Detroit Pistons Look for Bright Turnaround After a Dark Season

Ari Wagner@@Ari_WagnerContributor IApril 27, 2009

AUBURN HILLS, MI - APRIL 26:  Antonio McDyess #24 of the Detroit Pistons watches from the bench during the final minuet while playing the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at the Palace of Auburn Hills on April 26, 2009 in Auburn Hills, Michigan. Cleveland won the game 99-78 to win the series 4-0. 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 Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Pistons trading Billups for Iverson now looks like a bad trade for Detroit, considering Iverson has not played in the post season and the Pistons just got swept.

Meanwhile, Billups is leading the Nuggets to what looks to be a trip to the second round and is once again earning the nickname Detroit gave him, “Mr. Big Shot”

But trades are not always meant to impact the now. Billups was traded to reduce the salary cap, so that Dumars and ownership can pursue offseason free-agent talent.

With a serious class of free agents this year and the next, it will be a bidding war that rivals eBay—and the Pistons now have the cap space to be a contender.

With every team in the league dropping cap space and trying for LeBron James, the Pistons should just face the facts that he will never come to division-rival Detroit over Cleveland or any other big market. Detroit should focus on their needs and offer contracts while teams are still bidding on players like Wade and James.

The Pistons' point guards, Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum, have showed very good potential. Stuckey has learned the offence and his playing up to his caliber and Bynum now owns the single-quarter franchise mark with 27 points in a quarter—and he did it in the fourth. The point guard spot can be left alone if they are able to re-sign Bynum, who is a restricted free-agent this summer.

Richard Hamilton is a Piston who has been to the mountaintop and back.  He just signed a four-year contract with the team is set to be here for the construction of the new-look Pistons. He just needs to stop getting so many technical fouls—and I think if Sheed leaves, that will calm him down.

His backup at shooting guard is Arron Afflalo, who has a very strong body and is able to play physical defense on quick and strong players. Just two years in the league, Arron will have to pick up his game and become a three-point and defensive specialist like Shane Battier is in Houston.

Tayshaun Prince has been the Pistons' cool customer, always staying composed and poised throughout.  He knows this team and he knows this system better than anyone else, and he play the defensive style that the Pistons can not afford to forget. However, he needs to pick up his offensive game, or he could be possible trade bait come this summer.

With Walter Hermann being a restricted free agent this year who should be let go, this leaves Detroit needing a backup small forward who can learn from Prince, but hopefully be equipped with more offensive talent. This is a possible draft option for the Pistons' No. 15 selection.

The power forward position is an interesting topic for the Pistons. They have unrestricted free agent-to-be Antonio McDyess, who came back and signed with Detroit over potential championship teams like Boston and Cleveland after being dropped by Denver in the Billups/Iverson trade. This leads me to believe that he would be in favor of signing back in Detroit for another one- or two-year contract.

McDyess is one of the only Pistons who brings leadership and quality play every night. In the Game Four loss to Cleveland most of the Pistons packed it in, but McDyess had a double-double with 26 points and 10 rebounds. If Detroit can re-sign him for a good price, he could become an X-factor for the team heading into the future.

Jason Maxiell is considered the Pistons' backup center and Amir Johnson the backup power forward. But with the way the two players play, their position in the depth chart should be switched. Maxiell plays physical around the basket and has developed a good short range jumper, but he is undersized at 6’7’’, where Amir is a more rebound-oriented player who protects the hoop with his shot-blocking ability, and has two more inches on Maxiell.

The real need for the team is a true center. Former number-one overall pick Kwame Brown is a free agent, and the Pistons have no room for an underachieving center that just takes up room under salary cap.

Amir Johnson, while still very young, has not developed like the team wanted him to. He would make for a great backup in the league, but the Pistons now need a starter. With only two centers projected to go in the first round of the draft—and only one real star—the need will have to come from the free-agent market this summer.

Key options to pick up and pursue for the Pistons this summer at the center spot would be double-double machine David Lee or former Pistons champ and fan-favorite Mehmet Okur.

Lee is a restricted free agent, but it seems New York cares nothing about its team right now, and just about the pursuit of LeBron James in 2010. The Pistons should be able to at least have a go at Lee this summer, and he should be the number-one option.

Okur is an unrestricted free agent with an early termination option on his contract. He would be a great option for the Pistons.  However, he is coming off a $40 million contract and who knows what his asking price would be.

If Okur’s price is way too high, then the Pistons could just court Carlos Boozer for just a little more money, although he is speculated to be a sure thing over to Miami.

If McDyess decides to not re-sign and retires this year, Al Harrington would be a great free-agent pick up for the Pistons. He is much like Rasheed Wallace, because he can hit from three and rebound, but he should come with much less technical-foul and brain-lapse issues.

Also, if Bynum decides to leave and test the free-agent markets and the Pistons can swallow some Stuckey pride, Andre Miller is an option as well as Mike Bibby at the point guard slot on the free-agent market.

Now, to address the draft. As I mentioned earlier, the Pistons should try to select a small forward at the No. 15 spot to solidify a back up for Prince.

Earl Clark is a rare breed of SF who makes those around him better with his great vision and unselfish passing ability. He has prototypical small forward dimensions with long arms and a strong wiry frame.

Clark is a small forward out Louisville, and is projected to be drafted just before the Pistons select—but if he can drop a few spots to Detroit he would be a perfect pick.

James Johnson, out of Wake Forest, would be the second option for the Pistons in the draft. He is another small forward that works the offensive side of the ball just as well as he does the defensive. He can move well without the ball and does all the intangibles.

The third option is Sam Young out of Pittsburgh.  He is a senior that has a good jump shot with a great shot fake to counter. He is an excellent leaper and athlete and is able to improve on anything. The only problem with him is his game is very awkward.

However, the Pistons could take the best player available and select Danny Green, SF out of UNC, with their second-round pick. Best available is projected to look pretty good, with Stephen Curry and Ty Lawson projected to drop to 15th or lower.

The Pistons also lack in three-point shooting.  Their two best shooters from three were Billups and Sheed, and come next year both players should be in different uniforms. Hamilton can shoot the three, but would rather hit the mid-range.

Hedu Turkoglu can hit the three, and could be the Pistons' answer to a backup for Prince, if he rotates out from power forward as well. Also, Ben Gordon can light up from three, but with Hamilton at the two, doesn’t look for Gordon to sign in Detroit.

Wally Szczerbiak or Jarvis Hayes could come in as free agents as well and be solid three-point threats off the bench.


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