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Lawrence Frank uses the Lions as an example of how to close a season strong

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

“Look at the Lions. Two years ago, they won their last four games,” Frank said. “It propelled them into a great off-season to a great start to the season to a great season where they went 10-6, so for us, what kind of momentum do we want to bring into the off-season?”

I appreciate Lawrence Frank‘s sentiment here. I really do. But the Lions are not the greatest comparison (and not just because they play football). When they went on that four game winning streak to end a season then made the playoffs the next year, they were led by Matt Stafford (No. 1 pick), Ndamukong Suh (No. 2 pick) and Calvin Johnson (No. 2 pick). A criticism of the Pistons’ rebuilding efforts has been that they got bad, but never bad enough to bottom out and pick once or twice at the top of the draft. The Lions on the other hand … they bottomed out. Boy, did they bottom out (spectacularly, I might add). The Pistons got an absolute steal in the mid-lottery with Greg Monroe, they found a player in the mid-lottery last year with Brandon Knight who could maybe develop and they found a second round pick who is a rotation contributor in Jonas Jerebko in 2009. Those are all nice, young players, but with the exception of Monroe, none project yet as franchise players. The Lions, on the other hand, drafted three guys who are legitimate All-Pros to fuel their turnaround.

I’m not saying it would be impossible for the Pistons to have that kind of turnaround and make the playoffs next season (it is, after all, a little easier to make the NBA playoffs, especially in the East, than it is to make the NFL playoffs), but the Pistons could also still benefit from hanging around the lottery another year if they don’t luck out this year and win the top pick.

41 Comments

  • Apr 12, 20122:28 pm
    by Max

    Reply

    I don’t think the Pistons have ever had multiple franchise players on one roster unless maybe Lanier and Bing.  I wouldn’t call Dumars a franchise player but maybe Bing.  The only players I would rate as franchise players were Bob Lanier, Isiah Thomas, Grant Hill and Greg Monroe–Monroe’s value is a like a franchise player since he is so young and putting up numbers like a top five center.

    • Apr 12, 20122:43 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      Lanier/Bing – both HOFers

      Thomas/Dumars/Dantley/Rodman – all HOFers, plus Laimbeer, who has a legit HOF case

      Billups/Wallace – will be HOFers

      Yes, they have had multiple elite players at the same time in the past.

      • Apr 12, 20123:23 pm
        by Max

        Reply

        I’d agree they are all elites but you said “franchise player”.
        Being a HOF does not make a player a franchise player.   I’m as big a fan of Dumars as there is, but a franchise player is a player who is good enough to build around without getting another franchise player.   If Dumars had been  a franchise player, the Pistons wouldn’t have missed the playoffs when Thomas and Rodman were gone and Grant Hill wouldn’t have so quickly and clearly surpassed him.   You can say Rodman is a hall of famer, but no one would ever have slapped him with a franchise player tag and built an entire team around his talents.  The only point guard I would call a franchise player during Billup’s era was Jason Kidd, Chris Paul (and maybe Steve Nash) and the only centers I would name franchise players during Wallace’s career were Shaq, Mourning and Howard.

        • Apr 12, 20123:42 pm
          by apa8ren9

          Reply

          I completely agree Max. You have to be careful when the “franchise” label gets thrown around.  In any normal era of basketball there are usually only 5-6 players that should have that attached to them at any time throughout the history of the NBA.  Also they may or may not keep that designation durning their entire career. By the way do you consider Duncan a center?

          • Apr 12, 20124:00 pm
            by Max

            Yes, I’m with you.  I might say more than 5-6 at any given time but never even enough to get into the mid-teens.   I called Monroe “like” a franchise player because I do give the label to youngish players who their franchise, initially at least, can treat as a franchise player.   Others in that current group would be players like Love, Rubio, Irving, Curry and so on.
            I don’t consider Duncan an all time center although he plays the spot more now and has obviously manned the position throughout his career.   He could obviously outplay most centers in the hall of fame but so could Michael Jordan outplay point guards and small forwards.  Duncan goes down as the greatest power forward of all time.

        • Apr 12, 20124:12 pm
          by Patrick Hayes

          Reply

          It’s pretty clear the context I was using in the post. The Pistons don’t even have an All-Star caliber player yet, although Monroe is very close. The Lions had three guys who were top five at their respective positions, and two in Suh and Johnson who very well could be top two at their positions. They got those players because they bottomed out and drafted high enough to get them.

