Primarily, we know that Joe Dumars is always trying to build a championship-caliber team. If he looks at his roster and does not see that it is headed in that direction, he will make the moves he deems necessary to get it there, even if that means clearing space for future free agent signings.
Although nothing is set in stone, it is safe to assume that he has his backcourt of the future in place in Stuckey and Gordon. He also seems willing to give a long look to Austin Daye, someone he sees as both a stretch four and a point forward.
I would also assume that his recent "diamond in the rough" find, Jonas Jerebko, has a place as a combo forward in the Pistons' rotation for years to come, unless a "can't miss" deal comes along. And I wouldn't be surprised to see Will Bynum back, unless someone offers him a deal Dumars doesn't feel comfortable matching.
Everyone else should keep their Realtor on speed dial. The next couple of months will be mainly a public showing for at least two of Prince, Maxiell, Villanueva and Hamilton. Dumars did not pull the trigger on a deal because there wasn't one worth taking. That won't be the case this summer, as with the passage of time the need to make a deal becomes more pressing.
Prince will probably be the first to go. His value is still decent and his contract is desirable (one year left). Dumars may look to include one of Maxiell or Villanueva in the deal, which will undoubtedly be focused on a younger big man who can anchor the post both offensively and defensively in return.
Hamilton, although tougher to deal, will most likely end his tenure as a Piston this spring as well. He would be a great compliment to a team who was one piece away from competing for a championship (Dallas, Denver) or a team who needed a veteran leader to compliment its young core (Memphis, Oklahoma City, Charlotte).
If Dumars does not like what he sees where the Pistons pick in this June's draft (most likely in the five to ten range), I wouldn't be surprised to see the pick packaged with Hamilton to make him easier to move and to increase the return. Once again, a big man would be the focus.
The likelihood of both of these deals/types of deals going down is pretty slim. Therefore, Dumars will most likely have to look to free agency in some way, shape, or form to further bolster the roster this offseason.
The Pistons will be right up against the cap this year, with ten players under contract. Dumars has the mid-level exemption available to use at about $5.5-6 million, and the bi-annual exemption available at about $2 million. This is, of course, without making any trades.
The search for candidates that fit Dumars' profile of trade and/or free agent additions yields many possibilities. Such is the case in the current NBA, where in many individual situations talent exceeds performance (or in some cases opportunity). The question that Dumars has done a good job of answering in the past is, can this player reach greater heights as a member of the Pistons?
Chemistry is a huge piece to this (the key to the '04 champs was that they played better as a unit than the more talented Lakers did), and any added parts need to fit with what is left behind.
A scan of the league offers a few names that fit the Dumars mold. Let's start with a look at upcoming free agents.
Tyrus Thomas, a soon to be restricted free agent who was recently acquired by the Bobcats, has yet to reach his full potential in his three plus years in the league. He is a great help-side defender and a good stretch four offensively. But he leaves fans wanting more when it comes to true post play. At 23, he has a lot of time for growth, and a good big man coach like Dave Cowens could go a long way in helping develop him into a true four.
Thomas would most likely get offers above the mid-level exception, making the necessity of clearing cap space a requirement if Detroit chose to make a run at him. He may be a sign-and-trade possibility, especially if Larry Brown would like to get one of his old players in the mix in Charlotte.
26-year-old swing-man Kelenna Azubuike of Golden State is enjoying a breakout year in this his fourth season. His shooting percentage has gone up dramatically this year and he is starting to come into his own as a solid contributor in the league. He has a player option coming up and, with the logjam Golden State has on the perimeter, may look to exercise it. He could be had for the mid-level exemption.
Another player who fits that mold is the newest King Carl Landry. He is currently having a breakout year and looks ready to take his game to another level, especially in the right system. He has loads of heart and tends to "outplay" his talent level, something Dumars has shown to have a lot of admiration for in the past.
The Kings almost certainly will be looking to keep something of value in the Kevin Martin trade, though, so they could very well exercise the team option on him and take him off the market.
Looking at players who fit the bi-annual exemption becomes more challenging, as the diamonds tend to become fewer in this rough.
Ike Diogu presents an interesting case for the role, however. His game has yet to catch on in his four plus years (and five teams) in the league, largely because it seems no one knows what to do with him. His overlooked offensive post play could flourish in Kuester's system and he could serve as a nice compliment to either Villanueva or Maxiell at a much cheaper price.
In case Will Bynum decides to leave for greener pastures, Acie Law would make a good candidate for the third guard position. Although he has yet to find his groove, Law has shown flashes of "getting it" in limited time this year, and he may be ready for a big step up in his game. As a pass first point guard and solid on the ball defender, Law could be on the floor with either Gordon or Stuckey.
In looking strictly at trades, there are some possibilities out there as well.
Carlos Boozer, who has put up solid numbers throughout his career, has been linked to the Pistons in various trade scenarios in the past, including throughout last week. The Jazz, who may have wanted more than they were being offered at the deadline, may look to move him via sign-and-trade this summer. At this point, that is the only realistic way the Pistons would have a shot at the daily double-double candidate.
Boozer would anchor the post in ways that Detroit has not seen since in quite a long time. This would open things up for the perimeter players and give the Pistons offense another wrinkle. A package of Prince and Villanueva for C.J. Miles and a re-signed Boozer might get it done this summer.
If the Nuggets decided they needed a shooting guard to put between Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, a Rip Hamilton for Nene Hilario deal could work nicely. Nene has a very under-appreciated game, and he would lock down the center position for the Pistons.
Another option who might be had in a trade could be Hasheem Thabeet. Although he was the No. 2 pick overall in last year's draft, the feeling is that Memphis felt forced into the pick due to a lack of alternatives. The emergence of Marc Gasol may make him expendable, and he could be had for the right price.
These offerings are just some of the many potential scenarios that must be swirling through Joe Dumars' mind these days. As a competitor both on and off the court, it has to be eating him up that his time will finish a second straight year as a non-contender.
At the same time, his patience and willingness to see the vision through will pay off in the coming years. Those of us who have admired him from afar have realized that much in the last ten years, and we look anxiously to wait the future holds as he charts a new course for the franchise he has served so loyally.