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Archive → August, 2013

Part 2: Joe Dumars put Pistons on wrong track, but it didn’t matter in the least bit

This is the second of a two-part series examining how we should use future projections, not his past performance, to determine whether Joe Dumars should remain the Pistons’ general manager. Part 1 examined why Dumars’ first championship as an executive doesn’t necessarily make him the best candidate to bring the Pistons their next title.

Me at the Detroit Free Press:

In the NBA, teams should be very good or very bad. Between is a failure.

About the worst place a team can be is in the lower half of the lottery, picking Nos. 6-14 or so. Those teams aren’t good enough to make the playoffs and aren’t bad enough to have a reasonable chance at drafting a player who can turn around the team. In some circumstances, when a team makes the playoffs but is completely overmatched, picking 15-18 is just as futile.

In the last five years, the Pistons have picked No. 8, No. 9, No. 8, No. 7 and No. 15.

They have been building the absolute wrong way, as I wrote last week.

But it hasn’t mattered.

Thanks to sound drafting and a little luck, the Pistons have emerged from this rut with a promising team led by Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, and maybe that should be enough to save Joe Dumars’ job.

Redo the 2012 draft, and Drummond goes No. 2, behind Anthony Davis. Redo the 2010 draft, and Monroe goes No. 3 or No. 4, behind Paul George, John Wall and maybe DeMarcus Cousins.

Drummond and Monroe are the type of players teams tank to get.

For the Pistons to get those two without tanking into the top end of the lottery took a little luck, obviously. If the Toronto Raptors took Drummond instead of Terrence Ross and/or the Golden State Warriors took Monroe instead of Ekpe Udoh, Dumars might already be gone.

But they didn’t, and Dumars deserves credit for drafting well.

A tired argument exists that anyone could have picked Drummond and Monroe where Dumars did, but the same people who make that point still would make it if the Pistons had drafted No. 8 instead of No. 9 in 2012 and No. 6 instead of No. 7 in 2010. As we know, and as obvious as it should have been to draft Drummond and Monroe, the teams that actually held those picks didn’t.

So despite his efforts to contrary (i.e., vainly relying on highly paid veterans such as Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva to lead the Pistons into the playoffs), Dumars has emerged from this down spell with two great pieces to build around.

Dumars’ failure to set the correct course for the franchise is now irrelevant. The Pistons’ direction already has been established.

It can be tweaked, but they’re building around Drummond with Monroe, Josh Smith , Brandon Jennings and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as key support pieces. They have the potential to add another in free agency next summer. Otherwise, the only real opportunity to add a fundamental building block is to trade those players for another building block.

In that regard, I trust Dumars much more than a theoretical replacement general manager. Tweaking already-built teams is what he does well.

Pistons in good/bad position to bounce back from 2012-13

The Pistons finished No. 7 in ESPN’s voting for Team Turnaround and No. 7 for Team Turmoil. No team finished higher in both categories.

What else did you expect from a team that had the best/worst acquisitions of the summer?

Nobody knows what to make of the Pistons, and I like that. It will bring much-deserved attention to their better players, especially Greg Monroe, who has toiled beneath the radar for too long.

At this point, it’s up to the Pistons to make a favorable impression with many more eyes watching them.

Andre Drummond meets Jennette McCurdy

Andre Drummond adorably wanted to meet Jennette McCurdy.

Andre Drummond adorably met Jennette McCurdy.


Isiah Thomas will live tweet replay of his 25-point quarter on a sprained ankle

What are you doing tonight? If you’re home and get NBA TV – especially if the Tigers are rained out – I recommend following this:

NBA TV analyst and Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas (@iamisiahthomas) will live tweet during a re-air of the 1988 NBA Finals, Game 6, on Tuesday, Aug. 27, starting at 8 p.m. ET.  In the memorable showdown between the Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers, Thomas scored 43 points, including a Finals record with 25 points in the third quarter (despite badly spraining his ankle midway through the period). Despite Thomas’ effort, the Lakers went on to win the contest 103-102 to force a Game 7.  During the NBA TV telecast, Thomas will tweet about his memories from the game and chat directly with fans.  To join the conversation, fans are encouraged to follow @NBATV and use the hashtag #Isiahlive.