          Monroe is a nice player and a good find in the middle of the lottery, but the Pistons haven’t drafted high enough to be in play for the potential game-changers. Those types of players are rarely ever found outside of the first few picks.

          Now, maybe the case could be made that the Pistons strategy is to never get bad enough to bottom out. Maybe they want to continue to add talented mid-lottery prospects in order to stockpile enough young assets to make a big trade. But alas, they don’t have enough young talent to go that route yet either, so it makes more sense strategically for them to be in the lottery next season than to sneak into the playoffs.

          So they’re not bad enough to (without lottery luck) be in play for the top guys, but they’re not good enough to get out of the mid lottery range. That makes Frank’s comparison/hope to turn around Lions style a bad one. The Lions had their core intact. The Pistons don’t. They have a nice player in Monroe, a nice player in Stuckey, a role player in Jerebko and a nobody knows what he is yet in Knight. That’s it. They need much, much more.

          Unless the Pistons luck into a game-changing top three pick this year, returning to the playoffs next season would be bad for the franchise. They don’t have an abundance of talent yet, they don’t have cap flexibility to add pieces via free agency and their only desirable trade assets are the young players they probably won’t part with. They’re stuck in a holding pattern, barring some lottery luck, precisely because they didn’t rebuild by hitting bottom.

          • Apr 12, 20124:35 pm
            by apa8ren9

            You are right Patrick, the Lions comparison is a bad one for exactly the reasons you said.  The Pistons dont have the heavy lifter, “franchise player yet”.  Frank is “coaching them up” and trying to whip every last ounce of energy out of them for the last string of games.  I do believe that Knight has hit the wall and is trying to fight through.  I also believe that Monroe is hitting a wall of sorts as well.  The wall of being the focal point for a whole season.  Hopefully this experience this year with a real coach will help them improve for next year when we get a summer league, training camp and exhibition season for all the “new” players in October  Go Pistions!

          • Apr 12, 20124:52 pm
            by Patrick Hayes

            The term is thrown around a lot, but the Pistons are on the ‘mediocrity treadmill.’ It doesn’t mean they’ll never get off of it, it just will take them longer. Bottoming out isn’t necessarily always the right way to rebuild either — some teams bottom out and don’t have a strong enough organizational structure to ever climb out. What the Pistons are doing — mixing limited veterans and adding young players in the mid-lottery each year — could work. It will just take longer. Minus that impact player that you can really only find in the top three (except in the rarest cases), the Pistons are just going to be adding pretty good prospects each year they draft. Eventually, that might be enough to pool their assets and make a big trade or maybe one of those pretty good prospects develops into a pretty great one (and Monroe might).

            Anyway, my point is that even though as a fan, I’d love to see the Pistons improve and get in the playoffs, the rational side of me knows they need more assets if they’re ever going to get beyond just sneaking in. I’d much rather have them get in the late lottery next year with a slim chance that they could move up into the top three than for them to be a 7 or 8 seed in the East.

          • Apr 12, 20125:10 pm
            by Max

            @Patrick   No arguments regarding your criticism of Frank’s Lions comparison.
            I was merely trying to suggest that a team can win with one franchise player when I originally posted that the Pistons had never had multiple franchise players on their roster.   The 2004 group was special.  Five man depth and more was all important.  They very well might not have won it all without Big Nasty.
            On the other hand, I think you are perhaps minimizing Monroe’s potential as I think he will be a game changer.   He is methodically improving and like a great chess master is occasionally taking a step back before taking two steps forward.  His quote that he doesn’t get the ball is a next step for him and shows he is ready to unleash more of his game.
            The roster is not adequately built around him yet and Frank has not had the time to turn him into the full time hub he can be,   Nevertheless, he is both the best young big man the Pistons have had in many decades and one of the best in the NBA by at least his stats at present.   There is little reason to think he won’t be one of the very top bigs in the league in terms of points, rebounds, assists and steals while shooting good percentages for most of the next decade.  All of that, and it is somewhat fair to say that he has only scratched the surface of his potential as a passer.
            BTW: In defense of Frank.   Monroe gets tired and asks out of games when the Pistons could benefit from him playing more minutes.  Frank probably feels like if he called Monroe’s number more often that he would be getting tired even faster.

