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Archive → July, 2010

Detroit MLE Dreams: Tracy McGrady

Essentials

Position: SG/SF

Height: 6-foot-8

Weight: 223 pounds

Years pro: 13

Age: 31

What he brings

Pros

  • Darfur, man. Darfur.
  • Everyone (annoyingly) quotes the Iverson ‘practice’ video relentlessly, but the T-Mac ‘It’s my fault‘ clip is — I’ll say it — the most underrated video in the history of players passive aggressively ranting at the media clips.
  • Despite missing the entire first half of last season, and despite losing a step or six over the past few seasons, McGrady was still nearly voted into the All-Star Game. I’m not making the case he was deserving, but I am making the case that a lot of people still like watching him play basketball.
  • During a recent workout with the Chicago Bulls, while T-Mac showed the explosion he was known for is gone, he did show a good shooting touch according to scouts, and perimeter shooting just happened to be a weakness for the Pistons last season.
  • Uh … Darfur anyone?
  • Sorry, that’s all I’ve got on this one.

Cons

How he fits

I’m not fooling anyone. There’s no real way McGrady fits with the Pistons. But Joe Dumars said the team planned to use its mid-level exception, and if we have to delve into the merits of every Tom, Dick and Louis Amundson on the market, we’re going to do it.

Why did I pick McGrady? For starters, I kind of love him. I’m a sucker for redemption stories, and what would be a better redemption story than McGrady joining the Pistons, the team that he made his infamous ‘feels great to be in the second round‘ comments about a tad prematurely in 2003, then finally ridding himself of those ‘T-Mac can’t get out of the first round’ accusations by showing up in fantastic shape, recapturing his old form and leading the Pistons into the playoffs and to a first round upset of … I don’t know … let’s say Chicago.

McGrady would definitely get t-shirts printed that say ‘second round.’ And you know you’d probably buy one. The second round would be like winning a title for T-Mac.

Do I have any serious analysis? I’ll give it a shot. McGrady has not found a team for similar reasons that Shaquille O’Neal has not found a team. They are trapped in 2002 when they were both young, alpha-dog superstars and can’t come to grips with the fact that not only are they role players now, they are going to be paid like role players. It’s easy for us to sit back and say, “well, they made their money, why not take less and try to win?” It’s not about the money, it’s about the prestige of being paid and respected like the stars that they are in their own minds.

Best case scenario for McGrady, no matter who he signs with? He comes in in fantastic shape, he comes in with a chip on his shoulder because of the perceived disrespect of no teams wanting to sign him, he takes a one year deal for a few million, he stays healthy and he shows that he can still hit his jumper at a reasonable clip (shouldn’t be a problem since he’s taller than a lot of wing players and should get some looks as a result of that) and, in the right situation, can occasionally get to the basket and finish.

If McGrady can score 10-15 points per game in 25ish minutes a night — and if he’s healthy, I wouldn’t bet against it — he still has a bit of value. Where do the Pistons come in? If they get him on a one-year deal for a portion of the mid-level, he can come in and push incumbent vets Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton.

Basically, tell them the team has starting caliber minutes for one of them. All three are coming off of unproductive and/or injury plagued seasons. The starting spot and big minutes go to the one of them who comes in in the best shape, who shows that he still has the most left to contribute and the one who is hungriest to earn/keep a job. The rest of the minutes will go to young players.

If the player who wins that job happens to be McGrady, then great. He re-asserts himself as a decent NBA player, he has value because his deal is affordable, and with Prince and Chris Wilcox, he gives the Pistons a third expiring contract that can be used as an asset at the trade deadline. If they don’t trade him, he plays a full season in Detroit, is semi-productive and he gets paid a little bit more by a team that wants him next season.

Why he doesn’t fit

That’s a pretty out-there scenario I just cooked up, even for someone as versed in reader alienation as I am. McGrady has been not just injured, but chronically injured the past two years. He also has a lot of mileage as a result of carrying Orlando/shooting like 50 times a game for most of his career.

The Pistons don’t need wing help, they need frontcourt help. McGrady hasn’t had the reputation of always being the greatest teammate. And the Pistons have two young wings in Austin Daye and Jonas Jerebko who have a hard enough time getting minutes as is, without another broken down veteran in front of them.

There are so many good reasons not to sign McGrady that I won’t bother listing them all, but he does kind of fit the profile of guys Joe Dumars used to look for — cheaper players with something to prove.

Signability

Money is important to McGrady. I can’t see him signing for the minimum, and I’m not saying it’s greed that prevents him from doing that as much as pride. Max players always see themselves as max players. The money is great, but the respect that goes with that max contract is equally as ego-building.

