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The Big Question: Joe Dumars

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: How limited is he by the ownership situation?

As constructed, the Pistons obviously aren’t going to win a title. Moves must be made. Can Joe Dumars make them now? Does he have to wait until a new owner takes over? Is he forbidden to take on payroll for the sake of Karen Davidson’s wallet? Will he have to shed payroll for the sake of Karen Davidson’s wallet?

It’s impossible to fairly criticize Dumars for his moves, or lack there of, without this information.

PH: Is he a tortured genius?

Often, people who have great success early on in their profession get a a genius complex. They think they’ve figured out “The Secret” as Bill Simmons would say and begin taking advice less or trying crazier ideas because their past success has them foolishly convinced that all of their goofy ideas will pan out.

Dumars constructed a title team, a year-in, year-out contender and did so in a way that no one has replicated: without a superstar. His two best players on his title team, Billups and Wallace, combined to make less money per season than Antoine Walker.

Now, Dumars has made a series of moves that can be described as reaches: believing that guys who have never been tough or physical or interested defenders in Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva can suddenly be taught, drafting guys who weren’t well known (Austin Daye might work out, but he passed on guys like Ty Lawson and Darren Collison for him, and they are already good players in this league), taking flyers on aging vets with major questions (Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady).

Could Dumars be supremely confident his moves will work simply because they’ve worked out in the past?


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  • Oct 15, 201012:29 pm
    by nuetes


    I don’t want to say Dumars got lucky, because his moves worked out so well. Getting Wallace from Orlando was huge. Now did he think that type of player was going to help win games or was that just the best he could get from them? Was he aware at the time he was fleecing them? Billups showed signs he could be good in his last season with Minnesota. Dumars found a steal in free agency and saw a player with potential. The Rip/Stackhouse and Sheed trades were no-brainers. Not much foresight involved there.
    The Pistons were a team that destroyed advanced metrics like win shares and wins produced. Billups and Wallace were superstars by those statistics. You’d think NBA teams would hire stat geeks to sift through the data and uncover these players before someone else does. Or at least have scouts that are aware of the facets of a players game that produces wins without really being aware of stats.
    For years I thought the Pistons were on the edge of new age scouting. Then the summer of 09 hit and my belief died. They couldn’t have went in a more opposite direction. Was it Hammond? Was Hammond the stat geek? Did Dumars just get lucky before? Or did Dumars get so full of himself he thought any move he made would turn into gold?

  • Oct 15, 201012:49 pm
    by Alan


    Questions I’d like to ask Joe Dumars:
    1.)  The Chauncey Billups trade.
    When you traded Billups for AI’s expiring contract, did you have a player in mind to target in FA?  Was that player Carlos Boozer?  When he chose NOT to opt-out of the final year of the contract, were you scrambling for a plan B and that’s why you went after Gordon and Villanueva?  I’d love to know the whole story here.
    2.)  This past off-season and its lack of execution.
    Two years ago you brought Ben Wallace back to Detroit, why didn’t you bring in somebody capable of competing with him for the starting Center this past off-season?  Did management handcuff your capability?  At the end of last season, should you have dumped a player to get further under the cap to be able to sign a guy like Brendan Haywood?  Along the same lines, you promised us that you would use the MLE this past summer and didn’t use it.  Why didn’t you use it?
    3.)  An unknown team made a last minute bid at Amare Stoudemire just 30 minutes before the trade deadline expired.  Rumor has it that it was a low-ball offer to see if PHX would panic.  Was that you Joe Dumars?
    4.)  Did you fully expect to see R. Wallace and McDyess to walk for nothing?  The front-court has been in shambles ever since and I’d like to know why you weren’t better prepared for this?

  • Oct 15, 20101:03 pm
    by Tom Y.


