What Detroit Pistons Can Learn from Top Teams
The Detroit Pistons are mercifully nearly done with another unsuccessful season.
And as the dust collects on their last championship in 2004, we are stuck looking back to the glory days instead of looking forward to reclaiming our spot on top.
The Pistons are a fairly rudderless franchise these days, with few bright spots to look forward to.
Sure, they have a few good players, but a lot of their problems right now involve the bad moves that have been made over the years.
That being said, there certainly is reason for optimism.
One only needs to look at some of the other successful teams around the league to know that there is always a way forward with a mix of luck, determination and vision.
Here are five things that the Pistons can learn from the top teams around the league.
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(Okay, so technically the Lakers traded for Kobe, but he has been a Laker his entire career.)
However, each of those teams has drafted at least one of their top three players as well.
Same goes for Tim Duncan and the Spurs, and Kevin Durant and the Thunder.
But why is it that other teams that have had great draft picks haven't had the same success?
Part of it is luck, but part of it is doing your due diligence.
If a player is a high risk/high reward player, don't take the risk.
If a player seems one-dimensional, make sure that one dimension will translate at the next level.
If a player is an injury risk, avoid it.
If a player is a project, avoid it.
Those are the things that the top teams did, and things that the other teams didn't do.
The Pistons need to avoid risks, and draft wisely.
This isn't just about top picks. The Spurs haven't had a top pick in years yet always seem to draft value players that fit their system.
Develop Your Own Talent
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Take a look at Indiana and Memphis.
These two teams have drafted mostly wisely over the years, and even though it took a while, they were patient with these players.
Danny Granger was a mid-first-round pick back when Indiana was going through a transition from a top playoff team to a fringe lottery team.
He started out slow, but the Pacers were patient with him. He rewarded that patience by becoming one of the better scorers in the league.
The same is happening with Paul George, who started out slow but is now becoming a very good young player who could probably become Granger's replacement.
Memphis did the same with Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Rudy Gay. They likely will do the same with Darrell Arthur and Josh Selby.
Chicago as well is being patient with their young talent, giving them a very good one-two punch with Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah up front.
Get Lucky with a Trade or Two
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Now to say that you need to "get lucky" is kind of a vague notion. You might as well say a good way to deal with debt is to win the lottery.
But in basketball, the odds are a lot better at getting lucky on trades than your luck is to hit it big in lotto.
Not all NBA general managers are smart. Some teams know this better than others.
But if you are diligent enough, you are bound to get lucky on a trade or two.
And the top teams certainly have.
General managers can get stupid about their roster when they feel like the team is stagnant. So Detroit needs to mine the teams that are stuck in a rut and hope that they can poach a great talent.
Be Open and Willing in Trades
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On the flip side of getting lucky on trades is the idea that teams must be willing to part with seemingly sacred cows.
Think about Boston a few years ago.
They were a middle-of-the-road team team with a very good young center in Al Jefferson.
It could have blown up in their face, but Minnesota remained a floundering franchise, and Boston won a title.
The Lakers did the same thing with a very talented Marc Gasol in order to get his brother. Luckily for both sides, this has worked out.
Heck, even Oklahoma City was willing to deal a very talented Jeff Green because they knew that Kendrick Perkins was a better fit. Green was unquestionably the better talent, but Oklahoma City took a chance and took fifty cents on the dollar.
The Pistons need to be willing to deal anyone on the roster, from Greg Monroe to Brandon Knight, if the right talent becomes available.
They also need be willing to take back less talented players that might fit their system better. So be willing to eat the bulk of Ben Gordon's salary if it means bringing back a big man that can help, even if he isn't a starter.
The Pistons did this before with the Grant Hill trade, albeit that was a sign-and-trade and Hill was going to leave anyway. But they took Ben Wallace instead of John Amaechi because he fit the team concept better.
Set a Path and Set the Roster Accordingly
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Why have the San Antonio Spurs been one of the most successful teams in the league for the last two decades?
Sure, they got lucky and drafted Tim Duncan.
But what set them apart was the fact that they had a vision of what they wanted their team to be about, and then set their roster accordingly.
They drafted wisely, but mainly by drafting players that fit their system. So they got lucky with late-round picks like Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and DeJuan Blair.
They are a team built around character guys that hustle and play unselfishly. They also play great team defense and don't turn the ball over.
The Lakers have drafted wisely with guys like Andrew Bynum, but they also recognized the type of players that they wanted to surround Kobe Bryant with and set their roster accordingly.
Oklahoma City did the same with guys they surrounded Durant and Russell Westbrook with, such as James Harden, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins.
The Pistons floundered after their title years because they shifted who they were and decided on a different path that wasn't in their nature.
Had Detroit stuck with what made them a champion, they would have likely remained a good team. Instead, they sold their soul and brought in guys that were not Pistons' type of players.
Moving forward, they need to get back to their roots and start filling the roster accordingly.
Drafting is the most important part, but they also need to make some smart free-agent moves. Get guys that have something to prove, and boost their depth with character guys.
It seems that the Pistons have already figured this out by drafting guys like Monroe, Knight and Jerebko.