If I were convinced that McGrady could contribute, I’d offer a one-year deal at a million or so over the vets’ minimum. I have to believe that would be the absolute most money anyone would pay him, but it’s not back-breaking, it’s not the full mid-level and if he’s remotely productive, it’s good value.

Conclusion

If the Shaq post was an unlikely scenario, McGrady to the Pistons is about as far-fetched as it gets. The Pistons obviously could still use a big, and if free agency is the route they are going to go, I would guess that the conversations about the merits of guys like Josh Boone or Brian Skinner are not particularly exciting.

Signing a guy like McGrady is a definite gamble, but at worst, he’s unproductive but still a small expiring contract on the bench if the team is in a position to make a trade at the deadline and needs more salary filler. At best, he becomes moderately productive and entices a contender in need of bench scoring to give up a pick or young player for him midseason. It’s highly likely that the Pistons roster is set right now, but if they did make a signing, taking a gamble on McGrady would be more interesting than one of the low-ceiling bigs still available.

Previous

Mark Bartelstein, Will Bynum’s agent, still claims client’s contract with Detroit Pistons is worth $10.5 million, despite reports to the contrary

I sent Mark Bartelstein, Will Bynum’s agent, an e-mail hoping to clear up the amount the point guard’s three-year contract is worth. Bartelstein said Bynum will make $3.5 million each season – $10.5 million total. (By the way, I’m glad the contract is flat. It will be only more valuable in future seasons.)

That jives with Marc Stein of ESPN’s report yesterday:

Bynum’s agent Mark Bartelstein said Bynum and the Pistons have agreed to a three-year deal worth $10.5 million.

But the local reports said something different.

Chris Iott of MLive.com:

Bynum has agreed to a three-year contract with the Detroit Pistons. The deal is worth $9.75 million — not the $10.5 million reported by many media outlets — according to a source close to the situation.

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

Guard Will Bynum agreed to a three-year, $9.75 million deal, according to team sources.

Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press:

The organization confirmed today that Bynum agreed to a three-year deal for $9.75 million.

I’ve asked Bartelstein to clarify his figure – whether it included unguaranteed portions of the contract or incentives. He has yet to respond.

In all likelihood, the $750,000 will make no difference for any potential Pistons move. But in case it does, I’d like to know the correct figure.

More importantly, I’d like to know whose reports to trust in the future.

Detroit Pistons get good value by re-signing Will Bynum

The Detroit Pistons re-signed Will Bynum today. Because he was a restricted free agent, this was inevitable for a while.

Bynum’s agent, Mark Bartelstein told Marc Stein of ESPN the deal is worth $10.5 million for three years. Chris Iott of MLive.com insists it’s a $9.75 million contract. (UPDATE: Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News also says it’s a $9.75 million contract.)* As long as that difference doesn’t cause a rift that delays the signing, I’m happy.

*All three of those reporters are usually credible. And I’d typically just take the word of two against one. But my guess is Iott and Goodwill got their info from the Pistons. The numbers the Pistons initially leaked for the Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva signings were lower than the actual contracts, so I don’t completely trust the team with this. I don’t have any reason not to trust Bartelstein, who told Stein $10.5 million. I’m curious what the Free Press reports, because its reporters have been in contact with Bartelstein and have Pistons contacts.

Bynum, 27, is a good backup point guard. I’ve said for a while that if he was a first-round pick and Rodney Stuckey was someone Detroit signed from Maccabi Tel Aviv, Bynum would start. I’m not sure I still believe that, but the case could be made.

Since coming to Detroit, Bynum has shown an ability to drive to the basket. At the beginning of last year, he looked much improved as a distributor, rebounder and on-ball defender.

But ankle injuries – yes, both ankles – derailed his season. When he returned, his all-around game had reverted to past-season form. His ability to drive was still there, at least.

I have serious questions about his ability to fight through screens, an essential skill in today’s game. And maybe his play at the beginning of last season was a fluke.

But a little more than $3 million per season is almost worth his ability to drive to the basket alone. If everything else comes together, Bynum is a steal. Heck, even if only some other parts of his game come together, he’s probably a steal.

Trade Idea: Maybe the Pistons could actually trade for Chris Paul after all (UPDATE: Offer gives Pistons victory in Chris Paul trade contest)

Update: My bid for the Pistons won Ryan Schwan of Hornets 247.com’s Chris Paul trade contest. See “Hornets’ perspective” below for more details.

