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PistonPowered Mailbag: Bloggers as GMs and fans enamored with Knicks roster, for some reason

Submit questions for the weekly PistonPowered Mailbag to  patrickhayes13(at)gmail(dot)com or on Twitter @patrick_hayes.

The overwhelming majority of this week’s questions came in an hour or so after Wednesday’s loss to Milwaukee. Funny how blowing a double-digit lead to the worst team in the league tends to push fans near the breaking point. At any rate, I only picked a couple of questions from that batch just so the mailbag didn’t seem too ragey this week. Anyway, let’s dive right in.

Detroit Bad Boys has a post with a blogger making his case to be the Pistons’ next GM. That’s the worst idea ever, right? — pt

It’s worse than the worst idea ever. You think this team is irrelevant now? Wow … I can’t even imagine how much of a joke the Pistons would be considered after a publicity stunt like that, not that they ever would consider it. Kevin Sawyer (I think) was mostly being tongue-in-cheek in his post. And I do agree with the first part of the premise — that it’s time to replace Joe Dumars. But just pretending he’s serious for a moment, let me make a laundry list of issues:

  1. The premise that a fan or writer or media personality or whoever could step in off the street and run the basketball operations of a professional franchise is insulting to people who spend their lives working in professional sports. Those jobs are competitive, there are thousands of people who want them and are actually qualified for them, you have to be incredibly connected and motivated to get them (not to mention lucky), you have to be willing to pick up your life and move anywhere in the country at a moment’s notice (sometimes for jobs that don’t pay all that well at the lower levels of basketball ops), etc. Now, sometimes you get lucky and you’re a famous former athlete and you get a job through name recognition. But look around the league — fewer and fewer teams are trusting their basketball operations to former players. They are hiring highly educated, business-savvy people who are rather anonymous prior to getting their jobs. So, in short, if you want to be a GM, go work for low pay as a video coordinator or scouting support staff or stats team or somewhere else at the ground floor level of the business, learn everything about it, work your way up through the ranks and actually become a qualified candidate like the many, many hard-working people doing just that right now, dying for a chance at a once-in-a-lifetime job running a team.
  2. It’s easy to be critical of mistakes that Dumars or any other GM makes. Mistakes are reported in media, they’re dissected in comments sections/message boards/websites and they follow people who work in high level sports jobs to any stop they make. It’s also easy to tout yourself for a position you’re not qualified for if you mention only your good qualifications. For example, perhaps Mr. Gores would be interested in Sawyer’s explanation for thinking Brad Beal was a worse prospect than Kim English? Or why he would’ve taken Arnett Moultrie over Andre Drummond? Or why Doron Lamb was a top 10 prospect despite no one else thinking anything remotely close to that? Or why likely rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams was only worth a late first round pick? This is coming off as picking on Sawyer, and that’s not my intention. It’s similar to Bill Simmons’ “campaign” a few years ago to be GM of the Timberwolves. The point is, we know all of the mistakes an experienced executive with a public track record makes. Writers, though? We make TONS of mistakes (please don’t go searching around for mine … they’re not pretty), bad predictions and weird proclamations that don’t pan out. And we all benefit from the fact that readers largely forget the crazier stuff we write within a couple of months, and we’re free to continue with the crazy ideas again. It’s an endless crazy opinion cycle! But if you’re making yourself a candidate for a dream job, those archives are fair game for evaluating your qualifications.
  3. We don’t actually know the context behind Dumars’ moves. I mean, we know that he has made many, many bad calls post-championship that haven’t worked. But who knows, maybe Gores is the world’s biggest Josh Smith fan. Maybe hiring Maurice Cheeks was a secret plan by Dumars and Gores for the Pistons to add more talent in the offseason but still remain bad enough through incompetent coaching so that they don’t lose their lottery pick in a loaded draft. Are those scenarios unlikely? Sure. Am I defending Dumars’ track record? No way would I do that anymore. But the point is, we don’t know context. So let’s say Sawyer (or any other of the many people who were opposed to the Smith signing) was named GM before free agency started. And let’s say you made your impassioned plea that signing Josh Smith was a bad idea, supported by mounds of data. And what if your owner strolled in wearing his Britney Spears jeans and unbuttoned shirt and said, “But I love Josh Smith! Look at his dunks! Give him millions a’ dollas!” Guess what? You are still going to sign Josh Smith, despite all of your objections. We know very little about Tom Gores, his desires and how he’s going to evaluate the decisions that were made in the offseason. So yes, Dumars deserves to be fired based on his long track record of poor decisions and the team’s long track record of not making the playoffs. But unfortunately for fans, we’re not the ones establishing the criteria for him staying or going. Just assuming that things would be different with someone else in his position, even someone who makes basketball decisions very differently than Dumars, is a judgement we don’t have enough information about Gores to make.