That performance is one of the greatest-ever in NBA Finals history. To whatever degree you believe clutch play is more than mere coincidence, Thomas played better in the biggest moments throughout his career. This is the crowning example of that.

If you haven’t seen the game, you’re in for a treat. If you have seen it, you’re in for a treat.

Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings among the best/worst newcomers in NBA

Who’s the best newcomer in the NBA? Josh Smith finished fourth in ESPN’s preseason prognostication, and Brandon Jennings ranked eighth.

Who’s the worst newcomer in the NBA, relative to expectations? Smith holds the No. 2 spot, and Jennings is fifth.

So, that clears up absolutely nothing.

The only other player in the top 10 for both categories is Dwight Howard, and that speaks more to the oversized expectations he faces with the Rockets than anything else. Smith and Jennings are truly polarizing, which should make the upcoming Pistons season so intriguing.

Smith is paid as if he’ll be among the best newcomers, and Jennings is paid as if he might be among the worst, which is why the Pistons were wise to grab the point guard in a sign-and-trade. With Smith, it seems the Pistons were more focused on adding talent no matter the cost.

Both Smith and Jennings are gambles in the truest sense of the word. Like the rest of ESPN’s voters, I have little clue which way it will go.

Part 1: How sunk costs should color an evaluation of Joe Dumars

Me at the Detroit Free Press:

One argument I frequently hear in favor of keeping Dumars is: “Where would the Pistons find a replacement who has built a championship-winning team like Dumars has?”

They wouldn’t find someone, but that’s not the point.

Dumars’ championship is a positive indicator of his skills as a general manager, but the 2004 title also is a sunk cost. It can’t be taken away. It happened in the past. And it has no direct effect on Dumars’ current job.

Again, Dumars deserves to list the 2004 title proudly on his resume. It’s a tremendous accomplishment that speaks strongly to his general-managing bona fides.

But it’s not proof he can do it again. The goal is to find a general manager who can construct the Pistons’ next championship, not its previous championship. Maybe that’s Dumars, and maybe it’s not.

Dumars’ title came so unconventionally that it’s possible that his approach won’t work again.

But other than Wallace, Dumars has shown little aptitude for acquiring a superstar, a nearly necessary step for winning a championship.

Dumars refuses to tank seasons, keeping the Pistons out of the top part of the draft where most superstars are chosen. In free agency, Dumars has signed less-than-max-level players such as Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva and Josh Smith. Hopefully, Smith turns out better than Gordon and Villanueva, but he is extremely unlikely to develop into a superstar.

There is some value in going against the grain. Not competing with tanking teams for the best odds at the No. 1 pick and not competing with teams pursuing max-level free agents has allowed Dumars to explore other, underutilized markets.

It’s a difficult approach to manage and, quite arguably, the wrong one for the Pistons.

How much credit does Dumars deserve for building the 2004 championship-winning Pistons? All of it. That’s one of the most meticulously assembled title teams of all time, and Dumars handled every transaction along the way.

But how much should that title influence how the Pistons, objectively, view Dumars now? Only somewhat. The fact that Dumars constructed a championship team is a positive indicator to his abilities, but not a defining one.

Part 2 will run the Free Press next week, and it uses sunk costs to create an argument for Dumars keeping his job.

Brandon Jennings slapped in the face at Drew League game

The action begins at about the 46-second mark.

Any NBA player in a pro-am league, like the Drew League in Brandon Jennings’ native California, is a target. Everyone else is trying to prove themselves against the best players in the world.

That’s how Jennings found himself slapped in the face by Charles Mike Taylor, who spent some time in the NBA himself. Taylor was ejected, and, at least in the video, Jennings didn’t really respond.

