Detroit Pistons Season Preview: A Not-Oiled Machine

Posted: November 8, 2010 by sabetodo in Professional

By Andrew Bolton | GLH

Here’s the situation so far: The Pistons, off an injury-plagued, 27-win season last year, decided against any major changes in the off-season. Let that sink in for a second. They brought every major contributor back from a team that won 27 games. Then, they added a big name free agent. Oh, wait. This particular free agent is Tracy McGrady, who can’t stay healthy. Then, they went and drafted Greg Monroe from Georgetown, instead of trading up for a potential star like Derrick Favors or Demarcus Cousins. Preseason came, and Jonas Jerebko, only the team’s best player from last season, hurt his Achilles, and is out for a considerable stretch of time. Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon still can’t crack the starting lineup. Ben Wallace is the best interior player despite being 75 years old.

The season started as badly as it could, with the Pistons losing several winnable games before finally winning two. The record sits at 2-5, though they would be 6-1 if they could hold a fourth-quarter lead. There is unrest in the locker room, as well, with Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey expressing displeasure with coach John Kuester. Stuckey was even benched for a game. How will the rest of the season play out? Let’s do a player-by-player preview to see if we can see where this will all end up.

Starters

Rodney Stuckey–Already mad at the coach, Stuckey faces a make-or-break season. If he can’t step up his game and become more than a mediocre combo guard, this could be Stuckey’s last season in Detroit. Joe Dumars drafted Terrico White, a super-athletic combo guard, in this last draft just in case Stuckey doesn’t become a better player. Fortunately for the organization, Stuckey has shown signs of improvement. He has increased the assists and cut down the turnovers so far, and has shown an improved ability to finish at the basket. If he can continue his improved play and keep his mouth shut, this team will be better than people think.

Richard Hamilton–I’m so sick of him. He’ll be good for 15-18 points per night and nothing else. At this point, he brings down the offense because the sets they run for him are so deliberate. He takes the team out of any flow they might have to run plays to pander to his veteran status. The sooner he leaves, the better.

Tayshaun Prince–A useful player (and expiring contract), Prince will contribute this season in a big way. He can still shoot, and still play some defense, so expect his nightly 14 points and above-average defense on opposing team’s players. Don’t be surprised if he gets traded, though.

Austin Daye–The wild card. Daye has tantalizing offensive ability: at 6’11”, he can put the ball on the floor, create his own shot, and really shoot it from deep. It’s his defense on opposing power forwards that will keep him on the court. Already this season, he has struggled with fouls. If the Pistons can use his talents wisely, he will be the best Pistons player this season.

Ben Wallace–He’s old, but he still has it. He is, still, one of the best post defenders in the league, a force on the boards that will get double-digit rebounds per night. Unfortunately, he can’t play in close games because of his free-throw shooting, which has managed to get worse. Somehow.

Bench

Ben Gordon–He looks like he’s back. Troubled with injuries all of last year, Gordon is fully healthy, and his shot is back on. Expect 20-23 points per night off the bench, with the occasional 35-point explosion. I think he should be starting instead of Hamilton, but what do I know. He’s only a better all-around player.

Charlie Villanueva–Playing with more fire now than during all of last season combined, Charlie V looks pretty darn good. He’s hitting threes, rebounding fairly well, and playing passable defense. If he, along with Gordon, can provide reliable offense without killing the team on the other end (a HUGE if), the Pistons will benefit greatly.

Will Bynum–Bynum was more effective than Stuckey in the preseason. Unfortunately, Will was injured early in the year, and has yet to play significant minutes. He’s still the fourth guard in a three-guard rotation, so while he may be fun while he’s in there, he ultimately won’t affect the season unless there’s an injury.

Jason Maxiell–Jason looks like the same player he was when he was first drafted, unfortunately. He has earned a DNP-CD the past three games for failing to do anything to help the team. The Pistons simply have more talented players, and can’t afford to have him on the floor. There’s too much talent drop-off.

