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. Is Joe Dumars’ departure best for the franchise?
Dan Feldman: Yes. The Pistons’ problems are not all Dumars’ doing, but too many of them are, and he has not shown an ability to overcome outside setbacks. Dumars has achieved no success with Tom Gores, and though that might the former’s fault, Gores isn’t going anywhere. The Pistons need a general manager who can work with Gores, and they need a general manager who is not overly attached to this flawed roster. It’s time for a fresh start.
Patrick Hayes: It’s best for business. It’s not fair to blame Dumars for all of the Pistons’ failings since he deconstructed a team that was still contending, but it’s fair to blame him for most. He’s overseen two major (and expensive) attempts to retool the franchise, and his wild spending on Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings this summer shows he learned nothing from his splurging on contracts to Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva in 2009. That’s … a problem. The organization needs a new direction and Dumars will get another opportunity to run a team somewhere else if he chooses. Hopefully, that fresh start will help Dumars rediscover the attributes that once made him arguably the league’s best GM.
Brady Fredericksen: At this point, yes. Dumars has been given chances to revive the franchise since its downfall began in 2009, but a string of failed coaching and personnel moves have put him in this position. If he was named Phil Smith and he was given the Pistons’ job in 2009, he would have already been fire — that’s how badly the past five years have gone. Sure, the freeze during the Davidson-to-Gores era didn’t help, but he really hasn’t done himself any favors since. The league has evolved and Dumars hasn’t been able to keep up; it’s time to find someone who can.
2. How do you grade Dumars’ tenure as general manager?
Dan Feldman: A-. Am I weighing Dumars’ successes more heavily than his failures? Absolutely. The first-round exits of the mid-90s were preferable to the dreck of the last few seasons as I’ve lived each era, but in the long run, I won’t remember either fondly. They’ll just blend together in the abyss of forgettable seasons. But the Goin’ to Work Pistons brought such joy, I won’t soon forget those. And Dumars single-handedly assembled those peak teams. I just don’t see much value in a general manager producing a mediocre, rather than bad, team. But forming a contending team? That’s a hugely important accomplishment.
Patrick Hayes: B+/A-. The championship and sustained success for much of the first half of his tenure were incredible, but let’s not forget, he had opportunities to keep that team competitive even longer. He never sufficiently implemented a talent development system for young players on the bench like Carlos Delfino and Amir Johnson (both of whom could’ve helped the veteran core immensely) and he held onto and over-valued limited veterans like Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince rather than flipping them for younger assets when they’re value was higher.
Brady Fredericksen: I’ll give him an A- too. Do you know how many active GMs have won an NBA title? Only six. How about reaching multiple NBA Finals? Just six, again. Dumars has not been a good GM in the past five seasons, but he was a truly great GM the previous nine seasons. Pistons fans are spoiled by the success the franchise saw under Dumars. He built a title team and sustained it by reaching six consecutive conference finals. He took a franchise losing its best player (Grant Hill) and had a 50-win team three years later. Fans are going to be happy he’s finally gone, but I just hope the general assumption isn’t that whoever the Pistons hire is automatically going to be way better; GMs capable of building title contenders are tough to come by.
3. What will be Dumars’ legacy with the Pistons?
Dan Feldman: Champion. Dumars has been instrumental two all three of the Pistons’ championships, two as a player and one as a general manager. Everything else will fade in time. Honestly, Darko might serve Dumars’ secondary legacy, and that was the most reasonable of all his mistakes.
Patrick Hayes: As a champion and one of the most beloved figures in franchise history. A poor track record over the course of the last five years is certainly enough justification for a change in direction. However, it doesn’t discount the immense contributions Dumars has made to the organization as a player and executive. Those things will be far more enduring than the forgettable last five years.
Brady Fredericksen: That he’s one of the greatest Pistons of all time. We live in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately society, and unfortunately for Dumars, lately things have been pretty terrible. My thing is that the good of Dumars far outweighs the bad. Proof is in the pudding, Dumars was really, really bad near the end, but he’s still damn near the top of the Pistons’ Mount Rushmore. There are no NBA titles in Detroit without him — no Bad Boys, no star-less champions.
It’s time for change, and I hope they find the next great GM. But while fans celebrate his departure, good luck finding another person in basketball who has provided as much collective joy and success to one franchise as Dumars has to Pistons fans over the past 29 years.