This year has been a rough one when viewed through the eyes of a Detroit Pistons fan.
We have had multiple lineup changes, a blockbuster trade that did not meet expectations, and a first-round playoff sweep. These are things not typically characteristic of a Pistons team post-teal uniform era.
As a result of this season, there have been some very loud rumblings from fans that Joe Dumars has failed this team and is leading them to the brink of disaster. This could not be farther from the truth.
Let’s first take a moment to appreciate the level of excellence that Dumars has brought to the Pistons.
Dumars' teams have been to the NBA Finals five times. Of these five trips, we have taken home three championship trophies. Two were while he was a player and one was as a general manager. Oh, he won a finals MVP award as well.
These accolades were not just some lucky breaks: they were the result of hard work, and preparation.
Now onto the problems that have been brought up against Dumars as a general manager.
First let’s talk draft picks, most notably Darko Milicic. Darko was the second pick in the 2003 NBA draft. He was picked ahead of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, and Carmelo Anthony.
Out of the first five picks of that draft, Darko was by far the least productive. This is what many fans cite as a failure. But in order to truly understand why the pick was made, one must look at more than just ability.
In 2003, the Pistons already had a premier shooting guard, a young, athletic small forward, and a defensively bruising power forward. What we did not have was a true seven-footer to put in the post.
On top of needing a player of his size, Darko was thought very highly of by a large portion of the scouts in the NBA. The situation then looks like this: The Pistons lacked a true seven-foot center and Darko was the highest sought-after draft pick that fit that spot.
After we drafted him, we began to see he was not a quality pick for the lottery.
Dumars, though, did not sit on his hands and allow this mistake to hurt his team. He traded Darko away for a first-round draft pick.
That pick ended up being the 15th in the 2007 draft in which we selected Rodney Stuckey. If you don't like Stuckey or his potential, I suggest you check out my last article here.
So yeah, the Darko draft was bad, and if Dumars had sat and hoped that he would pan out, we would have been in trouble. He didn't though and turned a dud into a future star.
The second main concern fans have repeatedly expressed is the way Dumars has changed the Pistons this year.
A lot of people are up in arms about the Billups-Iverson trade that took place. Even more so now that Billups has Denver competing for a Western Conference title.
That trade can only be partly judged at this time because of its huge financial repercussions to both teams.
Iverson’s $20 million contract comes off the books this summer along with Rasheed Wallace's. This is going to give us roughly $17 million in cap space. This cap space is going to afford the Pistons some amazing options this summer, including a possibility of acquiring Chris Bosh.
On Denver's side, they benefited greatly in the short-term by being able to make the playoff run that they have. But what most people forget is that Billups is 32-years-old and comes with a long and expensive contract. By the time his contract is up he will be about 36-years-old making roughly $14 million.
The Pistons where in a similar situation in the mid-90's with other well-known guards, Isiah Thomas and Dumars himself. In that instance, Thomas and Dumars were both allowed to retire as Pistons. This had some very serious financial consequences for the Pistons.
The Pistons could not use them as leverage to gain any additional assets and, as such, ended up rebuilding the franchise extremely slowly.
What Dumars has done this time around with an aging roster was trade a player with marginal value to the team, because of emerging young talent, in order to rebuild the franchise basically over one season.
That is a feat that very few NBA general managers can pull off. Most teams in the NBA have to suffer terrible seasons in order to gain high lottery picks to rebuild their franchise.
The third problem people seem to have with Dumars is the coaching carousal that has happened under his watch. Since 2001, the Pistons have had four different coaches: Rick Carlisle, Larry Brown, Flip Saunders, and current coach Michael Curry.
While I think Carlisle was an amazing coach and really got the Pistons to play defense, I don't think he could have won on the big stage for us. Besides, he was replaced by the now infamous Brown.
Brown had it all. He had the respect of the players, made them play defense, and was savvy enough to win in the playoffs. Losing him definitely hurt the team, but this was not the choice of Dumars.
Brown and former owner Bill Davidson (may he rest in peace) had a very heated feud, mainly due to Brown's abrasiveness. Not to mention Brown had been flirting with job offers from other teams while the Pistons were in the middle of the NBA Finals.
Then came Saunders. Saunders is regarded as an offensive guru in the NBA with his zone style of play.
His main problem though was that all the players not named Billups did not respect him. He came from the CBA and lacked real NBA credentials; this seemed to cause dissent, most notably with Wallace. As such, he was forced to have to address the team through Billups.
It was an incredibly difficult situation to have that much dissent on a team while still trying to compete for a title. After the third straight season of not getting back over the Eastern Conference Finals hump, Saunders was let go.
This leaves us at Curry. This has become another touchy topic for many Detroit fans. I’m still reserving judgment on Curry because of the whirlwind of changes that took place this season in Detroit.
If I had to guess, though, I think Curry was hired to be a transitional coach much like Carlisle was for the start of this past era. Dumars knew that the team was going to be rebuilt and needed a fresh coach that was going to try to develop and assess our younger players.
Those who wish to see Curry fired have to consider a couple of things. First is that he was put in a position that he was not prepared for in the Billups-Iverson trade. He had spent the entire summer game-planning for Billups, only to have everything change two days into the season.
Coaching in the NBA is a tough job and massive changes like that can definitely affect the performance of a first-year coach.
Second is that it would be a terrible idea financially to fire Curry because that would require the Pistons to pay two coaches who where not actually coaching the team (Saunders is still being paid his contract).
So Dumars' best option is to continue to let Curry coach and see what he can do with a stable roster and full summer of game-planning.
Honestly, after all that Dumars has done for this franchise, especially in recent years, I can't understand why anyone would believe that one 39-43 season means Dumars has failed this team.
Dumars has engineered a plan with numerous options for the future that will have the Pistons in contender status very soon with another six years of potential dominance.