    • Apr 12, 20122:43 pm
      by Mark

      Reply

      Did you forget Big Ben? He was most certainly a franchise player in his prime. And Rasheed was POR’s franchise player for many years before trading him to us. So I’d say we have had multiple franchise players on one roster with Ben and Rasheed.

      btw, Grant Hill is one of the most overrated players in NBA history. He never led any franchise anywhere. Maybe his injury preventing him from ever becoming that player, but I just don’t think he had the heart to lead a team a championship even if he weren’t injured. Great player when he was healthy, but I wouldn’t say he was a franchise player.

      • Apr 12, 20123:25 pm
        by Max

        Reply

        You are nuts regarding Hill.   For one thing, a big reason why he was hurt so many years after leaving Detroit was that he played in the playoffs against the Hawks when he had no business on the court due to his ankle.   Watching that series was easily one of the top moments in Pistons’ history of a player proving he had heart.

        • Apr 12, 20124:33 pm
          by Mark

          Reply

          Am I mistaken or did the Pistons lose that series to ATL? IIRC the Pistons lost every series they played with Hill. He was the face of one of the worst era’s in franchise history, never winning a single playoff series. I have no idea how you can claim a player that couldn’t even get his team out of the 1st round was a franchise player. He didn’t even win his first playoff series until he was a 37 yr old role player on the Suns led by Nash. I’m sorry but if it takes until 37 to get out of the 1st round, you were not a franchise player.

          • Apr 12, 20125:14 pm
            by Max

            They always lost to better, deeper teams.

          • Apr 12, 20129:12 pm
            by Anthony

            Was Reggi Miller a franchise player?

          • Apr 13, 20121:48 pm
            by Max

            Reggie was only a franchise player for the Pacers.  It was a unique situation, Miller never won and it’s debatable whether a team with him as the best player could win a title.  With a franchise player, it should be more obvious.   Durant and LBJ haven’t won yet and may never, but I don’t think it’s any way wrong to say that each player is easily good enough to be the best player on a team that could win.  That’s a franchise player.

          • Apr 13, 20125:57 pm
            by tarsier

            Reggie Miller was a comparable player to Ray Allen. So no, not a franchise player.

        • Apr 12, 20124:53 pm
          by Patrick Hayes

          Reply

          That series with the ankle injury was against the Heat.

      • Apr 12, 20123:47 pm
        by apa8ren9

        Reply

        I have to disagree Mark, as much as I love Ben he could not be considered a “franchise” player.   That designation belongs to Durant, Kobe, Lebron, Dirk, Garnett.  Special players the Alpha dogs of the Alpha dogs so to speak.  G Hill was a franchise player, alas that was not a very good time in Pistons history (the Doug Collins/Tom Wilson days)

        • Apr 12, 20123:59 pm
          by Patrick Hayes

          Reply

          Ben Wallace was the best player on a championship team. In other words, franchise player.

          • Apr 12, 20124:02 pm
            by Max

            Was Dennis Johnson, Jack Sikma or Gus Williams franchise players because they each had about as strong a claim for being the best player on a championship squad as Big Ben did who also was not clearly the best player on his team.

          • Apr 12, 20124:05 pm
            by Max

            Switch was for were and add a question mark please.

          • Apr 12, 20124:28 pm
            by Patrick Hayes

            Wallace in his prime was in the same class as Russell and Olajuwon when it came to imposing big men defenders. Yes, he was clearly the best and most important player on a championship team. That’s no slight to the others. It just is what it is.

            As for what a “franchise” player is, it’s debatable. I tend to think if you have a top three player at any position, that qualifies. There are certainly different degrees of franchise players in that definition, guys who are way better than others, etc. But the point is, the Pistons don’t have anything close to a top three player at any position. Other than Tayshaun Prince, of course.

          • Apr 12, 20124:44 pm
            by apa8ren9

            You are right again Patrick it is debatable,  I was going to comment that with your definition above with Ben Wallace you should substitute “franchise” for “NBA Finals MVP” which was Chauncey, there by eliminating Wallace again.  But I dont want my comments to come off as “snarky”.  Anyway  that Prince comment is just priceless!

          • Apr 12, 20124:54 pm
            by Patrick Hayes

            Well, I would call Billups a franchise guy in his prime too. I think he was a top three PG in the league with Kidd and Nash for a 3ish year period until some of the young guys overtook him.