Trade

Pistons receive:

  • Chris Paul (18.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 10.7 assists, 0.2 blocks, 2.1 steals)
  • Emeka Okafor (10.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 1.5 blocks, 0.7 steals)

Hornets receive:

  • Tayshaun Prince (13.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 0.4 blocks, 0.7 steals)
  • Rodney Stuckey (16.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 0.2 blocks, 1.4 steals)
  • Greg Monroe (16.1 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.5 blocks, 1.2 steals)
  • Austin Daye (5.1 points, 2.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.4 blocks, 0.4 steals)
  • Chris Wilcox (4.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 0.4 assists, 0.4 blocks, 0.4 steals)
  • 2012 first-round pick
  • 2014 first-round pick
  • 2011 Denver Nuggets second-round pick

Salaries

Data from ShamSports.com

Pistons receive:

Player 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14  2014/15
Chris Paul $14,940,153 $16,359,805  $17,779,458 $0 $0
Emeka Okafor $11,795,000 $12,792,500 $13,790,000 $14,787,500 $0
Total $26,735,153 $29,152,305 $31,569,458 $14,787,600 $0

Hornets receive:

Player 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
Tayshaun Prince $11,148,760 $0 $0 $0 $0
Rodney Stuckey $2,767,126 $3,868,443 $0 $0 $0
Greg Monroe $2,798,040 $3,007,920 $3,217,689 $4,086,454 $5,479,934
Austin Daye $1,803,720 $1,929,600 $2,958,077 $4,135,391 $0
Chris Wilcox $3,000,000 $0 $0 $0 $0
Total $21,517,646 $8,805,963 $6,175,766 $8,221,845 $5,479,934
  • Player option/ early termination
  • Team option
  • Qualifying offer

Pistons’ perspective

Yes, just a couple months ago, I penned a post titled, “Pistons have NO chance of trading for Chris Paul.” A lot has changed since then. Mainly, Chris Paul has indicated a desire to leave New Orleans, and Detroit drafted Greg Monroe.

I still think the Pistons landing Paul is an extreme long shot, but let’s look at what it would take.

First off, would New Orleans even trade Paul? Ken Berger of CBSSports.com has the scoop on Paul’s meeting with the Hornets yesterday:

The Hornets are concentrating on Eastern Conference teams as trade partners in the event they decide it isn’t feasible to enter the 2010-11 season with their franchise player wanting out. And despite Monday’s optimistic spin, that is where things are headed, sources say.

Although Berger doesn’t mention the Pistons among the teams the Hornets are eyeing – and Paul didn’t include them on his list – they are in the Eastern Conference. So, that’s a plus.

The first move for Joe Dumars would be calling someone close to Chris Paul – as close as possible, to avoid Paul’s people squashing the idea based on Detroit’s reputation (the city’s, not the team’s) – and see if he would be receptive to joining the Pistons. I think winning is the biggest force behind Paul’s demands (although it may not be the biggest reason those close to him are pushing a trade, too), and Dumars could sell him on the fact that he already put together one championship team.

If Paul wouldn’t be content with a trade to Detroit, that’s the end of it. If he would be, Dumars should call the Hornets.

I think this a competitive offer the Hornets would have to take seriously if they’re actually willing to deal Paul.

Tayshaun Prince is a very good player, and Rodney Stuckey is already solid and still has potential to grow. Plus, both have expiring contracts, which would give New Orleans a lot of flexibility.

Greg Monroe and Austin Daye are talented players with skills in drove, and with a combined seven years left on their rookie contracts, they’re extremely affordable.

Chris Wilcox is 27, but talented enough that many believe he could still find his niche in the league. (For the record, I don’t.) Mostly, he’s there to make the numbers work, but for filler, he’s not bad.

Those two first-round picks could be valuable if Paul doesn’t help the Pistons win any more than he helped New Orleans. Even if he does, two picks are two picks.

Besides acquiring a player with a non-guaranteed contract (like Erick Dampier), this trade would save the Hornets about as much money this year as possible in a trade giving up only Paul and Okafor. And given Okafor’s hefty contract, the savings in future years would be significant, too.

By trading Paul, the Hornets would almost certainly be rebuilding. I doubt anyone will trade someone near Paul’s talent level to get him (meaning nobody like LeBron James, Dwight Howard or Kevin Durant will be on the move). This trade would give New Orleans a lot of young talent, draft picks and cap flexibility to start over.

But trading for Paul is tricky. Not only do you have to give up enough to satisfy the Hornets, you must have enough left to build a competitive team before Paul becomes a free agent in two years. I think this trade would give the Pistons a real shot doing that.

Check out this lineup:

For everyone who says Hamilton needs to play next to a traditional point guard, he’d get one. He and Gordon would be the team’s main scorers, and Paul would certainly help there, too.

The front line would do the dirty work/rebounding/etc. Plus, Paul could get those three their share of easy baskets.

