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Pistons roundtable: Joe Dumars’ culpability for the state of the Pistons

PistonPowered’s annual roundtable is back for the third year, and I’m very excited to announce the panel:

I’ll post one topic per day until Friday. Let’s jump right to our first question.

How much blame does Joe Dumars deserve for the state of the Pistons?

Dave Hogg

I think Dumars has to take most of the blame. I know the ownership situation has tied his hands in terms of fixing the roster, but he put the roster together in the first place. The 2004 championship nucleus needed to change, but trading Billups destroyed the group’s chemistry, and Dumars wrecked the cap situation with the bizarre extension for Hamilton and the signings of Gordon and
Villanueva. Without those moves, he wouldn’t have been in the position of trying to give away a first-round pick just to get Hamilton off the roster.

He’s also the one that put together this year’s oddball roster, which has enough wings to satisfy Buffalo, but no point guard and a group of undersized post players. And, of course, he hired Michael Curry, fired Michael Curry, announced he needed a coach with experience and then hired John Kuester. I’m telling you right now, that was not a phenomenal move.

Dumars is one of the league’s better GMs at finding value outside of the lottery – San Antonio might be the only team with a better record – and I don’t think anyone is complaining about Greg Monroe. That skill has let him put together a young group that might be the nucleus of the next good roster, but he’s going to have to get them a respected coach and a balanced roster.

Dave Pemberton

Dumars certainly has his share of blame. Free agents acquisitions Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva have been huge disappointments, the Richard Hamilton extension was ill-advised and the hiring of John Kuester has been a failure. The difference between now and the past is Dumars doesn’t have the power to correct those mistakes. The ownership situation has left his hands tied. The Pistons have not made a trade since July 3, 2009, by far the longest current stretch in the NBA. Standing pat has never been Dumars’ style, especially with the current mess going on. He certainly deserves some of the blame, but shouldn’t be judged by what has transpired since the team went for sale.

Jamie Samuelsen

If you have to create a list of the people most responsible for this mess, Joe would be on top. It’s his roster and it’s his culture. Sure, his hands have been tied since Karen Davidson put the Pistons up for sale last year. But that doesn’t excuse the ridiculously big contracts he gave to Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. And it doesn’t excuse some of the draft picks that have left the Pistons woefully thin down low.

But the culture is the larger issue with this team. It’s a players’ league, and the players are always going to have more power than coaches. But that usually works for established stars, not young players without a track record in this league. I don’t care if John Kuester is the worst coach in NBA history – he’s still the coach. And because no coach has ever been given any power (or long term contract) here in Detroit, you have a scenario where guys can just rebel against the coach, refuse to listen to him, yell at him in practice and boycott shoot-arounds. Veterans like Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Tracy McGrady should be embarrassed for their role in all this. But ultimately, the Pistons (led by Dumars) let them feel this way by constantly pushing aside coaches who didn’t meet the players’ approval.

Justin Rogers

There’s no way to assign a percentage of blame, but Dumars certainly deserves a fair share.  He’s undoubtedly had restrictions with the ownership situation, but his decisions to trade Chauncey Billups, re-sign Hamilton, sign Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva and hire John Kuester have all fallen flat. 

On the other hand, Dumars has done well in the draft. He has gotten solid value in Stuckey, Daye, Jerebko and Monroe.  He also hit with Afflalo, but unfortunately traded him away to sign Gordon. Questioning that decision is hindsight at its finest.

Perhaps the worst thing that’s happened was how public Richard Hamilton and John Kuester’s feud became.  I respect Dumars for trying to keep organizational conflicts in house, but it reached a point where it has become a lose-lose situation.  He couldn’t fire the coach because it would validate Hamilton and the other players’ behavior, and it’s felt pretty clear for some time that the players aren’t willing to play their hardest as long as Kuester is manning the ship.

Good general managers miss, and sometimes they miss badly.  Dumars track record should afford him the opportunity to fix this organization. But if the Pistons are still floundering in two years, they have to go in a different direction.

Mike Payne

How much blame?  All of it.  I imagine some of my colleagues will point to the ownership situation and its restriction of Joe’s trade flexibility.  Sure, a new owner and a new budget could have given Joe the flexibility to make trades – but these would have served only to fix Joe’s mistakes long before adding any real value.  Joe made this mess, but people are quick to blame ownership for not giving him a mop.

This season, fans and the media alike have often pointed their fingers at Karen Davidson for the Pistons woes.  Last season, injuries were blamed.  The season before that, it was Michael Curry and the dreaded Allen Iverson.  Before that, it was all Flip’s fault.  Joe created this culture, he designed this roster and he hired this coaching staff.  The result is a team with one of the darkest futures in the league, one fraught with ugly contracts, extra-positional under-performers and one saving grace – Greg Monroe.  It is difficult even to argue that Cleveland has it worse, as they have a much better salary profile and the best chance at a No. 1 pick this summer.  Personally, I’ll be happy when this team sells.  I’ll be happier when a new GM is running the show.

Brian Packey

He should shoulder at least 85 percent of the blame. The last bag is probably a mix between the players and coach(es) not performing and the sale of the team (handcuffing Dumars, bringing negative energy, etc.) Dumars hired the coach(es), he signed/traded for the players and, as a result, he has to be held predominantly responsible for the team’s not-very-fun fall from grace, the same way he was praised for the team he built that went on to six straight Eastern Conference Finals and won a title.

Those glory years spoiled many fans into hasty denigration of one of the franchise’s most storied names. However, there’s no denying that Dumars has been really bad at his job the past few years. A sale of the team might be a perfect opportunity for ownership to go with a fresh name under the GM title, and should that happen, I’ll support it 100-percent.

Kevin Sawyer

Essentially, he owns all of it. GMs are off the hook when they are cleaning up messes left by the prior regime.  They are generally given a pass when major injuries happen, or players bring guns to card games. You can make a case when free agent signings and draft picks drastically under-perform reasonable expectations.

Detroit’s predicament is the product of three crucial decisions. The first was to trade Chauncey Billups and Antonio McDyess for Allen Iverson, the second to sign Rip Hamiton to an extension, and the third to sign Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva with the money freed up by the Billups trade. In essence, he traded Chauncey Billups (the team’s best player) and Antonio McDyess (arguably the team’s second best player) and an expiring contract for Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.

