What is Wrong with the Pistons?

The Pistons have struggled as of late. They have only won 3 out of their last 10. They have gone from one of the elite in the NBA to a team not guaranteed a playoff spot. They have been replaced as one of the Top 3 teams in the East by the Orlando Magic. When I heard the other day that coach Michael Curry was toying with the idea of Allen Iverson coming off the bench, I was shocked. Curry ended up not making that decision, but instead, allowing Rip Hamilton to come off the bench. With all of the uncertainty in Detroit after the Billups trade, I stand here wondering what happened to the Detroit Pistons?

We are looking at the Nuggets right now battling for 3rd place with the Hornets in the Western Conference even without Carmelo Anthony. We look at the Pistons who are fighting with Atlanta for the 4th spot and hear Miami's footsteps right behind them. Could it be that trading Chauncey Billups was functionally throwing away their season. We have seen how Denver has been stabilized by the force that is Chauncey Billups. There is no question that Billups played the same role for the Pistons. The Pistons have handed the keys to Rodney Stuckey, but asking the young players to fill the shoes of Chauncey Billups is asking a bit too much. So now the Pistons are left with two shooting guards who deserve to start. What does Michael Curry do? Does he let AI stay at the 1 and Hamilton at the 2? When does Stuckey get his minutes? If Stuckey is to get better, he has to be gaining experience. Surely that experience can't come if Stuckey is not getting minutes. As you can see, Joe Dumars has put coach Michael Curry in a bad position.

After watching Hamilton come off the bench the other night against Dallas, it seemed to be ok for Hamilton as he finished with a team high, 17 points. AI seemed to be the inefficient one in the game against Dallas. AI only finished with 11 points on 3/9 shooting. The Pistons lost that game, and the Pistons are still struggling to find answers. As I see it, they have 3 problems. A lack of size in the front, inconsistency, and no real rhythmn to any of their games. They also have no real sense of identity. Are they a fast paced team with AI? Are they a half-court team that slowly pounds it inside? Are they a team that needs to just give it to AI and watch? It seems like they are all of those at times. Rasheed Wallace is their only real post threat, but as in past seasons, Wallace has not gone inside consistently, and has hung around the perimeter for much of the time.

I was talking to a friend the other day, and he was telling me that the reason the 76ers went to the Finals in 2001 was due to the lack of talent on the 6ers. I thought this was a peculiar comment coming from a Philly native and 76ers fan, but he brought up the fact that AI was not surrounded by any talent, and it was up to him to lead. He was also in his prime at the time. It is no secret that AI is declining at this point in his career and is looking for help. Is Detroit a good fit for him? No. It is nothing like the 76ers team he took to the Finals in 2001. AI needs the ball constantly, and having to share the ball with Tayshaun Prince, Rip Hamilton, and Rasheed Wallace makes it tough for AI to do what AI does, score.

Detroit has a severe deficiency in the middle. They have Antonio McDyess and Rasheed Wallace at the 4 and 5 spots. Both of those players are essentially forwards. They have Kwame Brown coming off the bench, but few would call Kwame a credible center. Since the Pistons go small, they need to run a fast paced game, and AI can help them do that, but they don't. They constantly get lost in posessions. They hope that one of their playmakers can just throw a shot up. I seldom see plays being run by Pistons. They need a lot more guidance on the offensive and defensive ends. The Pistons have the talent to win games and make the playoffs, but I don't think anyone is thinking Finals, much less past the first round, at best.

A bystander can't help but wonder if Joe Dumars has just conceded the season in hopes of freeing up cap room with AI and Rasheed Wallace's expiring contracts. The Pistons might be one of those teams that are clearing out cap room in hopes of getting a big free agent in 2010. Don't kid yourselves Detroit, Lebron, Wade, or Bosh will not be there in 2010. If I didn't know any better, an early ousting in this years' playoffs probably means the dreaded r-word...rebuilding.


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