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PistonPowered Mailbag: Bloggers as GMs and fans enamored with Knicks roster, for some reason


Submit questions for the weekly PistonPowered Mailbag to  patrickhayes13(at)gmail(dot)com or on Twitter @patrick_hayes.

The overwhelming majority of this week’s questions came in an hour or so after Wednesday’s loss to Milwaukee. Funny how blowing a double-digit lead to the worst team in the league tends to push fans near the breaking point. At any rate, I only picked a couple of questions from that batch just so the mailbag didn’t seem too ragey this week. Anyway, let’s dive right in.

"Detroit Bad Boys has a post with a blogger making his case to be the Pistons’ next GM. That’s the worst idea ever, right? — pt"

It’s worse than the worst idea ever. You think this team is irrelevant now? Wow … I can’t even imagine how much of a joke the Pistons would be considered after a publicity stunt like that, not that they ever would consider it. Kevin Sawyer (I think) was mostly being tongue-in-cheek in his post. And I do agree with the first part of the premise — that it’s time to replace Joe Dumars. But just pretending he’s serious for a moment, let me make a laundry list of issues:

  1. The premise that a fan or writer or media personality or whoever could step in off the street and run the basketball operations of a professional franchise is insulting to people who spend their lives working in professional sports. Those jobs are competitive, there are thousands of people who want them and are actually qualified for them, you have to be incredibly connected and motivated to get them (not to mention lucky), you have to be willing to pick up your life and move anywhere in the country at a moment’s notice (sometimes for jobs that don’t pay all that well at the lower levels of basketball ops), etc. Now, sometimes you get lucky and you’re a famous former athlete and you get a job through name recognition. But look around the league — fewer and fewer teams are trusting their basketball operations to former players. They are hiring highly educated, business-savvy people who are rather anonymous prior to getting their jobs. So, in short, if you want to be a GM, go work for low pay as a video coordinator or scouting support staff or stats team or somewhere else at the ground floor level of the business, learn everything about it, work your way up through the ranks and actually become a qualified candidate like the many, many hard-working people doing just that right now, dying for a chance at a once-in-a-lifetime job running a team.
  2. It’s easy to be critical of mistakes that Dumars or any other GM makes. Mistakes are reported in media, they’re dissected in comments sections/message boards/websites and they follow people who work in high level sports jobs to any stop they make. It’s also easy to tout yourself for a position you’re not qualified for if you mention only your good qualifications. For example, perhaps Mr. Gores would be interested in Sawyer’s explanation for thinking Brad Beal was a worse prospect than Kim English? Or why he would’ve taken Arnett Moultrie over Andre Drummond? Or why Doron Lamb was a top 10 prospect despite no one else thinking anything remotely close to that? Or why likely rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams was only worth a late first round pick? This is coming off as picking on Sawyer, and that’s not my intention. It’s similar to Bill Simmons’ “campaign” a few years ago to be GM of the Timberwolves. The point is, we know all of the mistakes an experienced executive with a public track record makes. Writers, though? We make TONS of mistakes (please don’t go searching around for mine … they’re not pretty), bad predictions and weird proclamations that don’t pan out. And we all benefit from the fact that readers largely forget the crazier stuff we write within a couple of months, and we’re free to continue with the crazy ideas again. It’s an endless crazy opinion cycle! But if you’re making yourself a candidate for a dream job, those archives are fair game for evaluating your qualifications.
  3. We don’t actually know the context behind Dumars’ moves. I mean, we know that he has made many, many bad calls post-championship that haven’t worked. But who knows, maybe Gores is the world’s biggest Josh Smith fan. Maybe hiring Maurice Cheeks was a secret plan by Dumars and Gores for the Pistons to add more talent in the offseason but still remain bad enough through incompetent coaching so that they don’t lose their lottery pick in a loaded draft. Are those scenarios unlikely? Sure. Am I defending Dumars’ track record? No way would I do that anymore. But the point is, we don’t know context. So let’s say Sawyer (or any other of the many people who were opposed to the Smith signing) was named GM before free agency started. And let’s say you made your impassioned plea that signing Josh Smith was a bad idea, supported by mounds of data. And what if your owner strolled in wearing his Britney Spears jeans and unbuttoned shirt and said, “But I love Josh Smith! Look at his dunks! Give him millions a’ dollas!” Guess what? You are still going to sign Josh Smith, despite all of your objections. We know very little about Tom Gores, his desires and how he’s going to evaluate the decisions that were made in the offseason. So yes, Dumars deserves to be fired based on his long track record of poor decisions and the team’s long track record of not making the playoffs. But unfortunately for fans, we’re not the ones establishing the criteria for him staying or going. Just assuming that things would be different with someone else in his position, even someone who makes basketball decisions very differently than Dumars, is a judgement we don’t have enough information about Gores to make.

