Missing in Action: Have the Detroit Pistons Given Up on Austin Daye?
I woke up this morning and took a look at my milk carton expecting to see this—
Have you seen me? 6'11", 205lbs, dark eyes, dark hair. Answers to the name Austin Daye. Last seen in Detroit, Michigan.
All joking aside, it seems as though the Pistons have decided, against all logic, to pull the plug on Daye.
This begs the question of why?
Typically, there are only a few reasons to give up on a talented, young player that was drafted high.
One, the player has discipline issues.
This absolutely does not apply to Daye. By all accounts, Daye has behaved professionally this season.
Sure, he missed a team flight last year, but there have been no indications that he has had any issues this year.
And given the drama that has followed this team, chances are that any discipline issues would certainly have found their way into the light of day.
Another reason to pull the plug on a young player is because there are better options on the roster. Again, this is not the issue in Detroit.
Take a look at the past month.
Since the Lakers blasted the Pistons on November 17, Austin Daye has played a total of 80 minutes.
For those of you scoring at home, that is less than two full games.
However, that stretch comprises 14 games. That's a little more than five minutes per game.
Over that 14 game stretch, there have been a handful of players that have taken minutes that were initially ear-marked for Daye.
The biggest thief being Tracy McGrady, who has 250 minutes over the past 14 games.
Why in the world is McGrady getting more minutes than Daye?
The biggest argument would be that McGrady gives the Pistons something that Daye doesn't. So let's break down their numbers.
Per 36 minutes, Daye is averaging 14 points and seven boards while shooting 44% from downtown.
McGrady is averaging just under 10 points per 36 minutes, six boards and four assists while shooting 32% from behind the arc.
To be fair, McGrady has the edge in assists and is shooting a lot better from the field.
But does McGrady have a future with Detroit?
He has an expiring contract, two bum knees, a chronically bad back, and an NBA body that has logged countless minutes over more than a decade of playing professional basketball.
Sure, he could still play a few more years as a solid bench player, but he no longer has upside. He is not going to regain his all-star form here or anywhere else.
Daye could yet become an all-star talent.
He is only 22, has a wonderful shooting touch from the perimeter, has the size, length and quickness to play three or four different positions, and has the right attitude to get better.
But think about what the Pistons are trying to do this year.
They have no shot at the playoffs.
The fans have begun to stay home.
Ownership is in flux.
And coach John Kuester and possibly team president Joe Dumars are in lame duck status, potentially working for the Pistons for the last time.
The only way to keep this season from being a total waste is to develop the young players.
Kuester has proven to be about the most inept coach in Pistons history (including Michael Curry), he has lost his player's confidence, and nobody on the team knows their role.
However, he has begun to give rookie lottery pick Greg Monroe some minutes, which suggests that he is finally getting it.
But this is a situation that Dumars needs to deal with, and his silence is deafening.
Kuester likely knows that he is a lame duck, and so he is coaching for his life. He wants wins, and his future is not necessarily tied to that of his young players.
The only way for him to stay on once a new owner comes into play is for his team to win.
Since this is not likely given the current roster, he has to know that he is in an un-winnable situation.
The Dumars aspect of this story is interesting.
His future IS tied to the development of the young players. He was the one that drafted them. And unless he knows that this will be his last year with the Pistons, he has got to step up and get minutes for his young players.
However, Dumars has literally said nothing so far this year, and that is probably the answer to whether or not he has a future in Detroit.
This ties into the only other reason why a young player would not get playing time.
The only other reason why a team would pull the plug on the development of a high draft pick this early into his career is because the team is trying to showcase players for the trading deadline.
Earlier in the season, this appeared to be the case.
The Pistons likely would love to deal Rip Hamilton, which could explain why he has continued to get starter's minutes while younger players like Ben Gordon and Daye have struggled for a consistent role.
Daye easily could be plugged into the lineup at shooting guard and would represent a nightmare matchup for opposing coaches given his length.
But Dumars has said that he is not even close to dealing Hamilton, and there is no reason to believe he is lying.
Tayshaun Prince is a much easier piece to get rid of if Detroit wishes, given his expiring contract.
Nobody has doubted Prince's ability. He has a great defensive reputation and shows glimpses of brilliance on offense. You don't need to showcase Prince. Everybody knows what they would be getting with Tayshaun.
McGrady also has an expiring contract, and given how small his contract is, he would likely not bring back much more than a second round draft pick and a d-league player. Therefore, you don't have to showcase him.
This means that the most likely reason that management has not stepped in and forced Kuester to play the young guys is because they just don't care, and they don't want the hassle of ruffling the feathers of their old guard of players.
The bottom line is that this team is completely lost, and the only way for it to find itself in the future is by developing their young players.
Time will tell if the Pistons figure this out, but from where I am sitting, this lame-duck management team has no desire to do anything more than limp out the season and dust of their resumes.
Sad times indeed in Motown.
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