Dumars has always been an excellent businessman, but a middling (at best) evaluator of talent. He had the team in a position to rebuild while contending, and he blew it by inexcusably underestimating Chauncey’s abilities.

Consider that he has had a dose of good fortune. Ben Wallace returned to play for the veteran’s minimum. Jonas Jerebko was a revelation. Will Bynum re-signed at an affordable rate. Greg Monroe has exceeded even the most generous expectations.

This is on Joe.

Natalie Sitto

He deserves some but not all the blame. He gets somewhat of a pass because he truly hasn’t been able to do his job with the ownership issues and the pending sale of the team.

He was the man who hired John Kuester and Michael Curry, he was the man who stacked the team with guards, he was the who that didn’t get a quality big man in the offseason to help on the defensive end, he was the man who spent all that money on Ben Gordon and Charlie V, he was the man who saddled the team with contracts that are difficult to move.  He was the man who let the Rip/Kuester thing fester into the mutiny. Most importantly he was the man who traded Chauncey Billups, the move that made all the dominos fall in Detroit.

Ben Gulker

Much more than he’s received. Losing breeds dysfunction, and Joe Dumars has assembled a losing roster. Thus, the majority of the responsibility for the current state of the Pistons is Dumars’.

Last summer I argued that the disappointing 2009-2010 campaign can’t really be blamed on injuries. At the beginning of this season, I argued that the best-case scenario for this team would still mean a losing season. I’ve also argued that shuffling the rotation won’t change that very much because key rotation pieces like Gordon and Villanueva simply aren’t that productive.

In my view, this group of players just don’t do enough of what it takes to win, so we shouldn’t be surprised that the Pistons keep losing, and we shouldn’t be surprised that the players aren’t happy. I think it’s more than fair to hold the architect of such a roster accountable for his handiwork.

Maybe he can’t overhaul the roster because his hands are tied by the ownership situation. Then again, maybe not. I’m not sure the fans will ever know with certainty. What we do know, however, is that Dumars assembled this roster before ownership was a concern. Excusing him for not being able to clean up his own mess isn’t a very convincing argument to me.

Steve Kays

Joe Dumars probably deserves less blame than he’s receiving. Obviously he’s made some mistakes: undervaluing Chauncey Billups, overvaluing Rodney Stuckey, extending Rip Hamilton, signing Ben Gordon, dumping Arron Afflalo, hiring inexperienced coaches, and so on.

But some things have been beyond his control: late owner Bill Davidson passing away, which threw the franchise into chaos, both Tayshaun Prince and Hamilton getting injured, and Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva severely underperforming as Pistons.

The real question is how much has the pending sale of the team crippled his ability to run the team. We just don’t know the degree to which Dumars’ hands are tied. It’s surely a factor since management hasn’t made a trade since July 2009 (the longest stretch in the league by far).

There is no doubt that Dumars deserves a lot of blame. After all, he’s the one who traded Billups to sign Gordon and Villanueva. His questionable decisions combined with the sale of the team are the main reasons why the Pistons are slated to win less than 30 games again.

Jakob Eich

I have learned to start with a positive, so let me start like this, I think Joe Dumars is a great GM, and he is the right man for the job. He struck out a couple of times recently (Villanueva’s and Gordon’s contracts), but I think he can still hit a home run. His hands are tied due to the ownership situation, so you need to give him some time to clean up the mess he created. He has shown great capabilities of turning bad decisions into good ones (Darko into Stuckey), and I expect it from him again.

I think a lot of the blame is undeserved. Nobody expected Villanueva and Gordon to underperform by this much. When they signed, they were slightly overpaid. Now, they’re significantly overpaid.

I only really blame him for getting a defensive-minded coach and putting together an offensive-minded team. In most cases, it doesn’t pay off, and the Pistons are most cases.

Detroit had a great decade basketball-wise, and Dumars deserves a lot of credit for that! We need to give him time and be loyal. He’ll figure it out!

Dan Feldman

Too many rush to assign blame to a person whenever something goes wrong. Every problem needs a face, it seems. I think that’s a flawed way of looking at things.

That said, of the individuals involved in the Pistons’ decline, Dumars deserves the most blame.

Trading Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson, extending Richard Hamilton and signing Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva were huge mistakes. You can point to Dumars’ incredible work in building the contending teams all you want – and I’ll do that shortly – but many (not all) of his recent moves have totally flopped.

Still, I’m not sure those mistakes outweigh the situational factors Dumars has been dealing with. Years of contending meant sticking with an aging roster  (rightly so) and landing low draft picks. Injuries hindered Dumars’ ability to evaluate key players last season. Bill Davidson’s death and Karen Davidson’s ongoing sale of the team has almost completely limited Dumars.*

*I think he can make trades that 1. don’t and short-term salary and 2. don’t add long-term salary. Find a viable trade that meets 1 and 2 and improves the Pistons’ on-court outlook before criticizing Dumars.

Those external factors have robbed Dumars of one his greatest strengths: an ability to swiftly recognize and correct mistakes. Anyone who has run a team as long as Dumars has will make plenty of mistakes. Of course, some GMs will make more mistakes than others.

But I don’t think avoiding mistakes is the key to thriving in that job. I think the key is fixing your mistakes, not compounding them.

Dumars, in assembling a team that competed for six years, proved he can fix his mistakes. He’s made plenty of them lately, but he deserves a chance to fix them.

If he can’t, then we should pile on. But he hasn’t even gotten that chance yet.

Patrick Hayes

I go back and forth on this. Personnel-wise, signing Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, as well as extending Rip Hamilton, have all been terrible moves that were his idea. Giving up Arron Afflalo and Amir Johnson for cost savings to facilitate those signings were terrible moves that were his idea. And you could make strong cases that he could’ve picked better players in the draft at the spots he took Austin Daye and DaJuan Summers. The blame for all of those moves start and end with him.

I’m less hard on him for coaching hires. John Kuester and Michael Curry made some sense as candidates considering Dumars didn’t have a huge budget to spend on a coach. They’ve both turned out to be doofuses, but look around the NBA. It’s not uncommon to have coaches who are in over their heads.

There are well-reasoned arguments that Dumars’ rebuilding plan hasn’t had the chance to come to fruition because, with the team for sale, he’s been unable to make the roster moves he feels are necessary to complete whatever his vision was when this thing started. But then part of me thinks that any vision that includes Gordon and Villanueva as two of your highest paid players probably doesn’t deserve the chance to be completed.