          • Apr 12, 20125:34 pm
            by Max

            KIND OF OFF TOPIC
            The last few years of RIP were rough, but I always kind of felt he should have won the Finals MVP.  He had a great series and arguably outplayed Kobe Bryant statistically while sapping his energy since Kobe had to chase him.  He even hit more than his share of threes.   Billups on the other hand was playing a dysfunctional, shadow of himself Gary Payton and Derek Fisher.
            Also, RIP led the team in scoring with 21.5 while putting up 5 rebounds and 4 assists while Billups averaged 21 with 3 rebounds and 5 assists.  It’s very close but I’ve always thought that I would have given the MVP to RIP if not Big Ben.
             
             

        • Apr 12, 20124:43 pm
          by Mark

          Reply

          So, Ben Wallace leads his team to a championship, 2 Finals appearances, and 4 straight CF’s and was NOT a franchise player, but Grant Hill who never got his team out of the 1st round was?…..Oooookay.

          I think you are thoroughly confused as to what a franchise player is, because it sounds like you base everything off the regular season and playoffs aren’t even a factor. Which is actually the exact opposite of how a franchise player is supposed to be defined.

          And to say Big Ben in his prime wasn’t an Alpha Dog of the league is laughable. Did you miss where he was the starting Center for the East All-Star team 2 yrs straight? Or how he was the most dominant and feared defensive player in the league for about 5 yrs straight? If that isn’t an Alpha Dog, I must be confused as to what that means…

          • Apr 12, 20124:53 pm
            by apa8ren9

            Mark, I understand what you are saying and I feel you a bit about Ben.  He was an Alpha Dog and believe me, I know that no one would mess with Ben.  But my definition is different and I cannot in good conscience put Ben in the Franchise class.  The Franchise players skills encompass everything.  Magic, Kareem, Jordan, Isaiah, Bird, Malone.  If you dont go back that far then today’s class would be  Rose, Durant, Nowitski, Howard, Kobe, Lebron.  These guys do it all.  Ben as much as I love him is just a notch below according to my definition.

          • Apr 12, 20125:25 pm
            by Max

            *Patrick…..egg on my face about Hawks/Heat.  He did lose to the Hawks multiple times but those Hawks were a bit like the 2004 group Pistons and overwhelmed Hill’s team’s with four all stars and Mutombo’s ability to guard the rim.
            Grant Hill was an MVP caliber player during all but his rookie of the year season during his time with the Pistons.   He led the team in points, rebounds and assists or came close most years.   He was a great defender and yearly all star starter.
            I would actually go as far as to say he was the closest thing the Pistons ever had to meeting the absolute definition of franchise player.  Isiah had a far better career but if they were drafted the same year, most any team would have traded Isiah for Hill during their first six years until Hill got hurt.   Hill had the complete package and he had heart.
            Also, Monroe is actually close to being a top three player at his position.

          • Apr 12, 20125:43 pm
            by Patrick Hayes

            Those Hawks series were the worst to watch. Hideous uniforms, Christian Laettner … blah.

            I agree with you on Hill … he was a fantastic player on the court, and had the added superstar element in that he was a national pitchman/revenue generator. Pistons haven’t ever had anyone like that. Isiah was pretty much always hated outside Detroit.

            As for Monroe, what position are you considering him?

            If he’s a C, Dwight, Bynum, Marc Gasol and Cousins are probably better right now, plus Noah, Chandler, Gortat, Ibaka and healthy Bogut and Horford are all in that mix somewhere too. Greg and Hibbert are  probably in that group somewhere, but not sure where I’d put either of them. Definitely not top five though. Maybe six. Maybe.

            If he’s a PF, Pau Gasol, Dirk, Love, Blake, Josh Smith, Jefferson and even Duncan and KG still. He’d probably be even lower on the PF list than the C list.

            Not a knock on Monroe, I still think he has loads of potential, but he’s still a major work in progress. Until his D even gets to average, he’s not in the convo with the top bigs in the league.