Perhaps best of all, it would be a good group defensively. With a pair of athletic shot blocker in Wallace and Okafor, Hamilton could even play a fair share of his minutes at small forward.

The Pistons would have a solid reserves unit with Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Jason Maxiell, Will Bynum and the mid-level exception (Josh Howard?).

I think that’s the type of team that could make a run deep into the playoffs. That’s only a ‘could,’ though, and there are long-term questions.

What happens when Wallace retires? Maybe Jerebko could take over that role, but Wallace is a big reason I think that team could do damage. Those would be mighty big shoes to fill.

How big of a burden would Okafor’s contract be? He’s overpaid, no doubt. But he’s still productive and plays a critical position. Obviously, the salary cap has yet to be determined for future seasons (and it’s especially unpredictable given the Collective Bargaining Agreement is set to expire), but if the new CBA is similar to the current one, I think the Pistons could avoid paying the luxury tax – even with this trade.

How costly will giving up those draft picks be? I designed the offer with 2012 and 2014 picks because those are the years Paul and Okafor will likely be free agents. If there are any years the Pistons would rather have the extra cap room than the picks, it would be those. So, the risk is still there, but I think it’d be hedged a little bit.

And of course, the big question: What if Paul leaves in 2012? That’s the risk I think you take to get a player whom I think has a good shot at becoming the second-best point guard of all time.

Hornets’ perspective

Ryan Schwan of Hornets247.com solicited Chris Paul trade ideas from several TrueHoop Network members and ranked them in reverse order. Guess which offer he listed last – or to be clear, won the competition. Yup, this one.

OK, the Pistons were 1B of the two teams in the “Let’s talk Business” group. The Magic were 1A – on the condition the Hornets could flip Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter. I think that’s much easier said than done, so I’m declaring the Pistons the winner.

Schwan on this offer:

It’s freakish that I’m picking the Pistons offer as one of the best ones.  I didn’t think they’d have enough talent to swing it, honestly.  Still – Monroe fills the hole at center, Prince/Daye fill the hole at the 3, and Stuckey is the perfect combo guard behind Collison and Thornton.  Oh – and since what’s left in Detroit won’t be world-shaking, the picks they are offering should at least still be mid-rounders.

My response

It surprised me, too, that the Pistons could be in position to land Paul. Even if the trade isn’t made, it’s just further evidence Monroe was an excellent draft pick. Without him, Detroit wouldn’t be in the discussion.

I’m not stunned by Schwan’s lack of confidence in a post-trade Pistons team. They’d be far from a sure thing. But like I said above, I think the players would complement each other well

A Hornets partisan believes this offer deserves consideration. That’s a good sign. Dumars, get on the phone.

Verdict

Make no mistake: this trade wouldn’t put the Pistons out of the woods yet. Paul can become a free agent in two years, and whoever acquires him must spend that time convincing him to stay. There is no guarantee the Pistons can do that.

Because they don’t play in a destination city, the Pistons must show Paul they can win a title with him. And even then, it might not be enough.

This trades calls for the Pistons to give up a huge amount of young, affordable talent – plus draft picks and taking Emeka Okafor’s contract. If Paul leaves in two years or decides he doesn’t want to be in Detroit a year from now, the trade could set the Pistons back nearly a decade.

But I think Henry Abbott of TrueHoop said it best:

Here’s a rule of thumb I’ve developed to help you through it: If you’re getting Chris Paul, it’s a good deal.

Detroit MLE Dreams: Shaquille O’Neal

Essentials

Position: Center

Height: 7-foot-1

Weight: 325 pounds

Years pro: 18

Age: 38

What he brings

Pros

  • Shaq might be the best free agent still available. He’s definitely the biggest name.
  • This is a dangerous game to play, but Shaq is only a season removed from averaging 17.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game while leading the league with a .609 field-goal percentage.
  • You can still throw the ball to Shaq in the post and expect a basket.
  • He’s big and and strong and has the awareness to effectively defend back-to-the-basket big men.
  • He’s still a good defensive rebounder.
  • He doesn’t block as many shots as he did earlier in his career, but he’s still good at it.

Cons

  • Allen Iverson. Enough said for Pistons fans.
  • With his lack of mobility, Shaq is a terrible pick-and-roll defender in a pick-and-roll league.
  • He could be aging quickly, if that hasn’t happened already.

How he fits

Although he might, Ben Wallace probably won’t handle 28.6 minutes per game as well as he did last year. That leaves the Pistons in need of more help at center. Maybe Jason Maxiell playing well at center last season wasn’t a fluke. Maybe Greg Monroe can handle big minutes at the position.

