A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

NBA Franchise Power Rankings – #27: Detroit Pistons

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Ben Gordon of the Detroit Pistons during a gam...

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Previous rankings:

#30 – Charlotte Bobcats (+ introduction)

#29 – Phoenix Suns

#28 – Denver Nuggets

#27 – Detroit Pistons

Total Trade Value Ranking: #27 (Feb. 2011 ranking: #27)

Best Assets: C Greg Monroe (young, projects as borderline all-star to legitimate starter), PG Brandon Knight (rookie, projects as legitimate starter to borderline starter), 2012 1st, 2013 1st, RFA SG Rodney Stuckey (borderline starter), SF Jonas Jerebko (borderline starter), PF Austin Daye (young, projects as bench player to borderline starter), PG Will Bynum (bench player)

Bad contracts: PF Charlie Villaneuva (3 years, 24 million), SG Ben Gordon (3 years, 27.2 million), Richard Hamilton (2 years, 25.2 million), PF Jason Maxiell (2 years, 10 million)

Other chips: C Ben Wallace (expiring)

Managerial Grade: B

Financial grade: C

Estimated record next year: Bottom 12

Overall synopsis: The Pistons got their first major rebuilding piece in the 2010 draft by taking Greg Monroe at #7. In our 2010 redraft, we decided Monroe would be taken 2nd overall if the draft was replayed. His early results and skillsets show a possible future all-star at the most important position, center. Brandon Knight from this year’s draft could be a nice pick at #8 in the 2011 draft, but needs to prove he’s a real PG and not another combo guard like Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum. Together, Monroe and Knight should at least give the Pistons a good character and hard work ethic grounding they’ve been missing lately. Aside from those two, the Pistons have a mix of combo position players doomed to the bench like Rodney Stuckey and Jonas Jerebko, and terrible contracts like Charlie Villaneuva, Ben Gordon and Rip Hamilton. The 2012 and 2013 draft picks project to help the Pistons, but not as much as a few teams just ahead of them. The Pistons right now know they have a future starting big man and they have a good chance of having a guard in their top 6 rotational fixture. What they now need is starters at the other big man spot, small forward position and other guards spot, and need to find all-stars despite their middling position in drafts. They may have found one in Monroe, but nevertheless he will have to prove it first – and even if he is one, the Pistons need to get many more starting caliber players and other all-stars around him.

Finances/Managment: After building a champion in the early 2000s based on defense, teamwork and financial prudency, Joe Dumars turned his back on that philosophy by signing Ben Gordon and Charlie Villaneuva to massive deals. Not only have Gordon and Villaneuva underperformed offensively and been both team defense and team chemistry killers, but as win now players the timing for the signing was wrong. The Pistons needed to wait a few years before pushing in chips to win. The result of the Gordon and Villaneuva signings have been a Pistons team in the middle of the lottery, usually argued the worst place to be. They are not good enough to challenge for a playoff spot and not bad enough to get top 5 draft picks. I will give Dumars credit for making good draft decisions the last two years by snagging Monroe and Knight however. Financially, new ownership should help their flexibility despite a few bad contracts. I liked the hiring of Laurence Frank as coach after John Kuester’s failure. Frank should help them get back to defense and technical proficiency.

Next season: Well, next season for the Pistons should almost inarguably look like the last two. A losing season, but enough wins for a draft pick out of the top 6. Greg Monroe could break out into a star and help them, but most of the time rookies break through statistically and in producing wins in their 3rd season. Knight should need time to learn the PG position. The Pistons have a number of talented individual scorers like Richard Hamilton, Rodney Stuckey, Charlie Villaneuva and Ben Gordon, but none are either particularly adept or willing to fit in a team concept. What this leads to is a lot of poor isolation jumpshots. The Pistons don’t have a true PG while Knight is developing, thus there is no player to pace the team and pull everyone together. Where Knight should help them compared to last year is spotting up for 3s, spreading the floor and giving the Pistons an efficient shot from time to time. But this is counterbalanced by losing their best 3pt spot up guy last year, SF Tayshaun Prince, to free agency. The Pistons have arguably the worst SF situation in the league with Prince gone – it looks like Jerebko and Daye will be taking the minutes there. In the NBA if you are flat out missing a legitimate player at a position, it hurts badly. Overall, I expect a team on the offensive end who has poor ball movement and shot selection, and who’s saving grace is solid outside production from Knight and inside production from Monroe. Defensively, they will be in trouble. Their two best defenders last year were Prince and an old Ben Wallace, who remains on the team but will be even slower. Malcontents like Villaneuva, Hamilton, Stuckey virtually don’t try defensively and Knight should struggle on that end as most rookies do. Perimeter help defense should be bad, interior help defense should be solid, but can it really carry the team? Laurence Frank is known as a defensive coach so he will try, but I suspect a defense ranging between average and mediocore. On the boards they should get solid production from Jonas Jerebko, Ben Wallace and Greg Monroe but Villaneuva’s minutes will hurt them. Overall I see who will get enough offensive and defensive production to win the occasional game but not contend for a playoff spot – Similar to the last few seasons. Projected ORTG: 22ndth, Projected DRTG: 21st, projected record: 29-53

Trading block: I have to think the Pistons would love to move all 3 of Hamilton, Gordon and Villaneuva at this point. With shorter contracts than at one point, they may finally be able to clear house of their mistakes.

Projection: The Pistons have a solid chance to move upwards because of Greg Monroe‘s potential. If he emerges as a true perennial all-star talent with Pau Gasol like upside, they will leapfrog many teams without such a star. Otherwise expect another year in the bottom 3 to 6 on this list.

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