Ever since the terrible economy crash happened in 2008, the city of Detroit has never been the same, and neither have the Detroit Pistons. They have a record of 121-191 since the 2008-2009 season, even though they made the playoffs that year with a below .500 record. They are on their fourth coach (Lawrence Frank) since that time, too (Flip Saunders, Michael Curry, John Kuester were all fired). This past season the Pistons competed hard, even though their record didn’t show it. As we are coming out of our recession, maybe the Pistons, too, are coming out of theirs. It started with a series of bad contracts, like a bank giving out bad loans to people who couldn’t afford to pay it back. Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva were the first free agent signings by the Pistons to get outrageous contracts. Gordon is set to make $12.4 million and Villanueva $8.06 million this coming season. Then Rodney Stuckey signed a deal worth $8.5 million every year until 2013-2014. That’s a total of $28.6 million (almost half of their salary cap) going to three players who scored just 37.7% of the team’s points last season. Tayshaun Prince is also making $6.74 million this coming season, but I will give him a break because he helped the Pistons win a ring back in the 2003-2004 season.
Too bad they can’t make Gordon, Villanueva, and Stuckey pay back their contracts.
Despite their poor financial decisions, the Pistons have a few players who might have a legitimate future. Center Greg Monroe really came into his own this season, averaging 15.4 ppg and 9.6 rpg despite averaging 31.5 mpg. He also led his team in steals and played in all 66 games. In only his second year in the league, Monroe guided his team to 25 wins in a 66-game season. Rookie point guard Brandon Knight was another bright-spot for the Pistons. Knight averaged nearly 13 ppg (12.8) and shot 38% from three-point territory. Knight is still very raw offensively; Pistons fans should be excited about this young man’s potential. I expect him to take a big leap next season.
Detroit has a lot of problems to fix, but their defense isn’t one of them. They gave up an average of 95.7 ppg, good enough for 14th-best in the league. The problem was their scoring out-put. They averaged only 90.9 ppg (27th in the league) and were 28th in assists-per-game (18.7). If they can improve those offensive numbers then I think this team will be headed in the right direction. Let’s remember that this team is not the Piston-dynasty teams we saw in the mid-2ooos, where they only had to score 90 points to win a game. They aren’t good on offense, so offensive improvement should be their focus.
I have the Pistons slotted to pick 9th in this June’s draft. Three years in a row in the draft lottery should tell you that your team has some problems and the Pistons certainly do, as I noted earlier. They lack a starting shooting guard, small forward and power forward. When they signed Gordon a few years ago, they envisioned him as their starting two-guard. But Gordon had always come off the bench when he played for the Chicago Bulls. He played the Sixth Man role perfectly, but Detroit thought he could be a starter. That didn’t work out so well because, well, it hasn’t worked! Prince is getting old at the small forward position and Austin Daye hasn’t panned-out like Detroit had hoped. Jonas Jerebko hasn’t done much either, but he has been injured some in his young career. Villanueva is by no means a starting power forward in this league with names like Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, and LaMarcus Aldridge.
So what will the Pistons do?
They have a few choices. I think it would be best if they gave Monroe another guy to play alongside him, like Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger. But wait, Monroe and Sullinger are the same type of player, except that Monroe is little bigger and more athletic.
That’s why I have North Carolina’s John Henson slated to go #9 to the Detroit Pistons. Henson might have questions about his body and if he can be durable enough to take a beating every night, but there is no denying his length, athletic and shot-blocking ability. Henson is a two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year winner and his game is still evolving. He has shown the ability to make shots out to 17-feet and has a nice turnaround jump hook. Henson would be a nice fit alongside Monroe. The Pistons also have two picks in the second round; one early, one late. I would like to see them add some more beef to their front-court. A player like Virginia’s Mike Scott would be a nice addition. Scott played power forward in college, but at 6’8, he is a bit of a “tweener” and has to be able to play some small forward. If Detroit doesn’t like him, Kentucky’s Darius Miller would be a great fit. He is a player who knows his role and doesn’t complain. You can never have too many of those players. With their second pick in the second round, the Pistons should look at a number of players: Missouri’s Kim English, IUPUI’s Alex Young, or Texas A&M’s Khris Middleton (if he is still available).
I don’t think the Pistons will have any money to spend during the free agency period unless they clear cap-space by using the amnesty clause. If they do, they should look to add a veteran player or two to help their young players along.
There is light at the end of every tunnel.
The Pistons are hoping to see that light rather quickly.
- 2012 NBA Mock Draft: Who Will the Detroit Pistons Pick? (bleacherreport.com)
- NBA Draft 2012: Teams That Face Tough Decisions Come Draft Day (bleacherreport.com)