Pistons Will Be Soft in the Middle

dumars

By H. Jose Bosch

I wanted to see Joe Dumars find a pure point guard or a pure center this off-season. Ideally he would’ve gotten both but since finding a high-level talent at either position is rare, just getting one would’ve been nice.

But apparently someone told Joe D that next season the paint will not exist because he clearly doesn’t care about the team’s lack of presence down low. Instead Dumars thinks his team will be the next Orlando Magic, a 3-point shooting team that will drown opponents in their greatness.

Too bad Detroit is missing a major piece of that puzzle: a dominating presence down low. You think the Magic could do what they did without Dwight Howard? Naw.

What will be the Pistons’ answer to teams defending their perimeter? Charlie Villanueva? Yeah, ok, my 12-year old brother could probably post him up. Tayshaun Prince? He’ll be too busy whining to the officials and reminding people of that one great block he made in the 2004 playoffs (and to his defense, it was an unbelievable block). Austin Daye? Well, Pistons officials will be too busy scrambling to catch Daye after a gust of wind blows him off the court.dumars2

Those in charge of the Palace might as well blow up two large craters at each end of the court because no one will want to go inside.

Maybe I’m being a little harsh. Running a professional organization is probably tougher than it looks. Hell, I know it’s tougher than it looks. But come on. This doesn’t even seem like Dumars is trying.

When he told the press he wanted to shore up the backcourt, most of us crazy fans believed he was going to, you know, strengthen the backcourt. Not bring in younger, softer versions of Rasheed Wallace. I’ve torn out enough hair yelling at a 6-foot-11 forward staying on the perimeter and chucking threes like he’s flippin’ Reggie Miller!

I don’t even want to start on Ben Gordon.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned living in Chicago is that Chicago sports fans loooove their teams. It’s frightening frankly. Dressing up as a Batman-like character for your team wouldn’t fly in Detroit. So when a city isn’t sad to see a player go, even when he was a consummate professional, that should raise questions.

Just like the draft, these deals have me scratching my head. Unlike the draft I can’t say, “Oh, we’ll just wait until free agency to see if the Pistons know what they’re doing.”

I believe the Pistons are a better team now than they were at the end of the year, but the point is not to build a better team, but to build a championship winner. I don’t think Dumars’ moves over these past two weeks have done that.

Detroit Pist-ing Their Money Away

ben-gordon1211

By: David Kay

Heading into the NBA free agency period, the Detroit Pistons were one of the few buyers in the market willing to shell out the cash to sign a big name free agent.  As the clock struck midnight on July 1st, Joe Dumars wasted no time in courting his desired targets as both Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva flew to Detroit to meet with the Pistons general manager.  Reports have now surfaced that both former UConn Huskies will indeed call Motor City home for the next five years.  Detroit and Bulls free agent shooting guard Ben Gordon have reportedly agreed to a five-year, $55 million deal while Villanueva’s contract is for the same length at $40 million.

Personally, I am not in love with either signing.  Gordon, who turned down a similar offer from the Bulls last off-season, is developing into a big-time scorer, but has yet to show consistency in his game-to-game performance.  He was one of the top free agents in the 2009 class and it is now evident that he had little desire to return to Chicago.  But where does Gordon fit in Detroit?  Rip Hamilton is already on the roster and sulked last year when he was forced to come off the bench.  And it’s not like Rip is going anywhere as he has four years, $49.5 million left on his currently deal.  That poses a dilemma as that contract will not be easy to deal in a market where most teams are looking to dump long, expensive contracts than take them on.

My biggest concern with the Gordon signing is the fact that, in my opinion, Piston starting point guard Rodney Stuckey is a poor-man’s version of Gordon.  Neither has the capability to be a true point guard and are more shooters than creators.

charlie20072As for Villanueva, I have seen him play in Milwaukee for the past couple of seasons and I’m not a fan of his game.  Chaz V. can light up the scoreboard every once in a while, but for every 40-point game, he has four ten point performances in a row.  He was not a favorite of Bucks head coach Scott Skiles, moving in and out of the starting line-up partially because of his minimal effort on the defensive end (and partially because he likes to tweet during games.)

Detroit has always been a defensive-minded team which makes Villanueva’s signing a bit perplexing.  Plus, for a 6-11 “power” forward, Villanueva is softer than Lance Bass at the Playboy mansion and spends most of his time on offense wandering around the perimeter rather than trying to be a factor underneath.  With Chaz V, Tayshaun Prince, and Austin Daye all in Motown, the Pistons now have three tall, lengthy but physically inferior forwards who have similar styles of play.  Interesting.