His "good" moves of late, meanwhile, have been of the lucky variety. His two best signings were end of the line veteran players in Tracy McGrady and Ben Wallace, who btoh had more left in the tank than anyone could’ve reasonably expected. His best draft picks were an unknown guy who was much better than anyone, even the team, anticipated in Jonas Jerebko and a player in Greg Monroe who was one of the three best players in this draft yet inexplicably dropped all the way to the seventh pick because the NBA is a league that is no stranger to stupid GMs.

So my answer is, he deserves a lot of blame. Roughly, all of it. I think he’s an intelligent man, I think there are far worse GMs in the league than him and he has a championship ring. Those things are probably enough to buy him another year or two on the job, depending on how long it takes to get the sale of the team finalized, but the days of crediting Dumars as some type of visionary GM and the standard by which former players turned executives are measured are long gone.

I’d like this roundtable to include you, too. I’m looking forward to reading everyone’s answer to the question in the comments.


  • Mar 14, 20115:01 pm
    by Laser


    i’ve been lurking lately, so i’ll chime in here. objectively, the right answer is “roughly all of it.” no room for discussion there, really. anyone who says otherwise is being a dumars apologist. the mess-and-mop analogy is pretty much perfect. no matter how much his hands are tied (and i don’t think they’re tied too much to have done SOMETHING to improve the team’s outlook, but he was dead-set on trading rip or bust… and that worked out predictably), the bottom line is that he put this team together all on his own, and it had NO chance of succeeding on any level. you can’t get “caught with your pants down” if you never take them down in the first place.
    a few additional points:
    1) several people who were more familiar with CV’s career than i was made a big stink about that signing the second it happened. plenty of people called it, but i still think he’s capable of performing reasonably in line with the contract, even if it’s not probable. BG, on the other hand, was a foreseeably bad signing. very bad, even. no reasonable person could expect stuckey, hamilton and gordon to thrive on the same roster. the result is that their values plummet, and since you’re married to the only one you didn’t make an ASTONISHING financial commitment to, you’re sunk. absolutely sunk. and it was entirely predictable.
    2) rebuilding while staying competitive should not be difficult. it just rarely happens, because rarely does a competitive team suddenly decide to rebuild. joe had myriad options over the course of the 08-09 season with all his all-stars, young talent, reasonable salary structure. his flexibility was basically unlimited. he just made every wrong move there was to make.
    3) mike payne has it 100% right about how bleak the future is. i read a recent game recap (i think the last one) where hayes said he couldn’t wait for this season to be over, but what exactly do we expect to see next season? even if new ownership takes over before the summer (a COLOSSAL “if”), the team’s near future is absolutely crippled. what roster moves does an optimist foresee? the tax for unloading rip appears to be a future first-rounder (and that’s going to be a DAMN juicy pick, too. i promise you that), and for what? the “luxury” of a stuckey-BG backcourt?? that backcourt is its own tax!! if you can unload max or CV or BG at all, you’re certainly not going to get anything worthwhile in return. no free agent worth a damn would sign here for the MLE. this team went from a world championship in 04, four all-stars in 06, unlimited flexibility in 08 to the absolute bleakest future in the league. we’re rebuilding through the draft until these contracts come off the books, and we don’t even figure to get any spectacular picks either, because for all its dysfunction, this team has too much individual talent to land a pick that could turn the franchise around.
    do i sound like a broken record? i probably do. this is probably why i don’t talk about the pistons with people anymore…

    • Mar 14, 20117:13 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      Good to have you back, the roundtable format is perfect for your long-form.

      As for my “hayes said he couldn’t wait for this season to be over” comment, yeah, I wrote that. But it has less to do with me believing there is a quick fix to this team and more to do with wishing to write about something other than 30-point blowout losses. I’d much rather write about the draft or summer league or potential trades or really anything other than a team obviously playing out the string in the regular season.

      • Mar 14, 20118:07 pm
        by Laser


        i feel ya’ in terms of having something else to write about for a few months, but i don’t see how any of that stuff is going to be more than a brief diversion. the draft will be the lone highlight of (and a very poor reward for) the year for the next few loooong and excruciating seasons, and it’ll likely be the only thing i pay any attention to. beyond that, summer league and dream trade scenarios that will never happen are just distractions. but once that season kicks off, i don’t see how it’s not just more of the same. take it from the one guy who knew exactly how bad this season was. it’s going to take a special kind of masochist to follow this team in the near future.

  • Mar 14, 20115:44 pm
    by Brian P


    I do not view the trade of Chauncey Billups as a mistake as much as it was a gamble. While the player portion of it failed, it created significant cap space for the Pistons. And that is where Joe D got it all wrong. Signing Charlie V might have made sense if you were saving the rest of your cash for something worthwhile – say, a big man who can rebound, play defense, protect the rim, or some combination thereof – but wasting it on Ben Gordon was a monumental screwup. Overpaying for an undersized shooting guard when you are already paying big bucks for another shooting guard simply defies logic.I understood the loyalty of giving Richard Hamilton an extension, but the four years did not look smart then and really looks terrible now. Even if Rodney Stuckey one day develops into an average point guard, I don’t think Joe D considered the obvious mismatch of Stuckey and Rip.
    Bottom line, the roster looked terrible the day that BG and CV were signed; Joe D is 100% responsible for this mess.

    • Mar 14, 20117:17 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      Yeah, I agree with your comment on the Billups trade. Trading him for cap space wasn’t the worst idea. But if he paid any attention to advanced stats, the Gordon/Villanueva signings both had major, major red flags.

