Detroit Piston's general manager Joe Dumars doesn't make many mistakes with personnell. However, recent reports in the Denver Post now say the Detroit Pistons may be looking to trade for Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony.
Rumors regarding superstars on underachieving teams seem inescapable, but this is a story of a different ilk for Dumars. In 2003 the best player in the NBA draft was Lebron James without question. After that, opinions varied. However, with the #2 pick coming from Vancouver Grizzlies in a trade, Detroit got to choose. The Pistons settled on 18 year old Serbian Darko Milicic over Marquette guard Dwyane Wade, Wake Forest forward Chris Bosh, and a certain freshman of the year from Syracuse, Carmelo Anthony.
The Pistons were coming off a 50-32 Central Division championship season and a run to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Pistons won with defense, using stoppers like Ben Wallace and Michael Curry (who interestingly has become the front-runner for the Pistons vacant coaching job) but liked a true #1 scorer. Rip Hamilton hadn't emerged as the potent jump shooter he is now. Chauncy Billups had not developed into Mr. Bigshot either. They needed a legitimate scoring threat, finishing 15th in the league in offense.
But in the war room on June 23rd, Dumars and Rick Carlisle decided they could wait on an 18 year old European player to develop and probably that they would have to wait just as much for a 19 year old from Baltimore who had played just one year of college basketball.
While that logic, retrospect or no, seems silly, the results are undeniable.
Darko Milicic: Games Played: 276 Started: 83
Carmelo Anthony: Games Played: 379 Started: 379
That would be comparisson enough, but when you consider Anthony's career scoring average is over 24 points a game and Milicic isn't even 6 a game, the desparity becomes even clearer.
Milicic was traded from Detroit after three seasons on the bench and could still develop into a solid player in the NBA. 'Melo should have been rookie of the year, but Lebron James was a foregone conclusion.
Now he is the premier scorers in the NBA, nearly unguardable because of his size, strength and quickness to match his quick release jump shot that extends out to 25 feet.
The Pistons still lack a go-to scorer because Rasheed Wallace fails to assert himself every night, Rip needs his jump shot to be falling to be effective, and Chauncy simply cannot sustain that role for an entire season.
Having reached the Eastern Conference Finals every year since 2002 and yet have just 1 championship to show for it. Chauncy Billups will be 32 in September and has hit by injuries late in the season. Rip Hamilton is their go-to scorer but he is also 30. Rasheed Wallace (33), Antonio McDyes (33), Theo Ratliff (35) and Lindsay Hunter (37) are all over 30. In fact, the only starter under 30 is Tayshuan Prince and he is 28.
Hindsight is 20/20 as we know, and we cannot play the what-if game with Carmelo wondering if the Pistons would have been a dynasty with 'Melo on their roster instead of Darko. I'm sure Joe Dumars and the Pistons organization would tell you that they thought they made the right move and they were happy winning a championship even if their former #2 overall pick rode the pine the entire season.
Rarely in the world of professional sports do general managers get a second chance to make a mistake and then correct it in a very specific way. Joe Dumars has the opportunity to do just that. The problem is, he will have to give up a ton to do it, likely won't be able to pair Anthony with Billups, Wallace, and Hamilton, but rather blow his roster up and build around Anthony hoping he is not too late.