    I think Dumars may have been carrying the complacency/over confidence bug longer than any other piston. That said, I think he’s getting back to form – he’s drafted quite well (though maybe not great) for a couple of summers now and the Ben and Bynum deals are pretty good too.
    Hard to judge though without knowing what kind of offers are there behind the scenes – I really like Monroe but would have paid quite steeply to get Cousins, and I think get anything you can for Rip and clear up the logjam.
    The thing I’m worried mostly about though is that it seems he tried to pull off rebuilding without sucking on the way, and refuses to recognize it hasn’t quite worked.

  • Oct 15, 20101:09 pm
    by detroitpcb


    @ Alan

    4) because the Darko pick didn’t pan out. I personally thought Joe should have moved on Gasol when LA did. But he still had Sheed & Dice & probably thought there was still more in the tank

    3) no idea. Stoudemire is a great offensive player but New York has taken a huge risk given his medical history. He is definitely the type of player you can build a team around but his defense will hurt you & a contract that guarentees all his money without stipulating games played may kill you.

    2) There was no player out there worthy of using the MLE on. I congratulate Joe Dumars for not wasting it by reaching. I suspect Joe has been hampered this off season but obviously have no inside knowledge. If the sale goes through before the start of the season, we should find out in a hurry if that was the case.

    1) I don’t know if it was Boozer or Stoudemire or someone else but i agree with you. The CV & Gordon signings were definitely a plan B. They were the most talented offensive players available and Joe grabbed them quickly. Let’s give them a chance this year before we pass judgement though i am inclined to consider CV a mistake (he will never be a passable defender) and i question the Gordon signing because Joe had just given Rip an extension.

  • Oct 15, 20101:44 pm
    by Alan


    #4 is the biggest sticking point.  I understand the Darko pick failed but Dumars has had a few years since Darko was dealt to prepare for this moment.  Bringing back Ben Wallace was part of the solution but not enough.  I mean, Joe couldn’t have felt that, going into last season, Ben Wallace/Kwame Brown/Jason Maxiel/Chris Wilcox/Villanueva was enough.  And if he felt it was, he sure couldn’t feel that front-court lineup is improved simply by letting Kwame walk.  I’m a BIG Dumars fan, and I’ll be upset if his services aren’t retained by new ownership.  That said, this #4 topic is my biggest criticism of his time in Detroit.

    I don’t think Gasol to Detroit was an option.  Memphis wanted a young talent and an expiring contract.  We couldn’t have competed with the Lakers offer of M. Gasol & Kwame Brown’s big contract.

  • Oct 15, 20101:58 pm
    by nuetes


    This is probably along the line of #4, but Dumars handling of expiring deals has been very questionable. He had $33 million worth of expiring deals coming off in 09, and just let it happen. Maybe he was expecting Boozer to opt out because there really isn’t another explanation for it. The free agent class was weak. Extending Rip and not using his expiring deal the following season is another mistake. He probably won’t use Prince’s expiring deal this season either. These things are the biggest trade assets in the league and he’s mismanaging them left and right. Trading Dice or Sheed would have most likely produced something better than CV. Instead your left to overpay in free agency.

  • Oct 15, 20102:26 pm
    by Patrick Hayes


    I don’t think Hammond would qualify as a stats guy either, at least with advanced metrics like you are talking. He didn’t have what I would call a phenomenal offseason either. No stats guy would pay Drew Gooden $35 million or whatever they gave him. They also overpaid Salmons, and let’s not forget, Hammond’s first lottery pick, Joe Alexander, was horrid.
    Laser talked about the Pistons getting lucky Monroe fell to them. Well, look at how lucky the Bucks got when Jennings fell to them at 10. You think the Knicks would like a do-over on taking Jordan Hill over him? Or the T-Wolves taking Flynn over him?
    The Bucks were really solid last year because Andrew Bogut is damn good and was relativley healthy until the end of the year. Hammond made a good move to add Salmons at the deadline last year and found good value in a castoff (Delfino) and two rookies who exceeded their draft positions (Ilyasova and Mbah a Moute). Hammond’s solid for the most part, but I hesitate to call him the brains behind the operation when he was in Detroit. He’s had his share of head-scratching moves.