  • Mar 14, 20115:53 pm
    by Tim


    The one move that Joe D gets way too much flak for was the trading of Billups. Sure, it didn’t pan out well. But it was a really smart move that had great potential to fix the franchise. At the time, it could be reasonably expected to upgrade the talent of the roster and decrease the fit. Not a slam dunk, but a low risk move to potentially jar the team in either direction. It was low risk because Iverson was an expiring deal and he was going to have cap space if AI didn’t turn out well. As the Pistons were still contenders, he should have waited and tried to trade the future for the present (send out stuckey and some subset of afflalo, amir, and maxiell for someone who could help right away–like a gerald wallace type). But the Billups deal wasn’t a terrible move.
    But then, he did the stupidest of his moves. He extended Rip. It wasn’t necessarily a terrible idea, but he wasted all his leverage. If he could have had Rip for $8M/yr, we would be regretting it today, but it would have been smart then. No, he gave Rip $12.5M/yr. That was slightly above Rip’s value at the time, when the only way Hamilton could be expected to change was for the worse and it destroyed the flexibility that was the beauty of the Billups trade. Sure, Joe didn’t know players like Boozer wouldn’t be free agents in the summer, but he also didn’t yet know how AI would pan out. Logic would dictate that he at least see if maybe AI would be better to go forward with than Rip. Also, since Rip wasn’t yet going to be a free agent, it’s not like Joe had to be in any hurry to lock him up. With aging players, you might as well wait and see if their values will decline before offering an extension. It’s all about using leverage. But Joe is terrible about that and bids against himself.
    Free agency ’09 hit. Almost no one had cap space. Most of those who did weren’t looking to use it. And Joe D again bid against himself to lock people up right away. Let them sit a little while. The longer a player goes unsigned, the more his asking price must fall. Furthermore, he didn’t even look to address Detroit’s greatest area of weakness. He never went after Millsap or Lee. We now know that Utah would have matched anything he probably would have offered Millsap anyway, but it was worth a try. Keith Langlois loves to say that New York would have matched any reasonable offer to Lee, but NY was saving for summer of 2010. It’s impossible to say what would have happened if Joe D had offered Lee $9-11M/yr but it would have at least been worth a try. It was the league’s worst kept secret that Chicago still wanted BG but that their ideas of a fair contract were very distant. Joe could have used that. If he was deadset on having Gordon, he could have offered him $2M less per year and it still probably would have been the best offer out there. Finally, he could have sat on his cap space. Again, Langlois often attacked that view of fans saying that a lot of the space would disappear before summer of 2010 anyway. But he didn’t have to save it for the summer. He could save it for during the year when all sorts of teams were willing to give away talent and potential to clear up some space.
    Dumars likes to say that he just tries to stockpile assets and then see what can be done with them going forward. I agree with that method. But he has been an idiot about it. Players are only assets if they are being paid less than they are worth. If they are paid more than they are worth, they become millstones. If he was really committed to “stockpiling assets,” he wouldn’t offer players what he thinks they are worth. He would only give a player a contract if he can leverage the market to get a bargain. That was possible in 2009, but he blew it.
    As for what is often cited as Dumars’ best quality, his drafting record, it’s decent but not great. He has gotten decent role players later than where they are typically available. But role players are available in free agency. It is common knowledge that if you can trade a half dozen role players for a superstar, you do it. And Dumars blew his chance at a superstar in 2003. Maybe most of the other GMs in the league would have done the same, but if you count his flukishly good picks for him, you have to count his flukishly bad picks against him. And the Milicic pick hurts more than the combination of the Stuckey, Afflalo, Johnson, Maxiell, Daye, Jerebko, and even Monroe picks help. Especially given that he proceeded to overvalue Stuckey and Maxiell and undervalue Johnson and Afflalo. We have yet to see if he can judge Daye, Jerebko, and Monroe well.
    Not everything is Dumars’ fault. Villanueva and Gordon could certainly have been expected to play better, same for Hamilton actually. But those would still all have been stupid signings, just a little less so. Maybe if he had more free rein, he could have fixed some of the problems. But even if Davidson had never died, the best future upside we could be looking at right now would be comparable to Sacramento’s. It would be a lot better, but still an astounding drop from where we could be if Joe D had just made smart moves. As soon as their is new ownership, I hope they fire Joe. It would reflect his poor work of late and it would allow Kuester to be fired without sending the message to the players that they have all the power. It would instead be saying, this guy was a poor hire to begin with. He and the person responsible for putting together this terrible roster are gone. But it won’t say that players didn’t like the coach so they misbehaved so he is gone.

    • Mar 15, 201110:12 am
      by brgulker


      I’m not sure if any other GM in the NBA would agree that dumping your best player for cap space is ever a smart or savvy move. It was boneheaded, and everyone is now reaping the consequences (except New York, which now has a stellar veteran PG).

      • Mar 15, 201111:26 am
        by Tim


        People say retrospectively that Billups was the Pistons’ best player. But at the time, if you asked around, you would probably get about 25% each way between Billups, Rip, Prince and Sheed. And it wasn’t a cap space dump. It was a swap for a player who probably would have been considered more skilled by at least 50% of GMs, albeit, as I mentioned, a worse fit. The cap space dump portion of the deal was just an escape option in case AI didn’t pan out in Detroit. At the time, I would have given that move at least a 30% chance of improving the team. There were those who criticized the move at the time, but not a ton of people. There has just been a lot of hindsight criticism.
        Moves like that don’t bother me too much. What gets to me are the boneheaded moves that everyone recognizes immediately as such and make us all wonder what the heck this man is thinking.

      • Mar 15, 20118:12 pm
        by DannyB


        IMO – Billups has not been stellar in his time in NY
        He has averaged more points in 5 games than he has at any other stop in his career for a full season AND he’s shooting 37% from the field.  His points are coming from the line which is more of a benefit of D’Antoni’s offense than it is Billups ability to create off the dribble.  10 of his 20 points a night in NY are from the line.  Even though his TS% are in line with his career number, I’d say for Billups to continue at this pace he’s not going to improve his field goal %
        JoD getting rid of Billups was bad for the team because it lead to the acquisitions of CV and BG.  Who knows if keeping Billups would’ve allowed the team to acquire Greg Monroe in the draft either?
        I personally blame JoD for re-signing Hamilton to his extension (although I have never respected Hamilton’s game), but I don’t blame JoD for signing CV because he was a young “big” who had just come off a season where his numbers were the highest they had previously been.  I’m not a fan of BG either, never have been – it’s a shame he hasn’t at least scored in spurts like he showed in CHI.  At least then he’d have some trade value…