So yeah, I love Detroit Bad Boys, read it every day and get that the point of the post was more to show that Dumars has been terrible for a long time and needs to go (which I agree with) than to present Sawyer as actually qualified for the job. But it’s worth pointing out that thinking fans (even smart ones) could do a better job than even a mediocre executive is a mistake. Outsiders never have enough information to know what they’d actually be up against in that kind of role.

Could you see the Pistons firing Maurice Cheeks during the season if they continue to play poorly? — Mark

Clearly, Cheeks was a bad hire. The team is no better off than it was last year despite having more talent, I’m not positive I’ve seen them run a play on offense this year and what was supposed to be the team’s strength — defense — has been anything but. With the assumption that the Pistons have to make the playoffs for Dumars to keep his job at the end of the season, there is certainly some urgency to make a fast change. The main problem I see is that there is no clear successor on staff — as much as I’d love to see Coach ‘Sheed — to take over on an interim basis.

Theoretically, the Pistons could go out and pay for a free agent coach like George Karl or one of the Van Gundys or Lionel Hollins to come on board quickly. But if you were in Gores’ position, with the team under-performing and the playoffs looking more remote, would you pay Cheeks’ salary to go away, then allow Dumars to go pay another coach to come on board and quickly try to right a sinking ship? That doesn’t seem like a prudent financial move, especially if Gores has decided that Dumars isn’t his long-term guy. If you’re getting rid of Dumars at the end of the season, you’re not letting him hire another coach first.

So like it or not, Cheeks is probably the guy the rest of the way (unless both he and Dumars get fired mid-season, which is probably unlikely but not impossible). Also, I feel it’s important to point out that when Cheeks was hired and many, many people in the comments here were getting mad at Feldman and calling him negative for going back and digging up all of the evidence that Cheeks would not succeed as a head coach? Oops. Turns out we should’ve all been listening to Feldman. I’ll accept your apologies on his behalf.

After last night’s defeat to the Bucks I definitely feel the team might trade some players and admit the error of the Smith signing. The problem is not Smith as a player but the fit with this team and I still think that Monroe is more valuable in the long run. There aren’t many trade partners but i think that Smith for Bargnani would work for both parts. We have (a little) more shooting and 2 less years on the contract. NY is in absolutely win know mode and need better defenders. What do you think? — Angelo

Hmm … that’s interesting …

Andrea Bargnani: Still Really Bad At Defense

Andrea Bargnani Attempted A Reverse Dunk, And It Did Not Go Well

Also, Bargnani is making less than 30 percent of his threes this season and hasn’t shot better than 31 percent from three for three seasons. I don’t like Smith’s contract or fit on the team either, but there is exactly zero other reasons to ever want Andrea Bargnani on your favorite team.

I’m not a big fan of his, but let’s say Carmelo makes it clear he’s leaving the Knicks, and everyone from the Knicks’ front office is drunk. Who says no? — Nico

I think ‘Melo has become the most “fantasy-traded to the Pistons for garbage” player among fans since … uh … fans were making Tayshaun Prince-for-Josh Smith trades for about four years.

The Knicks definitely say no to that trade (in addition to giving up the best player, they’re also giving up the best young prospect in the deal in Hardaway … the Pistons would have to include a million first round picks for this deal to be fair), and rightfully so. For all of his flaws, Anthony is still an occasionally dominant (if inefficient) offensive player and legitimately one of the most popular players in the league. The Knicks will do everything they can to keep him, and they can pay him more money than anyone else. I don’t think Anthony is happy there, necessarily, but I also don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that he’d leave, either. The Knicks, I’m sure, are willing to bank on the fact that they can offer him the most and the allure of playing the Garden are enough bargaining chips to keep him. I don’t know if it will work, but if we know anything about the Knicks under Dolan, it’s that they will always be irrationally over-confident in their own resources as selling points.



