Detroit Pistons: 5 Changes to Contend Next Season
The 2010-2011 Detroit Pistons were doomed from the opening tip-off. They had a coach coming off a 27-55 rookie year, no Chauncey Billups to lead the team at point guard, an abundance of small forwards and shooting guards and a conspicuous absence of talent in the paint. No miracle was going to keep the team out of the NBA draft lottery for a second year in a row.
New Pistons owner Tom Gores and longtime general manager Joe Dumars have several key personnel decisions to make before the beginning of summer. Embattled coach John Kuester will almost certainly be replaced, but with who? In short, the next head-coaching hire must be a slam dunk.
After finishing the season a dismal 30-52, is there an easy way to get back to playing playoff basketball? Deciding on a head coach is the first order of business. Dumars must get on the same page as his new head coach during the hiring process and get a feel for that coach's vision and needs for the new-look Pistons. From there, Dumars must play headhunter and acquire some personnel to match up with what his new coach wants to do on offense and defense.
It is likely the Pistons will carry over only half their roster from this year, but that's not all bad, as long as they are the right players. Remember, the Pistons went from 32-50 to 50-32 in 2001-2002 in just a year.
They can return to the playoffs next year by making these five changes.
Fire John Kuester, Hire Bill Laimbeer
When Bill Laimbeer spoke to Dumars about the Pistons head coaching job in 2009, Dumars told his former teammate to go get some NBA assistant coaching experience—then they would talk.
Dumars didn't discount what Laimbeer had accomplished as head coach of the WNBA's Detroit Shock (three WNBA titles). He just felt Laimbeer needed to get some experience coaching today's NBA player before jumping right into a lead role.
Ever the competitor, Laimbeer went off to the Minnesota Timberwolves for his first taste of being an NBA assistant coach. Not even he could help the Timberwolves the last two years, as they went 24-58 and 17-65 the past two seasons.
Laimbeer did, however, make huge gains with record-setting center Kevin Love. Under his tutelage, the young center had the NBA's first 30-point, 30-rebound game in 28 years and went on to break Moses Malone's record for consecutive double-doubles with 53. (Malone held the record for double-doubles after the ABA-NBA merger in 1976, but Elvin Hayes holds the all-time record with 55.)
Hiring Laimbeer isn't a publicity stunt, although it certainly won't hurt the Palace's declining attendance. This isn't the Tigers bringing back Alan Trammell as manager, with Lance Parrish and Kirk Gibson helping him out as bench coaches. Laimbeer has a proven coaching track record and would be a great hire for Dumars.
Sign Free-Agent Center Tyson Chandler
With Ben Wallace likely to retire, the Pistons need a shot-blocking threat in the middle. Detroit finished last in the NBA in blocked shots a year ago and was 15th in rebounding. Dumars needs a big man immediately.
Enter Tyson Chandler, who would bring his 9.4 RPG and 1.0 BPG to fill the middle. Coupled with talented power forward Greg Monroe (9.4 PPG and 7.5 RPG), the Pistons would all of a sudden have a viable NBA front line.
Chandler won't come cheap, as he could command anywhere from $10-14 million per year as an unrestricted free agent. This offseason is no time to be cheap, though, as the Pistons need to get to work on rebuilding their brand.
Re-Sign F Jonas Jerebko and C/F Chris Wilcox
The Pistons missed Jonas Jerebko in 2011. As a relatively unheard-of rookie in 2009, he broke into the league as a second-round draft pick and hustled his way to second-team All-Rookie status. He averaged 9.3 PPG and 6.0 RPG in almost 28 MPG and gave Detroit all-out effort while he was on the court.
A nasty Achilles tendon injury kept him out of action this past season, but he should recover well given his work ethic. Jerebko will probably cost the Pistons around $3 million per year to keep, and that would be smart money for Dumars to spend.
Chris Wilcox will likely command about $4 million per year on the open market. Can the Pistons get him for less? He averaged 7.4 PPG and 4.8 RPG on 56 percent shooting last year in just 17.5 MPG. He will provide very good depth for Detroit and energy off the bench.
Sign and Trade Rodney Stuckey, Trade Rip Hamilton
What can the Pistons get for Rip Hamilton and Rodney Stuckey? Hopefully, between the two of them, they can yield a decent point guard. One thing is for sure: The fans in Detroit have had enough out of these backcourt troublemakers.
Stuckey has never been a point guard, and he never will be. The team runs much better with Chucky Atkins in the lineup, even if he isn't an ideal starting option. Stuckey's run-ins with Kuester—all three of them—put him on a course to leave town. If Dumars is lucky, he can still get decent value for him.
Hamilton is the classic case of a player who doesn't now when he's out of his prime. This seems to happen a lot with shooting guards, and it sure happened to him. He has some value on a playoff contender (the Celtics?), but his contract is a little heavy at about $12 million next year.
The Pistons need to part ways with these two team cancers even if they don't get market value for them.
Give Starting Minutes to Austin Daye and Ben Gordon
Austin Daye is Tayshaun Prince's replacement in every way, shape and form. Physically, he's almost a carbon copy, and they have very similar skill sets.
Daye's production in 20.1 MPG was similar to Prince's career numbers if they were averaged out to Prince's minutes. Doubling his 7.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG and .5 BPG would put him in Prince's neighborhood easily. In short, the kid needs to start.
Ben Gordon needs to be featured to get maximum productivity out of him. A 20 PPG scorer twice in Chicago, Gordon relished taking clutch shots. Last year he averaged over 10 MPG less than his last year with the Bulls, and he scored just 11.2 PPG.
With Stuckey and Hamilton on their way out of town, Gordon would be the undisputed go-to guy, a role he was proven in at Chicago. Is it a coincidence the Pistons have struggled since they traded their last go-to guy, Chauncey Billups, at the start of the 2009-2010 season?