  • Mar 14, 20116:00 pm
    by JoshB


    I would have to put the large majority of the blame with Dumars, but I have to put some with ownership also. Going back to when Mr Davidson was still alive, it was alluded to more than once that he had a lot of influence in the coaching carousel that this team has had for a long time now, so I don’t give Dumars all the blame for that culture being created. The roster however is all his. His signings have severely underperformed expectations, and even if they were playing at a higher level there is no real balance to this roster. We have guys who have contracts that say they’re centerpieces, but at their best they’re nothing more than complimentary pieces. Unlike a few of you, I don’t have such a bleak outlook on the future, because I’ve been watching this league long enough to know that some of the most ridiculous deals get done on a regular basis, but this mess right now is Dumars. Debating whether or not he had the ability to clean it up has nothing to do with saying how much ownership of this he deserves

  • Mar 14, 20116:16 pm
    by Keith


    I think there is one huge factor that everyone seems to have missed with regards to the Pistons.
    The year that Joe extended Hamilton he had a deal in place to swap Hamilton for Boozer and that deal got dumped on by Karen when she decided to sell the team.
    If that deal goes through the Pistons have an inside presence in Boozer and a great outside shooter in Gordon.
    That is the non deal that completely shattered this team and we ended up with this guard heavy no inside presence team.
    One missed deal and it all fell to pieces.
    Consider how the team would look now if that deal had gone down.

    • Mar 14, 20118:41 pm
      by dandresden


      sorry langlois, he doesnt get credit for moves he didnt pull off.

      • Mar 15, 201112:25 am
        by Laser


        yes, and btw i never once heard anything credible that this deal was ever actually going to happen. i thought it was an unsubstantiated rumor, and i can’t imagine why utah would do this in a million years.

        • Mar 15, 20117:11 am
          by Tim


          Well at the time, the perceived talent gap between Boozer and Hamilton was not nearly so great. And much of it was mitigated by Boozer’s injury history.

          • Mar 15, 20111:32 pm
            by Laser

            talent gap or not, rarely does a team trade size away. and when they do, it’s rarely for a worse player, even if the talent gap is small. even if utah knew boozer was going to walk and wanted to get something for him, picking up rip hamilton with 4-5 years at $12 million each wasn’t going to be it. no way, no how. utah’s a notoriously stingy team. i’m not buying it. i remember this idea getting floated around, but i don’t think it was ever close to happening.

          • Mar 15, 20111:33 pm
            by Laser

            talent gap or not, rarely does a team trade size away. and when they do, it’s rarely for a worse player, even if the talent gap is small. even if utah knew boozer was going to walk and wanted to get something for him, picking up rip hamilton with 4-5 years at $12 million each wasn’t going to be it. no way, no how. utah’s a notoriously stingy team. i’m not buying it. i remember this idea getting floated around, but i don’t think it was ever close to happening.

        • Mar 15, 20118:16 pm
          by DannyB


          RE: @Laser
          Rarely does a team trade size away?
          Rasheed Wallace for Rod Strickland
          Chris Webber for Mitch Richmond
          The Wizards wouldn’t have the problems they have today had they kept both around through their primes.
          Other than these 2 occurrences, you’re right.

  • Mar 14, 20116:21 pm
    by Crow


    Oh, what a lod of crap.
    This is like asking backseat drivers anonymous if they coulda come up with a better route.
    Sure Joe Dumars is “responsible” for a coupla down years, like Newton is resposible for gravity. But he damn sure is “responsible” for three championships, and over the last ten years he has outperformed, like, 80% of his peers.

    • Mar 14, 20117:22 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      Bravo, sir.

      So, are you saying that Dumars gets credit for titles he won as a player on his GM resumé? Or maybe you are giving him credit for the Shock’s titles? Not clear how you are coming up with three.

      I can appreciate disagreement for sure. More intelligent people than you have made better arguments in favor of Dumars. But to suggest that signing guys like Gordon and Villanueva long term wasn’t an avoidable move, well, there’s plenty that’s been written out there questioning those signings from the moment they arrived in Detroit, so it’s not so much “backseat driving” as “I told you so.”

      This is the grownup table. If you have something to add to the discussion, try using relevant data, examples or analysis, like every writer who participated in the post did and every commenter who commented above you did.

      • Mar 14, 20118:23 pm
        by Laser


        not to mention that it’s not like people are exactly “monday morning quarterbacking” on dumars’s moves the last three years. every single move he made in that stretch was heavily criticized at the time, and none of them ever made much sense on any level. this joker is a great example why i have such disdain for dumars apologists. it would be nearly impossible for anyone to turn what dumars had in 2008 into less.
        also, when you honestly try to evaluate a GM’s performance, you should look at where he started, where he is now, and what he accomplished in the meantime. in dumars’s case, he outperformed absolutely every one of his peers for about four years en route to a championship and a perennial contender for half a decade. then he underperformed absolutely every one of his peers for the last three years running en route to guaranteed perennial mediocrity. to me that’s basically a push. if you want to give the guy credit for his accomplishments, you ought to give him blame for where he screwed up. people just love to clap the guy on the back for turning a rubbish into gold, but it would be hard to argue that the team is in better shape now than when joe took the job. i’m thinking maybe it’s in “much” worse shape.

        • Mar 14, 20118:44 pm
          by Patrick Hayes


          They easily have more young talent now in Monroe, Daye, Jerebko and (to a lesser extent) Stuckey, than the team that he inherited had, but this team is absolutely in worse shape cap-wise than the team he took over.

          • Mar 15, 201112:28 am
            by Laser

            yeah i’m talking overall shape. we’ve got young talent, but unspectacular young talent isn’t enough to save every other aspect of the team’s situation. cleveland’s got a more reasonable salary structure and a great chance at a top pick… plus they’ve got an excuse for their situation. toronto’s got a good cap structure and an excuse.

        • Mar 15, 20115:44 am
          by Jakob Eich


          I agree with Laser on this one. Since 2008 Dumars has made bad decisions. He’s known as a high-risk GM, but he should take the save route for a couple of seasons and get the salary structure going again. Make a few trades and moves for salary cap relief and then see what to do with the assets. I don’t think this year’s draft offers much and Detroit needs a cornerstone player, not another complimentary piece. I fell in love with Monroe’s game in college, but I was afraid he would turn into Roy Hibbert. A lot of Dumars’ moves were influenced by his loyalty towards the old players on the ’04 team. If he didn’t feel compelled to re-sign Rip, we would have more cap space. You are right, it was a horrible extension at that price. He could’ve said “Rip, now you are worth $11 mio/year. In three years you are worth $5 mio, let’s meet somewhere in the middle.” I’m not a Dumars apologist, I see the mess and I hate to see it. Nowadays people call for the GMs and coaches head in an instance. If he doesn’t improve the roster the next couple of years, he should leave the team.

