Detroit Pistons Analysis

Many of you have requested to bring back the 'Off-Season To-Do List' series, but it was a little too much for our understaffed site to handle. So, to meet the demands of our faithful readers, we have decided to bring back the series in an abbreviated form. It will no longer be called the 'Off-Season To-Do list' because it is not the off-season anymore with the start of the preseason. We have decided to do analysis on teams that have been requested. We will try to accommodate as many requests as we can, but during the season, we will be blogging about season related issues instead of general analysis.
As you can tell by the title of this entry, the Pistons have been requested on numerous occasions. I have found the Pistons a very intriguing team in the NBA. Every year, someone picks them to go to the Finals or to win the championship. I've always found these predictions peculiar because they seem to be connecting dots that aren't there. Don't get me wrong, the Pistons are an extremely talented team, and they have the tools to be a competitive team year after year in the Eastern Conference. That is where it ends. A competitive Eastern Conference team. Even if they were a Western Conference team, they would still be competitive, but no matter where they play, they don't have the tools to get over the hump. I think Joe Dumars is starting to realize this and has pushed/will push the 'rebuild button'. This may not be totally apparent, but he has made a coaching change and toyed with the thought of trading his core this summer (The rumors with the Nuggets).

Here is the good news for the Pistons. They have a core of Rip Hamilton under contract until the summer of 2010, Tayshaun Prince until the summer of 2011, and Chauncey Billups until 2012. It gets even better for the Pistons, this is Rasheed Wallace's contract year. He is due to make $13.6 million this year and becomes an unrestricted free agent. This has huge implications for both Sheed and the Pistons. With Sheed being the highest paid Piston, but being only the 4th highest scorer on the team while averaging a very unimpressive 12.7ppg, 6.6 rebs, and 1.68blks, he will have a lot of incentive to boost those numbers this year, and Dumars as well as other GM's around the league will be taking note.. Sheed is only getting further and further away from his Tarheel glory days, and he will be demanding a huge contract to secure him and his family for life. That can happen, if, he performs big this season. As with many players and their contract years, expect Wallace to put up some huge numbers this season. He has always been an effective passer for a big man, but he should be averaging more than 1.8 assts per game. That statistic seems to be indicative of Sheed not looking to make the play and just settling. One of his biggest criticisms throughout his career has been his consistency. He shows up and then disappears through stretches of the season. He also tends to hang out on the perimeter instead of going down on the block. He does not utilize his post ability as much as he can. If he works on his post presence instead of settling for the three pointer, the Pistons will be very strong at the 4, which seems to be where everyone is making an upgrade these days. Wallace played decently well during the playoffs, but was shut down by KG during the Conference Finals. That is the biggest concern for Piston fans as it stands right now. KG and the Celtics are clearly the biggest impediment to making the Finals. If it does not happen this year, I can't see how the Pistons stay with Rasheed. This relationship won't be ablle to be rationally proglonged unless the Pistons get past the Celtics, at least.

If Sheed does have to leave after this year, Piston fans won't be too upset about it because they have one of the best young forwards in the game in Tayshaun Prince. The Compton Dominguez high school star and Kentucky Wildcat is the future of the Pistons. He has a 7'6 wingspan and a solid all around game. He creates matchup problems every night because of his length and solid defensive presence. Prince will be paid a fair $9.5 million this year and have that increase to $10.5 million and finally, to $11.3 million over the next 2 years. Prince made his mark on the league with his infamous block against Reggie Miller in the Conference Finals in 2004. Since then, he has become a household name, won a championship, and earned a spot on the Beijing team. He is most effective when he gets spot up mid-range jumpshots and is able to work within the system. Prince seems to have a great ability to adapt to different styles of play. Under Flip he was able to play a wing type of a role and get hustle points with a couple plays run for him throughout the game. With Michael Curry taking the reigns in Detroit the impact it will have is unknown at this point. I would expect Prince to be able to adapt to any role given to him because that is the type of player he is. He will still get his looks and will still create opportunities for himself. Prince has also never sustained a major injury in his career and has been a pretty consistent contributor for the most part throughout his career. I'd expect to see Prince being a constant and a long term player in the Piston's future.

I have been a firm believer for the last 4 years that the Pistons have the best back court in basketball. The combination of Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups is a coach's dream. You have a strong ball-handling guard in Billups who is a constant producer in terms of points and assists at 17ppg and 6.8assts, respectively, and you have Rip Hamilton, the overachieving sharp-shooter who averages the most points for Detroit at 17.3ppg. It is what you would envision a back court to look like. Two smaller players, one who can dribble, pass, make good decisions and protect the ball as your 1 guard, and the 2 guard who can shoot from anywhere on the court after receiving the ball from the point guard. This year, both players will combine to make $21.5 million of the $67.8 million payroll the Pistons will have to dish out this year. To exemplify how fair that amount of money is, Rip and Chauncey combine to average 34.3 ppg of the Piston's 97.5 ppg avg. That is 34% of the total points for the Pistons. Their salaries make up 31.7% of the total payroll. This shows that they are producing to the extent to which they should be. They also are not too bad on the defensive end as Rip logs 1 steal per game and Chauncey logs 1.2 steals per game. Both players are amazing perimeter defenders. Billups has the size to body up against bigger point guards like Deron Williams, and the speed and athleticism to keep up with players like Tony Parker, Chris Paul, and Steve Nash. Hamilton is undersized, but can still be a pesky defender. I think the Piston's biggest weakness is their lack of size overall, but it is most commonly exploited in the back court. It is tough for the Pistons to throw Rip on a 2 like Kobe or T-Mac. There is no doubt Rip has the quickness, but he is not strong enough to body up against players like that. Even smaller sized players at the 2 like Caron Butler would still have size advantages over Hamilton, and that poses a problem for Detroit. Many say, just throw Tayshaun on that player. Well, that creates another problem. Who does Rip guard? If Tayshaun has to guard T-Mac, then who guards Artest? If Tayshaun has to guard Kobe, who guards Lamar? Those are just two teams that can exploit the matchup of Rip Hamilton, but that is less of a concern considering the Lakers and Rockets are not in the same conference. For the purposes of the the Eastern Conference, Rip will be good enough to match up to Ray Allen, all the Pistons should really care about.

The reason I wrote that the Pistons might be going through a rebuilding stage is due to their youth movement. They have brought in a lot of young talent with Maxiell, Afflalo, Stuckey, and their two draft picks of D.J White and Deron Washington. All of these players are in the beginning of their career and especially the first three players named, will have an opportunity to become stars in this league. Antonio McDyess at 8.8ppg and 8.5 rebs and commanding $6.8 million the next two years is not what I would call ideal. In addition, having Kwame Brown as the backup is clearly a deficiency. I have written about the Kwame Brown acquisition in a previous post so I won't go into that any more although it is no secret that I strongly disagree with it.

This coming season will be the ultimate test for the Pistons. They have made some tweaks in their roster, and will still be in the annual discussion of who will win the East. Their name is undoubtedly the top two on that list. I still don't see them making it past the Celtics with their current squad. The Pistons have a great core and they are probably two players away from a championship. The Pistons can go in two directions at this point. They could be remembered as the one year fluke that took advantage of a disheveled and unorganized Laker team. Or, they could be the team that had no defined superstar and won because of their team play, saved the NBA from the stereotype of a 'superstar first' league, and played the game like Mr. Naismith envisioned when he invented the game.


Both of these links are from ESPN the Mag.

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