The contract of Detroit Pistons general manager Joe Dumars expires at the end of this season, and it would be in the team's best interest to part ways with him at that point.
As one of the top players in franchise history and the man responsible for assembling the Pistons team that made six straight Eastern Conference championships, Dumars had built up a tremendous amount of good will within the franchise. But years of ineptitude and a string of shortsighted decisions have made it clear that he is no longer the right man for the job.
"Sources do not expect Dumars to stay in the position much longer," Bleacher Report's own Ric Bucher said. "Either he'll step down or owner Tom Gores will go in a new direction."
The Pistons need a general manager who can clearly create a plan for rebuilding the team into a contender and is willing to stick with that plan. Dumars has proven that he is not the man for that job, so it's time for them to move on.
Failure to Rebuild
The Pistons have not made the playoffs since 2009, and although they drafted in the lottery the past four years, Dumars never disassembled the team to a point that it was ever truly in full-blown rebuilding mode.
Tearing down a veteran team that no longer can compete for a championship can be difficult to sell to an owner and fanbase, but if done correctly it can allow a franchise to retool around a new generation of young players via trades and top draft picks. Dumars only halfheartedly went through the process with Detroit.
When he traded Chauncey Billups in 2008 for Allen Iverson (and his expiring contract), it was the perfect opportunity to hit the restart button. The roster was aging, but the key players on that team still had a lot of value around the league. Dumars could have moved Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace to contenders for younger players and/or draft picks.
Instead, Dumars kept the Pistons treading water by re-signing Hamilton to a three-year contract. They were in NBA no man's land—not good enough to compete for a championship, but not bad enough to get a top draft pick. They finished with the No. 8 seed in the East in 2009—their last playoff appearance.
The Pistons were forced to buy out Hamilton's contract before it ended, and Prince's contract was extended in 2011 before he was traded for an expiring contract last season. They never acquired an asset for either player, instead holding onto them for far too long.
Bottoming out is not a fool-proof way to rebuild a team, but a number of teams have shown that a patient and advantageous front office can build a championship contender that way. The Oklahoma City Thunder were bad enough to draft in the top five of three straight drafts—and were fortunate enough to get Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
The Houston Rockets didn't pick at the top of the draft, but they stayed away from long-term contracts while acquiring young players and draft picks from teams looking to compete for a title. When a star player became available (Harden), they were there to take advantage with a package of those assets. The Rockets helped to entice a second superstar to join via free agency (Dwight Howard), and smart cap management may even allow them to acquire a third star this offseason.
Dumars neither maintained cap flexibility nor acquired many assets and, unsurprisingly, the team is still not close to contending for championships. He spent their cap space on aging veterans and overpaid role players such as Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, and the Pistons haven't had a top-five draft pick since Darko Milicic in 2003.
Dumars never developed a clear plan for rebuilding over the past five years, and that may hurt the team for years to come.
If Dumars is gone, Pistons owner Tom Gores needs to find a forward-thinking person with a clear plan for the team's future. But he also needs to make sure to not alienate Dumars, who has played an enormous role in the past success of the franchise.
"Dumars and the Pistons forever will be inseparable, a perfectly symbiotic relationship for most of their many years together, with both left exponentially richer and healthier for knowing the other," said David Mayo of Mlive.com.
With that relationship, both sides need to be careful to part on peaceful terms. The Pistons may have a new general manager, and Dumars may eventually get another front office job. And all that is fine. The two sides can exist, and thrive, separately.
For the Pistons, the answer is most definitely not Isiah Thomas, as any New York Knicks fan can attest. Instead, they need someone who will follow a plan, ideally someone who is willing to listen to advanced-stats people and new-NBA thinking. The candidates likely won't emerge until season's end, but those would be the qualities to look for.
Dumars doesn't think he'll be back next season, and all indications point that way. For the Pistons to take the next step towards once again contending for a championship, letting his contract expire is absolutely the right move.