With Lawrence Frank out in Detroit, what must the Pistons do to get back to contention?
With a record of 29-53 this season, the Detroit Pistons are a long way from competing for an NBA title. For a team in rebuilding mode, what they do in the offseason is incredibly important to their future success.
This summer, they will have plenty of big decisions to make. The Pistons have a vacancy at head coach, a lottery pick, four free agents and plenty cap space.
The Pistons need to improve not just for next season, but also find a way to once again become an elite NBA team. They can't get there this summer, but this outline will move them in the right direction.
Nate McMillan had success rebuilding in Portland.
With Lawrence Frank's dismissal, the Pistons are searching for the man who will be their fourth head coach since 2009. Nate McMillan should be the man for the job.
McMillan is a coach that has had previous success with a rebuilding process in Portland. In his first two seasons with the Trailblazers, McMillan won just a combined 53 games. Over his final three seasons with the team, they averaged 50 wins per season.
McMillan's teams play at a slow pace, something that would fit a roster with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond very well. He would undoubtedly have to find other players to fit his system, but those two should find roles in McMillan's system.
Whether the Pistons sign McMillan or another coach, the most crucial part of their offseason is to sign someone who will be around for longer than two seasons. It is nearly impossible to have success in the NBA without coaching consistency.
Oladipo would instantly improve Detroit's perimeter defense.
Unless the Pistons or a team behind them move up through the lottery, they will be selecting at No. 7 in this year's draft. With Monroe and Drummond in the post, they should be looking to add talent on the wing.
The Pistons were awful on both ends of the court last season, finishing 22nd in both offensive and defensive efficiency, per NBA.com. Indiana's Victor Oladipo would be a major improvement for the Pistons on the defensive end.
With excellent athleticism and long arms, Oladipo has the potential to be a Tony Allen-like defender on the wing. Offensively, he showed improved 3-point range in his junior season, and he should be a competent offensive player as well.
Oladipo has moved up draft boards all season long, so the Pistons will have to hope that he is still available when they are on the clock. If not, they may look at Michigan's Trey Burke, UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad or C.J. McCollum from Lehigh.
Charlie Villanueva has been a major dissapointment in Detroit.
In the summer of 2010, Charlie Villanueva was a 24 year-old free agent coming off of a season in which he averaged 16.2 points and 6.7 rebounds for the Milwaukee Bucks. The Pistons saw him as a player with great potential as a high-scoring stretch forward, and they signed him to a five-year, $35 million contract.
Since then, Villanueva has failed to live up to expectations, to say the least. He was unable to average 12 points or five rebounds in any of his four seasons with the Pistons. This season he scored less than seven points per game, averaging just 15.8 minutes.
Villanueva isn't a completely useless player on the offensive end, but he will not be worth the $8.58 million he is set to make next season. And while the Pistons will still have to pay his salary if he is amnestied, it will free up cap space they can use to acquire a much more valuable player.
Jose Calderon does not fit into the Pistons' rebuilding plan.
Jose Calderon was one of the Pistons' best players in the second half of the season after being acquired from Toronto. He scored 11.6 points per game while shooting 52.7 percent from the field and 52 percent from behind the arc. He offered them much-needed experience and leadership at the point guard position.
While Calderon played very well for the Pistons, his contract is expiring and at 31 years old, he doesn't fit into their rebuilding plan.
The Pistons young core of Monroe, Drummond and Brandon Knight are all 22-and-under. If given the chance to develop, it looks like the Pistons have a foundation in place to compete down the road. By the time they are truly ready to contend for a championship, however, Calderon will be in his mid-30s.
On top of that, Calderon's strong play this season should net him a good-sized contract this summer. The Pistons cannot afford to use valuable cap space on a 31-year-old point guard.
Mayo is a free agent that will likely be overpayed in the open market.
This summer, the Pistons can have over $20 million in cap space by letting their own free agents leave, and that number would jump to $30 million if they amnesty Villanueva. With that much cap space, they would be able to sign a maximum-contract player with room to spare.
The problem with this free agent class, is that there are very few players worthy of a max contract. Chris Paul and Dwight Howard are, but it is very unlikely that either would be willing to play in Detroit. Josh Smith, Al Jefferson and Nikola Pekovic are all solid players, but they will undoubtedly get overpaid this summer, and they don't play a position of need for the Pistons.
The best wing players available will be O.J. Mayo, Monta Ellis, Tyreke Evans, J.R. Smith, Andre Iguodala and J.J. Redick (in no particular order). These are all very useful players, but they all have major weaknesses. Mayo and Evans have been inconsistent throughout their careers. Iguodala will turn 30 next season and is no longer a very good offensive player. Ellis and Smith are huge defensive liabilities.
The Pistons need to follow Oklahoma City's example and build around their young players, and save cap space to be able to take on salary in a potential trade.
This summer, with a weak free-agent class and a team still far from contention, the Pistons should look to sign veterans to one-year contracts. Older players such as Samuel Dalembert and Elton Brand could improve their roster and serve as mentors to the young guys.
The Pistons may have trouble selling small moves like these to their fan base, but having patience is in the best interest of their future.