  • Oct 15, 20102:29 pm
    by Laser


    DF: the notion that dumars is handcuffed by ownership or mandated not to “take on” additional salary is total BS. TOTAL BEE ESS. what kind of salary do you suppose he could have taken on, and how could he have done it? handing out a MLE?? that’s certainly the only way he could have taken on more payroll this year, and who was worth picking up? it looks like we’re around $4 million under the tax line, and who could blame anyone for not wanting to pay a “luxury” tax for this bogus team. this is one of the worst teams in the league. isn’t that enough?? but to PAY a TAX for this rotten lineup?? it’s not my money, and i’d never do that on principle alone. joe would have had more money to spend had he not blown a mil and a third on t-mac, but who are we going to pick up? erick dampier? does he even have a job right now? he’s certainly not enough of an upgrade to be the absolute worst taxpaying team in league history. and if you’re talking about FUTURE payroll, how do you suppose he’d take on additional salary? trade tay for a guy who’s locked up long-term? joe handcuffed himself with a boatload of rotten contracts. for all the talk this joke of an organization spits out about “turning perimeter depth into frontcourt depth,” you can’t turn liabilities into assets, and nearly every contract on this perimeter is a liability. bynum’s probably a push since he makes a fair salary for his production. summers is the same since he’s cheap but couldn’t crack the rotation on a 55 loss team. other than that, our perimeter “assets” are tay and stuck, who are expiring and daye, who shouldn’t go anywhere. so if we’re dispensing with the vagaries, it’s tayshaun and/or stuckey who *COULD* be moved for help up front. both of their values were at career lows coming off last season, so i didn’t expect them to be moved. frankly, i half expect dumars to just let both of them walk this summer, just because it’s the worst move he could possibly make. but face it: the guy handcuffed himself. stop making excuses.
    PH: he’s not confident, he’s stubborn. he’s more stubborn than my dad. his plan was total sh*t, and he hasn’t done anything significant since executing one of the worst trades in NBA history and following that with two of the worst FA signings in recent memory. so maybe he’s a little gun shy. but let’s be real, it’s become plainly obvious with his recent bumbling than he was luckier than he was good for the first half of the decade. ben wallace was pure luck, because hill was walking anyways. dyess and chauncey were good acquisitions. the sheed trade was a mixed bag, but to say we fleeced atlanta is absurd, since the “incidental” draft pick we sent them turned into josh smith. tortured, yes. genius, hahahahahahah noooo. no sir. not close to that. stubborn? oh yeah. stubbornest man i know.

  • Oct 15, 20102:32 pm
    by Laser


    let me add: i would have loved to give raymond felton the MLE, but i don’t think there’s a chance ownership had anything to do with it. bynum’s cheaper and i think dumars is as hard for stuckey as he ever was. i doubt he ever pulls the plug. ten years from now we’ll be discussing whether or not stuckey is going to live up to all that potential.

  • Oct 15, 20102:51 pm
    by nuetes


    @laser -
    I agree with you about the ownership not holding Dumars back. He’s being responsible. Even if you had Cuban as an owner it doesn’t make sense to add additional salary and approach the luxury threshold just to win 35 games instead of 30. Then some say once new ownership is in place maybe we’ll see a trade. That doesn’t make sense either. The only area that makes sense is with Prince. If Prince is traded it’s probably not going to be for another expiring contract. That would mean additional salary and would require another trade (rip, gordon, or CV) to make it financially palatable. If the new owner is OK with taking on that additional salary maybe Prince will be more likely to be dealt, but I still think Dumars is in love with Prince.
    I still refuse to see the earlier years as luck however. He made some good moves. One of those moves could be considered luck, but you can’t be so lucky that every move you make happened to be the right move. Funny is that the Darko pick backfired twice in my mind. First in drafting him, which to be honest we could probably use Darko right now, but then in trading him for the 15th pick used on Stuckey. Everyone considers that a good move, but without Stuckey we most likely still have Billups and the whole disaster is averted, or at least delayed.

