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3-on-3: Judging Joe Dumars

Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, Patrick and I will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic.

For each 3-on-3, we’ll be joined by a guest contributor. Today, that’s Mike Payne of Detroit Bad Boys.

Please add your responses in the comment.

1. How much responsibility does Joe Dumars bear for the Pistons’ run from 2002-08?

Dan Feldman: Essentially all of it. When Dumars took over, the Pistons had just lost Grant Hill and had to start over. Dumars meticulously added piece after piece until the Pistons were good enough to win a championship. He didn’t get lucky in the lottery, and he didn’t have an owner willing to pay the luxury tax. Dumars built the Pistons through shrewd moves and nothing else.

Patrick Hayes: Dumars gets most of the credit. He built arguably the most cohesive starting five in recent NBA history, he hired two great coaches in Rick Carlisle and Larry Brown and he’s one of only a handful of GMs working today who can claim a title. Can I nitpick and say that he should’ve tweaked the core at some point to try and make another run? Can I complain about never developing a competent bench during that stretch? Sure. But when you have a team that will make boatloads of money every year with guaranteed deep playoff runs, I understand why he got a little gun shy about messing with things too much.

Mike Payne: Nearly all of it. When building the Going to Work Pistons, Joe Dumars flourished under the “do less with more” constraints of Bill Davidson’s ownership philosophy. The Dumars / John Hammond duo shared a chemistry that yielded a greater value than the sum of is parts. Luck factored into the equation as well, but less-so than teams that have built championships with #1 picks. At the end of the day, it was Dumars who built that team from the ground up and he absolutely deserves the credit. If any of that credit is shared, Davidson and Hammond both get an assist on Joe’s amazing four point play.

2. How much responsibility does Joe Dumars bear for the Pistons’ run from 2009-present?

Dan Feldman: If you want to pin responsibility on a specific person, Dumars is the guy. But sometimes circumstance beyond an individual’s control play a part. Years of contending had kept the Pistons out of the lottery, making it more difficult to acquire talent. I obviously wish Dumars had kept Arron Afflalo, Amir Johnson and Carlos Delfino – but without lottery picks and an owner willing to pay the luxury tax, Dumars’ margin of error was slim. Then, Bill Davidson died – another circumstance that limited Dumars further. Giving so much money to Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva was Dumars’ fault, and it hurt him. But circumstance exasperated his problems.

Patrick Hayes: You get the credit, you get the blame. There were certainly complicating factors with the death of William Davidson, but by far the most important factor in the decline had to do with Dumars’ own bad personnel decisions. He handed out abhorrently bad contracts, he whiffed on his top two picks in a deep 2009 draft, he gave up too soon on two solid young players and got little return for Amir Johnson and Arron Afflalo in trades and he hired two terrible coaches. Whether the sale of the team handcuffed his ability to fix those mistakes or not, the Pistons were clearly in the state they were in because Dumars made a series of really indefensibly bad moves.

Mike Payne: Every ounce of it.  The blame game in the mean time has been laughable. First it was Michael Curry’s fault. Then it was the injuries in 2009-10. Last season it was John Kuester and Karen Davidson.  Since late 2008, Joe Dumars has executed a maddening string of bad moves in free agency, trades and the draft, moves that reflect a complete reversal in philosophy (or a total lack thereof). If there has been any saving grace in Detroit since the Billups trade, it was when the Golden State Warriors drafted Ekpe Udoh in 2010. Sure, I know Joe deserves credit for picking Monroe, but the same kind of credit the Denver Nuggets get for drafting Carmelo Anthony in 2003 when Milicic was off the board.

3. Is Joe Dumars capable of fixing the Pistons?

Dan Feldman: I’m not sure, but I’m definitely willing to take the chance that he is.

Patrick Hayes: I dunno. When Tom Gores made the decision to retain Dumars and add a statistical analysis element to his front office staff, I was on board with that. I liked the Lawrence Frank hire. Things were going OK. Then, Dumars re-signed Tayshaun Prince. The Pistons clearly need to bottom out and have a shot at a top of the lottery pick. Bringing back a limited veteran like Prince, for four years no less, is exactly the type of move that ensures the Pistons might not be able to get bad enough to strike it rich with a high lottery pick and get good again. My confidence since that signing has undoubtedly wavered. But Gores had access to all of the mistakes of the past, and he’s paying for all of the bad signings out of his own pocket now. Knowing that, he still made the decision to wipe the slate clean and let Dumars attempt to rebuild this thing, so I think he has to give him at least another year to make significant progress.