So yeah, I love Detroit Bad Boys, read it every day and get that the point of the post was more to show that Dumars has been terrible for a long time and needs to go (which I agree with) than to present Sawyer as actually qualified for the job. But it’s worth pointing out that thinking fans (even smart ones) could do a better job than even a mediocre executive is a mistake. Outsiders never have enough information to know what they’d actually be up against in that kind of role.

"Could you see the Pistons firing Maurice Cheeks during the season if they continue to play poorly? — Mark"

Clearly, Cheeks was a bad hire. The team is no better off than it was last year despite having more talent, I’m not positive I’ve seen them run a play on offense this year and what was supposed to be the team’s strength — defense — has been anything but. With the assumption that the Pistons have to make the playoffs for Dumars to keep his job at the end of the season, there is certainly some urgency to make a fast change. The main problem I see is that there is no clear successor on staff — as much as I’d love to see Coach ‘Sheed — to take over on an interim basis.

Theoretically, the Pistons could go out and pay for a free agent coach like George Karl or one of the Van Gundys or Lionel Hollins to come on board quickly. But if you were in Gores’ position, with the team under-performing and the playoffs looking more remote, would you pay Cheeks’ salary to go away, then allow Dumars to go pay another coach to come on board and quickly try to right a sinking ship? That doesn’t seem like a prudent financial move, especially if Gores has decided that Dumars isn’t his long-term guy. If you’re getting rid of Dumars at the end of the season, you’re not letting him hire another coach first.

So like it or not, Cheeks is probably the guy the rest of the way (unless both he and Dumars get fired mid-season, which is probably unlikely but not impossible). Also, I feel it’s important to point out that when Cheeks was hired and many, many people in the comments here were getting mad at Feldman and calling him negative for going back and digging up all of the evidence that Cheeks would not succeed as a head coach? Oops. Turns out we should’ve all been listening to Feldman. I’ll accept your apologies on his behalf.

"After last night’s defeat to the Bucks I definitely feel the team might trade some players and admit the error of the Smith signing. The problem is not Smith as a player but the fit with this team and I still think that Monroe is more valuable in the long run. There aren’t many trade partners but i think that Smith for Bargnani would work for both parts. We have (a little) more shooting and 2 less years on the contract. NY is in absolutely win know mode and need better defenders. What do you think? — Angelo"

Hmm … that’s interesting …

Also, Bargnani is making less than 30 percent of his threes this season and hasn’t shot better than 31 percent from three for three seasons. I don’t like Smith’s contract or fit on the team either, but there is exactly zero other reasons to ever want Andrea Bargnani on your favorite team.

"I’m not a big fan of his, but let’s say Carmelo makes it clear he’s leaving the Knicks, and everyone from the Knicks’ front office is drunk. Who says no? — Nico"

I think ‘Melo has become the most “fantasy-traded to the Pistons for garbage” player among fans since … uh … fans were making Tayshaun Prince-for-Josh Smith trades for about four years.

The Knicks definitely say no to that trade (in addition to giving up the best player, they’re also giving up the best young prospect in the deal in Hardaway … the Pistons would have to include a million first round picks for this deal to be fair), and rightfully so. For all of his flaws, Anthony is still an occasionally dominant (if inefficient) offensive player and legitimately one of the most popular players in the league. The Knicks will do everything they can to keep him, and they can pay him more money than anyone else. I don’t think Anthony is happy there, necessarily, but I also don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that he’d leave, either. The Knicks, I’m sure, are willing to bank on the fact that they can offer him the most and the allure of playing the Garden are enough bargaining chips to keep him. I don’t know if it will work, but if we know anything about the Knicks under Dolan, it’s that they will always be irrationally over-confident in their own resources as selling points.