2012 Offseason: Pistons roster moves continue


Ben Wallace

The 37-year old veteran forward said before last season that he was planning to retire. In the final home game of the season, his teammates even showed their appreciation for him by wearing the trademark blue headband. While his stats have diminished greatly in the last few years, his presence on the team was great for both team morale and for the younger players to learn from.

This summer, though, the 16-year pro decided he wasn’t quite done, and he’s apparently still 50-50 on whether to return to Detroit. Unfortunately for him, the team just signed rookie Khris Middleton to a contract, putting them at the league maximum of 15 players.

While they could trade or release another player on the team, there isn’t a really likely candidate for that. Corey Maggette, Will Bynum, Charlie Villanueva and possibly Jason Maxiell are the only players who might be worthy, but with all of their contracts coming off the books next season – giving the Pistons lots of salary cap space – why get rid of them now?

An interesting option arose recently for Wallace, though. Panathinaikos B.C. (Basketball Club) has expressed interest in the 6’9” forward, hoping to bring another NBA player to their squad. They currently have two players on their roster with previous NBA experience: Roko Ukic (Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks) and Andy Panko (Atlanta Hawks). Sofoklis Schortanitis, who was drafted by the Clippers in 2003 but has yet to play in the Association, is also on the team.

Panathinaikos has plenty of room for Wallace, who could immediately start for “The Greens.” The biggest problem for them, however, is whether or not Big Ben would consider actually donning their jersey. If no other options are available by the time the season begins, it’s likely that Wallace will finally retire.

Vernon Macklin

The second-year pro from Florida didn’t see much time as a rookie last year, averaging just six minutes a game as he adjusted to the NBA. He didn’t play more than 10 minutes until the fifth-to-last game in the season, but when he did play (23 minutes vs. Atlanta), he scored eight points, grabbed nine boards and dished out two assists. Not eye-popping stats, but for someone who wasn’t part of head coach Lawrence Frank’s rotation, something positive. He played 14 minutes in another end-of-the-season game and finished with six points and six rebounds.

Unfortunately for the 6’10” forward, his exclusion from the Pistons roster this season was simply a matter of numbers. With five other players on the roster who can play his position, Macklin was the odd man out, as Detroit opted to stick with the higher-upside forwards Greg Monroe, Jonas Jerebko, Andre Drummond and Austin Daye. Charlie Villanueva was left on the roster more than likely because his contract will be a valuable asset next season.

Despite five other teams (Nets, Lakers, Bucks, Suns and Blazers) supposedly having interest in Macklin, he decided to sign with Gaziantep, a Turkish-based basketball club. He reportedly chose to play in Turkey so he could display his talents in live-game action, instead of training camp.

Khris Middleton

The newest Pistons rookie, Middleton officially signed his contract with the team four days ago. Being the last rookie to sign a deal for Detroit this summer, there was speculation as to whether or not he would make the team for 2012, or develop in the D-League. His signing essentially completes the Pistons’ offseason moves – he’s now the 15th player on the roster.

While it’s unlikely that Middleton becomes a consistent contributor in his first season as a Piston, it’s not impossible for him to become a reliable option within a few years. With aging veterans Corey Maggette and Tayshaun Prince and fellow rookie Kyle Singler the only small forwards on the team, Middleton could be a starter or heavily-used backup at the position soon enough.

The former Texas A & M Aggie’s best collegiate season came in 2010-11, when the then-sophomore averaged 14.4 points on 45.2% shooting while also grabbing 5.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals. His junior year number’s slightly decreased (13.2, 5.0, 1.0 respectively), but he was playing with a season-long knee injury. The skills he does have, though – scoring off the dribble and a high release on shots – should translate to the NBA, meaning he could become an important offensive piece for Detroit.

Middleton is the fifth rookie on the squad, just the ninth time in team history that five rookies have played on a Detroit team. In fact, the last time they did it in 1980, Corey Maggette was just a year old and Prince was just months old. The rest of the team’s roster wouldn’t even be born for another three years.

While it remains to be seen just how much they will all play, the amount of rookies of this team is a sign that Joe Dumars and company is finally committed to the rebuilding process. With the quick maturation of Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe thus far, however, that process might not take as long as it has for some of the league’s more downtrodden franchises.