Detroit Pistons in the Tank: GM Joe Dumars Takes Team from Title to Toilet

Kevin Van PeltCorrespondent IFebruary 2, 2012

It wasn't too long ago that Joe Dumars was leading the Pistons to their sixth straight Eastern Conference Finals appearance. Now he would be happy with just a win.

Dumars took over as the president of basketball operations for the Pistons before the 2000-2001 season. He started his new career with a splash, trading Grant Hill for Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins. That season the Pistons had a 10-game drop in wins and finished the season 32-50.

However, that season was a rebuilding one, as Dumars made over 20 roster moves to clear the salary cap and collect draft picks. Also, first-time coach Rick Carlisle was signed as the new coach.

After a year of rebuilding, the Pistons went on a tear. The 2001-2002 season featured an 18-game swing in the standings and gave the Pistons 50 wins for the season, the first of seven consecutive times.

Dumars was constructing a championship team before our eyes. In 2002, Dumars drafted Tayshaun Prince and traded Jerry Stackhouse for Richard Hamilton. Also, with the signings of Chauncey Billups and Mehmet Okur, the Pistons seemed ready to contend in the Eastern Conference.

These moves by Dumars made him seem like a basketball genius. He was named executive of the year in 2003 and received more good news before the start of the 2004 season. The Pistons were finally getting their draft pick from the Otis Thorpe trade to Memphis. This meant having the third pick in the draft.


Darko was worth it...right?
Darko was worth it...right?Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Dumars used this draft pick to sign Darko Milicic, a draft pick that was questionable at best. Carmelo Anthony was thought to be going to the Pistons, at least all of the experts thought so. Fans wanted Anthony to be a Piston and join what was already a championship-caliber team. Everyone wanted this but Dumars.

At this point, Dumars had shown he would make the right moves for his team. Maybe he knew something we didn't. Even if he was wrong, he still had done more good than bad up to that point and was just named executive of the year.

Another questionable move came when Dumars fired Carlisle, who won 100 games for the Pistons in just two seasons, and replaced him with Larry Brown.

One thing is clear, Dumars is willing to make a move, and at the time, he was mostly right.

An example of this would be in the 2003-2004 season, when he traded for Rasheed Wallace. Wallace helped the Pistons strengthen their defensive identity on their way to the playoffs.

That season, the Pistons won an NBA championship by defeating the Los Angeles Lakers. Dumars had proven that his hard work and moves were for good reason. Dumars built a team. They had no true "superstar" but worked well together as a team. The right pieces were put together by Dumars, as he knew what needed to be done to help his team win a championship.


After a second trip to the NBA Finals, Dumars fired Brown and hired Flip Saunders. This was another move that made people scratch their heads. However, Saunders led the Pistons to a 64-win season but fell short of winning the championship.

The 2008 season was when things started to completely fall apart. Dumars fired Saunders after two consecutive seasons of over 50 wins. Then he traded guard Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess for aging point guard Allen Iverson.

This led to their first losing season since Dumars first took over in 2000. Since then, the Pistons have not had a winning season and currently have a record of 4-20.

Dumars is a good at what he does. Pistons fans may find that hard to believe, but he is. He knows what it takes to make a good basketball team.

Dumars' problem is that he changes too much. He makes moves constantly and does not let teams build. The revolving door of coaches is something that was not necessary while they were winning division titles and championships, but it happened.

Dumars was in a position where he wanted to prove that he knew what he was doing. By doing so, he tried too hard to show how good he was and slowly blew up a great team that he worked hard to build.

Another problem for Dumars is his lack of finding good draft picks. Since the 2003 draft, only two players stand out as a good pick. Those players are Rodney Stuckey and Tayshaun Prince. Other than that, they have all been busts. Dumars can make the trades when needed, but he can't be trusted drafting the future of the team.

The future of Dumars and the Pistons does not look good at the moment. Just try to remember who Dumars used to be before his flurry of bad moves. The man knows basketball and helped turn this team around when he first got to Detroit. So why can't he do it again?