Biggest Questions and Answers for Detroit Pistons This Offseason
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With four unrestricted free agents, an upcoming NBA lottery pick and no head coach, the Detroit Pistons are a team surrounded by uncertainty. This offseason will be critical to both their short- and long-term success.
The Pistons are in the middle of a rebuilding process that has seen them finish with a losing record in each of the past five seasons. Their fans are anxious for a return to contention, but there is no clear path back to that point.
Here are the five questions that the Pistons must answer this offseason in order to complete their rebuilding plan.They will not be a title contender next season, but the Pistons have the makings of a quality team in the near future if they plan correctly.
Who Will Be the Next Head Coach?
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The Pistons began their coaching search weeks ago, but the process will likely continue through the playoffs, as Indiana Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw is considered one of the top targets and cannot interview until their season finishes.
Joe Dumars, with the help of Phil Jackson, desperately needs to find the right man for the job this time. Whoever they hire will be the team's fifth coach since 2008.
Along with Shaw, former Portland Trailblazers coaches Nate McMillan and Maurice Cheeks are considered the top three candidates for the job.
McMillan has considerable head coaching experience, but Shaw is the most sought-after assistant in the league. He has learned under Jackson and Frank Vogel, and the Pacers have two big men who bear similarities to the Pistons' young frontcourt.
The Pistons can be successful with either candidate, but Shaw's connection to Jackson makes him the likely choice for the job.
Who Will Start at Point Guard Next Season?
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The Pistons had four players who played significant minutes at point guard in 2012-13 in Brandon Knight, Jose Calderon, Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum.
Calderon and Bynum will be unrestricted free agents this summer, Stuckey's contract is only partially guaranteed and Knight showed little improvement between his first and second seasons.
They could try to re-sign Calderon, who shot the ball exceptionally well last season. However, at age 31, he doesn't fit the Pistons' rebuilding plan and he will likely want to play for a contender.
They could use their first-round pick on a point guard. Trey Burke will almost certainly be gone at No. 8, but Michael Carter-Williams could be a solid option if he is still on the board.
The Pistons will have over $20 million in cap space to sign players, but there are very few true point guards available. After Chris Paul, Brandon Jennings and Mo Williams will be the most coveted lead guards on the market.
While the Pistons would like either player, they don't have many valuable trade chips beyond Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. Without giving up one of those players, they will have trouble trading for any starter-caliber point guard.
If the Pistons can't acquire a solid point guard, expect Knight to get another shot at the job. He has the physical tools to play the point in the NBA, and at just 21, he is nowhere near his ceiling as a player.
What Will They Do with the No. 8 Pick?
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The Pistons did not have any luck in the NBA lottery, and now possess the No. 8 pick in June's draft. They have needs to fill at both starting wing spots and possibly at point guard, depending on how the organization views Knight.
At shooting guard, Ben McLemore and Victor Oladipo should be off the board by No. 8. The same goes for Otto Porter at small forward.
That leaves the Pistons to choose from C.J. McCollum, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Shabazz Muhammad, Anthony Bennett or another player on the wing.
McCollum is a combo guard, and the Pistons already have Knight and Stuckey. Caldwell-Pope and Muhammad both have potential as high-volume scorers, but neither is a complete player. Bennett is an undersized power forward who has the athleticism to slide to small forward at times.
With a lackluster group of prospects likely available at No. 8, the Pistons should explore trading their pick. They could move into the top five to get Oladipo, Porter or Trey Burke, or else package the pick to get a proven wing player.
If they do use the pick, the Pistons would have to take a long look at Carter-Williams if he is available at No. 8.
How Will the Pistons Use Their Cap Space?
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The Pistons can have over $20 million in cap space this summer if they renounce their rights to their own free agents. Having that much cap space could prove very tempting for their front office.
The crop of free-agent wing players is a bit stronger than the available point guards. There are young scorers like O.J. Mayo, Monta Ellis, Tyreke Evans and J.R. Smith, as well as veterans like Andre Iguodala, J.J. Redick, Tony Allen and Kevin Martin.
The problem is that these players are good, not great, and with one-third of the league potentially having cap space this summer, many of these players will be drastically overpaid.
The Pistons would be wise to fill out their roster by signing players to one-year contracts to keep their cap flexibility for next year. However, Dumars showed little restraint the last time he had significant cap space to work with in Detroit.
Is Greg Monroe a Franchise Building Block?
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Greg Monroe was undoubtedly the best player on the Pistons last season, averaging 16 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists. He will turn 23 in June and should still have plenty of upside as a player.
Yet Monroe has showed very little ability to play defense. He wasn't terrible against power forwards, but opposing centers posted a 19.6 PER (15 is league average) against him, according to 82games.com
Also, for a player who measures 6'11", Monroe rarely blocks shots, averaging less than one per game. In Kirk Goldsberry's study presented at the 2013 MIT Sloan Conference, Monroe ranked among the worst interior defenders in the league, finishing in the bottom half of every statistic.
Monroe makes up for his poor defense by being a tremendous scorer and passer, but it makes him a much less valuable player than he should be.
Monroe is eligible to negotiate a contract extension this offseason, and if he does not sign one, he will become a restricted free agent in 2014.
Playing next to Drummond should help Monroe on the defensive end, as should a new coach with a better defensive scheme. That being said, it is clear that Monroe is a sub-par defender at this point in his career.
Monroe will likely be a large part of the Pistons' future. However, he would be a great trade asset if an All-Star-level player becomes available. The Pistons will have to decide if he is worth the near max-contract that he will command in his next deal.