    • Mar 15, 20117:18 am
      by Tim


      How has no one commented on how ridiculous the Newton comparison is? Newton in no way made gravity, he just put forth a theory as to how it worked. Joe D did make this team. Patrick Hayes, Dan Feldman, Keith Langlois, George Blaha and a bunch of other writers whose names I don’t know have a comparable amount of responsibility for the Pistons’ mess as Newton has for gravity. Not to bash on Newton, though. He was a genius–just not the creator of gravity.

      • Mar 15, 20119:27 am
        by Patrick Hayes


        Haha. You’re right, glad you addressed that.

      • Mar 15, 201110:13 am
        by brgulker


        I found it so ridiculous I wasn’t sure a response was worth the time.

        • Mar 15, 20111:36 pm
          by Laser


          ditto. it was hard to miss, and didn’t warrant a response.

  • Mar 14, 20118:31 pm
    by gmehl1977


    I agree with most that Joe is 100% responsible BUT i still think he can fix it. I know it is hindsight but what Joe should of done was kept Afflalo to play behind Rip, signed CV and then went after David Lee or Boozer. The only problem with this is we would of made the playoffs last year and not got Monroe. I think Joe has gone backwards of late and i am hoping/praying that once the team is sold he can right this ship. If he doesn’t show steady progress once the team is sold then ownership will have no choice but to cut him loose. Steady progress to me would be what Feldman mentioned about cutting back long term salary by getting rid of the deadwood on this team. This can’t happen overnight which is why i mentioned the word steady. Off loading guys like Maxiell, Gordon and even CV for bargain buys is a must even it admits that the Billups money he shelled out were mistakes.
    I think Joe should stay to fix the mess he created. No one knows the mistakes better than him and i am sure he is itching to right some wrongs.

    • Mar 14, 20118:43 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      Well, Lee isn’t looking like a bargain in Golden State these days. They’ve complained about his lack of defense, and if you can’t play enough defense to satisfy GS fans, you’re certainly not gonna satisfy Detroit fans.

      • Mar 14, 201110:44 pm
        by gmehl1977


        Lee still would of fit better than Gordon.

        • Mar 15, 20111:43 pm
          by Laser


          agreed. better than charlie, too. and he filled a position of need. there’s no way he’d be more of a defensive liability than BG and CV, and he’d at least be a legitimate post scoring threat. easily worth putting in an offer sheet. at the VERY least, his value wasn’t going to PLUMMET in our system. the same can’t be said for BG, who was one of the top free agents in that (admittedly weak) class but has virtually no value on this roster.
          and what a fun unintended consequence it would have been to strike out going after unrestricted free agents and let gordon and charlie get away!

      • Mar 15, 201110:15 am
        by brgulker


        I think it’s pretty hard to assess David Lee right now. He’s been playing with one of the most disgusting injuries I’ve ever seen in basketball, and it’s clearly hampered him all season long. Give him through 40 games healthy next season, IMHO.
        And yes, even an injured Lee > Gordon or CV (or both put together). A Lee + Monroe frontcourt wouldn’t be a defensive powerhouse, to be sure, but we would dominate the glass, and we’d have two very versatile big men on the offensive end. Playoffs in the East would almost be a given with that frontcourt.

        • Mar 15, 20118:19 pm
          by DannyB


          how would a Lee + Monroe frontcourt even exist?
          Had Detroit acquired Lee – they likely wouldn’t have needed to take Monroe OR… wait for it…
          there wouldn’t be many rebound opportunities because the opponents would have a free lane to the rim, IMHO (my humble opinion)

  • Mar 14, 20119:54 pm
    by rick


    Mike Payne’s analysis sums up my take on this perfectly. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    In a nutshell, the Pistons are in the worst position of any team in the league because Joe isnt allowed to correct problems that he created.  So how could it be anyone else fault but Joe?

  • Mar 15, 201112:49 am
    by neutes


    110% on Dumars. He assembled garbage and hired garbage to coach it. A moron can win 50 games with a talented roster. Look at Spoelstra. I don’t blame Kuester at all even though I just called him garbage. Phil Jackson couldn’t coach this team to an above .500 record even if Larry Brown and Red Auerbach were his assistants. I can’t blame ownership because yeah Dumars tried to trade Rip. He turned down an offer for Tay. But that’s not even close to the big picture issue with this team. Rip and Tay are scapegoats for the horrendous CV and Gordon deals that have the potential to cripple this thing for far longer than Rip and Tay will be around. For me to start backing Dumars again he has to start doing what he has done before and that is correcting his mistakes. Making a mistake sure. I can blame him, but it happens. It’s time to cut loose these unproductive scrubs and move on. Call it what it is already. It’s a mess. Clean it up.
    Instead no. Gordon and CV are part of the future along with a much richer but still the same average Stuckey. Heck if it was up to Dumars Mcgrady and Big Ben would play until they are 50 and Tay would sign a new 10 year deal. All fine and dandy, just get rid of the players wasting cap space and try to use those resources on productive players. If not and if Dumars has this vision of some defenseless team then at least hire a coach that will let the players play up-tempo so we can get some empty wins even though it will never produce a championship. Here’s a start. Figure out what kind of basketball you want to play, then bring in players that play it, then a coach that coaches it. It’s like he decided he wanted to bring in scorers, but forgot to change the coaching style to fit the players strengths. Or maybe he actually wanted to stay with half-court slow tempo defensive ball, but had no clue that defense is not as coachable as everyone seems to think it is. I have no idea which one of those scenarios is worse.

    • Mar 15, 20115:51 am
      by Jakob Eich


      I assume when he signed Gordon he planned on trading Hamilton away the same season. At some point he realized Hamilton’s contract was so bad that nobody wanted him anymore. I could see why he wanted CV and Gordon, a lot of people thought (including me) CV had a lot of upside in a FUNCTIONING TEAM! There are players who can lift the team up on their own (KB24, KG, LBJ) and there are players who can only be effective on an already functioning team (Artest, Gordon). Gordon can’t score as efficiently when he is the best offensive player on the squad and Villanueva can’t score either whenever he is the biggest thread. They are complimentary pieces! When Detroit signed Gordon I though he could become a player like Vinnie Johnson back in the day. As I said, I only really blame Dumars for putting a soft roster like this. The other moves weren’t thoroughly thought through, he can fix this.

