Eight Years Later, How Are the Detroit Pistons so Far from the NBA Finals?

Matt JonesAnalyst IMarch 6, 2012

ORLANDO, FL - JANUARY 24:  Ben Gordon #7 of the Detroit Pistons sets up a play during the game against the Orlando Magic at Amway Arena on January 24, 2011 in Orlando, Florida.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
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Oh, how the mighty have fallen. 

In 2004, the Detroit Pistons surprised the NBA by defeating a Los Angeles Lakers team that featured three of the best players in the history of the league. 

While the team was able to maintain a high level of competition for several seasons after becoming the World Champions, the last few seasons have been nothing but frustrating in Detroit. 

The Pistons currently have a record of 12-26 and are once again making plans for the NBA draft lottery instead of the playoffs.

As difficult as it has been lately for the Pistons, the struggles did not happen overnight and have been a culmination of decisions that will impact the team for years to come. 

So how did the Pistons go from winning it all to not winning very often in just eight seasons?

Over the years, Pistons general manager Joe Dumars has been known for taking risks, most of which have not worked out well for the team. 

Here are some of the most notable gambles that have backfired on the Pistons and led to the mess they are in today.


Draft Picks

The Pistons have not had a lot of success in the NBA draft over the last eight years. They do get credit for finding Rodney Stuckey, Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight in the first round but have had a few bad picks as well.

CHICAGO - FEBRUARY 25:  Darko Milicic #31 of the Detroit Pistons shoots a free throw during the game against the Chicago Bulls on February 25, 2004 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. The Pistons won 107-88. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledge
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The most notable of these bad draft selections actually happened in the summer of 2003 before the Pistons won the title. 

Instead of drafting Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade with the second overall selection, the Pistons took a shot on Darko Milicic who is known as one of the biggest busts in draft history. 

Not having a first-round selection in 2004 and 2006 did not help the team much and has made it more difficult to build for the future.


Free Agency

Free agency has not been kind to the Pistons since winning the NBA title in 2004. 

Not only did they lose four-time All-Star Ben Wallace to the Chicago Bulls in 2006, the Pistons struck out when they signed Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva a few seasons later. 

Thinking that they had found a good scorer in Gordon, the team signed him to a contract worth $55 million and did not get the expected production in return. 

Villanueva has not been been a better acquisition as he was signed for $35 million and has not played up to what the team had wanted.

Both players have one year remaining on their deals and have a player option for a year after that. 

CLEVELAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Allen Iverson #1 of the Detroit Pistons brings the ball up court against the Cleveland Cavaliers on February 22, 2009 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland won the game 99-78. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ackno
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Allen Iverson Trade


No single move made by the Pistons set the team back more than the surprising trade that sent away Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess for a 33-year-old Allen Iverson at the start of the 2008-2009 season. 

Hoping that Iverson still had the scoring ability that he had earlier in his career, the Pistons took a big gamble on Iverson and his expiring contract that did not pan out the way it should have.

Iverson did not make it through a complete season that year and never returned to play at the same level as he previously had been. 

As a team, the Pistons saw a 20-game drop in the win column from the previous season and won only 39 games. They were quickly bounced from the playoffs and have not returned since. 


Imagine what might have been if the team had not made any of these three decisions.

Would the big three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh be playing in Detroit if the Pistons had drafted better in 2003?

Where would the team be if they would have kept Ben Wallace and not signed Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva?

How would keeping Chauncey Billups instead of taking a chance on Allen Iverson have affected the team now?

While the Pistons would not have had many of the same players they have now, would they have been able to sustain success if these moves were not made?

Unfortunately, we will never get to find out, and Pistons fans are stuck in the middle of another difficult season with very little light at the end of the tunnel.