Detroit Pistons fans have been on a rough ride for the past five years. They were spoiled by six straight Eastern Conference Championship appearances, two trips to the NBA Finals and one title. But the 2003 NBA Draft debacle paired with four consecutive losing seasons has put general manager Joe Dumars in every fans’ crosshairs.
Perhaps with his job security in mind, Dumars jumped into the offseason headfirst with bold decisions. Let’s take a look at what questions those moves have created.
1. Will Greg Monroe be a Piston when the season starts?
Unless your 4th of July camping spot was in a remote place without cellular service, you’re aware that the Pistons inked Josh Smith to a four-year, $54 million deal. That creates an interesting and as-yet-undetermined situation in Detroit’s frontcourt.
A lineup consisting of Andre Drummond at center, Monroe at power forward and Josh Smith at small forward would be a defensive nightmare for teams trying to make plays at the rim. It would also give Detroit a significant advantage on the boards.
However, there are plenty of downfalls to this oversized lineup.
Floor spacing would difficult at best, especially without two reliable spot-up shooters on the outside. Chauncey Billups can still shoot, but the natural erosion of his athletic ability may outweigh the benefits. Think Jason Kidd for the New York Knicks.
Additionally, taking Smith away from the hoop isn’t a great idea. He’s a much more effective finisher at the rim than he is from mid-range. Successful teams don’t pay a player franchise money to play him out of position. They play him where he can be most effective.
Therefore, Smith needs to start and play at the four. Which just happens to be the spot that Greg Monroe–a young, talented player with trade value–occupies.
2. Is Rajon Rondo a realistic trade target?
At this point, why not?
The Boston Celtics are selling off all their assets t in order to tank for a high draft pick. The 2014 NBA draft is considered one of the most talented and deep classes in at least a decade. What’s the point of bringing back an ultra-competitive top-tier point guard when all Danny Ainge is bottoming out the Celtics?
While no offers have been confirmed at this point, the Pistons have large expiring contracts and the aforementioned talented big man (who obviously can’t win too many games on his own). Celtics general manager Danny Ainge would at least have to entertain a chance to tank for Kansas small forward Andrew Wiggins and completely eradicate the team of future financial obligations. Unfortunately, there’s a good chance that Detroit’s missing first-round pick could derail a deal.
3. Can Kentvious Caldwell-Pope make fans forget about Trey Burke?
If the reaction on social media is any indication, the fans aren’t enthusiastic about the selection of Caldwell-Pope. Two of the last three drafts have fallen in a beneficial manner for Dumars, but nobody has forgotten-and never will-the Darko Milicic debacle.
So is Caldwell-Pope capable of making fans forget that Dumars passed over their hometown favorite, Michigan point guard Trey Burke?
Caldwell-Pope is a big shooting guard with impressive athletic ability and an outside stroke. The Pistons have been hurting for those exact attributes and he could provide the spacing needed if the Pistons decide to go big. Additionally, Burke wouldn’t have room to operate with Smith, Monroe and Drummond on the court. But if Burke goes off for the Utah Jazz while Detroit languishes, Dumars’ mistake will be fatal to his employment. The shooting guard will need at least a few All-Star selections to silence the maize rage.
4. Will anyone get amnestied?
Most of the notable NBA free agents have already been signed so there isn’t much need to clear cap space. Since power forward Charlie Villanueva’s and combo guard Rodney Stuckey’s contracts expire after next season, they’re more valuable as trading chips, especially since Detroit can’t trade a first-round pick. The Charlotte Bobcats have the rights to snatch the Pistons’ first-rounder any year between 2014 and 2017 with a few protections in place.
5. Did Joe Dumars just panic-move this team out of future contention?
As mentioned above, the 2014 NBA draft is stacked, but it’s unlikely that Dumars will get a chance to rectify his biggest executive mistake. The Charlotte trade leaves Detroit vulnerable and it’s unlikely too many teams will offer the Pistons a high pick.
Perhaps nobody was paying attention to the lowly Pistons at the time, but that Bobcats trade was a gaffe on par with the Milicic selection. Detroit handed over the pick to entice the Bobcats to take on Ben Gordon’s salary. Had Dumars considered using the amnesty clause or holding out a little longer, he would have received a better deal since Gordon’s contract expires right before the 2014 gold rush; just like Stuckey’s and Villanueva’s.
The Pistons then turned that immediate-instead-of-future cap space into Josh Smith, a very-good-but-not-top-tier big man. If Dumars just blew another chance to build a championship-caliber team, ala the summer of 2009 and the draft of 2003, his days in Motown are numbered.