But Monroe has never played an NBA game, and at 6-foot-7, Maxiell probably can’t succeed against starting centers.

So, the Pistons probably should look for another center.

Ideally, that player is younger than 38 and has a chance to be solid after Wallace retires. But beggars can’t be choosers.

The Pistons are desperate for an inside scoring threat, and O’Neal would provide that. He can also help Detroit defend big, low-post threats. Wallace can also do that, but giving that assignment to just one player is usually asking for a problem.

Shaq has a wide frame and could use that to clear interior defenders away from the basket while Rodney Stuckey drives to the hoop. Or Shaq could just clog the lane. Given the alternative is Ben Wallace, whom defenders don’t have to respect at all, I’d take my chances Shaq could help Stuckey offensively.

But really, given other free agents don’t near the talent of Shaq, the bigger question is about off-the-court fit. Shaq can be egotistical, stubborn, lazy, high-maintenance and a complete distraction. I’m not sure his talent outweighs those issues anymore.

Speaking of weight, that’s always an issue with Shaq. It’s especially worrisome now, given his aging knees will be less capable of supporting his large frame. I doubt Shaq will cut weight, especially for a non-contender.

Is that the type of example you want to send to the team’s younger players?

In other words

John Krolik, who also runs Cavs the Blog, analyzed Shaq for ProBasketballTalk:

He is one of the most dominant players to ever step onto an NBA court, he’s a four-time NBA champion, and he’s a lock for the Hall of Fame when he retires.

Of course, none of that mattered when the Cavaliers played the Celtics in last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals. O’Neal stopped the ball on offense, couldn’t score on Kendrick Perkins, and the Celtics completely exposed O’Neal defensively. In that series, O’Neal looked like a post-up dinosaur watching a drive-and-kick league pass him by.

The few post-up threats remaining are players like Pau Gasol or Dwight Howard, both of whom are athletic enough to be effective on both offense and defense even if they aren’t being force-fed in the post. Shaq needs his team to adjust its game-plan to his strengths in order for him to be effective, and that puts him at a significant disadvantage in today’s NBA.

At this point in his career, Shaq is a very good situational player. There are still some things he can do as well as anybody else in the league can, but his strengths can’t cover up his limitations as easily as they once did. Against some lineups, Shaq can be invaluable. Against others, he should hardly see the floor. If Shaq can come to terms with the player he is now, he’ll be a very good pickup for the team that signs him. If not, his pride may force him into retiring when he can still contribute to an NBA squad.

Signability

I think Shaq wants three things:

  • To play for a contender
  • Money (in the form of a multi-year contract)
  • A starting job (or maybe major minutes off the bench behind a proven starter)

I have no idea how he ranks those three (his camp is pushing that playing for a contender matters most, but that could just be an image thing), but the Pistons can offer the latter two.

They’re obviously not a contender, but they have as much money that they’re willing to spend as almost any team in the league. And give the organization’s history, I don’t think Detroit is rushing to give Greg Monroe a starting job. Playing time? Sure. But starting? I don’t think they want to hand him that just yet.

So, who are Shaq’s main suitors? From Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Mavericks have abandoned the idea of a Shaq signing completely — “He is out,” according to one team source — since they have four centers currently on the roster until they can move the very available Alexis Ajinca. Atlanta, then, stands as the only team with a confirmed “live” interest in O’Neal. But Shaq, at last report, still wants assurances of a healthy slice of playing time as well as a salary that starts above the $5.8 million mid-level exception, which can be achieved through a sign-and-trade with Cleveland. No team out there, including Atlanta, is known to be willing to pay Shaq more than $2 million for next season.

 The Celtics have re-emerged in the Shaq rumors, too, according to Tim Povtak of AOL FanHouse.

Still, I see only teams willing to offer 2-of-3 things on his wish list, just like the Pistons can. It’s a matter of what Shaq values most.

Conclusion

I don’t think there’s much of a chance Shaq joins the Pistons, but he’s probably the best free agent left.  I hope Detroit at least takes a long look at him.

If I were Joe Dumars, I’d offer Shaq a one-year deal the for the full mid-level exception. Pitch it as a chance to prove to contenders the following year why they should want him, and explain that he’d likely start (even though he wouldn’t play typical starter minutes). At minimum, Shaq on that deal would be a valuable trade chip near the deadline.

I wouldn’t expect Shaq to accept that offer, but if I’m the Pistons, I’d only take him on my terms.

Previous

The Detroit Pistons can’t trade Tayshaun Prince for Josh Smith

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press broached the idea of a Tayshaun Prince-for-Josh Smith swap in his article today:

The Hawks overpaid to keep Joe Johnson and could decide they can’t afford Josh Smith and Grand Ledge’s Al Horford. The Pistons asked about Smith in the summer of 2008, and Tayshaun Prince’s expiring deal could entice the Hawks to part with the 6-foot-9 guard/forward.