      • Mar 15, 201110:16 am
        by brgulker


        <b>At some point he realized Hamilton’s contract was so bad that nobody wanted him anymore. </b>

        Unfortunately, everyone else in the universe saw how bad it was as soon as it happened.

  • Mar 15, 20111:29 am
    by robotboy15


    The one I just can’t forgive is Spellcheck.  You know, if Joe D’s term in office turned Ben Wallace and Chauncey Billups into All-Stars, it isn’t totally crazy to guess that the same might happen with Gordon and/or Villanueva.  Hamilton’s contract was pretty stupid.  Still, had Rip at least aged like Ray Allen, it might not have been so awful.  It’s certainly no worse a contract that what the Bulls paid for Ben Wallace.
    Delfino and Amir Johnson have turned out to be good players.  But both spent a few years showing nothing but stagnation.  Did he give up too quickly?  Seems like it.  Still, it might have taken a change of pace for these guys to take a step forward and make good on the promise they had shown.
    But Spellcheck?  In his first season, he gave every sign of being a lock down defender.  In his second season, he showed potential to be a good offensive player as well.  He had a killer work ethic and seemed to be the model for the next generation of this franchise.  And he was on a rookie contract.
    And then he’s given away.  This will never, ever make any sense.

    • Mar 15, 20115:59 am
      by Jakob Eich


      I agree, he was arguably the best player on a UCLA team featuring the likes of Russell Westbrook and Darren Collison. He led the team in scoring, he was killing it offensively, I don’t see how one could not see his recent development. It was the move I most disapproved of. CB for AI, a low-risk move creating cap space. I actually thought it was brilliant at the time. Detroit wasn’t going to compete for another title anyway so why not start the rebuilding process? Since then Dumars has struggled. I never understood how Afflalo fell down so far in the draft anyway, I was kind of amazed, just like with Monroe this year. I really like the Billups/Wallace and Gordon/Villanueva comparison. I think everybody tends to forget Gordon was an EFFICIENT 20PPG scorer, he had a better TS% than almost all SG in the league, better than Kobe. It wasn’t unreasonable to think if he started he’d become a very serviceable player.

    • Mar 15, 201110:23 am
      by brgulker


      Patrick Hayes put up a piece here asking if a starting five of former Pistons could make the Playoffs in the East, and I supplemented that with the Wins Produced numbers.
      Both of us think it’s very possible that a low-budget group of former Pistons that Joe let go for one reason or another would actually have a better shot at making the Playoffs than the starting 5 we currently employ at a relatively high cost (well, depending on who’s starting, lol!).
      Spellcheck is an important part of that argument. He’s blossomed into a very, very effective role player, and he’s exactly the type of player we could use on the perimeter right now.

  • Mar 15, 20111:32 pm
    by Rodman4Life


    These arguments remind me of my alma mater and their predicament.  I went to NC State, and although they have two national championships and a strong history, they are now the undoubted third child/red-headed step child of the area (behind Duke and Carolina).  I’m not an advocate of selling yourself short, but I do believe in knowing your place and realm.  Coaches are skewered down in Raleigh, partly because the fan base believes we should somehow compete on an equal level with the two powerhouses of college hoops (not gonna happen).  We miss, for unrealistic ambition, all the good things those coaches produce.
    In Detroit, I think Dumars has a better beat on our role in the NBA sphere than we the fans do.  Like the new Chrysler commercial, we are who we are and we do the things we do well.  My one criticism for Dumars was the signing of BG AND CV.  It broke from our defensive precedent.  But I know Dumars knows the egg is on his face right now, and he must be SQUIRMING in his office.  He will fix this, albeit slowly and painfully (cause this is a big mess).  He signed those two clowns because, in my opinion, he saw that we wouldn’t be getting the marquee players of ’10 and he wanted to grab two young up-and-commers while he could.  He simply chose very poorly with those two.  The greater question is, are we in touch with what the Pistons can reasonably be in the new NBA?  There is a greater shift toward a power imbalance, and defense is being “ruled out” in the new league.  If we can’t lure marquee players due to both salary and lack of allure, how difficult will it be to patch up this roster with mid-level players?

  • Mar 15, 20112:37 pm
    by Jason


    Why don’t you guys talk about what the team would look like with Billups.  We wouldn’t have Daye or Monroe going forward and we would still be paying an old Billups and Hamilton.  And who would we have recieved in free agency over the last two years?   No one cause everyone was overpaid and Dumars knew that before last years free agency. All you reporters are cowards and just fall back on the Billups trade cause you know its the easy thing to say in the MEDIA.  I remember two years ago almost everyone of you were saying the trade was a good idea.

    Cowards! And to the idiot who says Dumars is a good business man but can judge talent.  Thats all he has done over the past how many years.  FOUND PLAYERS FOR VALUE. 

    Take a step back and look at this roster.  We have PLAYERS! All of them. Obviously too much in some areas and not enough in others but a sale of a team is needed.  PATIENCE!

  • Mar 15, 20112:42 pm
    by JTB


    Dumars went against everything the Pistons stood for when he signed CV and Gordon. Their pending failure here was so obvious it was laughable. On the other hand giving away Afflalo – whose toughness and defense epidomized the Pistons way shows how far Dumars judgement has fallen.

    • Mar 15, 20113:12 pm
      by Jason


      @ JTB

      I am sorry but maybe you should go back and look at Gordon’s last years with the Bulls in the playoffs.  When he had a point guard.  Looked like Pistons material to me.   Maybe he was wrong with Stuckey at the Point but maybe its just the coach.  But either way its not that much of a loss cause Stuckey is still a solid player.  