  • Jan 24, 201411:21 am
    by pt


    Thanks for answering my question. Most of GM work is managing egos and people. That’s a completely different skill than “writing/blogging.” 
    Now, if Feldman was candidate for the GM spot … that’s a different story. I’m all in on Feldman. 

  • Jan 24, 201412:24 pm
    by jj


    As an avid fan of DBB, even I have to say that yes, that is the worst idea ever. I find it quite hysterical that Kevin touts the things he got “right”, and conveniently ignores all the shit he was so, so wrong about. It’s not surprising though….

    • Jan 24, 20141:56 pm
      by The Boourns


      Kevin made a point of claiming this to be his “Cover Letter” for the job application.  Let me ask you this:  When have you ever included all of your failings as an employee in your cover letter/resume?  Oh right.  People don’t do that.  They talk about all the things they do right and are good at.
      Even if this post is entirely tongue-in-cheek, including his own mistakes wouldn’t have fit the context of the article itself.

  • Jan 24, 201412:25 pm
    by Boney


    I think this is an over the top response to Kevin’s post.
    A more fitting response, and one that could’ve likely cut to the chase with many is – “Considering how much said writer makes the posts all about himself, this post is not at all surprising”
    At least this time, the post is written in such a way that half of it can’t be scrutinized or argued about over the summer as some of the other smug writers have had to defend their piss poor attitudes like this past summer.
    Fire Dumars, sure.  I’m all for it.  To say you’d do better, c’mon… in the words of Vince Vaughn: “I’d like to be pimps from Oakland or cowboys from Arizona but it’s not Halloween. Grow up Peter Pan, Count Chocula.”

    • Jan 24, 20141:31 pm
      by Packey


      But how do you really feel, Boney? #ironicsmileyfacewink

  • Jan 24, 201412:29 pm
    by kevin s.


    “For example, perhaps Mr. Gores would be interested in Sawyer’s explanation for thinking Brad Beal was a worse prospect than Kim English?”

    Sure. Beal was pretty bad in college. English wasn’t. As it turns out, they have both been pretty terrible in the NBA. The difference is that Beal gets to shoot a lot. But all that shooting has yielded a whopping 0 wins produced this year.
    With a bit more time, I probably would have dug into the exceptional nature of English’s senior year (vs. the rest of his college resume), and the overall context of a system that yielded a hyper-efficient offense.

    • Jan 24, 20141:49 pm
      by Tim Thielke


      Yeah: 17, 4, and 3 with just 2 TOs on 43% shooting beyond the arc is “pretty terrible in the NBA”.

      Come on, man. He’s off to a better start than a pre-injury Eric Gordon (probably the most similar player in the league).

      If you redo the 2012 draft today, Beal is still a top 5 pick (it probably goes Davis, Lillard, Drummond, Henson, Beal).

      • Jan 24, 20141:58 pm
        by The Boourns


        17 points on 16 shots is pretty terrible, especially when he doesn’t get to the line at a great rate and shoots atrociously from inside the arc, yet still shoots from inside the arc.  Beal is a volume shooter with mediocre defense and limited offensive capabilities.  Calling out his 17 points without looking at any advance metrics is essentially what netted us Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings this summer.

        • Jan 24, 20143:12 pm
          by Tim Thielke


          17 points on 16 shots isn’t very good. But it is most definitely not “pretty terrible”. And I don’t get your “especially when he doesn’t get to the line at a great rate”. Actually, getting 17 points on 16 shots would be a lot worse if he was getting to the line a lot, because that would mean he was using even more possessions to get there, and therefore shooting even worse.

          Getting to the line is a great thing, but it is already overstated, not understated, in “x points on y shots”. Beal’s TS% is slightly below average, almost entirely because he never shoots freebies (although the dreadful 2 point percentage doesn’t help). But then, he’s a second year player. He’s already a very good shooter from deep and is well above average defensively for such a young player.

          • Jan 24, 20144:00 pm
            by kevin s.

            17 points on 16 shots is abysmal. It is good for 4th worst in the NBA (out of 126 regulars). The only players with fewer points per shot are Josh Smith, JR Smith and Avery Bradley.

