Detroit Pistons: The in-between years
The early 2000’s were an era of transition for the Detroit Pistons, as they were in-between the Grant Hill and Goin’ to Work eras, trying to find a roster that worked, which wasn’t helped by the fact that they struck out in the draft two years in a row.
The Pistons actually had some talent on the 2000-2001 roster, as Jerry Stackhouse averaged just under 30 per game and Ben Wallace was starting to show signs of becoming the best defensive player in the league.
They also had Corliss Williamson and Joe Smith, two quality role players, but when you strike out in the draft, it is hard to build a sustainable winner.
The Pistons took Cleaves in 2000 and backed it up with Rodney White a year later, which pretty much submarined this particular squad’s chances and was one of the reasons Joe Dumars eventually blew it up.
Luckily Joe Dumars was much better at making trades than he was at drafting (at least in this era), as he got just about the entire Goin’ to Work team (except Tayshaun Prince) via trade or free agency.
Things started to turn around the next season when the Pistons brought in Rick Carlisle, who was one of the more underrated coaches in team history. His 2001-2002 team won 50 games and really kicked off one of the best eras in team history.
To be fair, the 2000 and then 2001 drafts were so bad that just about every team has a void from that era where a star rookie should be.
This was all a prelude to the Detroit Pistons’ most sustained success, but the 2000 draft is one that Joe Dumars (and the rest of the league) would rather forget.