Picking Up The Pieces: Why The Detroit Pistons Are So Broken!

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Picking Up The Pieces: Why The Detroit Pistons Are So Broken!
(Photo by Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images)

Hey all, I've been holding out on this for a while, gathering my thoughts and trying not to be so angry.  But the facts are these:

The Detroit Pistons future isn't that bright right now and the man to blame is the guy at the top.  

No, not the late Bill Davidson, but none other than good old Joe Dumars.

Now, don't get me wrong—Dumars has done a great job as the Pistons GM, compiling two NBA Finals trips, one NBA championship, six trips to the Eastern Conference Finals, a very impressive 423-233 regular season record, and bringing a mediocre organization—outside of the Bad Boys era—back into the limelight.

See, the Pistons are in a dire situation. They have a solid team but no stud player to help them against the likes of Boston, Cleveland, Orlando, Los Angeles, and Denver. And Dumars has no one to blame for the Pistons' current slew of problems but himself.  

And here's why:

He let both Corliss Williamson and Mehmet Okur, two major pieces of the 2004 championship team, leave the team via free agency and never addressed their loss either in the draft or in free agency.

He also traded away Chauncey Billups, the team's leader and emotional anchor without bringing in another guy to ease the team into a new identity. I know that trade was made for financial reasons, but the point remains the same you can't change your team's identity wihout a new leader to represent it.

Oh, and he on drafted one of the biggest draft busts in NBA history in Darko Milicic.

They may attract a big-name free agent, and that's what I'm hoping for.  But the fact remains they wouldn't be in this situation if it wasn't for drafting Milicic

Yes I realize at the time Darko Milicic was billed as the next Dirk Nowitzki—but trust me, Darko is no Dirk. To prove my point here are their season splits through their first six seasons, courtesy of the folks over at NBA.com

Dirk Nowitzki:

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
98-99 DAL 47 24 20.4 0.405 0.206 0.773 0.9 2.6 3.4 1.0 0.6 0.6 1.55 2.20 8.2
99-00 DAL 82 81 35.8 0.461 0.379 0.830 1.2 5.2 6.5 2.5 0.8 0.8 1.72 3.10 17.5
00-01 DAL 82 82 38.1 0.474 0.387 0.838 1.5 7.7 9.2 2.1 1.0 1.2 1.90 3.00 21.8
01-02 DAL 76 76 38.0 0.477 0.397 0.853 1.6 8.4 9.9 2.4 1.1 1.0 1.91 2.90 23.4
02-03 DAL 80 80 39.0 0.463 0.379 0.881 1.0 8.9 9.9 3.0 1.4 1.0 1.90 2.60 25.1
03-04 DAL 77 77 37.9 0.462 0.341 0.877 1.2 7.5 8.7 2.7 1.2 1.4 1.75 2.80 21.8

Darko Milicic:

Year Team G GS MPG FG% 3P% FT% OFF DEF RPG APG SPG BPG TO PF PPG
03-04 DET 34 0 4.7 0.262 0.000 0.583 0.3 0.9 1.3 0.2 0.2 0.4 0.38 1.00 1.4
04-05 DET 37 2 6.9 0.329 0.000 0.708 0.1 1.1 1.2 0.2 0.1 0.5 0.43 0.80 1.8
05-06 DET 25 0 5.6 0.515 0.000 0.375 0.4 0.7 1.1 0.4 0.1 0.6 0.60 1.00 1.5
05-06 ORL 30 1 20.9 0.507 0.000 0.595 1.1 3.0 4.1 1.1 0.4 2.1 1.20 2.20 7.6
06-07 ORL 80 16 23.9 0.454 0.000 0.613 1.8 3.7 5.5 1.1 0.6 1.8 1.55 2.70 8.0
07-08 MEM 70 64 23.8 0.438 0.000 0.554 1.8 4.2 6.1 0.8 0.5 1.6 1.44 2.60 7.2
08-09 MEM 61 15 17.0 0.515 0.000 0.562 1.4 3.0 4.3 0.6 0.4 0.8 0.79 2.20 5.5

Yes I know Dirk got time to develop, whereas Darko might not have been given a completely fair shake, especially since Larry Brown is notoriously known for not playing rookies.

However, my point still remains—while Dirk flourished quickly on a horrendous team, Darko had the luxury of having only to play sparse minutes in his first year and getting to play on a championship team. Perhaps a year or two playing back in Europe could have helped Milicic develop, but it still remains that he has not developed into anything—and he's already six years into his career.

