Detroit Pistons: 7 Steps To Return the Pistons to Prominence
Detroit Pistons fans are a lowly bunch these days. Bad personnel moves, free-agent signings and trades have driven this team into the ground, and it's a sad thing to see happen to this proud franchise.
The situation over ownership have held the Pistons in limbo ever since Bill Davidson passed away. Joe Dumars' hands have been tied up top, and the players have been lacking any semblance of motivation or drive to get this team off the ground.
As a result, we witnessed a 2011 season filled with mediocrity. The team boycott before the game in Philadelphia was disgusting, and just goes to show the disarray in the front office.
As the season came to a merciful end, the Pistons finally found a new owner in Tom Gores, and now fans have something to look forward to. With new ownership comes a new era in Pistons basketball. The team is not totally devoid of talent and could be looking at relevance in the East if Gores and Dumars take the right steps.
This slideshow will attempt to predict those steps.
1. Fire John Kuester, Hire Bill Laimbeer
John Kuester is done in Detroit, there's no doubt about that. It's inevitable he'll get the axe soon. Kuester did terrible as head coach of the Pistons, and although he has one year left on his contract, he will take this team nowhere if he remains. I don't have anything personal against the man, I'm sure he'd make a good coach somewhere else, but he's not cut out for the Pistons anymore, and I hope Joe Dumars realizes that.
There are some pretty nice names out there for Dumars to consider when choosing his coach of the future. Rick Adelman, Jeff van Gundy and maybe even Larry Brown among them. But the one that really stands out is Bill Laimbeer. Normally, a promotion of an assistant to head coach wouldn't be too exciting, but in the Pistons case, this would be a big splash.
Laimbeer is a fan favorite who won two NBA championships with the Pistons as a player (albeit a dirty one) in 1989 and 1990. This would be an immensely popular move to loyal fans, and would be the first step to bringing them back, and filling the Palace to capacity once more.
Other than a publicity stunt, Laimbeer has a pretty impressive resume. He was a head coach before, in the WNBA for the Detroit Shock, and won three championships with them. He now resides in Minnesota as an assistant coach, and has been quoted by Kevin Love, owner of the longest streak of double-doubles since the ABA-NBA merger at 53, as being a mentor. I believe Laimbeer would be a great fit, and a move to bring a title back to Detroit.
And imagine what he could do with Greg Monroe.
2. Draft Kemba Walker with the 8th Overall Pick
This is the one step somewhat out of the Pistons control. Walker was projected to be drafted after the Pistons pick, but a surge in draft stock following his remarkable NCAA Championship run, and the Pistons falling back a pick in the draft lottery have made it questionable that he will fall to No. 8. It is not completely out of the question, though, and if he does indeed fall that far, Dumars shouldn't think twice before drafting him.
Walker is a rare talent that has both the leadership and drive that the Pistons desperately need. The picture says it all. UConn wasn't in everybody's Final Four bracket before the conference tournaments took place and were just 9-9 in their own conference. Then Walker led the team to 11 straight wins to take home the title.
If the Pistons are really committed to winning, they should return to their roots. What better way to do that then to draft a young point guard who so deeply resembles the franchise's best player, Isiah Thomas?
3. Sign-and-Trade Rodney Stuckey
This move may be one of the more questionable ones. Rodney Stuckey hasn't been bad in his tenure with the Pistons. He was the one good thing to come out of the Darko Milicic pick when Detroit acquired the 15th pick in the 2007 draft from Orlando.
But as good as Stuckey has been, he isn't a pure point guard, something Detroit needs, and switching him to the 2 to let Kemba Walker start at the point will create another logjam at the shooting guard position, with Ben Gordon and Richard Hamilton still under contract (assuming Hamilton actually stays).
He is a restricted free agent this offseason, and someone is sure to throw him a lot of money in an offer, maybe one that the Pistons can't afford to match. The best thing for them to do would be to trade him while his value is still high, and get a decent big man in return.
An interesting trade scenario could be to trade him to the Utah Jazz for Paul Millsap, where Utah could use him as a 2-guard and ease Derrick Favors into the starting lineup. Millsap could help Greg Monroe handle the workload down low, as Ben Wallace isn't what he used to be and may be retiring anyway.
4. Let the Veterans Go
As much as Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince meant to this organization the past nine years, it's time for them to move on. Tracy McGrady, as well. They're doing nothing but stunting the growth of young talent on this team, and the Pistons will never be able to move on with them still on the roster.
Prince and McGrady are both unrestricted free agents this summer, so letting them walk is easy. Rip Hamilton, on the other hand, is an entirely different story.
Rip isn't a bad player. He could be an integral part to a contending team, the Chicago Bulls for example. The problem is his horrendous contract. He's owed around $25.3 million over the next two years, with around $20 million guaranteed.
It'd be ideal to get a couple assets for him in return in a trade, but if nothing can be worked out, the Pistons should just buy him out. Ben Wallace isn't as much of a problem, as he's only owed $2 million next season, and he's likely to retire anyway. As much as the city of Detroit loves you, it's time to move on.
5. Trade Either Charlie Villanueva or Ben Gordon
These two signings are among the worst decisions Joe Dumars made as a GM, behind only the Darko pick and trading Chauncey away for a regressing Allen Iverson. Both contracts are roster killers and ridiculously overpaid for two bench quality players.
In my eyes, Villanueva should be the one to go. He's a soft big man who lives on the perimeter and plays mediocre defense, not a winning combination for a team looking to get back to their roots as a defensive team.
Gordon could still play a very important role for this team, especially if he moves into the starting lineup, following the departure of Hamilton, McGrady and Stuckey.
6. Sign a Productive Free Agent
This years free-agent class boasts some players that could be a huge help to the Pistons. Tyson Chandler, Samuel Dalembert and Kris Humphries are all unrestricted free agents who could be a huge help down low. If Dallas does win the title this year, I expect them to do everything to keep Chandler in town, but Dalembert is a defensive presence in the middle and Humphries is an impeccably hard worker who has improved by leaps and bounds this year.
There are also some restricted free agents that fit the bill, such as DeAndre Jordan, Marc Gasol, Thaddeus Young and Luc Mbah a Moute. The Grizzlies will likely match any offer Gasol gets, seeing as how he dominated at times in the playoffs this year with Z-Bo. Thaddeus Young and DeAndre Jordan are both young, high energy forwards who would fit nicely on the roster. Jordan could prove easy to pry away from the Clippers as they have Chris Kaman's immense contract and Blake Griffin to appease in the near future.
Any of these players could help the Pistons immensely.
7. Establish an Identity
Right now, the Pistons have absolutely no identity. The defense is below average, the offense is below average, the attendance is below average. This team bears no resemblance to the defensive powerhouses that won this organization titles in 1989, 1990 and 2004.
Greg Monroe is the future of this team, there's no doubt about that. And if Kemba Walker is drafted, he will be too. The front office needs to do everything in their power to hone their abilities and surround them with complementary pieces.
No superstar is really needed, look at what the early 00's Pistons evolved from. Not even in today's NBA, multiple superstars are not the ultimate recipe for success. Look at the Memphis Grizzlies, who won seven more games than they were supposed to in this year's playoffs.
It's not impossible. Finding an owner in Tom Gores was the first step. Now it's time to take the rest.
Get it done, Joe.