          • Apr 12, 20126:05 pm
            by Max

            Well, you said “not close.”   I disagree about Cousins and think Monroe could be in the in conversation for 4th best center although I wouldn’t really argue with anyone who put Noah, Chandler, Jefferson, Gortat or a healthy Bogut or Hotford ahead of him.  They are not healthy though so that would put Monroe between 4th to 8th this year at center which is close to being a top three center.  Also, it is debatable whether Bynum should be called a franchise player because he is so injury prone and volatile.  I for one would not think of trading Monroe for Bynum.  Only Howard or Gasol would be worth the Pistons trading Monroe.
            At power forward, it is hard to project just what Monroe would be doing and he’s not playing power forward so it’s not really right to rank him.

          • Apr 13, 20125:51 pm
            by tarsier

            Cousins may be something of a head case, but there is no debating that right now, he is a better player than Monroe. He plays a bit better on D (doesn’t take much) and puts up better stats in every cat except FG% than Monroe for the season… and that includes before the coaching change. Since the change, which wasn’t that far from when Monroe started slumping a bit, DMC has been killing Greg statistically.

          • Apr 13, 20129:04 pm
            by Max

            No way Cousins averages more assists than Monroe.  That guy never passes and he’s the worst teammate imaginable.

          • Apr 13, 201210:36 pm
            by tarsier

            You’re sorta right. Cousins is behind Monroe in APG for the season. But it’s not by a huge margin: 2.4 to 1.8 is all. But since the coaching change for the Kings, that is yet another area in which DMC has outdone Monroe with an APG of 2.5 to Greg’s 2.2.

            Still, Cousins has clearly far outplayed Monroe since having a coach he gets along with. Monroe may still be the better player to have on a team, but he is definitely not playing as well of late.

  • Apr 12, 20122:37 pm
    by Mark

    Reply

    The Lions were not led by Stafford in those final 4 games. He was on IR. They were led by a combo of Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton.

    • Apr 12, 20122:44 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      That’s not the point. The point is they’d already done the work of getting bad enough to acquire the players who would take them to the playoffs — Stafford, Suh, Johnson were all on the roster already.

      Only the most rose-colored glasses wearing fan would say that the Pistons have most of the heavy lifting done when it comes to reshaping their roster/core guys.

      • Apr 12, 20124:17 pm
        by Mark

        Reply

        yeah, I knew what you meant. I was just pointing that out for factual purposes. I wasn’t trying to be corrective.

  • Apr 12, 20124:49 pm
    by D_S_V

    Reply

    Playoffs next year babay, YEAAAA!!!!!

  • Apr 12, 20125:29 pm
    by Haan

    Reply

    What can we expect a coach to say?  What’s the proportion of frank analysis compared to edifying comments?  The occasional exception — a Stan Van Gundy — likely won’t last these days in the NBA even if pretty successful.  Boeheim gets to rip into his Syracuse team after a win, but that’s increasingly unacceptable in pro sports.  I’m sure that in his heart of hearts Frank understands franchise building probabilities quite well.  He’s not going to lay out those odds — say “the odds are stacked against us, but over a period of years we can hope to emulate Indiana’s success this year” — to the public.  Nor will Dumars.  They understand that a considerable component of their jobs consists of PR in this entertainment business.  So should we.  Doesn’t mean Patrick’s wrong, but just that an unrealistic standard of candor is being set. 

    • Apr 12, 20125:34 pm
      by Patrick Hayes

      Reply

      I honestly don’t expect Frank to say differently. He’s doing PR and the NBA PR handbook says that every team, coach, player is always trying to make the playoffs. I get that.

      I just wrote the post to point out that that’s not necessarily in Detroit’s best interest, since they still need to add talent and, because of their cap situation and players with questionable trade value, their best way to do that is the draft. And the best way to have a shot at the best talent in the draft is by getting in the lottery. I’m sure Frank probably knows that. I don’t expect him to say it. I’m just hoping that fans don’t necessarily expect that quick turnaround he’s saying he wants. The 8 seed, other than revenue from a couple home playoff games, isn’t particularly valuable if it means you miss out on even the slim chance of winning the lottery.

    • Apr 12, 20125:38 pm
      by Max

      Reply

      Yes, and on that score, Frank might be trying to inspire players like Monroe, Knight and Stuckey by telling them they can be those guys.

  • Apr 12, 20127:29 pm
    by Haan

    Reply

    Sounds like there’s no disagreement between you and me, Patrick, concerning optimal results and likely outlook.  I wonder if Frank and Dumars have frank conversations or if the posturing continues during the course of planning.  I do hope they become hard-headed realists with each other once in a while.  Otherwise spin dictates decision-making.

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