Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Joe Dumars was a gnat during his playing
days; he compiled assists, steals and had an impact on both ends of the floor.
It's similar to what Dumars is doing now as the president of basketball
operations for the Detroit Pistons, a team he won two championships with in
1989-90 and constructed another as a member of the front office in 2003-04.
The Pistons made one more run to the NBA Finals the following season, losing
to the San Antonio Spurs, but since then things haven't gone as planned for
"Joe D" and his vision of a continuous winner ... until now.
Detroit has missed the playoffs in each of the past four years, failing to
surpass the 30-win mark every time. And when the Pistons last made the
postseason in 2008-09, they finished the regular season with a 39-43 mark and
were swept in the first round.
It shows how superlative the Western Conference is to the East with a team
sporting less than 40 wins and reaching the playoffs. Even though the Miami
Heat have won the last two titles, history has proven that the West is more
dominant from seeds 1-8.
Detroit was nine games off the final playoff berth in the conference in
2012-13 and had more wins (29-53) than only three teams from the West.
So what would be a proper solution for a team with a few bright spots in the
future? Who or what could ignite the likes of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond
to push the Pistons to the sixth, seventh or eighth seed? Well, spending money
and trades, of course.
Dumars gave the success-starved fans in Detroit something to talk about by
agreeing to terms with free agent forward Josh Smith. What's even more
surprising is that Smith wanted to play in Auburn Hills the whole time.
"This was my only option," Smith said after landing a four-year deal worth $54
million. "I didn't have any other options. This is where I wanted to be. We're
definitely a playoff team, and we're definitely a contender."
Smith, though, caused Atlanta Hawks fans to pull their hair out with his shaky
shooting from the perimeter; he made a respectable 46.5 percent from the field
last season. A man with size at 6-foot-9, 225 pounds, Smith plays well from
three-point territory, but is better driving to the basket since he's more
athletic than most power forwards and centers. What he lacks in girth he
compensates for with speed and raw talent.
Smith can rebound and defend, too, and has playoff experience.
As far as the Pistons being a playoff team, that's not far from the truth with
Smith joining Monroe and Drummond in the frontcourt. Monroe led the Pistons in
scoring last season and Drummond shined as a rookie. Their touches will go
down now that Smith, an All-Star candidate every season, is on board.
Winning usually takes over egos and Dumars didn't hesitate when given the
chance to plug guard Brandon Jennings into the backcourt. Jennings also has
trouble getting into a rhythm on some nights, but still is a threat for any
defense. His addition allowed the Pistons to say sayonara to guard Brandon
Knight, who became popular not having a set position and getting dunked on by
DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers (see youtube).
Jennings was acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks and averaged 17.5 ppg last
season. There's no doubt Jennings can score and the Pistons will need him to
facilitate the ball as well. He posted a career-high 6.5 assists per game last
season and learned to split shots with Monta Ellis.
The Pistons have a new head coach in Maurice Cheeks, a former point guard in
his playing days who will be able to give Jennings some pointers. Ah yes,
Cheeks, another move that went through Dumars. How can the Pistons fail to
have a formidable backcourt with Hall of Famer Dumars and Cheeks in their
respective positions? It seems a win-win, right? It does on paper.
Guess who will be alongside Cheeks on the bench? You probably wouldn't have
guessed Rasheed Wallace. Wallace, who won a title with Detroit 10 years ago,
brings energy and experience to the bigs, especially Monroe and Drummond. The
two young giants should soak in Wallace like a sponge and don't expect them to
holler Wallace's trademark chant "ball don't lie" when they're whistled for a
While Wallace will serve as a coach to the frontcourt, veteran guard Chauncey
Billups can perform the same task as a role player for Jennings, Will Bynum
and Rodney Stuckey. Billups was the Finals MVP back in 2003-04 and is back in
his old stomping grounds. Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva, though, could save
the Pistons a lot of money if they head elsewhere, but it's still early.
It's also early to speculate if Dumars' moves will land him executive of the
year or if the Pistons are immediate playoff contenders. Right now it's clear
the Pistons have the makeup and talent to reach the sixth seed in the East.
Give them until winter to see if that assumption holds true.
The Sports Network