First off, I need to preface this article with a quick confession. I have been probably the most unabashed Joe Dumars apologist ever to claim the Detroit Pistons as his own. I love Dumars. My childhood was spent watching, adoring, and admiring the Pistons great.
While Isiah Thomas was always my favorite player, Dumars was easily the most respected player on the team. People could mock or criticize any of our players save for the diminutive guard from McNeese State.
He was untouchable.
The same could be said for his tenure as president of the Pistons. Through his bold and gutsy moves, he built one of the best teams of the millennium, if not all time.
Some of his moves included: fleecing the Orlando Magic in the sign and trade for Grant Hill, grabbing franchise cornerstone Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins for a player that was going to leave anyways, signing Chauncey Billups for pennies on the dollar when many had written him off as a bust, and trading Jerry Stackhouse for Rip Hamilton despite the rumblings that it would backfire.
However, the coup de grace was the move in which he stole Rasheed Wallace (with an assist from the Boston Celtics) for a draft pick and spare parts. This move (combined with bringing in coach Larry Brown) helped Detroit claim their first title of the new millennium.
Again, he was untouchable.
As a result, myself and others have continued to view Dumars through rose-colored glasses. He could do no wrong, right? He is Joe, and Joe knows best, right?
Recently, I had the opportunity to have a discussion with one of this forum's newest (and one of the more talented) writers about whether or not Dumars deserved to receive the type of unmitigated faith that we have thrown at him.
He argued that since his decision to trade Chauncey Billups, Dumars has made some very curious moves to say the least. Basically, he called him out.
Instinctively, I wanted to come to the aid of my hero. But as I began to appraise the former All Star honestly, I came to a stunning realization: Dumars' strange moves can actually be traced back a bit further.
Since his universally praised Rasheed Wallace trade, Dumars has not exactly been batting .300. In fact, an argument could be made that his average is south of the Mendoza line.
Let's examine his moves. First, the draft pick that he gave up in the Wallace deal turned out to be Josh Smith. Sure, there was no way to know this at the time, and of course you still have to make the move that puts you over the top, but Smith looks pretty good right now, and would be a nice addition to this team.
Second, he decided to re-sign a then 30-year-old Wallace instead of a then 25-year-old Mehmet Okur.
Wallace went on to frustrate fans with his inconsistent play, the epitome of which being the three-point shot he allowed Robert Horry to shoot in the 2005 NBA Finals, which arguably cost Detroit a second title. Wallace never averaged more than 15 points and eight rebounds per game over his subsequent Detroit years.
Okur went on to become one of the preeminent big men in the game, averaging 16 points and eight rebounds over that same period of time, more than three points and one rebound more than Wallace.
What's more is that Okur just turned 30 and has plenty of basketball life left in him.
Third, Dumars traded Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson. Sure, the Pistons were probably reaching the end of their reign, but Billups is still tearing it up in Denver, and he looks like he may have five more years left in him.
Even if the Pistons didn't win it all last year, they would have contended. Add a couple decent acquisitions with Wallace's expiring contract and they could have been right in the thick of things again this year.
Instead, Iverson deep-sixed the team and the Pistons were crushed in the first round.
Fourth, Dumars extended the contract of Rip Hamilton when he really did not have to do so. Now, the Pistons are on the hook for nearly $13 million in each of the next three years.
Fifth, Dumars signed Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. While Gordon is talented, he was brought into a log-jam situation at shooting guard without an end in sight due to Hamilton's unmovable contract. So therefore, Dumars made Hamilton un-tradeable and then went out and got his replacement.
Villanueva, on the other hand, would be a good value if he were able to build on his numbers of a year ago—16 points and seven rebounds per game.
Instead, he has found himself in coach John Kuester's doghouse and is averaging only 12 points and five rebounds per game. Furthermore, he appears to be completely incapable of playing defense.
So what exactly is Dumars up to?
Prior to this season, Dumars implied that his team was going to have to adapt to a changing NBA landscape that stresses scoring over defense. So what has Dumars' new team been able to do on the scoring end? Detroit has gone from the third worst scoring average in the game to the second worst scoring average, falling a full point.
And there isn't exactly a lot of help on the horizon. While Dumars did a great job of drafting this past season, none of Detroit's three rookies truly address the Pistons two greatest needs—a strong, consistent low post scoring big man and a true point guard.
Detroit will have very little cap space next season, with only Prince's expiring contract as an attractive trading chip. Sure, they could get lucky again and get a top two pick in the upcoming draft lottery and get either their true point guard or a dominant big man, but betting on the lottery has led to more misery than glory.
Instead, Detroit will likely have a pick no higher than the fifth overall selection, but do you really want Dumars making that selection?
Let's take a look at Dumars' first round selections since he took over in 1999: Mateen Cleaves, Rodney White, Prince, Darko Milicic, Carlos Delfino, Jason Maxiell, Rodney Stuckey, Aron Afflalo, D.J. White, and Austin Daye.
Obviously it is too early to judge Daye, and Prince, Maxiell, and Stuckey have enjoyed varying levels of success with this organization. However, every time he has had the opportunity to draft an impact player in the lottery, he has failed miserably.
Take a look at some of the players he missed out on: Instead of Cleaves, he could have drafted Hedo Turkoglu; instead of White, he could have drafted Joe Johnson, Zach Randolph, Gerald Wallace, or Richard Jefferson; instead of Delfino, he could have had Leandro Barbosa, Kendrick Perkins, or Josh Howard; instead of Maxiell he could have had David Lee.
And even though Stuckey may still turn into a star, he could have drafted Aaron Brooks, who is arguably one of the top 10 point guards in the game.
Of course I could point out who came after Milicic in the 2003 draft, but it is just too heartbreaking to do so.
The bottom line is this: The Detroit Pistons are currently for sale and a potential new owner has to view Dumars as less of an asset than a liability.
For the first time in my life I believe the following: It is time for Dumars to leave. A heartbreaking realization that sadly will probably not come to fruition.
The fact of the matter is that Joe Dumars is no longer untouchable.