          • Jan 24, 20144:26 pm
            by Tim Thielke

            Jason Terry, Francisco Garcia, Travis Outlaw, Tony Snell, Trey Burke, Matt Barnes, Kirk Hinrich, Mo Williams, Caron Butler, Jerryd Bayless, Ben McLemore, John Salmons, KCP, Tayshaun Prince, Kevin Garnett, Ersan Ilyasova, Marcus Thornton, Luke Ridnour, Raymond Felton, Andrew Bynum, Anthony Bennett.

            Those are just a few of the names of players who are getting fewer points per shot attempt and none of them are players who are overly shy about shooting. There are many, many more. So I’m not entirely sure what your criteria for including names was, but consider expanding it.

            Also, points per possessions used are more relevant than point per shot attempt. That way, you take into account TO rate and don’t overemphasize free throw rate.

          • Jan 24, 20145:09 pm
            by kevin s.

            So why not a comprehensive metric that takes into account all of a player’s contributions? Like, oh, say, Wins Produced? What is that metric missing that Beal brings to the table?

        • Jan 25, 20145:17 am
          by oats


          @ The Boourns. I think it’s pretty easy to mistake what a guy has to do with what he wants to do. Look at his shooting locations in college. He took 10.6 shots a game and 5 of those were 3 pointers. This year he’s 17.5 shots a game, and only 5.4 of them are 3 pointers. So either he just really fell in love with taking long 2 pointers or he is trying to fill a different role. I suspect it’s the latter, and I don’t think it was his decision.
          Washington just doesn’t have anyone other than Wall and Beal to create their own shot. The 4 leading scorers other than those two are at or darn near their career high in shot attempts, and the one exception is that Gortat took a few more shots when Nash was his PG. I think those guys are pretty much at their limit, and if they forced more shots they would have their efficiency drop similarly to how Beal’s efficiency is pretty poor. As a result the Wiz are clearly asking Beal to make plays for himself to take some of the workload off Wall. I suspect he would look really good if he was on a team that asked him to focus on doing what he does well, namely playing defense and shooting 3s.

      • Jan 24, 20143:20 pm
        by kevin s.


        Those points come on a lot of shots. If you gave Kim English 16 shots, he’d probably give you about 17 points. Beal can hit the three, but he tries to do a lot of other things and fails spectacularly.
        As for the 4 and 3, those numbers aren’t remarkable at all. His assist rate is 37th out of 66 eligible players at his position, and his rebounding rate is 29th out of 66. Decidedly average.
        He’s 20, so he could get better, but he isn’t good.

        • Jan 24, 20144:01 pm
          by Tim Thielke


          He’s definitely not remarkable, but he is good. And all I claimed is that he would still be a top 5 pick in a draft redo. I believe that to be the case. Let’s face it, most players aren’t remarkable at this point.

          And Kim English was much worse in every facet of the game, including his TS%, and per minutes numbers.

  • Jan 24, 201412:39 pm
    by dandresden


    soooooooooo patrick hayes for GM? 

    • Jan 24, 201412:45 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      Hell no man. I am way too lazy, stupid and in love with flawed players. “Here you go Will Bynum, here’s a lifetime contract, sir. Please take all of my money.”

      I know my weaknesses.

      • Jan 24, 20141:54 pm
        by hirobeats


        nothing wrong with a little 4th quarter, down 15, MFWBHeroball. 

  • Jan 24, 201412:54 pm
    by CityofKlompton


    This is obviously a huge leap and I’m not presenting it as anything serious, but let’s say Gores really did walk into Dumars’ office with Spears skinny jeans, an unbuttoned shirt, his bodaciously amazing 80s haircut, and way too much cologne on to tell him to sign Josh Smith immediately for as much money as it takes THEN he said, “Hey, that Brandon Jennings guy looks pretty exciting! Here is a blank check, get him too!!” Greg Monroe has to be traded, right? No way he would be exciting enough to keep around with that mindset.

  • Jan 24, 20141:18 pm
    by Vic


    The guys at DBB hated on me pretty hard for promoting Drummond… but they ate cr– I mean, apologized so its all good.
    I still like their perspective on some things though and check it out.
    I”m all about stats but only in a larger context will you ever have an accurate view of stats.
    I don’t think you have to toil in years of grunt work to succeed at a job like that though.
    I think a blogger that could PROVE that they grasp an understanding of those larger team concepts as well as analytics, and finances, and had some type of coaching experience… could get a chance – if they could build the relationships necessary. The world is flattening.

