10 Best Choices to Replace Joe Dumars as Detroit Pistons General Manager
All good (and bad) things must come to an end. Most of us are still trying to figure out which kind of thing Joe Dumars' stint with the Detroit Pistons has been. Either way, he's on his way out according to The Detroit News' Vincent Goodwill—and apparently on a voluntary basis:
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.
After a storied 14-year career playing for the Pistons, Dumars became its president of basketball operations 14 years ago. During that span his team won a championship, but Dumars may be more remembered for his subsequent underachievement (e.g., drafting Darko Milicic).
CBSSports' Zach Harper breaks down the downturn:
From 2003-2008, the Pistons made it to six straight Eastern Conference finals. But it was after their impressive run of consecutive conference finals appearances in which Dumars seemed to lose his touch. He made a bad trade for Allen Iverson that broke up the core led by Chauncey Billups. Once he had cap space to make free agent moves, Dumars signed free agents Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva to big contracts, which helped destroy the momentum of the organization and turned them into one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference.
And that's where we stand today. Signing Smith could prove to be his last bad move, but only time will tell. Smith isn't a bad player, but he's now stuck playing most of his minutes at the small-forward position on account of the team already having Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond at the 4 and 5, respectively.
In a league that's trending toward small ball (and in which Smith has been much more successful at power forward), moves like this one register as head-scratchers at the very least.
It would be unfortunate for Dumars' legacy to be entirely marred by a few ill-fated decisions, but this is a league that asks what you've done for me lately. And, lately, Dumars hasn't done much that's especially praiseworthy.
There's still time to turn this ship around, but the question is who's up for the task. The organization will have plenty of options.
10. Tony Ronzone
Tony Ronzone probably isn't a name most are familiar with, but that shouldn't have any bearing on what kind of job he could do with the Pistons. He'd come to the job with a stellar background in scouting, the kind of background that would seriously help a team needing help with talent evaluation.
Ronzone serves as director of player personnel for the Dallas Mavericks, meaning he's earned the trust of Mark Cuban and worked with a pretty successful outfit in the process.
CBSSports' Ken Berger had this to say about Ronzone's wheelhouse:
The former Pistons and Timberwolves executive is tight with many of the star players in the league in his role on the USA Basketball staff and is supremely connected when it comes to the international game. Ronzone was instrumental in finally persuading Ricky Rubio to leave Barcelona and join the Timberwolves before he left Minnesota because of dysfunction in the front office.
Given Detroit's need to think a little outside the box, you can't help but think someone like Ronzone would be a good fit. That doesn't necessarily mean looking overseas—it just means bringing in a guy who knows how to find talent where others may not be looking.
Then again, if Ronzone left Minnesota because of dysfunction, there's no telling how amenable he'd be to a stint with the Pistons. He might be perfectly content to hang around Dallas.
9. Jeff Weltman
Jeff Weltman was under consideration for the Phoenix Suns general manager position last summer, but that gig ultimately went to 34-year-old Ryan McDonough. Instead, Weltman went on to become the Toronto Raptors' executive vice president of basketball operations—meaning he essentially works for GM Masai Ujiri.
Previously, Weltman spent five seasons as assistant general manager with the Milwaukee Bucks.
That might not sound like the best possible resume, but it's worth remembering that the Bucks stocked up on quite a bit of young talent during that span (Brandon Jennings, Larry Sanders, Ersan Ilyasova). Though Milwaukee remains firmly entrenched in rebuilding mode, it already has a fairly strong foundation thanks in part to Weltman's efforts.
CBSSports' Ken Berger cited "league sources" believing that Weltman would eventually hear from a team looking for a GM.
Could that team be the Pistons?
They could certainly benefit from a fresh face with a record of making an impact. According to Fox Sports' Randy Hill, Weltman has done just that:
But, according to league insiders, the 48-year-old Weltman has had considerable talent-evaluation input dating back to his work as director of player personnel for the Los Angeles Clippers. Weltman, the son of former ABA and NBA personnel executive Harry Weltman, got his first job as the Clippers’ video coordinator. ... Although the Clippers weren’t able to parlay their talent upgrade into appreciable success right away, Weltman did play a big role in moves that landed rookies Darius Miles, Keyon Dooling and Quentin Richardson as well as first-year swingman Corey Maggette.
In case you didn't notice, Weltman has been at this whole talent-evaluating thing for a while. His only drawback is that he doesn't have experience as the main front-office guy, ultimately making the decisions that Detroit's future would hinge upon.
Maybe it's time he got that chance.
8. Troy Weaver
Everything the Oklahoma City Thunder touch turns to gold, and that includes assistant GM Troy Weaver. He's the guy who recruited Carmelo Anthony to Syracuse back in the day, and by all accounts he's done a fantastic job helping general manager Sam Presti in OKC.