Since the Hawks turned down the trade in 2008, Smith’s value has risen and Prince’s has decreased. The trade is less likely today than it was then, and it was a no then.

In this year’s TrueHoop Network Awards, Smith had a wonderful showing:

  • Most Valuable Player (eighth)
  • Defensive Player of the Year (second)
  • Most Improved Player (fifth)
  • All-NBA third team
  • All-Defensive first team

That’s not the résumé of someone traded for Tayshaun Prince, who didn’t receive any votes in any category. (For more on why Smith had such a great season, read Bret Lagree of Hoopinion’s explanation how Smith stopped shooting 3-pointers, which allowed him to take advantage of his passing skills.:

The Hawks gave Joe Johnson that massive contract because they knew had to keep him to contend. If they didn’t keep him, there was little point in paying guys like Smith and Horford. Johnson’s contract doesn’t make those guys more likely to be traded in the short term. Rather, it makes the Hawks more likely to keep them.

In short, not happening.

Joe Dumars is not the 24th worst general manager in the NBA

Mike Prada at SB Nation today unveiled his NBA GM rankings. It’s an interesting exercise — GM terribleness is one of my favorite topics.

Here’s Prada’s evaluation of Joe Dumars, whom he ranked 24th, lower than noted visionaries like Rod Higgins, Chris Wallace and Rick Sund:

It pains me to put Joe Dumars, the architect of the Pistons teams of the 2000s, this low. However, Dumars has been a disaster since the Chauncey Billups/Allen Iverson trade. Dumars made the deal to regain salary-cap flexibility to rebuild a team that has run it’s course, but ended up spending that money on Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and a re-signed, declining Rip Hamilton. He’s refused to deal any of his other big-contract players like Tayshaun Prince because he legitimately thinks his team can and should be “competitive” when rebuilding.

That’s the problem, though — you can be “competitive” without major salary obligations to declining players. Dumars, like many of the GMs behind him on this list, fundamentally misunderstands this. I’m not sure why Dumars refuses to take the long-term approach. Sure, their arena is empty, but it seems they have a core of dieharts that are willing to wait around for a long-term rebuilding project. It’s not like Dumars is in a city like Charlotte, where the team desperately needs the revenue from home playoff games.

Therefore, the only explanation for Dumars’ recent issues is that he must believe that, because he built a “star-less” core earlier, he can do it again. Newsflash Joe: you probably can’t. Lightning doesn’t strike in the same spot twice.

It should pain Prada to put him that low on the list. It’s pretty patently ridiculous to put him that low, actually.

The reality is, Dumars’ track record, despite questionable moves the last two years, still holds up really well against most GMs in the league, except for the universally recognized top few guys.

Now, in fairness, Prada isn’t basing his rankings on wins, more so on quality of moves/body of work. He gets some of the positives — Hamilton trade, ‘Sheed trade, Jerebko pick, etc. — and negatives — Darko, Iverson, White, Gordon/Villanueva, but he also leaves out some pretty key arguments in favor of Dumars. Consider the following:

- On the Pistons’ 2004 title team, the unquestioned two best players, Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups, made a combined $10.5 million. Neither of those incredibly reasonable signings are mentioned. Finding undervalued players is a pretty key part of effective GMing and the bad signings of Gordon and Villanueva don’t trump the fact that the initial Wallace and Billups signings, value-wise, are arguably as good as any signing any GM on this list has made. The Pistons are the only title team in the last decade to win a championship without having a max-contract player. Call it luck if you want, but a lot of teams had Wallace and Billups on their rosters prior to the Pistons and missed something. Dumars didn’t miss.

- This line from Prada — “Therefore, the only explanation for Dumars’ recent issues is that he must believe that, because he built a “star-less” core earlier, he can do it again. Newsflash Joe: you probably can’t. Lightning doesn’t strike in the same spot twice.” — is a pretty common argument by the “Joe Dumarz needz to go, LOLz!” crowd. It also doesn’t take into account that Dumars has actually built a 50-win core two times, not just one time.

Check the roster of his first 50-win team in 2002. Now compare that to his last 50 win team in 2008. If you’ll notice, not a single player from that first roster was still on the team in 2008. In a period of six years, not only did Dumars completely rebuild his team, he did so while maintaining a team that won 50 games each of those seasons. There is not another GM in the league who can claim that (hat-tip to Dan Feldman, who tipped me off to that point).

- Re: the list of draft picks. Prada gets a few major finds — Prince, Jerebko, Stuckey — and the busts — Rodney White, Darko — but misses a couple.