Jonas Jerebko–Last season’s most exciting player, Jonas was looking to break out this year as a legitimate two-way threat. A significant injury in the preseason ended that. Now, we just want him back healthy at some point so we can enjoy his hustle again.

Greg Monroe–The rookie big man has played very well to start with. He’s an excellent rebounder despite being unathletic, and he can pass and shoot the ball very well for a center. To me, though, he looks like Udonis Haslem, and we need more than Udonis Haslem with the seventh pick. Hopefully learning from Ben Wallace will create a beast. Otherwise, we’ll look at Greg and say, “Why didn’t we trade up?”

Tracy McGrady–Arnie Kander, the team physician, says McGrady will be 100% healthy by midseason. If that happens, then look out. When he was healthy, McGrady was one of the best (regular season) players of all time. I’ve already seen flashes of the old McGrady out of him. He’s versatile as well, filling in at point guard against Charlotte when Stuckey was sitting out for throwing a hissy fit. Of course, thinking McGrady will remain healthy for a year is like thinking the refs will start calling traveling. It ain’t gonna happen.

Terrico White, Dajuan Summers, Chris Wilcox–Either hurt or ineffective. Either way, they’re inconsequential.

What do we get if we add all this up? Let’s see:

Improved Stuckey + Better Rebounding + Healthy McGrady + Bench Depth + Daye Breakout – Bad Coach – Jonas Injury – Old Players = 35 wins.

Add 3-5 wins for the perennially terrible Eastern Conference.

I expect 38 wins and the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, which means we get to be cannon fodder for Orlando and miss out on a lottery pick.

Oh well. It’s NBA. I still love it.

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Comments
  1. Patrick Hayes says:

    “He’ll be good for 15-18 points per night and nothing else.”

    Well, if you consider defense ‘nothing’. If he’s healthy, Hamilton is a better all-around player. Gordon has been a below average defender his entire career, he’s undersized which doesn’t help his defense, and when he’s on the court, the team’s offense is nothing but isos. I’d much rather have a team running plays for a guy who is constantly moving and making his defender move than a guy who spends a lot of possessions dribbling the air out of the ball.

    Gordon is a better shooter for sure, and he’s younger. Those things might make him more valuable right now. But Rip has been a better all-around player his entire career.

    • Jared Field says:

      I’ve been to the Palace twice this season and Rip looked pretty average both times. I think he’s living off his reputation as a defender right now. I’ll take Gordon, but let’s keep Rip around for the “yessir” soundbite.

      • Patrick Hayes says:

        Two times? Wow, what a huge sample size!

        I’m talking career. Hamilton has been an average or better defensive player for his career. Gordon has been below average. Stats show it, and the fact that Gordon is about 5 inches shorter would also show that.

        Hamilton is coming off an injury too, just like Gordon, and Hamilton has been a notoriously slow starter his entire career. I’m withholding judgment on where he’s at until at least 15 games or so into the season.

        Like I said, Gordon’s the long-term option. He’s younger and more explosive offensively. But Hamilton has been a very valuable, durable and well-rounded player his entire career. How many guys can average 18 a game and not have to dominate the ball to do it?

      • Jared Field says:

        Gary Payton had a great career. Let’s bring him in.

        Not sure how his reputation or career achievements really help the team right now.

      • Skywalker says:

        Jared… when are you going to start talking preseason HS basketball? Most of our football teams have been knocked from the playoffs and we are ready for the hardwood!

      • Patrick Hayes says:

        Rip’s like 32 man. Hardly ancient. He could be declining, but he was also injured most of last year. Like I said, wait 15 or 20 games. He had 27 and looked great Sunday.

  2. sabetodo says:

    Have we been watching the same Rip Hamilton over the years? I don’t recall him being an above average defender at any point in his career. He was underrated, I’ll admit, but that includes being average when everyone thinks you’re terrible.

    I’ll agree on the isos with Ben Gordon; he seems to think he can do whatever he wants with the ball when he’s in the game. However, while Rip doesn’t dominate the ball, he dominates the offense. They have to run him off screens that the defense can see coming a mile away, and they have to do it 2o times per game to keep him from whining. To his credit, he can knock them down; unfortunately he seems to think that he’s the go-to guy on this team, and he’s not talented enough to be that.