Weaver was the Utah Jazz's first option back in 2012, according to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, but he ultimately decided to remain with the Thunder for the time being. There's certainly no guarantee he'd be any more inclined to leave for Detroit, but it's been a couple of years, so maybe the time is right.
Or, maybe he'd simply see more to his liking in the Pistons' core.
The good thing about Weaver is that he's been part of a successful rebuilding process. That means he understands patience, which would be invaluable in Detroit. Here's Weaver's 2009 take on seeing the process through (per The Starting Five's Michael Tillery):
You have to be patient and that’s a challenge with young players in any pro sport. No one wants to be patient and watch young guys develop. Most teams want to go for the quick fix. The biggest challenge is catching the players on the highs and making sure we are there for them on the lows. As long as the guys are moving forward, I see it all as a positive.
That kind of patience probably isn't the first thing most Pistons fans have in mind, but it could prove useful as guys like Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe continue their development.
7. Scott Perry
Scott Perry served under Joe Dumars for four years as vice president of basketball operations. He's the Orlando Magic's assistant general manager under Rob Hennigan.
The upside is that he's already familiar with the organization, likely having a strong understanding of what worked and didn't work under the Dumars regime. He clearly wasn't enough of a loyalist to stick around when Orlando came calling, so he could be open to a change of direction.
Michigan Live's David Mayo outlines Perry's responsibilities during his tenure with Detroit:
In that capacity, Perry served as right-hand man to Joe Dumars, the Pistons' president of basketball operations, and had hands-on responsibility for many facets of the team's scouting and drafting procedures during that time. Perry regularly attended pre-draft camps, scouted and interviewed college prospects, and maintained a keen understanding of what was happening at the highest levels of high school basketball.
ESPN's Amin Elhassan described Perry as someone who's ready to be a GM, writing, "Another former Dumars lieutenant, Perry also spent a season hitting the reset button with the then-Seattle Supersonics under Sam Presti and brings the added benefit of coaching experience."
It would help having someone around who's familiar enough with Detroit's ownership, though not especially entrenched in its downward-sloping legacy. It also says something about Perry that Hennigan had enough faith to hire him in Orlando.
6. Isiah Thomas
A study by ESPN indicates that Isiah Thomas was actually much better at drafting than you might have thought, the best since 1989. Yes, he's done a lot of crazy stuff in his day, too (Eddy Curry), but maybe he's learned some lessons.
Whether you're sold or not, there are indeed reports that the Pistons are thinking about it. The New York Daily News' Mitch Lawrence had this to say in March:
League sources say that Pistons owner Tom Gores is seriously thinking of making what has been a long-overdue, front-office shakeup after the season, with Thomas recently emerging as a top candidate to take over the role of the team’s top basketball executive from his former backcourt mate, Joe Dumars.
Thomas certainly has the experience for better or worse. But this seems like a fairly risky move by almost any metric. After a history of questionable free-agent acquisitions, can the Pistons really afford to move forward with a guy who has...a history of questionable free-agent acquisitions?
On the other hand, Thomas' draft acuity could prove useful. Detroit will have a quality pick this summer and could find itself in the lottery in 2015 as well if things take a turn for the worse.
The team still has a young core in place, so there's a case to be made for dealing Josh Smith for draft picks and building around Monroe and Drummond. Thomas could potentially do wonders with those picks.
5. Chad Buchanan
The Pistons could certainly use someone who's accustomed to a little turmoil. According to CBSSports' Ken Berger, Chad Buchanan fits the profile:
But if the Trail Blazers won't give him a shot, somebody else will. Buchanan is a strong personnel man and has impressed rival executives with his staying power in one of the most dysfunctional environments in the league. Buchanan has endured some really topsy-turvy stuff, and he's the guy who's lasted. His people skills and talent for diplomacy have served him well in the hottest GM seat in the league under fickle owner Paul Allen. Buchanan took over for Pritchard under bizarre circumstances when Pritchard was told hours before the 2010 draft that he was being fired, and then took over on an interim basis again when Allen fired Rich Cho about a month before the 2011 draft. Through it all, Buchanan held the front office together under extreme duress.
Expectations will be high in Detroit, even though there's quite the mess to be cleaned up. No one is looking to endure another losing season, much less a protracted rebuild. Buchanan may be one of the few people with the fortitude to cope with all that.
He certainly deserves some credit for putting the Portland Trail Blazers in the position they're currently in, drafting Damian Lillard and assembling a halfway respectable bench unit this season. Portland didn't spend long in the gutter, and that's no small miracle given its front-office instability.
Detroit could use a similarly quick turnaround, so Buchanan could be a great fit.
You also have to like his attitude. Amid Portland's rough 2012 season, he had this to say to SBNation's Ben Golliver:
You want your team to compete every night. If we lay it on the line for the next 21 games, who knows what's going to happen. You have an injury to one of these teams ahead of you. You get hot for a 5-game stretch, [win] three, four, five in a row. You're right in the mix. ... We would never be about [tanking]. ... We owe it to our fans, teammates owe it to each other.
