NBA Free Agents 2011: Re-Signing Tayshaun Prince Was the Right Move

Jay Wierenga@@JayWierengaCorrespondent IDecember 14, 2011

Few issues pertaining to the Detroit Pistons so far in this young season have been more divisive than the re-signing of Tayshaun Prince.

The local pundits have weighed in, from the somewhat tame opinion offered up by Michael Rosenberg to the scaling demolition dealt by Jamie Samuelson.

It seems everyone has an opinion on this move.

Including me.

While I can certainly see the argument from both sides, I completely agree with Joe Dumars in making this deal.

I know, I have been one of Dumars' staunchest critics over the past five years. I have gone after him regarding his increasingly bizarre moves over that time, but I also give him his due when he gets it right.

And bringing back Prince was the right move.

There are three things that go into making this move, and they are all tied to the situation that Detroit finds itself in—the state of the fanbase, the state of the frontcourt and the state of the roster in general.

The first thing is the most difficult to handle. The fanbase is apathetic at best, and angry at worst. The last three years have been a train wreck set to motion, and the fans have gone from being the most loyal to somewhere south of disengaged in a short amount of time.

And with good reason. The Pistons did just about everything possible to alienate a fanbase.

The easy way to turn this around is to completely purge the roster of the dead weight. Dumars surveyed his roster and decided that Rip Hamilton was a lost cause, but Tayshaun Prince was not.

And you know, he probably is right about that. Hamilton was the face of the disaster that was the last few years.

To be fair, Prince played his part in this. But Prince did so for far different reasons.

Where Hamilton's issues were tied into his ego, Prince's issues were tied to his perfectionism.

Hamilton had been on dysfunctional teams in Washington, and he had no problem shutting it down when things went badly.

Prince has only known basketball excellence, and was frustrated when those around him didn't get how to play the right way.

You could see it on Prince's face last year and in his body language. He felt like the little Dutch boy with his finger in the hole of the dam. He was the one person that knew there was a problem, and knew that he needed more help to fix it.

But before he walked, he had a talk with Lawrence Frank and decided that his new coach was the type of person that understood what the problem was, and how to get back to where Prince was used to being.

So bringing back Prince was a move that probably doesn't appease the fanbase initially, but it will in the long run.

And that brings us to the next thing: the state of the roster. 

This is a team with very few options in the frontcourt.

Sure, Greg Monroe is a building block that should remain in Detroit for years to come. But he is just one piece. The Pistons need to play two more guys in the frontcourt.

Jonas Jerebko certainly has a future here, but it is hard to tell if that future will be as a small forward, a power forward or just a hybrid energy guy that comes off the bench.

That leaves Charlie Villanueva, Jason Maxiell, Vernon Macklin and Austin Daye.

Macklin is a second-round pick with good size but raw skills. Maxiell is an undersized power forward that has disappointed each of the last few years. Villanueva is a soft, hybrid, stretch-4 whose future in Detroit is most assuredly in doubt.

That leaves third-year small forward Daye.

Daye has shown glimpses of the talent that made him a first-round pick. He also has shown a lack of maturity on and off the court.

At best, Daye is a question mark at this point.

At worst, he is a player that is not ready or incapable of starting at this level.

Either way, it is a lot to ask Dumars and Frank to invest a lot of their season in Daye at this point in his career.

Furthermore, it is a lot to ask the fanbase to follow this club considering the huge question mark which is Daye.

The wing players are arguably the most talented players in the game. Do you really want to trot out Daye every night against the likes of LeBron James, Paul Pierce and Luol Deng?

Prince offers you a credible, if not spectacular option at small forward. He is a versatile scorer, a solid (albeit overrated at this point) defender and a smart ballplayer.

He also is incredibly durable, meaning that most of the time you should be able to depend on him.

This brings me to the last thing: the state of the roster.

This is a youth movement in Detroit, plain and simple. Dumars has gotten rid of most of the older players, leaving Prince and Ben Wallace as the last members of the championship team still on the roster.

While in some ways that is a good thing, teams that are led almost entirely by young players usually don't win very much. Obviously there are exceptions to this, but primarily the teams that are void of older players tend to be directionless.

Prince is not exactly a vocal leader, but he is a smart player that leads by example. On the court, he will help the young players learn how to play solid team defense, something Prince has always excelled at. He also will take pressure off of young players like Monroe and rookie point guard Brandon Knight offensively, giving them a player that they can always turn to in a jam.

Prince never materialized as a star because he just doesn't have that in him. He deferred to his more vocal teammates, especially on the offensive end. But this year, he will have every opportunity to take on an increased role with an offense that lacks dynamic scorers.

And while Knight should provide a spark and surprise some folks, and Monroe should continue to get better in the post, Prince can score in a myriad of ways and this will sorely be needed on a team lacking a ton of offensive firepower.

The Future

Some have argued that this move was a bad idea based on the contract.

This is most likely the biggest fallacy of an argument out there. The Pistons gave Prince just a hair over mid-level-exception money to a player still in his prime for only four years.

Undoubtedly, over the next four years Detroit will try to draft or groom Prince's replacement. And by signing him to this contract, they have some time to do so.

Therefore, if they are in a position to draft a potential superstar like Harrison Barnes or Terrence Jones next year, they can. But if those types of talents are around, they won't have to reach. They know that they have a very capable stopgap in Prince.

And if they do find their small forward of the future next year or the year after, Prince either can stick around as a mentor, or he can easily be dealt to a contender considering how cap-friendly his deal is.

At the end of the day, the only reason to not like this deal is because of blood lust. You are angry at the team, and you want Dumars to blow it all up.

That's fine; you have that right. But just know that it isn't an opinion that is sound from a business or basketball standpoint. It is emotion, raw emotion.

You have that right. But Dumars and team owner Tom Gores are charged with removing emotion from the equation and building this town a winning basketball team.

This move holds true to that aim.


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