NBA Power Rankings: #20 Detroit Pistons

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By David Kay and Paul M. Banks

2008-09 Season Summary:
In Detroit, both the automotive industry and the professional basketball team headquartered there are in need of aggressive rebuilding options. Both have also seen better days. Despite trading Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess (who was waived and later re-signed) for superstar Allen Iverson, the Pistons regressed during the regular season, partly due to the controversial moves of first year head coach Michael Curry. The former players union representative made questionable choices that disrupted team chemistry, including playing Iverson and Richard Hamilton as sixth men. ‘08-‘09 was the first time since the 2000-01 season that the Pistons failed to reach 50 wins and finished with a losing mark. Detroit also saw their sellout streak at The Palace of Auburn Hills end on February 4. The streak began on January 19, 2004, the year the Pistons won their third NBA title, and was the franchise’s longest sellout streak at 259.

Still, the Pistons were able to earn the eight seed in the Eastern Conference, but were quickly swept out of the first round of the Playoffs by LeBron’s Cavs. It was the first time the Pistons have been eliminated in round one since 2000. In the previous season, Detroit advanced to the NBA Conference Finals for the sixth straight time, where they lost to the NBA Champion Boston Celtics. Today however, the window seems to be closed on the Pistons’ tremendous run this decade.

Depth Chart:
C: Kwame Brown/Chris Wilcox/Ben Wallace
PF: Charlie Villanueva/Jason Maxiell/Jonas Jerebko
SF: Tayshaun Prince/Austin Daye/DaJuan Summers/Deron Washington
SG: Richard Hamilton or Ben Gordon
PG: Rodney Stuckey/Will Bynum

Head Coach: John Kuester (1st year)

2009-2010 Team Salary:
$61.3 million
Projected 2010-2011 Team Salary: approximately $53.0 million

Off-Season Grade: Failed

The Pistons entered the off-season with a ton of cap space.  Unfortunately for Detroit fans, they wasted that flexibility by signing two streaky, offensive-minded players to long-term deals totaling $93 million.  Ish.

hamilton_300_070104Ben Gordon got five years, $58 million and Charlie Villanueva a 5 years, $35 million deal.  The Pistons put their future in the hands of two players who have yet to show they can carry a franchise.  What makes the Gordon signing even more strange is that Detroit already has Richard Hamilton locked up for the next four years at almost $50 million.  That’s $108 million spent on two shooting guards who really don’t have the ability to play another position.  Unless Hamilton is dealt during the season, that’s not a wise investment in my opinion.

One of the major holes this off-season was up-front for the Pistons who faced losing Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess to free agency.  While Villanueva plays power forward, he is far from an intimidating post presence or physical on the boards and spends most his minutes out on the perimeter.  Detroit addressed their need for some toughness inside by bringing back Ben Wallace even though he was washed up two years ago.  Chris Wilcox was signed at a reasonable price and will likely see a good amount of playing time off the bench.

I am far from in love with the selection of Austin Daye at number fifteen.  Daye is a skilled big man with plenty of potential but is soft and rail thin and couldn’t even establish himself on a consistent basis at Gonzaga.  Don’t be surprised if second round pick DaJuan Summers sees more minutes than Daye this season.

2009-2010 Outlook:

Remember, just two years ago Detroit had the best record in the East and was a year-in, year-out contender for the NBA title.  The new look Pistons are going through a reformation of sorts and will not be the defensive-minded team that they have been for the majority of this decade.  Gordon and Villanueva will bring some offensive fire power alongside veterans Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince, but there are big question marks on the rest of the roster.

Detroit enters camp with Kwame Brown slated as the starting center which is never an encouraging sign.  It will interesting to see if someone steps up and becomes the low post threat the Pistons need to replace the likes of ‘Sheed and McDyess.

The point guard play will also be worth watching.  Rodney Stuckey is more of a combo guard than a true one and will have to carry more of the ball-handling and play-making responsibilities with Allen Iverson gone.  If he doesn’t firmly establish himself in that role, Detroit might have to look for a true point guard at some point during the season.

Looking Ahead to the Summer of 2010:
Detroit destroyed any cap flexibility they will have for next summer by throwing all that money at Gordon and Charlie V.  Brown will be a free agent and barring a breakout season will likely end up elsewhere meaning the Pistons will need to find an answer at center.  I still maintain that Hamilton needs to be traded at some point, so if it doesn’t happen during the season, I would think Joe Dumars would explore that option during the off-season.

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