Stan Van Gundy the exec: Fool or Genius?

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 02: Head coach Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons talks with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 02: Head coach Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons talks with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope /

How do the Detroit Pistons moves under president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy stand up? Are they good or bad? We assess them here.

Has Stan Van Gundy lived up to the hype as Detroit Pistons’ president of basketball operations?

There’s possibly not a more polarizing line of questioning surrounding the team. Sure the value of Reggie Jackson and his knee is highly disputed among fans. As are Andre Drummond‘s free throw and defensive woes. But the question of Stan Van Gundy and what his value has been to the Detroit Pistons is both a heated and multi-faceted one. He is the man in charge. It’s his team and at this point aside from Andre Drummond he’s built the entire thing. Let’s delve into it from the beginning, starting with Van Gundy as executive

In 2014, Stan Van Gundy was hired by owner Tom Gores as president of basketball operations. He started first by hiring Jeff Bower to be the general manager and handle daily duties, so that he could concentrate on coaching the team. Bower has a lot to do with the successes and failures of the Pistons transaction wise. Aside from hiring assistant coaches which I’m not veering into, the duo then headed into the draft.

 Van Gundy in the draft

Van Gundy’s first draft selection was Spencer Dinwiddie, 6’6″ guard from the University of Colorado. He was taken in the second round with the 38th pick because Detroit lacked a first round pick. Initially everyone was high on his size but he never really panned out and was traded to Chicago in a deal we’ll discuss shortly.

Related Story: Pistons sign Anthony Tolliver to one-year deal

His second pick was Stanley Johnson, 6’7″ small forward the University of Arizona at number eight in the 2015 draft. Initially shocked, many fans questioned this pick as highly-touted small forward Justice Winslow had fallen beyond his projected draft position. The results of this pick are still up in the air and neither player has had the breakout seasons that were expected. I however still think Stanley Johnson has very high potential and has already shown himself to be a capable defender. For his part he’s stayed healthy thus far as well, unlike Winslow.

Van Gundy’s next picks came the following seasin in 2016. He took Henry Ellenson, a 6’11” sweet shooting power forward from Marquette and Michael Gbinije, 6’7″ shooting guard from Syracuse. Both struggled for playing time last year but played pretty well in the NBA D-League (now the G League). Ellenson had a great Orlando Summer League showing this year. Maybe it’s time for him to see some more action. Gbinije can be released by the Detroit Pistons by July 15 and they only have to guarantee $500,000 of his $1.312 million contract.

The Detroit Pistons’ 2017 pick was another sweet shooter. 6’6″ shooting guard from Duke, Luke Kennard. Similar to what happened with Johnson two years prior, many fans expected him to choose a different prospect, Donovan Mitchell. Van Gundy gets his man though, and he picked Kennard. As I mentioned earlier, Kennard can shoot and had a really nice summer league. He’s also surprised on defense, which the team has noted, via the Detroit News’ Rod Beard.

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I for one think Stan Van Gundy has done a fairly good job in the draft during his Piston tenure. There certainly could be some diamonds that develop from his picks. Several of these players have high ceilings.

Van Gundy in trades

In my opinion this is where he has made his best moves. Van Gundy makes magical trades. The wizard kind. Nobody is perfect and not every trade can work out but he really has traded low value for high most times. We should commend him for this. Most of these deals can be seen and graded well in this article by Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.

I’ll run through them anyway…

  1. 10-17-14, Pistons trade Will Bynum for Joel Anthony.
  2. 12-24-14, Pistons trade Tony Mitchell for Anthony Tolliver.
  3. 2-19-15, Pistons trade D.J. Augustine, Kyle Singler, 2017 first round pick for Reggie Jackson.
  4. 2-19-15, Pistons trade Jonas Jerebko, Gigi Datome for Tayshaun Prince.
  5. 6-11-15, Pistons trade 2020 second round pick for Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock, Danny Granger.
  6. 7-13-15, Pistons trade Quincy Miller for Steve Blake.
  7. 2-16-16, Pistons trade Ersan Ilyasova, Brandon Jennings for Tobias Harris.
  8. 6-17-16, Pistons trade Spencer Dinwiddie for Cameron Bairstow.
  9. 7-7-17, Pistons trade Marcus Morris for Avery Bradly, 2019 second round pick.

Not all of these are big splashes or barn burners. But Van Gundy has sent away far less talent than he’s acquired, and it should be mentioned that in the round about way, he turned a 2020 second round pick into two years of Marcus Morris and at least one year of Avery Bradley. All while getting back that second round pick he sent out… one year earlier.

Van Gundy in free agency

Free agency hasn’t exactly been a cake walk for Van Gundy. Detroit isn’t and never has been a “destination” for free agents. That being said, he has prioritized shooting and high character in free agency. While they haven’t necessarily translated in Detroit, a majority of his recent signings are currently productive on the team. His free agent signings are as follows.

2014- D.J. Augustine, Caron Butler, Jonas Jerebko, Cartier Martin, Jodie Meeks, Aaron Gray, Greg Monroe (qualifying offer).

2015- Joel Anthony, Aron Baynes, Cartier Martin.

2016- Jon Leuer, Boban Marjanovich, Ish Smith.

2017- Langston Galloway, Anthony Tolliver.

I like (or did like) a majority of these moves. he does however get right out there throwing the money around at players he covets. His slight over pays in free agency are more than made up for by his tenacious trading in my estimation. Before we go further lets also mention him using the NBA provision that allows the team to waive, and stretch out a salary, which he used on the now infamous Josh Smith. We all hate that his contract is still on the books until 2020, but let us not forget the glorious feeling that overcame the Palace of Auburn Hills once he made his departure.

Stan Van Gundy has made for one hell of an executive

All this being said and documented here in one place should make it clear that he’s taken this roster in a positive direction since his hiring. Save for Reggie Jackson’s knee last year and the team’s tremendous knack for laying bricks the Detroit Pistons could’ve had back-to-back winning records. I don’t think the blame for the setback falls on Van Gundy the executive. In that capacity he’s been superb, looking at all the facts and figures. Hindsight is 20-20 and nobody can read the future but all things considered, given what he started with, Van Gundy is out here kicking ass and taking names.

Next: KCP signs one-year contract with the Lakers

Is it the same case for Van Gundy the coach? We’ll take a look in my next writing. But I can already tell you the assessment isn’t quite as kind.