No End in Sight
Joe Dumars created a disaster in Detroit. Can he fix it?
by Shlomo Sprung / @SprungonSports
It seems like way more than two years since the Detroit Pistons lost to the Orlando Magic in the second round of the 2008 Eastern Conference playoffs. It was the end of the team’s glory days that included the 2004 NBA title. Since that playoff defeat over two years ago, the team made a series of moves that led to the unfortunate situation they’re in today. At 0-5 with few promising players on their roster for the future, Detroit may be in the worst shape among all 30 NBA teams.
The Pistons don’t play very much defense and fade away late in games. In their five losses, they’ve been outscored in the second half by a combined 59 points, including the incredibly pathetic 34-9 fourth quarter against Chicago last Saturday. The terrible position the team is in right now can be traced back to a few November days that set back this franchise at least three years.
Almost two years ago to the day, on November 3, 2008, legendary Pistons GM Joe Dumars shook up the team by trading Chauncey Billups and two others to Denver for Allen Iverson. To put into perspective how disastrous that move was, let’s see where these players are now: Billups is doing his thing in his home state of Colorado and the Nuggets are still successful. The Answer now plays pro ball in Turkey after failed stints in Memphis and Philly. Not one of Dumars’ finest moments.
To top that off he gave Rip Hamilton a four-year contract extension and Rip just hasn’t been the same since. After shooting just over 48 percent from the field during the season before his extension, his field goal percentage has gone down to 44.7 percent in ’08-09, 40.9 percent in ’09-10 and just 38.2 percent in three games so far this season. He shot just 29 percent from three last season, down from 44 percent the year before his extension. His turnovers per game are up, his rebounds per game are down and Hamilton missed nearly 32 percent of the team’s regular season games (53 of 169) since the beginning of the ’08-09 season. They’ll be paying the former star (and current overpaid cap killer) $12.65 million per season through the ’12-13 season.
In fact, Dumars has done such a mediocre and suspect job since that 2008 postseason defeat that his job safety should really be put into question. In short, Detroit needs to start from scratch and blow up this roster because what they’ve been trying to do has failed miserably with a cast of over-the-hill, overpaid veterans and a few youngsters with potential.
Detroit was swept in the first round of the 2009 playoffs and had the cap space to patiently wait for the summer of 2010. To be somewhat fair, Tayshaun Prince and Hamilton still seemed like they had some prime years left in their career and Dumars made some pretty decent picks in Gonzaga F Austin Daye, swingman DaJuan Summers and Swedish G Jonas Jerebko, who had promise before a gruesome leg injury during the preseason stunted his growth. Dumars wanted to add some fresh life to the franchise to go along with his two faded stars, so he decided to throw all his cap money on two complimentary, bench players in Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva with contracts totaling $90 million. “Happy to add both of these young guys,” Dumars said in 2009 after he signed both players. “We think both guys are just reaching their prime.”
Gordon did come off one of the more memorable playoff performances in recent memory. Do you remember that first round series with the then-defending champion Celtics that went the full seven games and Gordon looked unstoppable? Dumars certainly did, because he gave him an outlandish five year, $55 million deal and then gave five years and $35 million to the other former UConn star and glorified bench player Charlie Villanueva. Which leads us to the situation the Pistons are in now.
Greg Monroe should be a strong piece for this team’s future, but the team is being weighed down by overpaid veterans Dumars is responsible for. Prince’s $11.1 million mercifully comes off the books at the end of this season, but they’re paying Prince, Hamilton, Gordon and Villanueva a combined $42.6 million and thus far this season that costly quartet averages 58.9 points per game to go with 7.1 turnovers, a 50.5 percent field goal percentage and zero team wins. That’s a pretty lousy return of investment for Dumars in a city that sadly knows about lousy returns on investments.
Except for Cleveland and Minnesota, the Pistons may have the worst franchise situation in the league if you look at their salary cap situation and the players they have in place. In Detroit, we know that there are expensive contracts to wait on and a lot of losing in store. Get used to this kind of losing Pistons fans, because Dumars dug your team a large fiscal hole that has no end in sight.