I’m sure there will be some Bad Boy-loving Detroit fans who question Jennings’ restraint, but he doesn’t need to be proving his toughness in Drew League games. Jennings will have ample opportunities to display his fortitude this winter.

Pistons sign Josh Harrellson

The Pistons signed Josh Harrellson, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

To clarify: Harrellson’s deal with Detroit is for two years, with team option on second season. This year will have a partial guarantee.

Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe were the only Pistons who fit naturally at center, and with one open roster spot, it was apparent the Pistons would add a center, and that center is “Jorts.” Harrellson likely completes the roster the Pistons will take into the season.

Undrafted Drafted in the second round out of Kentucky, Harrellson had a nice 37-game run with the Knicks as a rookie in 2011-12. He was traded in the offseason to the Rockets, who waived him, signed by the Heat, waived by the Heat, signed by the Heat and waived by the Heat again after playing a total of six games.

Offensively, Harrellson is a stretch center. More than 40 percent of his shots have been 3-pointers, and he he’s made 32.8 percent of his attempts beyond the arc. There are indications the 6-foot-10, 275-pound Harrellson is a good defender, but that end of the floor is especially tough to evaluate for someone who has played just 571 NBA minutes.

Harrellson doesn’t project to be part of the Pistons’ rotation, because Drummond will start at center and substitutions will be staggered so Monroe gets the rest of the minutes at that position. At age 24 and possessing four years of college experience, Harrellson probably doesn’t have a huge amount room to improve. Hopefully, he provides depth behind Drummond and Monroe but is never needed because those two stay healthy.

Pistons work out Josh Harrellson, Jason Collins, probably other centers

Franz Lidz of Sports Illustrated:

The Detroit Pistons have decided to pass on signing veteran free-agent center Jason Collins, according to an official in the team’s front office, Four months ago the 34-year-old center became the first active male in one of the four major North American team sports to announce he was gay. He recently worked out with the Pistons in the hope of filling out the end of their bench as a reserve.

We already knew the Pistons had interested in Collins  and they passed, but the key new information is they worked him out.

The Pistons will obviously conduct physicals on any potential signee, but this sounds like they’re going a step further in evaluating players.

Josh Harrellson told Kentucky Sports Radio he had a Pistons workout planned (hat tip: Sean Corp of Detroit Bad Boys). Corp also reports someone claiming to be Harrellson’s cousin tweeted “Congrats to my cousin @BigJorts55 for signing with the Detroit pistons." That tweet has since been deleted, and it could be for a variety of reasons. My best guess: the cousin misunderstood the difference between getting a workout and a contract.

Someone claiming to be Hassan Whiteside’s cousin, Vincent Whiteside, also tweeted Whiteside tried out for the Pistons and Heat and will sign with the Pistons. It makes sense the Pistons would have interest in Hassan Whiteside, who has a 7-foot-7 wingspan and spent his first two professional seasons with the Kings before playing in the D-League and overseas last year. But I put no stock into the tweets of “Vincent,” who began tweeting yesterday and has zero followers. This doesn’t pass the smell test – not even close.

But, with Collins and Harrellson, we’re getting a clearer picture of the Pistons’ plan. Joe Dumars already said he wants to use the 15th and final roster spot on a big man, and it seems they also are giving players they like opportunities to prove themselves in a workout. That indicates there isn’t a single free agent available they’re gung-ho about signing and would rather learn more about other players. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Pistons invite multiple centers to training camp on non-guaranteed contracts and choose one during the preseason.

14 options to fill the Pistons’ roster

At the Detroit Free Press, I wrote about 14 candidates for the Pistons’ final roster spot:

  • Cole Aldrich
  • Johan Petro
  • Hamed Haddadi
  • Henry Sims
  • Jason Collins
  • Ben Wallace
  • Vernon Macklin
  • Kyrylo Fesenko
  • Drew Gooden
  • Tyrus Thomas
  • Chris Wilcox
  • Ike Diogu
  • Ivan Johnson
  • JaJuan Johnson

Read the article to learn more about each of the 14.