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Archive → September, 2009

Celebrate Michael Jordan all you want, I still can’t stand him

Joe Dumars and Michael Jordan (Sports Illustrated)

I hate Michael Jordan. Absolutely hate him.

Growing up, the Pistons were the good and he was the enemy.

He was brash. He played for Chicago. And worst of all, he was great.

There were moments, though.

I loved that Joe Dumars was the one player who could slow him a little bit (nice article on that from Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski). I loved that the Pistons beat the Bulls during Chicago’s 72-win campaign. And I loved that the Pistons were the only team to contain him before he became unstoppable.

But, obviously,the bad memories outnumber the good.

So, thanks to Patrick Hayes of Its Just Sports for ranking the top 23 Michael Jordan failures. Great feature that was desperately needed during the lovefest surrounding his hall of fame induction tonight.

I don’t think I could ever hate a player like that again. I understand that the guys everyone hates would be the most popular player if they played for your team. And I’ve learned to appreciate good basketball.

But old habits die hard.

I still hate Michael Jordan.

Clear the way for 1, 3 and 10 in the Palace rafters

This is one segment of a feature you’ll see across the TrueHoop Network today: What numbers should your team retire, especially players who don’t necessarily have the numbers to typically justify it.

The question works well in Detroit, where top players don’t always have elite stats. The Pistons, for much of their history, have relied on a collection of very good players as opposed to one or two superstars.

Even the Pistons’ best player, Isiah Thomas, was surrounded by a deep and talented supporting cast.

Still, look up at the players honored in the Palace rafters:

  • 4: Joe Dumars
  • 11: Isiah Thomas
  • 15: Vinnie Johnson
  • 16: Bob Lanier
  • 21: Dave Bing
  • 40: Bill Laimbeer

It’s a collection of the franchise’s top players by the numbers.

But there’s room for a few more (and if there’s not, they could pull down some of the musicians who have banners, which just looks tacky anyway).

1 Chauncey Billups

Chauncey Billups (BestSportsPhotos.com)

Many Pistons fans think the entire starting five from the 2004 championship team (Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace) should have their numbers retired. The argument is, as a balanced team, they hurt each other’s stats and should all share credit.

But I’d reward just two: Billups and Wallace.

Hamilton and Prince have a chance depending on the rest of their careers – especially Hamilton, who’s the Pistons’ all-time leader in playoff points. Rasheed Wallace wasn’t here long enough and was a malcontent for too much of his tenure.

Billups was the leader during one of the best stretches any team has ever had. It may not have been evident until he went to Denver, but Billups held the team together.

He believed in Larry Brown, who’s notoriously tough on point guards. He made the Rasheed Wallace-Flip Saunders relationship work as well as it could. And he always radiated calmness when chaos surrounded him.

So, it’s no coincidence Billups stepped up at the biggest times. After a flurry of game-winners in a two-week-or-so stretch, he earned the nickname Mr. Big Shot. And he was Finals MVP in 2004.

After arriving from Minnesota, Billups considered Detroit home. And for six years it was.

Once he retires, the Pistons should invited him back to the Palace so his No. 1 can live on there forever.

3 Ben Wallace

Ben Wallace (Associated Press)

Of my three nominations, Wallace is the most logical. His numbers aren’t the best, but everyone realizes stats don’t capture Big Ben.

He was Detroit Basketball.

His game was based entirely on hard work and hustle. He did the little things few noticed.

He was the best defensive player of his generation.

There is absolutely no doubt his number will retired. And there’s no doubt he deserves it.

10 Dennis Rodman

Dennis Rodman (Pistons.com)

Before dying his hair, wearing a wedding dress and piercing himself to the point I’m not sure if he has more skin or holes, Rodman was one of the Pistons’ best players.

Rodman spent seven seasons in Detroit. He’s third in franchise history in rebounds, seventh in blocks, 10th in win shares and 10th in games played.

And first in field goal percentage.

Although his attention was often limited to rebounding and defense, Rodman was a pretty good offensive player when he wanted to be.

Rodman had a great career, and a good deal came of it in Detroit. The Pistons were his first team, and The Worm grew up as a player here.

If he wasn’t known more for his antics than his game, his number might be hanging from the rafters already.

I’d argue Rodman is the most underrated basketball player of all-time. The Pistons should retire his number and make that a little less true.

Other posts across the TrueHoop Network

If Kevin Martin is the Adam Dunn of the NBA, Ben Gordon is the Pat Burrell

A primer for this post: true shooting percentage accounts for free throws and 3-pointers.

For example, if a player makes 3-of-6 2-pointers, he scored his team six points. If another player makes 2-of-6 3-pointers, he scored his team six points. Why should his field goal percentage be lower if he scored the same number points on the same number of shots. Their true shooting percentage is equal.

For more on true shooting percentage and other stats, check out Basketball Reference’s glossary page.