Mehmet Okur had two solid seasons in Detroit before leaving as a free agent for Utah and becoming an All-Star. I’d say that’s good value for the second round. And really, although he kind of plateaued, Jason Maxiell has been a rotation player his entire post-rookie career, which is also good value for a 26th pick. Early in his career, Detroit had a pretty talented and crowded frontcourt, so it was impressive that a late pick like Maxiell earned minutes on a contending team. It’s rare that the draft picks of championship contenders crack a rotation, and Maxiell did that.

I won’t insist that Dumars is a top-five GM in the league anymore — his recent moves, combined with a historically bad draft bust, will hurt that legacy. But a man who has overseen a team that has won a title, made the playoffs eight of his 10 years and made the conference finals in six of 10 years is certainly a better GM than, oh, I don’t know, the man who once picked Joe Forte and Kedrick Brown in the first round of the same draft.

Dumars has work to do with his mismatched roster, but unlike many of the people in front of him, Dumars has shown the ability to turn a mismatched roster into a contending team. He’s nowhere near the bottom third of the league’s GMs.

Greg Monroe undergoes successful surgery on right foot

From a team release:

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – The Detroit Pistons announced today that Greg Monroe underwent a successful out-patient surgical procedure on his right foot performed by Dr. Arthur Manoli. The procedure was performed at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Pontiac, MI.

Rehabilitation will begin immediately and he is expected to resume full basketball activities in three to four weeks.

The 6-foot-11 forward/center appeared in five games for the Pistons during the Vegas Summer League and averaged 14.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.8 steals in 30.3 minutes per game.  The Georgetown product was drafted by Detroit with the seventh pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.

Detroit MLE Dreams: Louis Amundson (Updated with more from Schwartz)

Essentials

Position: Power forward/ center

Height: 6-foot-9

Weight: 238 pounds

Years pro: Four

Age: 27

What he brings

Pros

  • Only nine qualifying players had higher shot-blocking percentages last year than Amundson, who posted a 4.4. Even though Amundson didn’t play enough to be a league leader, his career percentage of 4.5 indicates his blocking ability is no fluke.
  • He’s a good rebounder – offensively and defensively, but more so offensively.
  • He’s pretty quick for his size.
  • He’s tough, gritty and hustles.
  • He was good on the pick-and-roll last year, according to Synergy, but I’m going to chalk that up to Steve Nash and think there’s minimal chance Amundson would continue that in Detroit.
  • He seems fun.
  • Amundson averaged 11.4 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes last season.

Cons

  • Although his per-36-minute stats seem impressive, I’m not sure they’d be sustainable in Detroit if Amundson was given a larger role. One, the Suns had more possessions per 36 minutes than the Pistons likely will. Two, he averaged 5.2 fouls per 36 minutes (which was actually below his career average). Three, I’m not sure he could sustain his energy level for big minutes. He only once played more than 25 minutes last year.
  • His actual numbers this season – career-bests no less – were 4.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game.
  • At power forward, his PER was 17.6 and his counterpart’s was 19.1, according to 82games. The difference was even worse at center, where his PER was 7.9 and his opponent’s was 18.6.
  • His two-year adjusted plus-minus is –5.93, according to BasketballValue.com.
  • Basically, he has no refined offensive skills.
  • A large chunk of his attempts come on putbacks, but he only scored .94 points per possession on offensive rebounds – 153rd in the league, according to Synergy.
  • His defensive-rebounding percentage rose considerably this year after being disappointing for a big man the previous two years. Which was the fluke?
  • He gave up a lot of points per possession on isolation defense, according to Synergy, but I think that’s largely due to Phoenix’s flawed defense, which often had him switching to guards and small forwards. (For what it’s worth, the Pistons don’t switch as often – part of the reason they allowed opponents to shoot so well behind the 3-point arc.)

How he fits

Amundson isn’t an ideal fit.

He took off in Phoenix’s up-tempo system, and I have some doubts about how he’d translate into a half-court scheme. He was quick enough to move around in the open court and strong enough to punish opponents physically with the Suns. But I’m not sure he can dole out – and sustain – similar punishment in the crowded lanes created by slow-temp teams like the Pistons.

He’d also be yet another power forward who’s probably a good backup but too flawed to be a reliable starter at the position right now. See Charlie Villanueva, Jonas Jerebko, Jason Maxiell and Chris Wilcox.

But Amundson is big, not old and one of the better free agents still available. The fit isn’t that egregious where he makes no sense.

The Pistons desperately need someone to protect the rim when Ben Wallace is out of the game. I’d prefer they get someone who can also do other things, but Amundson can at least do that.