  3. Coach RG says:

    The problem is Joey D didn’t blow up the whole team to start with. If you were only gonna half way blow it up like Joe did then you keep Chauncey and trade Rip and Tay. Chauncey could lead this team to the playoffs without Rip and Tay.

  4. Marcellus Miller says:

    The problem is Joe Dumars, simple. He won a title with other GM’s players and now he has put together an almost unwatchable at times team. Attendance numbers will show that. I agree with the Daye assessment, I really like that kid. And the coach is awful!

    • So does he get no credit for acquiring those “other GM’s players” for 10 cents on the dollar? Making lopsided trades/good free agent signings is a huge part of being a GM, as important as drafting well. Dumars’ title team’s two best players, Billups and Ben Wallace, combined to make just over $10 million that season. That same season, Antoine Walker was making $13 million to sit on the bench in Dallas.

      These are the only GMs who have won titles since Jordan’s Bulls’ runs were over: Buford (San Antonio), West (Lakers), Kupchak (Lakers), Riley (Heat), Ainge (Celtics), Dumars (Pistons).

      Dumars made two bad signings with his cap space, and Hamilton’s extension wasn’t good. He’s obviously had issues drafting, but he’s also found guys late who have been productive — Stuckey, Okur, Prince, Jerebko were all nice finds. He’s still a top 10 GM in the league based on his body of work, and until two years ago, he was considered a top four GM. If the Pistons fired him, he’d have another job in a week if he wanted.

      • Jared Field says:

        I was at the game last Friday night (the team’s first win) and the Palace was half full. I agree with Marcellus. Joe’s the GM and this team really gives us the worst of both worlds. At least if they had one great player that would be enough reason to go see them, even if they weren’t winning games. Joe D is ultimately responsible for this mess.

      • Marcellus Miller says:

        Let’s start with the draft…I won’t even count 2000 because that was Dumars’ transition year (but I will say Michael Redd was missed in that draft). But the draft is what secures your teams’ future.

        2001- 1. Rodney White 2. Brian Cardinal. Players missed on; Tony Parker, Richard Jefferson, Gerald Wallace, Zach Randolph, Joe Johnson (next pick AFTER White), Troy Murphy, Brendan Haywood, Jason Collins, Sam Dalembert, and Gilbert Arenas.

        2002- 1 Tayshaun Prince (best draft to me because the draft was garbage this year). Players missed; Carlos Boozer (I would rather have Boozer but not killing him for this one)

        2003- 1 Darko (need I say more?) 2 Andreas Glyniadakis (WHO?). Players missed; Melo, D Wade, Bosh, David West, Josh Howard, Chris Kaman, Kirk Hinrich, Boris Diaw, Travis Outlaw, Kendrick Perkins, heck even Steve Blake and Kyle Korver.

        2004- 1. no pick (pick was used to get Rasheed Wallace who was THE key to their championship so I’m good with that) 2. Ricky Paulding. Players missed (again not killing Joe for these); Josh Smith, JR Smith, Jameer Nelson, Kevin Martin, Trvor Ariza.

        2005- 1. Maxiell (bum) 2. Amir Johnson (bum). Players missed; David Lee and Monta Ellis

        2006- 1. no pick (pick used to get Carlos Arroyo now I have to kill him for that! Would have been 30th overall) 2. Will Blalock (WHO?). Players missed; Paul Millsap (anybody see him drop 46 last night?), Daniel Gibson, oh yeah and he could have made a move up to get Rajon Rondo.

        2007- 1. Stuckey (underachiever thus far) 1. Afflalo (gone) 2. Sammy Mejia (again, WHO?). Players missed; Aaron Brooks, Big Baby Davis, Carl Landry, Marc Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, Ramon Sessions.

        2008- 1. DJ White (then traded for Walter Sharpe and Trent Plaisted- all bums) 2. Deron Washington (WHO?). Players missed; Luc Mbah A Moute, Chris Dougkas-Roberts, Mario Chalmers.