John Krolik writes for Slam (Hat tip: TrueHoop):

With his wonky game and his pedestrian 42% field goal percentage, it’s easy to miss just how amazingly good of a scorer Martin is …

it’s Martin’s True Shooting, the best indicator of scoring efficiency available, that’s really incredible- his 60% TS last season is almost unprecedented for someone who scores as much as he does. Even more amazingly, that mark was Martin’s lowest TS since his rookie season, and a big step down from his last two seasons, when he recorded marks of 61.4% and 61.8%. Overall, Martin has the 2nd-highest career TS among all active players, trailing only Brent Barry.

To be completely clear: 60% TS for a #1 option is INSANE. LeBron’s never cracked 60%. Neither has Kobe, whose career high is 58% and average is 56%. Wade’s never done it. The last season MJ did it was the 1990-91 campaign.
Martin is a great scorer not because of superior skills but through a carefully crafted strategy to get points in the most efficient way possible. In a lot of ways, the best comparison for Martin isn’t a basketball player at all, but baseball’s Adam Dunn. Dunn is an athletically unexciting player with some serious holes in his game, but he’s a stat geek darling because of his ability to focus his hitting approach on hitting home runs and drawing walks — he’s long been one of the most statistically effective hitters in baseball despite his career batting average of .250.

Like Dunn, you’ve heard a lot about what Ben Gordon can’t do:

  • Defend
  • Rebound
  • Pass

Basically, everything except score. But, like Martin, boy can he put the ball in the hoop.

Martin scored more than Gordon last year (24.6 to 20.7 points per game) and had had a higher true shooting percentage (.601 to .573).

That’s where Pat Burrell comes in. He doesn’t have quite the power or ability to get on base that Dunn has. But he still produces much more than his .255 career batting average would suggest.

As note previously, just eight players scored more with a higher true shooting percentage than Gordon:

  • Dwyane Wade
  • LeBron James
  • Danny Granger
  • Kevin Durant
  • Kevin Martin
  • Chris Paul
  • Brandon Roy
  • Amar’e Stoudemire

Although there’s no Kobe, that lists pretty pretty much identifies the NBA’s top scorers.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Brandon Roy and Amar’e Stoudemire are the NBA’s Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer, Prince Fielder, Hanley Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera – universally recognized as superstars.

But that still leaves Granger, Martin and Gordon. Not considered elite, but they’re scoring ability shouldn’t be doubted.

So, I’ll jump on the Kevin Martin bandwagon, too. It just opens the door for Ben Gordon to get the credit he deserves.

More lists that are factually, irrefutably and completely absurd

A lot of lists are floating around now. And I’ve found them really enjoyable an though-provoking. I definitely plan to make at least one next offseason.

But they’re also really wrong.

ESPN’s Eastern Conference standings

The Pistons are slotted 10th. Here’s the logic:

Detroit fans are already defining success downward, and our panel says they have the right idea. If our forecast plays out, the Pistons will miss the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons, and will have a lottery pick to show for their hotly debated trade of Chauncey Billups and acquisitions of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.

Yes, the Pistons have a lower bar this year. But that’s relative to all those trips deep in the playoffs – not last year’s eighth seed and first-round exit.

Billups was already gone last year. It’s not like Detroit is losing him all over again.

And I’ve already explained why I think the Pistons will be better than last year.

Slam’s top 50

Slam ranked Allen Iverson the 50th-best player in the NBA right now.

Ha.

He just doesn’t have it anymore. He can’t finish his drives. He can’t shoot. He can’t defend. He can’t be a good teammate.

He’s done.

Ben Gordon came in 47th. I’m not sure how off that is, but it definitely seems low. He was the best player on a playoff team last year.

Ball Don’t Lie’s top 10 value-for-money deals of the last decade

Chauncey Billups is third, and Ben Wallace is fourth on Kelly Dwyer’s list.

It’s nice to see a couple Pistons so high, and they certainly deserve it.

But Wallace made less than Billups and was a better player. He should be higher.

Wallace was one of the greatest defenders of all time (more on that later). Billups was great, but Wallace should have been an MVP candidate.

Ball Don’t Lie’s top 10 best defenders of the last decade

Also from Dwyer:

He just guarded everyone, every play, every feint, every drive, everything. And then he’d get the rebound. Pity that nobody seemed to be paying attention.

A perfect description of Ben Wallace. I remember possessions where he guarded all five opponents at some point. He once charge from Allen Iverson (in his prime, not the rundown version we saw last year) while pressing him in the backcourt.

Wallace won Defensive Player of the Year awards, but he deserved more. He alter the game on defense more than top offensive players. He should have been in the MVP discussion.

But as Dwyer said, nobody was paying attention – as they never are to defense.

Alas, Dywer’s description is of his top choice: Kevin Garnett. And Shane Battier is second.

Wallace is third – far too low.

At least Dwyer adds a dead-on assessment of Wallace:

And during his prime, Wallace was just a stud. Blocked your shot, sure, but he changed and altered five times as many, while still (and this is so, so huge) picking up the rebound after forcing some poor soul into an attempt that was bound to go in barely a third of the time.