Tanking certainly isn't an option for the Pistons, but it would be encouraging to have a GM who sets the right tone. Those things have a way of trickling down. If Buchanan believes in putting it on the line every night, he'll look for a coach and players who do the same.
4. Jeff Bower
Jeff Bower spent six seasons with the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans) before mutually agreeing to part ways in 2010. He's currently the head coach at Marist College.
According to the Associated Press, "Bower also had been widely credited for his role in the Hornets' 2009 draft that brought the team former UCLA point guard Darren Collison and former LSU shooting guard Marcus Thornton, who both produced beyond expectations as rookies."
Essentially, Bower fell out of favor when the Hornets were looking to placate Chris Paul. He was a casualty of desperation, which shouldn't reflect especially poorly on his abilities as a general manager.
In other words, his reputation remains favorable. And his experience is right up there with the best of them. If he could help turn New Orleans into a playoff team, perhaps he could do the same for Detroit.
CBSSports' Ken Berger had this to say about Bower's capabilities.
The former Hornets exec is one of the understated talents in the league, with a keen eye for personnel, the mechanics of managing the ever-more complicated cap and tax rules and putting together creative trades. Bower was on the short list of candidates Walsh had planned to interview for the day-to-day GM job in New York if Dolan had ever signed off and let him hire one. He was able to put a winning team on the floor with a shoestring budget in New Orleans, a talent that is more valuable than ever under the new collective bargaining agreement.
After Dumars tried to solve Detroit's problems by throwing money around, some of that fiscal responsibility could be in order going forward.
3. Steve Kerr
Based on sheer affability alone, Steve Kerr would be near the top of virtually any team's wish list. There are only two reasons he isn't at the top of this list.
For one thing, as CBSSports' Ken Berger points out, Kerr is likely very happy doing exactly what he does now: "The problem is this: Kerr is really good on TV, and while that job doesn't produce the adrenaline rush of competing on the NBA front-office hamster wheel, it also comes with a lot less pressure."
The other problem is that Kerr may be headed to the coaching ranks instead. According to USA Today's Jeff Zillgitt, "If indeed TNT analyst and former NBA guard Steve Kerr, who played for three of Jackson's championship Bulls teams, wants to coach, he is the front-runner, a person familiar with the situation told USA TODAY Sports."
Coaching the Knicks wouldn't necessarily be more attractive than running the Pistons, but it would certainly give Kerr something to think about if Detroit came calling.
2. Donnie Walsh
Based on qualifications and resume alone, there's no one better suited for the Detroit job than Donnie Walsh. He's serving as a consultant for the Indiana Pacers, but he's been a general manager for both the Pacers and New York Knicks.
He'd bring instant gravitas and credibility to the position in Detroit having proved capable of building teams and working under a variety of conditions—from the sky-high expectations in New York to the more modest market in Indiana.
Walsh would also return some respectability to a position much derided after Dumars' fall from grace. It would be a safe, low-risk move—the kind Pistons fans really couldn't complain about.
There's something to be said for a GM who's more stabilizing than transformative. The Pistons don't need a complete overhaul. They're a move or two away from having the right mix, and few are better prepared to make those moves than Walsh.
1. Allan Houston
Allan Houston spent most of his career with the New York Knicks (where he's currently the assistant general manager), but he got his start with the Detroit Pistons. Now that Phil Jackson is running things in New York, might the front office undergo some changes?
Before Jackson was officially hired, Houston said he'd be happy to "learn from" him in the event he came aboard, according to the New York Daily News' Peter Botte.
But he might be even happier running his own show.
CBSSports' Ken Berger thinks he's ready:
Houston has put in the time and the work, apprenticing under Walsh and gaining the respect of rival executives as someone who is serious about embracing the challenges and demands of running an NBA front office. Houston also has been running the Knicks' D-League affiliate, the Erie BayHawks, which is valuable experience. Plus, he handles the dysfunction of Madison Square Garden with ease, so if he left, navigating the pitfalls of another franchise would be a cakewalk by comparison.
The sense has been that Houston would eventually become New York's GM, but he might be receptive to having a front office all to himself. After all, it's hard to see any general manager in New York being much more than Jackson's assistant. We all know who's calling the shots from now out.
Though Houston already has some valuable experience, he's also young enough to head up the Pistons for the next decade. He could see through the remainder of the organization's rebuild and hang around to reap some of the rewards.
Perhaps most importantly, Houston would help provide a fan-friendly face to a franchise that desperately needs one. Without a head coach or superstar to take that mantle, someone like Houston could serve as something of a bridge, offering promise to fans that someone reliable and familiar is in control.
Much as Joe Dumars did once upon a time.