Mike Payne: Absolutely, unequivocally not. Even before this season began, the Pistons were a few steps away from rebuilding. To rebuild, you need to first deconstruct the existing foundation. The Pistons were tasked with getting rid of some of the dead weight under Hamilton, Villanueva, Gordon and Maxiell — and when the opportunity finally came to begin that, Dumars took one step forward and two steps back. Gores allows Dumars to buy-out Richard Hamilton, but then Dumars extends a 31-year-old Tayshaun Prince and tosses $24M at Rodney Stuckey when the ~$3M qualifying offer was the price tag. That’s not rebuilding, it’s a further investment in players who are average or worse at their respective positions — not to mention who openly feuded with their coach last season. It’s buffoonery.

Something apparently happened to Joe Dumars after the signing of Antonio McDyess. Since then, his perspective on his own roster, his trades, his free agent signings and most of his drafts have led this team from the top of the Eastern Conference toward its basement. He’s given up solid young talent for nothing. He’s spent millions and millions of dollars on deeply flawed inbound free agents, and he’s spent millions and millions of dollars to extend rapidly aging vets. He’s completely abandoned the value of positionality and the virtue of defense. He’s still doing this today, having shown no awareness of his mistakes.

Is Joe Dumars capable of fixing the Pistons? No. But some fans will still point to an 8-year-old championship to somehow justify him, all the while blaming everyone else for the Pistons woes.

16 Comments

  • Feb 10, 20123:50 pm
    by wth dumars

    Reply

    If the Pistons don’t land Davis, Drummond, Barnes, MKG, or Robinson blame Dumars. Why bring back Prince and Stuckey?? Shoulda amnestied Charlie V. Shoulda let the team effin rebuild.

    • Feb 11, 201212:00 pm
      by Murph

      Reply

      At his point, if our draft position drops to the point where we miss out on all the above that you mentioned, we should go after UNC’s, John Henson.  Henson strikes me as a lesser version of Anthony Davis.

  • Feb 10, 20124:31 pm
    by apa8ren9

    Reply

    I love Dumars week, you are really putting it on us DF.
    1. Yes he gets most of the credit, he was the front man.  Turned the G Hill disaster into a championship
    2. Yes he gets the blame, but there are extenuating circumstances which have been documented.
    3 Without question I believe he can fix it.   He did it before, he believes in the Pistons and he again has ownership support.  It also helps that he has gone back to his original philosophy of toughness and defense after dabbling with the darkside (offensive philosophy).
    4. Can someone please get me another cup of kool-aid?  LOL thanks.

  • Feb 10, 20124:32 pm
    by IsraeliPiston

    Reply

    two comments and a question – first, who is this mike payne guy – he really knows his stuff and his analysis was excellent – try to get him to contribute more — please
    Second – Dumars is extremely loyal – at least to the 5 guys who got him his ring – he traded billips to Denver because it was where Billips wanted to go and end his career. He gave rip a ton of money and did the same for prince. Loyalty is nice but business is business and Dumar’s loyalty really hurt the Pistons
    However, if the pistons get rid of him – who(m) do they hire instead???
     

    • Feb 10, 20125:08 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Mike writes for DetroitBadBoys.com and pops into the comments here every now and again.

      • Feb 10, 20125:26 pm
        by IsraeliPiston

        Reply

        thanks – unfortunately I don’t have time to read all blogs etc. Nice of you guys to share each other

    • Feb 10, 20125:25 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      And, as commenter z correctly points out below, Billups didn’t want to be traded anywhere. He wanted to finish his career in Detroit. I think Dumars made what he felt was the best deal he could at the time, he wasn’t just trying to trade with Denver b/c he wanted to send Billups there out of loyalty.

  • Feb 10, 20124:38 pm
    by neutes

    Reply

    Who was running the Orlando Magic back then? I credit them with the success, or whatever side of the coin that stood for Ben Wallace instead of John Amaechi. And I also credit the Magic for our failure for giving us Stuckey. I’m still waiting on the karma we sent Denver’s way to come back around. Could use that about now.

    • Feb 10, 201211:24 pm
      by V.

      Reply

      John Gabriel, who was voted Executive of the Year for the Hill signing, then got fired three years later, and spent several year outside of professional sports. He’s currently director of scouting for NYK. 

    • Feb 15, 20122:09 am
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      Ben Wallace was a free agent who had planned to sign with the Pistons, anyway. The sign-and-trade just helped both teams work out the numbers.

  • Feb 10, 20125:22 pm
    by z

    Reply

    Billups was upset when he got traded.

