This offseason has a retro-feel amongst Detroit Pistons fans.
Although Detroit had a lot of success over the past decade, it is somewhat easy to remember a time when the spring months meant offseason speculation rather than postseason viewing.
This post season has taken on a tone unlike any since the end of the Grant Hill era in Detroit.
Even though Detroit fans are like many fans in that they love to speculate on what moves their franchises will make, what separates those in Motown is that they never seem happy with the end result.
Even after the Pistons won their last title in 2004, the overwhelming chatter centered on which front court player should be kept, Rasheed Wallace or Memo Okur. As a result, there were many that were unhappy with the end result, and therefore the chatter continued throughout that season and the next.
While some may label those in Detroit as malcontents, it is instead likely, a sense of inevitability. Detroit fans know that nothing is forever, and they are always striving to stay ahead of the curve.
Sadly, this savvy sense of survival has eluded their employers in the auto industry, but I digress.
This offseason feels eerily similar to those that came a decade prior, in which optimism has given way to a feeling that it will take more than a single piece to reclaim the throne.
As a result, many online blogs and chats have focused on the Pistons attaining two, maybe three big pieces.
The suggestions have run the gamut, from the absurd (LeBron James) to the unlikely (Chris Paul) to the possible (Carlos Boozer).
The one overriding common factor is that most suggestions tend to ignore the relevant facts of the situation, ie contract status and salary cap.
Therefore, it is time to address the state of the Pistons free agent hunt and the likely targets, paying close attention to rationality and facts.
LeBron James is not coming to Detroit.
Not this offseason, anyways.
James is still under contract until next summer with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Now that is not to say that James is not going anywhere. I wholeheartedly agree that LeBron will be playing elsewhere in a year, and I think that Cavs' owner Dan Gilbert would be wise to explore trading options if by mid-season he was unable to re-sign the mega-star.
However, when James leaves, it will be for a place that will be able to take him to the next level marketing-wise, so New York seems more than likely. Why would James trade one crumbling rust belt city for another? It's not going to happen.
Chris Paul is not coming to Detroit either.
Sure, Dumars would love to grab Paul and New Orleans is trying to slash salaries.
However, Paul is the foundation for their team, as well as their city, and he is moderately priced as far as elite point guards go ($4.5 mil per season). He is not Motown-bound.
Amare Stoudemire is likely not coming to Detroit.
While the biggest aim on Joe Dumars' radar is the front court, and Stoudemire would immediately make Detroit a contender again, this is beyond unlikely for much of the same reason that Paul is: He is the foundation of a city and team.
Stoudemire is one of the most dominant offensive big men in the league. While his defense is questionable at best, his athleticism makes it possible to improve much like James has.
The biggest stumbling block for Detroit is that Stoudemire is still under contract with Phoenix. And while the Suns are trying to rebuild and unload contracts, Detroit does not have the expiring contracts and young stars that the Suns would require.
That being said, it would be a major coup if Dumars were able to again bring in a great front court player with an expiring contract.
Chris Bosh is also not likely coming to Detroit this summer.
Bosh, like Stoudemire, is under contract for one more year. Like Stoudemire and the Suns, Bosh and the Toronto Raptors might part ways this summer due in large part to the fact the Bosh seems like a long shot for re-signing with Toronto.
However, Toronto will also likely ask for more than Detroit has in return for their versatile big man. Instead, look for a team like Indiana or perhaps Dallas to step in and offer the Raptors something more appealing than Amir Johnson and Rodney Stuckey (oh yeah, unlike last year, Stuckey will be on the table).
One thing that all of the previous players mentioned have in common is that they are all currently under contract for this upcoming season. This type of situation does not play to Detroit's strength.
Right now, Detroit's strength is salary cap room and roster flexibility. Additionally, the Pistons possess a number of players that are under contract that have plenty of good years ahead of them and plenty of winning experience.
This makes Detroit an attractive destination for a free agent that is looking to win. Also, the Pistons are a well-known commodity, and therefore any player that chooses to sign with them will have heightened media exposure.
Now to an established star that may not be a plus, but for a good player looking to break out, that could be a clincher.
Ben Gordon comes to mind as a player that might be intrigued by Detroit.
Gordon would give the Pistons a bonafide three-point shooter that would stretch the defense and help whomever the Pistons sign to their front court.
Gordon also contributes instant offense, another thing that has doomed Detroit in the past.
However, there are many more reasons why Detroit would balk at this than jump at it.
First off, Gordon is a shooting guard, and Detroit already has two of those. Rip Hamilton has been one of the most consistent performers that the Pistons have ever had, and his contract is not super attractive to potential suitors.
Additionally, Gordon is undersized, and Dumars is likely through with undersized shooting guards after the Allen Iverson debacle.
Hedo Turkoglu is another possible option. While he does play a position that Detroit already has covered, he is a very versatile scorer that has stepped up on the biggest stage.