  • Oct 15, 20103:18 pm
    by Patrick Hayes


    They “fleeced” Atlanta in the sense that he acquired an impact player and All-Star that helped his team win a championship for very little. A pick turning out to be a good player doesn’t change that.
    And I don’t know if he’s a genius. I know he has a title, and there are GMs like Presti and Morey who people love to attach that “genius” tag to who have yet to assemble teams that win over the course of a decade like Dumars’ team did.

  • Oct 15, 20103:37 pm
    by Dan Feldman


    Laser, I’m just spitballing, but what about something like Prince or Hamilton for Boozer and a contract extension at the trade deadline? Or a sign and trade for Boozer in the summer?

  • Oct 15, 20104:40 pm
    by Alan


    @ Nuetes
    Dumars will never let us know the intentions behind the Billups salary dump but I think you and I are in agreement he probably had Boozer in mind.  I think Dumars’ next couple of moves will determine whether hes successfully rebuilds on the fly.  Certainly, his 1st go around he was most succesful with trades and always seemed to bring Detroit out on top.  There were so many trades and they all improved the team, some a little, some a lot.  Lately, that’s not the been the case on both accounts.  There’s only been one stinkin’ trade and it hasn’t produced results.  I believe trades are the best way out of this situation.
    This may be a long season and the team likely won’t be what we’ve come to expect.  But Detroit has a lot of pieces to make for a good trading partner. 
    Expiring contract – Prince, Stuckey, Wilcox
    Scorers – Gordon, Rip, T-Mac, Villanueva
    Cheap/Young talent – Daye, Monroe, Bynum, upcoming 1st round pick (proj lottery)

  • Oct 15, 20104:45 pm
    by Alan


    One tack on…technically, Dumars did trade Dice.  #34 took a buy-out from Denver and re-signed with Detroit on the cheap.

  • Oct 15, 20107:10 pm
    by Laser


    @hayes: a pick that turns out to be good ABSOLUTELY negates the “fleeced” aspect. fleecing means getting something for nothing, and no matter how you slice it josh smith isn’t “nothing.” the whole “the pistons fleeced atlanta” bit is hogwash at best and propaganda at worst. picks have value. you might have an argument about a pick that doesn’t work out, but if the pick turns into a valuable player, no fleecing occurred. that’s crazy talk. it’s not “something for nothing” just because the pick didn’t instantly materialize into something, as picks literally cannot do that. for a comparison, we trade chris wilcox for a second rounder, he’s reasonably productive for the team who gets him, and the second rounder nets us a future all-star, WE DID NOT GET FLEECED. obviously it’s an extreme example, but picks have value and that value must be considered when evaluating trades. i don’t know how anyone could disagree.
    @feldman: i’m confused. what are you proposing here? are you saying joe could have done these things but ownership said no? there’s no way you can run a pistons blog and actually think we ever had a chance at boozer this summer. boozer would rather win games than play here. and ownership would have LOVED boozer. for tayshaun, probably. for rip, HELL YES. there is no amount of money ownership wouldn’t have committed to boozer if the $40 mil you owe rip is off the books. max contract, max years, and a $50 million signing bonus if it means rip’s atrocious contract is someone else’s problem and there’s a sufficient opening for gordon to earn his paycheck.
    both of these comments should have gone without saying. and on that subject:
    @alan: none of the guys you put in the scorers category would “make for a good trading partner.” gordon, rip and charlie are LIABILITIES as long as they’re on these ridiculous contracts (gordon’s the only one who could have a chance to earn his money, but not on the same team as rip. still he’s not a “value” at $11 mil). you just can’t divorce a player’s talent from his contract when you talk about value. and t-mac can’t even play in the preseason, after months of chatter about how good he feels and how healthy he is. right.
    we sure as hell better trade tay and stuck before the deadline. or i’m going to snap.

