Former Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy took over a Detroit Pistons team that finished the 2013-14 season in shambles. Last summer’s offseason spending spree was followed by a disappointing 29-53 campaign, which prompted Joe Dumars to step down as president of basketball operations.
Now, SVG has taken the reins in the front office, as he’ll eventually do on the sideline. The new head coach and team president inherited a roster constructed with no logical plan of action, but he’s wasted no time picking up pieces that fit his style.
Despite having only a second-round pick and modest cap space at his disposal—which management will have to be careful with in order to eventually keep young center Andre Drummond locked up for the long haul—the mustachioed Van Gundy brother established Detroit as a key player in free agency.
The overhaul hasn’t included any big-name stars—even restricted free agent Greg Monroe remains in limbo—but each move has been a calculated one to improve the roster and turn former weaknesses into strengths.
The 2013-14 Pistons specialized in throwing up bricks from beyond the arc.
Thanks in large part to 28-year-old forward Josh Smith—who shot a woeful 26.4 percent from deep on an inexplicable 3.4 attempts per game—Detroit ranked 29th in the Association by cashing just 32.1 percent of its treys, according to NBA.com.
Only the lowly Philadelphia 76ers (31.2 percent) were worse in that category.
Despite being on the job for just a short while, SVG has recognized and addressed that glaring weakness.
With the No. 38 pick in the 2014 NBA draft, the Pistons looked toward the backcourt and grabbed talented combo guard Spencer Dinwiddie out of Colorado.
The 6’6” offensive spark plug shot 43.8 percent from three-point range as a freshman and 41.3 percent in 17 games as a junior before a torn left ACL cut his collegiate career short.
“He’s a first-round talent,” ESPN basketball analyst Jay Bilas said after Dinwiddie was selected, per Gillian Van Stratt of MLive.com. “Absent of the ACL injury, he would have been taken in the first round.”
Had Dinwiddie not hurt his knee, Detroit likely wouldn’t have had a chance at landing him in Round 2. There’s a chance it might have found a diamond in the rough if he can recover from that early career setback.
- Jodie Meeks: three years, $19.5 million.
- Cartier Martin: two years, veteran's minimum.
- D.J. Augustin: two years, $6 million.
- Caron Butler: one year, $4.5 million, with a team option for a second season.
All four of those guys are veterans who can flat-out shoot the rock.
Check out their percentages from long range a season ago:
The shooting percentage for each guy would have ranked them behind only Jonas Jerebko had they suited up for Detroit last season. Jerebko knocked his threes down at a 41.9 percent clip, but he only attempted 1.2 of them per game.
SVG loves to spread the offense with outside shooters. He's ensured he'll have no shortage of them now, which looked downright impossible months ago.
Van Gundy addressed a huge need and cast a wide net by signing Meeks, Augustin, Butler and Martin. In theory, Detroit’s dreadful three-point shooting will no longer be an issue.
Still, the biggest offseason question remains: What will happen with Greg Monroe?
The big man out of Georgetown is still just 24 years old, but he fits better as a center than he does at the 4. That’s a problem, because the potential of Drummond is astronomical. He’s not going to be moved out of his current position for any reason.
Also, as previously noted, J-Smoove must stop shooting threes. It’s semi-understandable that he jacked up so many last season, because Monroe and Drummond were clogging the painted area down low. Smith, operating as a small forward, was trying to spread the floor around those guys to no avail.
So how exactly would Monroe fit if he's retained?
Well, that question is up for debate, but Van Gundy has made it increasingly clear that he wants to keep the big lefty around.
“Greg Monroe is a very important piece of the puzzle in Detroit and we want him back very, very much,” the Pistons new headman said, per NBA.com.
A viewpoint doesn’t get much more concrete than that.
To his credit, SVG has stayed busy throughout the offseason courting underrated free agents both before and after the big domino—LeBron James—finally decided to fall.
But what’s the big picture here?
Using historical context, it appears as if SVG and his staff want to emulate what worked so well with the Magic. Van Gundy led Orlando to the NBA Finals in 2008-09 behind the exploits of Dwight Howard down low and three-point sharpshooting from guys like Rashard Lewis, Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson, Courtney Lee and J.J. Redick.
This time around, he’ll put a deep group of three-point snipers around another dominant young big man with plenty of potential in Drummond, teach him to pass effectively out of double-teams and use the inside-out strategy to demoralize opponents.
It’s a sound strategy that vaulted Orlando to the season's final series five years ago. But again, Monroe and Smith are question marks.
Van Gundy is adamant in his stance that he wants to keep Monroe. Whether his intention is to trade him for different talents later or keep him as a twin-towers duo with Drummond remains to be seen.
If he votes for the latter, Smith will have to be shown the door. Trading the talented forward won’t be easy, considering his gargantuan contract, but stranger things have happened. In any case, he doesn't fit in a frontcourt that already features Drummond and Monroe.
Unless the new coaching staff can flip team chemistry on its ear, changes will still be on the horizon for the Pistons.
Van Gundy has already made a vast array of signings that deliver a glimmer of hope. Those moves may merely be the tip of the iceberg.