        2009- 1. Daye (solid pick) 2. Dajuan Summers 2. Jonas Jerebko (jury still out; 1 inconsistent, but interesting year before injury). Players missed; Jrue Holiday, Omri Casspi, Ty Lawson, Rodrique Beaubois, Taj Gibson, and most notably Dejuan Blair (Blair or Jerebko? Give me Blair)

        2010- 1. Greg Monroe, 2. Terrico White (jury still out on these guys obviously)

        So, let’s just take one from each group of players missed (and I won’t even count potentially getting Rondo). They COULD have; Michael Redd, Joe Johnson (or Tony Parker or Gilbert Arenas), Carlos Boozer, Dwyane Wade, Josh Smith, David Lee (or Monta Ellis), Paul Millsap, Marc Gasol (or Aaron Brooks), Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Dejuan Blair. If they only hit on half of those, they would be FAR better than they are now. Next, free agents…

      • Jared Field says:

        Geez. Seeing that, I’d say the drafts were even worse than I thought.

      • Marcellus Miller says:

        The free agent signings preety much start and end with Billups. Great signing, terrible trade. Chris Webber was cool and Antonio McDyess as well. Will Bynum was a nice find. Ben Gordon and Charlie “he called me a cancer patient” Villanueva have done very little for the team success. Kwame Brown? T-Mac? I’m struggling here. Someone help me figure out some good ones…

      • Marcellus Miller says:

        BTW, Prince and Stuckey were first round picks…they’re supposed to be “nice finds”. He can’t get extra credit for that.

    • Marcellus Miller says:

      Trades…judge for yourself…

      -Grant Hill for Chucky and Big Ben- good

      -Jerome Williams for Corliss Williamson- ugh

      -Mateen Cleaves for Jon Barry- ugh

      -Jud Buechler for Uncle Spliffy, I mean Cliff Robinson- ugh

      -Stackhouse for Rip- good

      -Mike Curry for Lindsey Hunter- eh?

      -Rebraca, Sura, Hunter, Atkins, and two first round picks for Rasheed and Mike James- not bad, but those picks could loom large

      -Elden Campbell and a 1st-rounder for Arroyo- ouch on that 1st round pick

      -Billups, McDyess, Samb for Iverson- the beginning of the end

  5. Patrick Hayes says:

    I didn’t say he wasn’t responsible. I’m saying he should not be in any danger of getting fired.

    The main thing handcuffing the team right now is the ownership situation. Dumars hasn’t been able to make any significant moves over this offseason because with the team for sale, they aren’t going to let him add any long-term salary, which is why the only move was adding McGrady for one year at the minimum salary.

    There will be plenty of interest in Prince and his expiring contract, but as I said, teams just won’t move an expiring deal for a player with multiple years left when they are trying to finalize a sale.

    Dumars built a championship team, one that was in the playoffs for nine straight years, conference finals for six straight and never paid the luxury tax. The Palace was always sold out. The No. 1 job of any GM is to make the ownership of the team money, and Dumars did that as well or better for damn near a decade than any GM in the league. One season out of the playoffs (maybe two, depending on how they finish this year) is nowhere near enough to cost someone with that track record his job.

    • sabetodo says:

      The rumor floating around recently is Tayshaun and another contract for Zach Randolph. I would do this trade 100 times out of 100 if I could be guaranteed the Zach Randolph that played for the Grizzlies last year (all-star, led team to 16-win improvement).

      I agree that Joe has been a great GM; unfortunately, the sports world is all about “What have you done for me lately?” Joe has run this team into the ground lately. He’s changed coaches and players (the wrong ones). The only thing that’s left is to switch out himself. Kevin Pritchard is available.

      That’s getting too far ahead, though. Joe deserves another couple of years. Some of the young guns could turn into great players and lead us back.