    • Jan 24, 20142:05 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      I wasn’t trying to bash Kevin or anyone at DBB in my response.

      The “fan/writer/whoever as GM” concept is a fairly common one. A lot of us, particularly informed fans, think we could do front office jobs. And in a few cases, we probably could. (There are a couple TrueHoop Network guys who started as bloggers and now work in basketball ops, for example). Totally agree with you that there are new paths.

      • Jan 24, 20142:44 pm
        by Vic


        yeah its all love, no need for a blog beef.
        there are dummies and mean people on every single one, why care?

  • Jan 24, 20141:59 pm
    by hirobeats


    did pactrick just start a PistonPowered Vs. DDB scrap? 

  • Jan 24, 20142:04 pm
    by The Boourns


    “The premise that a fan or writer or media personality or whoever could step in off the street and run the basketball operations of a professional franchise is insulting to people who spend their lives working in professional sports.”
    Question: What is more insulting?  The idea of someone who spends hours every day analyzing data voluntarily stepping into a GM role with no experience in professional sports or Joe Dumars, voluntarily ignorant of advanced metrics despite their well-founded uses, retaining his position?
    If I’m an up and comer in the professional sports industry, or am currently employed by the Pistons, I’d be insulted by the idea that Dumars has continually been able to screw this team with his free agency blunders.  I’d be insulted that the owner of the franchise chooses to ignore these blunders and refuses to listen to individuals pushing for greater emphasis on advanced metrics.
    As a fan of the game and someone who spends money on the league and the Pistons every year, I can tell you I’m insulted, angry, and close to simply ending my support of this franchise until Gores removes Dumars from office.

  • Jan 24, 20146:21 pm
    by mythx


    Besisde the contract (which to me would be a huge reason to do this) there are 2 reasons to make this trade.
    1) Bargs would give the Pistons better floor spacing. I admit he is not a fantastic shooter but the reality is Smith is a very bad shooter. He would still be an improvement overall.
    2) Realistically the only way to break up out current starting frontcourt is through a trade. Smith wont come off the bench, Drummond should not come off the bench. And with Monroe in a contract year he would be absolutely livid being benched.  If the Pistons are serious about building a team long term than dumping Smith is the right move. The Pistons need to keep their young assets and start losing the the older highly paid players.

  • Jan 24, 20146:22 pm
    by Boney


    lol you’re gonna take your fandom elsewhere
    just like every Lions fan and just like Tigers fan after the 90s and early 00s
    The funniest thing of the Kim English/Brad Beal bit is that the statement “I don’t like shooting guards that can’t shoot” and Kim English’s main knock was he couldn’t shoot. 

  • Jan 24, 20148:02 pm
    by brgulker


    But it’s worth pointing out that thinking fans (even smart ones) could do a better job than even a mediocre executive is a mistake. Outsiders never have enough information to know what they’d actually be up against in that kind of role
    Totally and completely disagree. Sure, we don’t know what we’d be up against, but there is no reason to believe that any of us who write here or at DBB wouldn’t do a better job than Dumars. Sure, Kevin and I whiffed on Drummond, but if either of us had been running the team since 2008, we’d never have been in a position to pick Drummond. 
    How about Faried or Leonard over Knight? How about Ty Lawson over Austin Daye? Those are easy examples of going with analytics over eyeballs that would have kept the Pistons competitive, even though not contenders. 
    Of course we haven’t gotten everything right, but we have been dead on about Gordon, Villanueva, Smith, Jennings, and heck, even Harrellson (who’s been really solid in his limited minutes). Any number of completely feasible moves could have been made as alternatives to those, and the Pistons would have been winning games as a result. 
    Dumars has demonstrated – with almost every free agent signing since 2008 – that he has no idea how to evaluate players outside the draft. None. Whatsoever. And in the draft, he’s gotten lucky. How quickly have we forgotten that the same way of thinking that netted Andre Drummond produced Brandon Knight (who is one of the worst guards in the NBA). And how quickly have we forgotten that Andre Drummond is light years ahead where anyone thought he’d be, including Dumars?
    I’m fine with the speculation that Gores is pressuring Dumars. It makes sense. But I completely disagree that educated fans couldn’t do a better job. There’s just waaaaaaaay too much evidence to the contrary. 

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