The truth may be that he just was not that good.  I personally like to think it's a mixture of how he was developed or not developed and his lack of drive to excel in the NBA.  Making him one of many lottery picks in NBA history that just didn't pan out.

But what played out begs the question: "Why did an unconventional type of general manager like Joe Dumars go with conventional wisdom with the number-two pick in 2003?"

Because of fear.

See, when GMs miss in the draft they usually miss big, with Sam Bowie over Micheal Jordan being the most-often used example in the NBA. GMs fear even more now in today's NBA where the players rule that if they miss in the draft they will be fired. So GMs and coaches plan around saving their jobs, rather than drastically improving their team. It is shameful and sad, but I hardly blame them for this way of thinking, no one likes to be fired.

But as San Antonio is currently demonstrating, you can only pick at the bottom of the draft for so long before you need to trade one of your major guys and retool for one last shot at the title, or fade into mediocrity until you get another major draft pick that may never come.

How the Pistons could have changed their fortunes

Now, the major guy most pundits feel the Pistons should have taken is of course the guy who went directly after Milicic, none other than Carmelo Anthony.  While I have often questioned Anthony's commitment to defense and his maturity, you can't question his talent.

Besides, Anthony is a solid defender when he tries, is absolutely unstoppable at his position, is a solid shooter, and is someone who is now emerging as a leader. Obviously maturity is an issue with him, but I think Anthony has finally learned through some hard life lessons, how to be a great NBA player and a good person.

Not to mention he represents a solution to many of the Pistons problems—namely, Rasheed Wallace's unwillingness to play consistently down low and their inability as a team to get crunch time foul calls.  

Both are things Anthony brings to the table. He also could have represented at least a replacement for Corliss Williamson.

Also, let's remember Larry Brown was leading the Pistons at the time—and who's to say a year riding the bench, constantly being pushed and being highly scrutinized by a group of fans as passionate, opinionated and smart as Detroit Pistons fans would not have matured and mellowed out Carmelo Anthony?

But hey, I can understand if you're not a 'Melo fan. That is why I have offered an alternative that was representative of a player already on the Pistons.

That player is Chris Bosh—who is very similar in body, skills, and build to none other than Antonio McDyess. Both men are solid outside-shooting big men with quickness and tenacity when driving to the hole.  Both are solid rebounders and passers, and both definitely demand at least one man guarding them at all times.

We have seen the payoffs of this kind of big man on Detroit (Rasheed Wallace) and currently on Orlando (Rashard Lewis), so don't tell me Bosh couldn't have had major impact in Detroit.

Yes, Bosh could be tougher and more tenacious on defense.  But like Anthony never underestimated Larry Brown's ability to get players to buy into him and his system.  He is truly on of the greatest coaches in NBA history and point blank players respect and listen to him.

Sure both of these picks could have blowm up in the Pistons face, but I doubt it.  The Pistons have demonstrated success in the past with guys like Isiah Thomas and Dennis Rodmanm who were known to be very hard to deal with. All you need to straighten them out is a great coach and a quality organization.

Both are things the Pistons have had in abundance both now and during the Bad Boys era.

Plus as far a I'm concerned in almost every sport, pure talent trumps potential, especially in the NBA, where guys like Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant went in the mid-teens in the 1996 draft after guys like freaking Antoine Walker, Erik Dampier (yes, that Erik Dampier), Samaki Walker (remember him? Didn't think so), and Kerry Kittles.

But here's the most important part of the equation. Even if those guys had wanted to leave Detroit in 2010, we would have had the option to trade them for draft picks or pieces and been in much better shape then we are now.  

Even if the addition of Anthony or Bosh only meant one more Finals appearance or one more title, it would be all be worth it because the Pistons would not be in the position they are in now, where they pretty much have to majorly overpay to coax a guy to come to Detroit and be our franchise guy.  We are simply too proud of a franchise to have to stoop so low.

As I stated before, I sincerely hope Joe D. picks up the right guy, either through a signing or a trade. But I just know deep down in my heart that he's to blame for why we even have to do that to begin with.

In the ended I'm reminded of one of my favorite childhood songs "It's Not Easy Being Green." By Kermit the Frog. Only now it's "It's Not Always Easy Being a Detroit Pistons fan."

Philip Powell is an obsessive fan.  His obsessions include movies, sports, and comics. He is currently a student at Central Michigan University studying journalism-news editorial.  He can be reached here or by email at smoothpdp@aol.com

 

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