    • Marcellus Miller says:

      Built the team? Ok…I will say he put 5 major pieces there in Billups, Hamilton, Prince, and The Wallace boys. But are we really giving credit out now for making it to the playoffs in the east? Sellouts are big, I will conceded that….and making money is key. But I venture to say that the financial gains may not be as much as we think with a sale on the horizon. Why sale such a profitable entity?

  6. Patrick Hayes says:

    Alright, some notes on some of your notes on his trades:

    “-Jerome Williams for Corliss Williamson- ugh”

    Why ugh? Williamson was a Sixth Man of the Year in Detroit and key player on a title team, Williams was an energy player who got overpaid in Toronto.

    “-Mateen Cleaves for Jon Barry- ugh”

    Cleaves wasn’t a good pick in the draft, but Barry had two solid seasons of production off Detroit’s bench. He turned a mid-first round pick from a terrible draft overall into a useful rotation player for two years.

    “-Jud Buechler for Uncle Spliffy, I mean Cliff Robinson- ugh”

    Cliff Robinson was a starter on two straight playoff teams. Old by the time he got to the Pistons, but still productive. He made the playoffs every year of his long career until he got to Golden State in his last season. Again, good trade.

    “-Rebraca, Sura, Hunter, Atkins, and two first round picks for Rasheed and Mike James- not bad, but those picks could loom large”

    He only gave up one first rounder in this trade, which the Hawks used on Josh Smith. It sucks, but Smith was a find with that pick. Guys picked in the 20s typically don’t become what Smith has become, and the trade netted a title, so it’s impossible to say it was a mistake.

    “-Elden Campbell and a 1st-rounder for Arroyo- ouch on that 1st round pick”

    Yeah, bad trade. Larry Brown was clamoring for a backup PG (as he does with every team he’s ever coached), Dumars got him one, and Brown quickly fell out of love with Arroyo (as Brown also always does). But that late first round pick they gave up became Joel Freeland (who?), so not much harm here.

    “-Billups, McDyess, Samb for Iverson- the beginning of the end”

    McDyess came back after Denver bought him out, so I don’t include him as someone the Pistons had to part with. In theory, trading a large long-term contract to an aging player for $20 million in cap space is not a bad trade. The trade was compounded by the fact that players Dumars used the cap space on have underachieved. The trade itself though? I didn’t hate it. It freed up significant money (along with Rasheed Wallace’s expiring deal) with several big name free agents looming. I don’t love who he signed, but I don’t mind the strategy.

  7. Patrick Hayes says:

    As for drafts, you can look at any team in the league and go back and say, “Oh my god, they should’ve taken this guy!” It’s revisionist history, and I think your evaluations need to consider where Detroit was picking most years.

    “2001- 1. Rodney White 2. Brian Cardinal.”

    Dumars has actually been on record saying this one was his biggest regret, not taking Johnson instead of White. And the second round pick this year was Okur, not Cardinal. Cardinal was the second rounder the year before when he took Cleaves. Okur became an All-Star in Utah. He had two good years in Detroit off the bench and the Pistons couldn’t match the offer he received from Utah and stay under the luxury tax. Okur was a great find in the second round.

    As for Cardinal, he was a rotation player on a playoff team in Memphis and I believe he’s still in the NBA. To get any guy in the second round who has a long NBA career is pretty rare, so yeah, a couple bigger names went in that second round, but Cardinal was good value.

    “2002- 1 Tayshaun Prince”

    Starter who didn’t miss a game for six straight seasons, and locked up Kobe in the Finals. Great, great value for a late first rounder.

    “2003- 1 Darko (need I say more?) 2 Andreas Glyniadakis (WHO?).”

    You left out Delfino. Delfino didn’t get a fair chance in Detroit, but check out dude’s numbers with Milwaukee. Another great find.

    Darko is Darko. But go back and read scouting reports before that draft. Any team would’ve taken him second. In fact, Denver tried to trade picks with Detroit to take him. That kid was getting major hype since he was 15 years-old as the next Nowitzki. Obviously he sucks, and it was compounded by the fact that that was one of the deepest drafts in league history. But no one had Bosh or Wade turning out as good as they did. In fact, Miami took crap for taking Wade too high at the time.