  • Mar 15, 20114:54 pm
    by atwa26


    I will reasonably let the Billups deal slide. In fact, he should have made wholesale moves at that time and work on rebuilding entirely.
    The championship team was not only aging, but was and is considered to be one of the only ‘superstar-less’ teams to have won a championship – meaning, they were a tight, well-built, cohesive unit. That means they should have been dismantled all at once. And, Dumars so tipped his hand on the need to deal that the best he could get was a rickety-ole Iverson.
    More significantly is JoeD’s draft-talent expertise (or lack there of). 2008 & 10 are the only years that there aren’t significantly better players taken after a Piston’s pick. And those two years were really pretty lean as far as talent, so maybe Joe gets some credit there.
    2001 – Joe Johnson, Richard Jefferson, Troy Murphy, Zach Randolph, Gerald Wallace, Tony Parker, Hibachi.
    2002 – Tayshaun (hey, ok, good work – after all the in 01, great), But no second round pick when Boozer, Scola and Matt Barnes were drafted?
    2003 – Seriously? It was like we drafted to play in Europe – I won’t even harp on the Darko thing, but why hasn’t that been more of an issue here? That type of gaffe gets people fired and blacklisted! Heck, we would have been better of with ZaZa Pachulia late in the 2nd rd.
    2004 – Oh, nice work, following up our disaster of 03 , no 1st round pick….but no worries we followed that up with Rickey Basketball (I mean Spaulding). – Granted, poopy draft, but still.
    2005 – Maxiell & Amir Johnson – ok, but – David Lee, Brandon Bass, Ronny Turiaf, MOnta Ellis, even Andray Blatche and Ryan Gomes would have been reasonable.
    2006 – Um, no 1st rounder again? We are in that good of shape that we don’t need to build for the future? Oh, wait, Will Blalock in the 2nd.
    2007 – A tie with his 2005 draft? Stuckey, Afflalo, Meija. But Afflalo may actually be the best of the 3 and he traded him. Stuckey would be a 6th man at best on other teams – other than the Heat, which isn’t saying much.
    2008-2010 – Too early to tell? Best returns yet in Daye, Jerebko, Monroe – Way to go! Three guys who are 6th men at best on contenders (weird how the Heat seem to be the first team I can remember to defy that notion though).
    Add insult to injury with the Gordon/Villanueva deals, which weren’t just “oops, we overpaid a bit”, but they are appallingly bad, especially in how much it hamstrings the Pistons for the next 2-3 years, which would be great re-building years with Daye, Jerebko & Monroe as building blocks, but nope.
    We are in for some extraordinarily bad basketball from “your Auburn Hills Pistons!” for quite a while, and this poop-sandwich lays entirely at the feet of JoeD.

    • Mar 15, 20115:17 pm
      by Dan Feldman


      This type of analysis is pointless. Every team passes on players who end up productive. Jude a GM by who he picks, not who he doesn’t.

  • Mar 15, 20118:06 pm
    by Ryan P


    Joe D deserves most of the blame, for sure. However, I do think that we’re doing too much blaming. Obviously the team is not where anyone – fans, players, management – would like to see it; we’ve gotten used to winning over the past decade. But sports (and sometimes it seems like especially basketball) are cyclical in nature. Almost every top franchise goes through losing periods. Even the Lakers, with Kobe, were floundering for a few years post-Shaq and pre-Pau. It’s the nature of the business.
    What most people seem to forget is how rare it is for a team to win a championship; count the number of teams that have won since Joe became the GM of the team, and then consider that Joe put together a team that won it all once and was close to repeating. And he did so without a “superstar” player. He built a true team; how many GMs have been able to do that?
    It’s true that many of his moves have not worked out well over the past two years. He continued banking on guys that he thought would take a “next step” in their careers (just as Chauncey and Rip did upon their arrival) but Charlie V and Ben Gordon haven’t panned out. But I also find it odd that people consider his good moves to be “lucky.” If drafting Greg Monroe or Jonas Jerebko was all “luck,” then it’s simply unlucky that Ben Gordon seems to be a poor fit or that Rip hasn’t been able to handle losing well, letting it affect his game. It doesn’t make sense to take away credit for good moves but vilify him for his bad moves. Did Joe originally get lucky with how good Ben Wallace turned out, or did he see something in Ben that spoke to him?
    It’s obviously a little of both. Considering that Joe’s hands are probably pretty tied right now, I think it’s important to remember that this is a man who has gotten the Pistons a championship; that he is a GM that has historically fixed his own mistakes; and that the job of GM is not as easy as we sometimes may consider it. I think he deserves our patience.

  • Mar 15, 20119:14 pm
    by BrianW


    Lets remember that JD committed 9 million to Jason Maxiell and Kwame Brown shortly before trading Billups for capspace.  That, to me, is his most inexplicable decision.  While the big-name signings were detrimental, the cummulative effect of Dumar’s smaller signings was quite profound.  Unless I’m mistaken, the 12.1 million given to Maxiell, Brown, and Wilcox in 09-10 was equal to Billups’ salary that year.

  • Mar 15, 201110:03 pm
    by Brendan


    Great topic, great views. Joe Dumars no doubt deserves the blame for the make-up of this roster. I agree with the consensus that the trading of Chauncey and the extension of Hamilton and wasting valuable free agents dollars on Gordon and Villaneuva are mistakes he’ll spend years digging out of. (Not even going back to the whole Darko debacle.)
    It’s also ironic that Joe is handcuffed by the ownership situation. I can see where the poor product on the court hurts ticket sales and the bad press with the behavior of key players with expensive long-term contracts makes the franchise less valuable. And it does appears that Karen Davidson is having trouble selling the team because of it. There is the potential a new owner’s first order of business will be to eat $25M in just one player’s salary.

  • Mar 15, 201110:16 pm
    by Mercury


    I’ll side with Feldman on this issue… seasoned followers understand Newtons law of maintaining a competitive team… if you’re consistently drafting low while protecting a contending teams salaries (with only the MLE to spend) while following a “no tax” mandate it’s simply a matter of staying above water as long as possible.
    We can point out poor signing and drafting failures… however we should understand the EVERY GM not named Buford has made equal or worse personnel moves.
    Most common sense BB minds knew that Gordon and CV would be mediocre at best… Joe picked the worst FA class to have $’s to spend… so how would folks react to Joe sitting on his pot o’ gold for the next year (be honest).
    If I blame Joe for anything it’s not using the Sheed & A.I. expiring in trade b4 he became stuck in a FA quagmire.
    Blame him for following the exact same path as every other teams natural progression? (again with exception of Spurs)…
    I’ll still take Joe over most GMs… to this day nobody is coming up with a proven available alternative…. whatcha got?

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