The re-building process has officially begun in Detroit with familiar faces like Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace (who almost certainly will not be re-signed) being shown the door in the past few months.  Now Gordon and Villanueva will be faced with the task of ushering in a new era of Piston basketball.  Next up; find someone to coach these guys…

Bucks Bet on Jennings and Meeks

bucks

By Thomas Lea

Brandon Jennings took a chance when he bypassed a scholarship to the University of Arizona and the spotlight of Pac-10 basketball over a year ago in favor of playing professionally in Italy. So, I guess it makes sense that the former top rated high school product from Oak Hill Academy wound up with a team taking a chance on him during Thursday’s annual NBA Draft.

While many had Jennings slipping on their draft boards, the Bucks apparently were not drinking that Kool-Aid and took him with the No. 10 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft. Though Milwaukee had former Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn at the top of its draft board, general manager John Hammond and coach Scott Skiles went with Jennings after Flynn was taken at No. 6 by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

With the pick, the Bucks have a high ceiling point guard with potential to be great. He is an absolute freak athletically and has the ability to utilize his superb quickness to get to the rim and finish or dish the rock to one of the multiple perimeter players the Bucks have in the lineup.

He possesses a decent shooting touch, although it will need to improve if he hopes to elevate his game to a higher level. He can be creative with the rock and get himself through sticky situations with above average ball handling skills that defenders will have to respect. And do not undersell the advantages Jennings will enjoy by playing for Skiles, who was a heck of a point guard in his days as a player during his lengthy career.

Though Jennings was not present at the moment the pick was made, he did make a grand entrance at Madison Square Garden a bit later and saluted the rowdy crowd. After he could not receive any sort of guarantee that he would be a lottery pick from interested teams, the prospect decided to take the safe route in favor of a potentially embarrassing fall down the draft board a la Brady Quinn or Aaron Rodgers and only showed up after he was picked in the top 10.milwaukee_bucks

When picked, and even before, the kid remained confident in his basketball ability and should play a prominent role in the Bucks rotation especially if the team runs into injury problems that have plagued them over the past few seasons.

After shipping Mo Williams to play with King James in Cleveland before the season began a year ago, point guard play was a bit erratic with a banged up Luke Ridnour and an inconsistent, but young, Ramon Sessions manning the position last season.

If anything, Jennings will be a solid and reliable backup in his first few seasons in the Association. And that role could be even greater should the Bucks part ways with Sessions who is a restricted free agent heading into the early July signing period, although that seems rather unlikely especially after the Bucks opened some cap space by trading away Jefferson.

Overall, for the No. 10 pick in a draft loaded with point guards, the Bucks secured one that could be a household name in the future. And that recognition could come sooner rather than later. Especially if the young player is able to chip in double figure scoring to a position that returns only one player (Ramon Sessions) that averaged over 10 points per game after Michael Redd went down with an injury and excluding the recently traded Jefferson’s numbers.

In the second round, a place where the Bucks have had great success in years past with the likes of Redd and Mbah a Moute, Hammond went with former Kentucky guard Jodie Meeks. Many will remember the 54 points the junior guard dropped on Tennessee, a Kentucky record, and for good reason. In short, the solidly built Meeks can flat out score. nba-draft11

What makes his game somewhat more impressive is his ability to score without creating his own shot. As a member of the Bucks, a team that features a great passing Andrew Bogut who loves to work it inside out and find players perched on the perimeter. Meeks, who is at his best as a catch and shoot guard, could be another shooter to coincide with a lethal Redd from distance. And if he ever develops a knack to find his own shot within himself, he could become another second round gem.

But with Charlie Bell, Keith Bogans, Luke Ridnour and newly acquired Salim Stoudamire already on the roster, Meeks will need to show he is capable of performing consistently at a high level in order to receive any consistent playing time. With his ability to score though, and at a position that has struggled in that department since trading away Mo Williams, I’m confident Skiles will find a way to get Meeks in the rotation.

With Jennings and Meeks comprising the 2009 draft class, the Bucks will have solid ball handlers that will space the floor and open things up inside for Andrew Bogut, Dan Gadzuric and the rest of the frontcourt. Teams will have to respect the quickness of Jennings and the sharp shooting of Meeks and that will prevent teams from doubling down on Bogut, which should help his game around the rim and open things up for penetration among the guards.

And with the wiggle room in the salary cap following the trade, the Bucks have a legitimate shot to re-sign one, if not both, of Sessions and Charlie Villanueva. By doing so, and with the new additions to the squad, the Bucks will have a legitimate core to make a run at one of the lower playoff seeds in 2009-2010 if (and a big if at that) the team can stay relatively healthy for the entirety of the season.