTERS
See Part One of this series for an explanation on why Mo Cheeks can’t be retained, as well as a list of candidates to replace him. Also covered, acquiring more shooters to play by the Dwight Howard model.
DON’T OVERPAY GREG MONROE
Greg Monroe is a very talented player. Greg Monroe is not worth a max contract. Monroe is a solid option on the offensive end of the floor, and an abomination on the defensive end. This season, Monroe has been shredded to tiny bits by a variety of players. Most people seem to think that he’s only had a hard time guarding stretch fours this season, but he’s also had a hard time guarding guys who play with their back to the basket. Glen Davis had his way with Moose on the block just the other night. Monroe is a smart basketball player, but I just don’t think he has the physical gifts to be a good defender in the NBA. A one-way player just isn’t worth a maximum-salary deal in the NBA. That being said, not every team in the league may see it that way.
If Monroe decides to accept a high-dollar offer elsewhere (Washington and Charlotte are already said to have interest), the Pistons will have a hard choice to make. My preference would be to move Monroe via a sign-and-trade, and move Josh Smith to PF. Smith is certainly a better defender than Monroe, and I think the team’s overall offense would be better simply by not playing Josh Smith at SF, assuming a quality wing is brought in. With all that being said, I won’t be upset if Monroe is extended. He plays hard, is an easy guy to like and is deadly efficient on offense. I don’t want him gone, I just don’t want him on a max contract.
MOVE THE EXPIRING CONTRACTS BEFORE THE TRADE DEADLINE
The Pistons have two expiring contracts worth approximately $16 million in Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva. Villanueva plays sparingly, while Stuckey provides a good scoring spark off the bench. Neither player is indispensable and I believe they are of more value to the team if dealt within the next two weeks. If the Pistons were to stand pat and hold on to Stuckey and Villanueva, they would likely have between $10 and $15 million dollars going into Free Agency, depending on Greg Monroe’s contract. They could use this money to make a run at one of the free agent SGs in this year’s class. Lance Stephenson is due for a large pay raise and would be an upgrade as well as a gut-punch to the Pacers’ squad that is running rough-shod over the East this year. However, I don’t trust that the Pistons could lure a big-name SG to the team, and worry that they might get stuck wasting their money on a player like Evan Turner or Nick Young.
The Pistons should use their expiring contracts before the deadline in an attempt to pick up a first round pick in this year’s draft, or to get a good player off a bad team in a bad financial situation. A team like Oklahoma City may want to get out of a long-term deal, and a player like Stuckey could help them in the stretch run. They own several first round picks in this year’s loaded draft. Villanueva could be dealt to a team for the combination of a bad longer-term deal and a pick or player, especially if the team is looking to tank. Jeff Green, who is overpaid, but on fire of late, might fit this profile. The Pistons could also use these deals to facilitate a trade between two other teams who are having a hard time making salaries meet. The worst thing for Detroit to do would just be to stand pat. There have been varying reports about what the Pistons have planned for the weeks leading up to the deadline. My guess is, they don’t have a plan.
PICK AN IDENTITY, LIVE/DIE BY THAT IDENTITY
The Pistons have been successful at getting out in transition this season. The Pistons are the 5th most efficient team in the NBA when they get out in transition, according to nbastuffer.com, but they only play at the league’s 10th fastest pace. The Pistons might benefit from attempting to get out in transition a little bit more. At the very least, it would mean fewer opportunities for Josh Smith to launch a three at the end of the shot clock. The Pistons future personnel moves need to be aware of this strength that they have, and acquire players accordingly. Any player who isn’t physically able to get out and run, or who is more efficient in the half-court offense needs to be carefully evaluated before they’re signed or traded for.
Have a different idea about the direction the franchise should go in? Do you think Joe Dumars should be retained because he has naked pictures of you that you don’t want leaked? Chime in down in the comment section. If you don’t have a Disqus account, signing up is easy. Interact!