  • Feb 10, 20126:22 pm
    by Laser

    Reply

    1. Plenty of it, but the assist goes to luck. Trading for Rip, drafting Tayshaun and signing Chauncey all paid off big, but the only reason Ben Wallace ever came here is because the Magic refused to give us John Ameche. Joe had to settle for Ben, because his hands were tied and he idn’t want to lose Grant Hill for nothing. The Sheed trade was also a good move, but anybody who thinks we got Sheed for nothing fails to recognize how much better off this franchise would be with Josh Smith at the 4.

    2. 100% of it. Every last one of those good moves was succeeded by a future bad one. Joe extended Rip into oblivion, ended up paying him to go away, and now he’s stuck on our books for two seasons at a hefty price. Tayshaun is well on his way to the same fate. Joe chose to re-sign Sheed over Okur and eventually let Sheed walk for cap space… and we all know where that money went. And the less I say about Chauncey the better. So it’s not like he’s done a damn thing to roll over these assets he gets so much praise for.

    One unsung benefit of having built a winner without a superstar is that nobody is untouchable. You don’t have a Tim Duncan situation where he can’t be converted into anything. His jersey needs to be hung from the rafters, and there’s nothing you can do to get value for him. Joe created a great situation for continued success, but he squandered every last asset he had.

    3. Not a chance in hell. If you want it done right, he’s literally the last person who should be in charge. Not only has he been an unmitigated disaster and bar none the worst GM in the league for over half a decade solid, but he’s also too closely connected to all of the problems that got us where we are, since he’s entirely responsible for all of them. There’s no way to expedite the rebuilding process without eating a SHITLOAD of crow. There’s so much dead weight on the books, it would require far more humility and accountability for Joe to address. Gores wrote him a blank check to make Rip go away,and it’s no coincidence that this was the achievable change that left the least egg on Joe’s face since Rip had already long been a scapegoat here. Never mind who created the situation that led to Rip’s discontentment.

    As usual, I’m virtually in lock-step with MFMP, and I’m questioning Feldman’s analytical prowess. I mean, 0% of people ever thought Rip, Gordon or Villanueva could hae been easily moved on those contracts. Let alone for anything worth having. Those contracts never made sense. And you’ve got to be utilizing some seriously defective thinking to use an unsubstantiated rumor about a nebulous dream of a farfetched, unrealistic trade of an aging, overpaid shooting guard owed long-term salary for a borderline all-star power forward on an expiring contract. It doesn’t make a lick of sense, and if you’re inclined to use it as any sort of argument that Joe hasn’t been doing a disastrous job, you’re not thinking clearly.

    • Feb 15, 20122:22 am
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      1. Amaechi was a free agent, as was Wallace. It was either the Pistons or Amaechi’s call not to go to Detroit. It wasn’t Orlando’s decision.

      2. Interesting point about a balanced team being easier to rebuild. That’s also a credit to Dumars, though, right? He definitely messed up the rebuilding aspect, but if he can build the team up again, I see no reason he’s likely (or unlikely) to repeat the rebuilding mistakes. But if his plan lends itself to rebuilding on the fly, he’d have a leg up on other GMs.

      3. The Cavs offered Villanueva nearly as much as the Pistons did. Gordon was ranked as the No. 2 free agent by Sports Illustrated and Yahoo. The year before, the Bulls offered him about $50 million, and that was before his series against the Celtics. Some people liked the signing. Some didn’t. But enough did that I’m convinced Gordon wasn’t instantly viewed as overpaid.

      As far as Hamilton for Boozer, I believe it. I get why you don’t. If Drew Sharp’s column was the only place I’d heard it, I wouldn’t either. I’m certainly not 100 percent, but between believing it and not, I believe it.

  • Feb 11, 201211:32 am
    by Matt

    Reply

    If we didn’t trade Delfino, we wouldn’t have Jonas right now.  So I believe that was the right move.  We could’ve grabbed Ty Lawson, Dejaun Blair, Jonas, kept Amir and Affalo, kept Chauncey for the veteran leadership instead of bringing in the biggest club house terror ever, A.I.  I think that was where it all begin, well that and whiffing big time in the drafts.  Not even finding some quality bench role players.  But A.I. was the end of it all.  That is where Rip begin his troubled descent into darkness.  With the whole who is the starting SG thing.
    Also if we keep those guys we loose out on Moose.  IDK, I love hindsight and all that.  Thinking of what might have been if Jo D was a little more competant.

    • Feb 11, 20128:02 pm
      by MadPoopz

      Reply

      I don’t know if the Billups trade was as bad as the Rip resigning.  Trading Billups for AI is questionable, but resigning Rip was just a God awful idea.  Rips presence created a logjam position wise and may have been a factor is our dismissing of Spellcheck, especially since Dumars showed favoritism to Stuckey.

      • Feb 12, 20129:46 am
        by Matt

        Reply

        werd, fuck spellcheck

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