    “2005- 1. Maxiell (bum) 2. Amir Johnson (bum).”

    Late first round and late second round picks who are still in NBA rotations. Are they great players? Nope. Have they had better careers than the vast majority of guys who get picked in those spots in the draft? Yep.

    “2007- 1. Stuckey (underachiever thus far) 1. Afflalo (gone) 2. Sammy Mejia (again, WHO?).”

    You seen Afflalo’s numbers in Denver? It sucks that Detroit gave up on him, but he was a talented player and another good find late in the first round.

    “2009- 1. Daye (solid pick) 2. Dajuan Summers 2. Jonas Jerebko (jury still out; 1 inconsistent, but interesting year before injury).”

    I don’t know how you can call Daye solid and say juries still out on Jonas. Jonas was their second best player last year besides Wallace. He’s a terror on the offensive glass, he averaged close to 10 a game without ever having a play run for him and he defended three positions. Daye has a nice shooting touch and doesn’t really do anything else well yet.

    But overall, this was Dumars’ worst draft, I’ll give you that. Rather than Daye, they could’ve taken Lawson. Rather than Summers (who sucks) they could’ve taken Blair. And also, the picked Chase Budinger, then traded him to Houston for a future pick. Budinger averaged 10 a game off the bench for Houston and made the all-rookie team last year, so they realistically could’ve come out of that draft with Lawson-Blair-Jerebko-Budinger and had four really solid young players.

    But those other drafts? Five, six, seven years after the fact to say “they should’ve taken Rondo” or “I can’t believe they missed Monta Ellis” is crazy. How many teams missed on those guys? Missed on Arenas? Missed on David Lee?

    If GMs got fired for missing on draft picks, every single one would be out of a job. They all miss. Dumars has had two high profile lottery busts in White and Darko, but overall, he’s drafted fine. Many guys he’s picked with late first rounders and second round picks are still in the NBA, and that’s rare — a lot of guys picked in those spots flame out within a couple seasons.

    The fairer question, to me, is why haven’t they been able to develop young talent? Delfino, Afflalo, Amir Johnson, Okur, for example, have all become much better players elsewhere. It is completely fair, I think, to ask why the Pistons don’t seem to have good player development strategies in place for after they draft them.

    2010- 1. Greg Monroe, 2. Terrico White (jury still out on these guys obviously)

  8. Jared Field says:

    Under Joe D, the Pistons are looking a lot like the Tigers right now. Guys come to Detroit, suck, and then play well pretty much anywhere else. I don’t get it.

  9. Patrick Hayes says:

    Free agents:

    – Billups (as I said in another comment, one of the best values in the NBA when you compare his production, which was top two or three among PGs at the time, to his salary, which was less than $6 million per year)

    – McDyess (for $5 million a year, great value. Compare what other bigs were making who produced at relatively the same clip — usually $8-$10 million a year)

    He didn’t build the team through free agency, which made the Gordon/Villanueva signings stranger. He traded for key guys, extended them to reasonable deals, and then used free agency to fill out the rotation with cheap veterans — guys like Webber, Jarvis Hayes, Mo Evans, Elden Campbell, Kwame Brown, Tony Delk, Damon Jones, etc. None of those guys were flashy signings, but they were all just brought in because they were cheap (an important factor, since Dumars, unlike other GMs, has never been allowed to go into luxury tax territory to keep his team competing for titles) and could play 10-20 minutes a game depending on their role.

    I’m fine judging the Gordon/Villanueva signings harshly, as well as the Hamilton extension. Those look like bad moves right now. But the ultimate measure, like I said, is the fact that he’s won a lot of games as GM, he’s been to the playoffs in eight of 10 seasons, he made deep playoff runs (conference finals or better) six times and the second round once. Missing the playoffs once doesn’t undo that track record, and certainly isn’t grounds for firing a dude when you look around the league and see some of the bozos who keep their jobs for a really long time.

    Right now, there are maybe only five or six GMs I’d rather have running my team than Dumars.

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