Six Moves the Detroit Pistons Should Make
It is hard to imagine how any team could have transitioned from long time Conference champion to complete disarray so quickly and then stay that way, but not every move Detroit made has been a disaster. The Pistons have acquired some good young players, brought in an experienced and successful head coach in Lawrence Frank, and there is some real talent on this team.
The Pistons may not be many moves away from building a team that can become a respected force in the East once again.
#1 Make peace with the team’s veterans
Last season’s debacle put the Pistons management and coaches at a crossroads with their players. The team had to decide if they were going to let a bona fide collection of talent escape for nothing and rebuild virtually from scratch or try to fix their relationships with the effected players. Hiring Frank provides the Pistons the opportunity to do this and showcase the talent this team has.
Last year’s events proved that you cannot build a team from within or trade players for value while under duress.
37-year-old Big Ben Wallace is in the final year of a contract that pays him $2.2 million this season. There is a strong possibility this Detroit icon could just pack things in and retire instead of suffering through another losing season. A big first step in making peace with the team’s veterans should be asking Wallace to stay on and mentor the young big men with only limited expectations from him on the court.
#2 Start Richard Hamilton
Attempts to openly trade veteran shooting guard Richard Hamilton failed miserably to the detriment of everybody on the Pistons. A healthy Hamilton still has a lot to contribute but he cannot do it from the bench or the stands. Let Ben Gordon assume his long time role of coming off the bench and just accept the fact the team may have overpaid him for now.
Either Hamilton or Gordon could start, but by laying out the pecking order in advance, Coach Frank has a chance to avoid one of the conflicts that was so disruptive last season. Only if both players are on board with the coach does the team have any chance of effectively resolving the issue created when Gordon was acquired.
#3 Let the veteran free agents go
Tracy McGrady proved last season that he can still contribute to a NBA team, however there isn’t room for him on a rebuilding Pistons team and this experiment shouldn’t be repeated.
Tayshaun Prince is a part of the Pistons glorious past and under better circumstances he would be a player the team should fight to hang onto. These are not those circumstances.
The LA Times is reporting a possible Prince sign-and-trade for former All-Star center Chris Kaman of the Clippers. The deal could make sense for both teams and represents what could be the Pistons only opportunity to get value back for their departing free agent.
Rodney Stuckey was the heir apparent when the Pistons traded Chauncey Billups and his statistics suggest the 25-year-old point guard is a solid starter. Detroit however needs a fresh start and Stuckey should draw considerable interest on the free agent market. The team should be looking to use Stuckey’s restricted status to force a sign-and-trade deal that returns at least a young prospect and/or a draft pick.
#4 No Amnesty this season
The Pistons have amnesty candidates, and using amnesty could be seen as a way to solve some of the teams’ issues, but amnesty does not go away after the start of this season. Detroit is well under the salary cap and President of basketball operations Joe Dumars will have the opportunity to make more effective roster moves after Frank has evaluated which players he wishes to build around and other teams have identified holes in their rosters.
There is no reason to rush amnesty at this time.
#5 Start Brandon Knight
Detroit acquired Kentucky’s explosively athletic point guard with the eighth pick of the 2011 NBA draft, and after a strong freshman college season, Brandon Knight impressed just about everyone who saw him in pre-draft workouts.
The 20-year-old Knight has a lot to learn, but he will show up in fantastic shape, and there is every indication that he is extremely coachable based on his week-to-week improvement under Coach Calipari. The 28-year-old Will Bynum provides a capable backup.
The arrival of Knight made Stuckey redundant and it only makes sense to start Stuckey’s replacement right away.
#6 Give the young forwards their shot
The loss of Prince to free agency leaves a big hole at small forward in the Pistons lineup but the 23-year-old 6’ 11” Austin Daye looked like he may be ready to help fill the void last season.
In his 15 starts at small forward, Daye averaged 11.5 points and 4.5 rebounds in just 26.1 minutes while drilling 48 percent of his three-point attempts. That lofty three-point percentage stayed above 40 percent over the 72 games in played in last season.
Daye is just one of several young Pistons who deserve a chance to play significantly more minutes this season and the Pistons should give him his shot at the starting small forward spot.
The other young forward the Pistons should give significant playing time this season is Jonas Jerebko. The 24-year-old forward missed all of his sophomore season with a ruptured Achilles, but he impressed as a rookie averaging 9.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, and a steal in 27.8 minutes and was the Eastern conference rookie of the month in February 2010.
If the Pistons do not add a proven starting big man and Jerebko is fully recovered, he should be the team’s starting power forward alongside center Greg Monroe.
The Pistons most important move was completed when they hired Frank as the team’s new head coach. Frank gives the team a means to put last season’s problems behind them and a leader without ties to or obligations from past decisions.
Making peace with the team’s returning veterans and letting the veteran free agents leave will go a long way to getting the Pistons back on track. It also opens the door for the good looking young talent Dumars has accumulated to develop together and potentially form the core of the next great Pistons team.