However, Turkoglu's weak defense and sizable paycheck (he is turning down a $7.5 million contract, meaning his price tag could be upwards of $10 million per season) would likely cause Dumars to pass on the small forward.
Chris Kaman is also an option here, and an attractive one considering his size and position. He is under contract for the next few years, but Los Angeles Clippers' Owner Donald Sterling is likely done spending money on his team, and will be looking to trade expensive pieces.
Again, Detroit runs into the problem of not having expiring contracts that would be enticing to Sterling. However, if Dumars would be able to pry Kaman away from the thrifty Sterling, he would be a welcomed addition to an aging and thin front court.
In assessing where Dumars' head is at right now in assessing his team, one might look to Utah. The Jazz currently have a log jam in their front court, and two players that would not only fit Detroit, but are likely going to opt out of their contracts.
Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur are both likely heading for free agency, and given their size and skill set, they are likely at the top of Dumars' wish list.
Both players have their strengths and weaknesses, and both could create future issues for Detroit to address personnel-wise.
Boozer is one of the best power forwards in the game. He is a fantastic rebounder and low post threat on offense, and he has good size for defense. However, he has been injury-prone in the past, and his defense has been suspect on occasion.
Additionally, signing Boozer would force Detroit to add another big man to play center. The team would prefer to add a solid defender with size to pair with Boozer, and that would open the door to Rasheed Wallace staying with the team.
Given his past history with the team, Okur represents an intriguing possibility. While a lot more durable than Boozer, Okur is three years older than the power forward. He does, however, play center and that would allow Detroit to re-sign Antonio McDyess to play alongside Okur.
Like Wallace, Okur has been criticized in the past for spending too much time around the three-point line on offense. Unlike Wallace, however, Okur is a relentless defensive rebounder.
Both players will seek raises from their current contracts (Boozer makes $11.5 million per season, Okur makes roughly $3 million less), and it is not outside the realm of possibilities that one or both might not opt out of their contracts. Boozer said last Monday on "Jim Rome is Burning" that he has not ruled out staying with Utah and Jazz ownership seems confident Okur will re-sign with Utah if he opts out.
Look for Boozer to stay and Okur to leave, causing Dumars to make an all-out push to reclaim the 6'11" Turkish import. If this happens, look for Dumars to re-sign McDyess and draft a high impact power forward in the draft, such as Tyler Hansbrough, that can immediately step in and help take some minutes off of the aging McDyess.
Another strong possibility seems to be Ron Artest. Dumars understands that in order to beat James, he is going to need a player that can make life difficult for the superstar. Nobody matches up better physically with James than Artest.
Additionally, Dumars likes reclamation projects, and Artest in Detroit would be the ultimate in turnarounds.
This would also lead to a Tayshaun Prince deal that could potentially bring a needed piece.
As presently constructed, the Pistons weaknesses are front court size and depth and back court perimeter shooting. Prince could easily fetch a one or a couple of pieces. If this comes to fruition, look for Detroit to talk with Washington about Antwan Jamison and Mike James.
Outside of the Box
So far, much of what has been stated in this article centers are strong possibilities and speculation that stems from actual facts.
However, it should be mentioned that Dumars is not someone that thinks within the box. Additionally, Dumars seems to have seen the writing on the wall, and is leaning towards adding an established star. The league has decreed that they prefer a star, not team driven league, and Dumars seems reluctantly willing to comply.
Therefore, he might take a long look at Tracy McGrady.
All the way out here on the west coast, I can hear the Pistons fans howling in agony in the midwest, but let's explore this thought.
McGrady is likely done in Houston. The fact that the Rockets seemed to play better without T-Mac likely signals the end of his reign. Also, the fact that he seemed to count out his teammates does not bode well for him returning.
McGrady will be hungry to prove that he is not over the hill, and he could easily still have a lot left considering the fact that he is not yet 30.
However, his salary would require Detroit to give up both Rip Hamilton and a sign and trade player.
Instead, look for Dumars to make a serious run at McGrady next summer.
Speaking of next summer, let's re-explore Chris Bosh.
I know, I know, I said that Bosh was not likely to land in Detroit this summer. That is still true.
However, if Dumars strikes out on Okur or Boozer, he will likely instead make minor moves to keep the team from dropping to the lottery. Instead of adding an average player like Kaman, Dumars would likely hold onto his roughly $20 million in cap space and wait for Bosh to become a free agent in 2010.
This would be a major gamble considering Toronto will likely be watching Detroit this off season, and if Dumars stays put they will know that he is circling Bosh. In that case, they would likely trade him before the deadline and Detroit would be left with nothing.
Confusing? Just think about how tough of a situation Dumars is in. The Pistons top guy not only has these decisions to make, but he has a new owner and his team plays in a city with the worst economic situation in the nation.
One bad move could drastically diminish ticket sales, and in turn, put a ton of pressure on the new owners to make a change.
And you thought your summer plans were complex!