Chevette to Corvette No. 41: The 2008-09 Detroit Pistons



  • Actual record: 39-43
  • Pythagorean record: 40-42
  • Offensive Rating: 107.4 (21st of 30)
  • Defensive Rating: 108.0 (16th of 30)
  • Arena: The Palace of Auburn Hills
  • Head coach: Michael Curry


  • Lost in first round to the Cleveland Cavaliers, 4-0


  • Points per game: Richard Hamilton (18.3)
  • Rebounds per game: Antonio McDyess (9.8)
  • Assists per game: Chauncey Billups (7.5)
  • Steals per game: Allen Iverson (1.6)
  • Blocks per game: Rasheed Wallace (1.3)

Top player

Antonio McDyess

Obviously as a condition of the Chauncey Billups-Allen Iverson trade (see next section), the Nuggets released Antonio McDyess, freeing him to return to the Pistons. Who would’ve thought he’d play better than Iverson in Detroit?

Even as his championship window came crashing down, the aging McDyess was the Pistons’ rock. Every game, he rebounded and scored efficiently. When most of his teammates were up and down, that steadiness was enough to make him Detroit’s top player.

Key transaction

Traded Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess for Allen Iverson

Perhaps, no trade has affected the Pistons more than this one.* It caused, or at least sped up, the end of a contending era and ushered in five years of salary-cap hell.

*Other contenders: trading for Bob McAdoo, trading for Bill Laimbeer, trading for Rasheed Wallace, trading Dave DeBusschere, trading Dennis Rodman.

Desperate to spark an apparently stagnant team, Joe Dumars traded highly paid Billups for Iverson and his expiring contract. At the time, it wasn’t the worst idea. Iverson gave the Pistons a chance at a spark, and if he didn’t deliver, they’d have cap space the next summer.

The results were dismal. Iverson played poorly in Detroit, and the Pistons used their cap room to overpay Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva the following summer.

Trend watch

Streak of seven straight 50-win seasons snapped

The Pistons, even though they reached the Finals just twice in the span, were the toast of the Eastern Conference during the previous seven years. Between 2001-02 and 2007-08, Detroit won 384 games – 70 more than the next closest team (the Nets).

Why this season ranks No. 41

The Chauncey Billups trade defined the season. The Pistons lost their emotional leader when they needed him more than ever.

Detroit’s two high-profile shooting guards, Allen Iverson and Richard Hamilton, struggled to coexist. Eventually, Hamilton demanded better treatment, and Iverson started complaining. The Pistons shut down Iverson and played Hamilton, but the damage was already done. The team was fractured.

So was the Pistons family. Bill Davidson died during the regular season, and Chuck Daly died during the playoffs.

A 4-0 start before Iverson showed was enough for the Pistons to sneak into the playoffs, but by that point, they had given up on the season. Tayshaun Prince was abused by LeBron James, and the other Pistons didn’t play much better. The Cavaliers easily swept Detroit.

Michael Curry was in way over his head dealing with Iverson and Hamilton, and when he refused to reconcile with Hamilton after the season, the first-year coach was fired.

The Pistons were at a crossroads at the end of the year. This season could have been a blip during a lengthy playoff streak or the first step of decline. It ended up very much the latter.