The opportunities for the Detroit Pistons to get back on track have been plentiful, but general manager Joe Dumars' inability to take advantage of those chances ultimately spelled the end of his career with the team.
According to Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News, Dumars is set to resign after another failed season:
Dumars has told multiple sources within the NBA that he plans to resign — possibly as soon as this week — after a busy offseason that included the signings of high-priced free agents Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings and led to an underachieving 2013-14 season. The Pistons, who many experts picked to return to the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, are 28-49 and out of playoff contention.
It's been 10 years since the Pistons shocked the world and won the NBA championship in 2004, so it's safe to say the honeymoon and the grace period have long since passed by. It would be one thing if Dumars had dealt with a lot of bad luck or had taken a few different risks that didn't pan out, but that's not the case.
It's the cyclical nature of the Pistons' failed rebuilding process that became most worrisome. The head coaching position has been nothing more than a revolving door, as Detroit has had five head coaches in the last six seasons. Free agency has proved disastrous with Dumars setting the franchise back multiple years by signing Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva to major deals once cap space became available.
It took a long time for Detroit to recover financially from that, but the cap space once again burned a hole in Dumars' pocket this past offseason, as he went all-in on Josh Smith despite it being a questionable fit from day one.
Whether it was desperation setting in (Dumars is in the last year of his contract) or just a failed process, the writing has been on the wall for a while now. Here's David Mayo of MLive.com with more, including owner Tom Gores' thoughts on the subject:
The embattled Dumars is widely speculated to be on his way out after his contract expires this year.
Whether there is a front-office overhaul or not, Gores said it's not a decision that will be allowed to fester.
"Yeah, after the season, we're going to address it right away," he said. "We have to. We have to let the season play out, then we've got to get it done."
Although he's drafted pretty well (save for Darko Milicic), Dumars hasn't shown the ability to be smart with cap space or provide his head coaches with the right mixes of talent before firing them.
As tough as it may be to see a legend like Dumars go, the Pistons were in serious danger of alienating and maybe losing their fanbase altogether by keeping him.
After all, the Pistons rank next to last in the league in home attendance percentage this season, according to ESPN.com. Only the Philadelphia 76ers have been a worse draw this year, and just barely at that.
Sadly, that makes sense, as the Pistons are genuinely one of the worst products in the league to watch on a nightly basis. Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith chuck up terrible shots, the defense breaks down with simple penetration and the heart and hustle that once characterized Dumars' Bad Boys Pistons and the 2004 title team are nowhere to be found.
This is a bad team with limited cap flexibility that actually needs to lose games at this point just to keep its first-round pick (top-eight protected) away from the Charlotte Bobcats. That's not fun to watch.
Even with the dreary outlook, the Pistons do still have some cards to play. Assuming Dumars does indeed retire, the new incoming GM will have some franchise-altering decisions to make.
It starts with finding some stability at the head coaching position, which might not be easy. There don't seem to be as many hot assistants on the market after so many teams went with new coaches this past year. When you add in that Detroit isn't a premium destination given its mismatched and largely unreachable talent, bringing in an established coach might be tough.
There will be hard decisions with the roster as well. Greg Monroe may be the odd man out in Detroit's overcrowded, space-deprived frontcourt. He'll be a restricted free agent this offseason, and here's Bleacher Report's Jared Zwerling with more on that:
In some respects, because of their similar position, (Josh) Smith interferes with Monroe's development.
But that might never happen, as there's a bigger issue with money to re-sign Monroe, who will be a restricted free agent this offseason.
"To be honest, I think the owner thinks (Monroe, Smith and Andre Drummond) can work and wants to keep Greg," a source close to the Pistons said, "but I don't know if Joe (Dumars) agrees and/or wants to pay Greg the max. It all depends on whether Joe is there after this year. I don't think that's a sure thing. So Joe may like or not like, and the new GM may have a different opinion on all of it."
There's a lot of uncertainty surrounding Monroe's future, but it seems pretty likely he'll receive a max offer this offseason. Talented big men who can pass, score on the low block and clean the glass aren't all that easy to find, and Monroe hasn't yet touched his prime at just 23 years old. Other teams and Monroe's agent, David Falk, probably smell the blood in the water and will see if Detroit will really be willing to spend massive amounts of money on a frontcourt that has collectively been unproductive.
Perhaps the solution will be to trade Josh Smith and the $40.5 million remaining on his deal. Smith can still be a productive player in the right position (power forward, mainly) and with the right teammates around him, so his deal probably isn't considered completely toxic yet.
The Pistons could stand to upgrade from Brandon Jennings as well, as he's shooting just 37.6 percent from the field this season. Trading him will also come with plenty of complications, however, as very few teams in the league need a starting point guard, and there should be a decent crop of free agents at that position to choose from.
Perhaps that's the worst part about Detroit's current situation. There are very few assets on the roster who aren't overpaid, underperforming or simply a bad fit with the rest of the team. Instead of building a contender, Dumars built a puzzle that someone one else will likely have to solve.
The stakes here are incredibly high for whoever takes over. The Pistons can't afford to spend money in free agency once again and then trot out an inferior product. Patience is wearing thin with that strategy, and the same can be said for the constant hiring and firing of head coaches.
The Pistons need an actual long-term plan, even if that plan is tearing down the roster and starting from scratch with a new general manager and coach, much like the 76ers have done.
No matter what the final decisions end up being, this is certainly a make-or-break offseason for the Pistons.