  • Oct 15, 20109:38 pm
    by detroitpcb


    sorry guys, but while Billips was definitely nicked up in the playoffs that last two years of his tenure in Detroit, his inability to stay in front of the opposing point guards, and even more importantly, his inability to get over the high trap on offense and either break the opposing team down or get the Pistons in their offensive sets, was the major reason Detroit exited both years.

    He had a nice first year in Denver but last year those same issues were showing up big. I think his future is at the two guard. And it looks like Joe chose to keep Rip knowing that one of the two had to go.

    @nuetes – yr right – i think Joe’s weakest aspect has been his handling of expiring deals.

  • Oct 16, 20102:38 am
    by nuetes


    Billups might have had his flaws, but if your really picking on him like he’s the reason when we are stuck with Stuckey I’m going to have some issues. Billups is 7000 times the PG Stuckey will ever be. The team just wasn’t good enough. There have been some very talented teams that won the championship lately. If the Pistons couldn’t hack it that certainly wasn’t one players fault. Denver might not have even made the playoffs the last two seasons without Billups. The guy is good.
    @ laser
    Dumars absolutely fleeced Atlanta. I’ll take a championship over the possibility of a championship anyday. Any team that makes a trade that results in a championship fleeced the other team. I don’t care if the other team acquired a superstar in the process. The championship outweighs everything. The Pistons won it all!!! It happened. There is no guarantee any other way. There is no guarantee Lebron will ever win one. He might have better odds now, but it’s certainly not written in stone. The Pistons championship however is written in stone. It can’t be taken away.

  • Oct 16, 20102:50 am
    by nuetes


    bit more – you can’t judge draft picks after the fact. there is no guarantee dumars drafts josh smith. none. you can’t say they traded josh smith for sheed because they didn’t. they traded a draft pick for sheed that happened to be josh smith. how many draft picks fail? the odds that atlanta even hit on that draft pick aren’t that good. teams have hit on 2nd rounders before, that doesn’t mean they had more value before the pick than after it.

  • Oct 16, 20103:41 am
    by Laser


    @nuetes: you may be thrilled to trade away the future for one championship and a handful of “close calls,” but i don’t feel the same. if i was a PART of the championship team, it would be the utmost thrill and accomplishment, but as someone who merely watched from a couch and rooted for the team, i’m not so sure. yes the championship was amazing, but it’s all been varying levels of disappointment, and we don’t have any semblance of a plan going forward. and this would be a significantly better team with josh smith added. they’d be exciting and have a good chance at a long stretch of winning basketball. given that the pistons have given me more grief than joy by a MILE lately, my priorities are a bit different. but when you’re on a long road to nowhere for no good reason, a championship six years ago loses some of its luster. maybe if sheed stuck to horry and got us two ‘ships. maybe.
    and i just disagree with the premise that we got sheed for “nothing” as it’s treated so often. i don’t know how you can refuse to assign any value whatsoever to a draft pick. and no matter how you slice it, that pick BECAME josh smith (regardless of woulda coulda shoudas), and smith would have been on the board in any case. you may be thrilled with one championship, but i’d rather have a consistently reasonably competitive team.