In other words

Michael Schwartz of Valley of the Suns was tied up with the Suns hiring Lon Babby yesterday. He plans to provide us more info on Amundson in the next couple days. But in the meantime, he answered one question I had – can Amundson play center?

Lou at center is really pushing it. He can for stretches in a small ball lineup designed to run your opponent out of the building, but one of the negatives I was going to say is that he can get pushed around by some of the bigger power forwards and he sometimes gets gobbled up by larger centers. He does a lot of center-like things in terms of rebounding and blocking shots, but he can certainly be backed down by a true power guy.

UPDATE: More Amundson analysis from Schwartz:

Lou Amundson is your prototypical bench hustle guy. He will come in off the bench and do all the dirty work. He’s been the Suns’ best rebounder for the past two seasons and perhaps their best shot blocker as well. He will have a couple games a month where it looks like he’s running circles around the opposition he gets to so many balls, and he can make a profound impact on a basketball game.

He was great running with the Suns’ defensive-minded second unit. He could often start fast breaks with rebounds or blocked shots and he’s a great finisher at the rim. He is extremely athletic and a great leaper. You likely have seen him in a number of highlights finishing dunks.

The downside is that is where his offensive game begins and ends. He can score you a couple buckets a game on putbacks and in transition, but other than that he is completely non-existent on the offensive end (besides being a good offensive rebounder). He has no post game to speak of and Suns fans groaned any time he attempted a mid-range jumper. His form isn’t terrible and he has been working on it, but the guy at this stage of his career just can’t shoot. He’s also a horrid free-throw shooter (one of the worst in the league) and understandably can disappear on the offensive end.

I would sign him to something like a three-year, $10 million contract if I were a GM. He will be 28 when the season begins, and since he’s a guy who relies solely on athleticism I would be leery of a long contract. About $3 mil a year or so seems fair for a guy with such a limited offensive game. Lou has never really been paid in the NBA so understandably he wants to cash in, but I would not make too big of an investment in the man known as Loooouuuuuuuuuuuuu.

Some other fun Lou facts are that he rode his bike to the arena during the 2008-09 season, which led to the Suns creating a "Lou Amundson Bike Valet" outside of US Airways Center last season. Back in ’08-09 he also pulled a prank on Shaq that either speaks to his courage or stupidity. Lou is a great team guy, and I’m sure his teammates will miss having him around.

In sum, Lou is perfect for the role of energy forward off the bench. He will grab some boards, block some shots and inject electricity into the building. On some nights he can be a real game changer with his hustle a few minutes at a time, just don’t expect anything from him offensively.

Signability

Before the offseason, Schwartz estimated Amundson could command about $10 million over three years. The market may indicate Amundson could get a little more, but he also might be the type of guy who slips through the cracks. I’ll say it will even out and Schwartz’s initial prediction will be pretty close.

Obviously, with the full Mid-Level Exception at their disposal, the Pistons could sign him. That would also leave about half the exception to sign another player or two.

Conclusion

At the beginning of free agency, I would’ve been extremely disappointed if Amundson was Detroit’s top signing. At this point, he might be the best realistic option on the market. For a three year contract, striking out might be better. For a one- or maybe even a two-year deal, Amundson wouldn’t be bad. (Can you hear my excitement?)

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A note on comments

Dan and I started PistonPowered from scratch in January, 2009 to very little fanfare. The site design was minimalist if you’d like to be polite, uninspired if you’re not feeling so generous. Content consisted primarily of newspaper round-ups and sparsely attended live blogs. Our readership was made up of a few friends and our moms, the latter of whom aren’t even basketball fans. Ensuring proper comment formatting was not a top priority.

Fast-forward eighteen months. Thanks to our inclusion in the TrueHoop Network, the recent addition of Patrick Hayes to our writing staff, and general practice at this stuff, we have more readers than ever before. Good readers who often challenge what we write and participate in (mostly) thoughtful discussion. And the comments are a mess.

Make no mistake, it’s our mess. In all this time, we’ve strived to constantly improve the blog, both with more in-depth coverage and new features. But for technical reasons, the comments have lagged behind. After a couple levels of replies, it becomes necessary to practically climb into the screen to follow along.

We’re currently in the middle of a major design overhaul that will soon solve these problems, but it’s not yet ready for prime-time. In the interim, to improve general readability, we’ve decided to disable nested comments. You’ll still be able to weigh in on all the action here at PistonPowered, just not directly reply to other comments.

I hope this temporary inconvenience won’t deter you from sharing your thoughts with us. We really do appreciate your participation here on the site. After all, it was nothing other than a comment that prompted us to make this change.

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