The one time Eastern Conference power Detroit Pistons missed out on the post-season for a third straight season. Coincidentally enough, that streak started when general manager Joe Dumars wasted his abundant cap space by overpaying Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva to long-term deals. The franchise is still in recovery mode from those signings and doesn’t figure to make any major moves this off-season.
Detroit Pistons (25-41 last year)
2011-12 Season Summary:
The biggest takeaway from this past season was the development of second-year big man Greg Monroe and play of rookie point guard Brandon Knight. By nearly averaging a double-double a night, Monroe made strides in becoming a very good NBA center which every team covets nowadays. Knight immediately stepped into the starting point guard role and showed enough promise to be labeled as the point guard of the future.
Monroe’s emergence in the middle was sorely needed in a very underwhelming Piston frontcourt. Jason Maxiell and Ben Wallace provided some toughness and physicality but provided very little offensive production. Jonas Jerebko was effective coming off the bench after missing all of the 2010-2011 season due to injury. Charlie Villanueva continues to be a major free agent bust as he was bothered by ankle injury but even when he was healthy, found himself locked to the bench.
Knight’s instant impact at the point allowed head coach Lawrence Frank to play Rodney Stuckey as his more natural off guard position and bring Ben Gordon off the bench. It was an undersized trio that struggled to defend bigger shooting guards, but brought some solid scoring punch to help make up for the offensively-challenged front line (minus Monroe of course.)
Tayshaun Prince was typical Tayshaun Prince; a glue guy, leader, who can contribute a little bit in every aspect of the game but isn’t going to take over. Third-year pro Austin Daye actually took a step back and doesn’t appear to be a piece of the long-term puzzle in Detroit.
2012-13 Projected Depth Chart:
C: Greg Monroe/*Vernon Macklin
PF: #Jason Maxiell/Jonas Jerebko/Charlie Villanueva
SF: Tayshaun Prince/Austin Daye
SG: Rodney Stuckey/Ben Gordon
PG: Brandon Knight/Will Bynum/*Walker Russell
NBA Free Agents:
#PF-Jason Maxiell (PO)
C-Ben Wallace (UFA)
SF-Damian Wilkins (UFA)
*C-Vernon Macklin (RFA)
*PG-Walker Russell (RFA)
2012-13 Team Salary: approximately $59.4 million
1. Frontcourt Complement for Monroe:
Detroit needs to find an upgrade from the Jason Maxiell/Ben Wallace combination that started 53 games alongside Greg Monroe in the frontcourt. Charlie Villanueva has been a massive bust since coming to Detroit and Jonas Jerebko is best suited providing some energy off the bench. With little flexibility in free agency, look for the Pistons to address this need with their first round draft pick.
Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey are capable of getting to the rim but Ben Gordon relies more on his outside shot and Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye can’t really break a defender down in iso situations. The Pistons would be wise to find an athletic wing who attack the tin and create in one-on-one situations.
3. Bench Scoring:
Gordon and to a lesser extent Jerebko are the only real bench scorers Detroit have on their roster. Villanueva can get buckets as well when he is actually on the floor but the Pistons finished 27th in the league in scoring partially due to their poor point production from their reserves.
4. Find a Sucker:
If I was Joe Dumars, I would hope to find some trade partner to take Villanueva and/or Gordon. Chaz V. is owed more than eight million dollars this season and has a player option worth almost $8.6 million for next season (which he would be idiotic to turn down.) Gordon will make $12.4 million in 2012-2013 and has a $13.2 player option for 2013-2014. Those two guys and the cap space they take up are part of the reason Detroit is sort of in a holding pattern for another two years. If they can find a suitor to take either guy and get an expiring contract in return, it would accelerate the revamping of their team. It certainly won’t be an easy task getting another team to take either guy and their bloated contract though. The Pistons also still have their one-time amnesty option and Villanueva would certainly be a candidate for that.
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.