  • Oct 16, 20104:49 am
    by Jonathan


    Dumars has my respect and support.  Fickle revisionist journalists and fans blast a GM because he didn’t pick a 2nd round player who broke out four seasons later, and fawn over him when a firesale marquee pickup falls into his lap.
    Dumars?  He checks all the boxes in character and franchise branding/identity (very underrated).  He’s had more than his fair share of critically praised draft picks and signings.  He takes risks–which is very important–but risks that are calculated and within rational, even if they haven’t worked out with (1) under-performing consensus draft picks (Darko), (2) expiring all-league scorers whose skill fell of a cliff (Iverson), (3) signings who produced well below all predictions (Gordon, Villaneuva), and (4) becoming stranded with a wing logjam because a decent big man hasn’t become available.
    Even extending Rip and signing BG — probably Dumars’ least excusable move — by no means negates all his good work.  We still don’t know if (a) the initial plan was to extend Rip and parlay the expiring into a big man that no longer became available, so he settled on a plan of signing impact scorer BG in a weak free agency and trading Rip in a deal that didn’t eventuate, or (b) he always saw BG as a sixth man impact scorer who would naturally eat into Rip’s minutes as he aged.  I might be crazy, and maybe Rip would have been happy to settle for a lot less money, but I don’t think Dumars drastically overpaid to reward an underrated component of the ’00s team whose demise has been grossly exaggerated.
    Joe has one of the toughest jobs in drawing free agents to Detroit.  And I’d take a losing team made up of likeable, hardworking rotation players ANYDAY, over a good team with a rotten egg or five.  With the exception of AI, Dumars makes it his business to get guys that that you want to see play and succeed.
    With the rise of LeBron, Boston and Orlando, Dumars accepted that Detroit were no longer a top-tier conference team and needed to undertake the painful process of rebuilding.  This was becoming a much better Eastern Conference each year (come on, in the ’04 title year the 4th seed in the East was rookie Wade’s 42-40 Heat! — has everybody forgotten our Conference was D-League that year?!) and the Pistons were declining annually.
    If he’d manage to trade his way into an elite big man over the last eighteen months we wouldn’t be having this conversation, but we can’t accuse him of passing on one that was available.  As much as I hate this logjam on the wing — each who I like and want to see play serious starter minutes — you never know what might happen to another team with a decent, elite big man that forces them to trade him this season.

  • Oct 16, 20104:10 pm
    by Laser


    making excuses for dumars is sad and embarrassing.

  • Oct 16, 20104:49 pm
    by detroitpcb



    I love Billips, but if you want to pretend that his performances in the playoffs were not a major reason the Pistons got bounced – then we disagree.

    However you look at it, it was time to dismantle that team. Should Joe have gotten something for Dice & Sheed? Yes. Should he have traded Rip instead of Billips? Maybe. A backcourt of Stuckey & Billips doesn’t sound bad to me because Billips was strong enough to move over and defend opposing two’s. But it was time to deconstruct and nobody does that without a down year or two. Hell, when i lived in Boston they wanted to lynch Danny Ainge for the poor teams he put on the floor before he fleeced his buddy McHale for Garnett & signed Ray Allen. Now Ainge is “a great GM”? Let’s give Joe a chance. Once he finds the big man for the middle, this team is going to look a lot different and you are going to like a lot of the components much better.

    Gorat & Bass for CV & Wilcox

  • Oct 17, 20106:24 pm
    by Laser


    wtf does “giving joe a chance” constitute? smiling and waiting patiently for him to collect enough lottery picks to make us respectable again?? the guy couldn’t have been a worse GM for the past three seasons. “once he finds a big man for the middle…” ugh. you f*cking kidding me?? get a life. and stop proposing trades that would NEVER HAPPEN UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES IN ANY UNIVERSE. you may as well propose James & Bosh for CV & Wilcox, because it has the exact same chance of happening.

  • Oct 20, 20106:33 am
    by Dan Feldman


    Laser, I disagree. Boozer strikes me as a guy in it largely for the money. If Detroit had the cap room to offer more than the Bulls, I think Boozer would have been a Piston.

    And no, I don’t think ownership would have paid any price to land Boozer.

  • Oct 20, 201012:37 pm
    by Laser


    but they didn’t have the cap room. so why bring it up? the fact that he’s greedy has no bearing on my argument. we could not have had him. he had the chance to opt out and take a max contract from detroit last summer, but he decided not to. that seems like a decent indicator that he didn’t want to play here. and dumars could have waited it out a year and gone after boozer in the FA frenzy, but he didn’t. but the bottom line is that boozer was never an option for us. perhaps we could have rented him for no reason when his last contract was expiring, but not long term. no way, no how.
    also, forgive my hyperbole, but the collective bargaining agreement restricts how much any team can pay, so “any price” is strictly limited to a max contract for five years, and they absolutely would have given him that with enthusiasm.

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