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Category → The Big Question

The Big Question: Tayshaun Prince

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: Will Joe Dumars make the right call with Tayshaun Prince?

Let’s see, a championship-team starter on the wrong side of 30 whose best days appear to be behind him, but still capable of playing at a high level. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

That was Chauncey Billups’ situation when the Pistons traded him to the Nuggets. At the time, there were compelling reasons to keep him and compelling reasons to trade him. Joe Dumars chose the latter, and it ended up being the wrong choice.

Dumars faces a similar predicament with Tayshaun Prince, but Prince’s expiring contraction only complicates the decision.

Frankly, I don’t know whether the Pistons should trade Prince or keep him past the trade deadline, and if they keep him, I don’t know what they should do with him. Does Dumars?

PH: Will Prince’s value to the team trump his value as an expiring contract?

Few players in basketball are as smart on the court as Tayshaun Prince. He’s exactly the type of veteran a rebuilding team would want to teach its young impressionable future cornerstones. The problem is his large expiring contract makes him the team’s most valuable asset if it wants more young impressionable future cornerstones.

Most assume that the Pistons will try to trade Prince to improve. I still have my doubts.

The Big Question: Ben Wallace

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: Will he enjoy this season?

I really think Ben Wallace had fun last season. He was back in his professional home and playing with old friends like Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince. Most importantly, he played well. Wallace is a prideful guy, and I think he would have regretted passing on retirement if he couldn’t make a significant impact on the court.

Wallace has meant so much to this franchise, I just want him to be glad he re-signed again.

PH: Are people doubting him again?

Last year, Wallace was signed and it was met with a collective of “he’s washed up!” giggles from most Pistons fans (Note: Not from this Pistons fan). All Wallace did last year was show that stories of his decline were very premature. He wasn’t the game-changing force he was in his prime, but he’s still one of the best defensive big men in the league.

This offseason, there has been talk about the need to limit his minutes. Why? He played only eight 28 (ED. Note: Don’t write when tired) minutes per game last year, and although he did have a minor injury, he showed no signs of wearing down as the season progressed. The only player whose production I have no doubts about this year is Ben Wallace.

The Big Question: Richard Hamilton

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: How much value is there in being the league’s best-conditioned 32-year-old?

Richard Hamilton prides himself on being the NBA’s best-conditioned player, and depending on how you judge that, he might be. Relative to the type of body he’d have if he took average care of himself, Hamilton might be in the best shape in the league.

But how does an extremely fit 32-year-old compare to a regularly fit (by NBA standards) 26-year-old?

Can he be worth $37.5 million over the next three years? Can he be worth an asset in a trade?

I think Hamilton has done all he can to make himself as valuable as possible. But is that enough?

PH: Why again does he need to be traded?

Covering media day reinforced something I’d lost sight of: I really like Rip Hamilton a lot. He’s funny (“Yessir!”), he’s upbeat and although there are certainly questions about his health, he’s still in great shape.

He has a skill set (i.e., not one dependent on elite athleticism) that will make him a solid player well into his late 30s. There are better players than Hamilton out there, and the Pistons have to clear some space on the perimeter, but if he’s healthy, Hamilton will again be a very decent player for the Pistons.

The Big Question: Ben Gordon

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: Can he eclipse the Diawara Line in 79 percent of his games?

This coincides with a lengthier post I had planned for last year and can’t be fully explained in this spirit of this series. So, check shortly for a full post explaining the Diawara Line.

PH: Is he a starter?

Ben Gordon is not going to win the starting shooting guard job with Richard Hamilton present. Gordon’s explosiveness is just much better suited as a super-sub type player. But Gordon does not view himself as a sixth man, nor does his salary suggest he is one.

The Pistons need to find out if they have a young veteran who will develop a more all-around approach if he’s given an expanded role, or if they have a one-dimensional scorer who’s locked into an above-market-rate long-term deal.

The Big Question: Charlie Villanueva

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: How good will he be in 2011-12?

I have no doubt Charlie Villanueva will succeed this season. Am I crazy? (After reading that first sentence, I won’t disagree with anyone who says yes.)

I believe Villanueva is in better shape. I believe Villanueva is focused and motivated. I believe he’s talented, just like he’s always been.

That’s a lethal combination, and in the rare times Villanueva has put together all those elements in the past, he’s succeeded.

Villanueva’s motivations aren’t complex. He signed a sizable contract last summer, didn’t live up to it and feels embarrassed. Let’s credit the guy for responding appropriately so far .

But once he surpasses this year’s extremely low expectations, what will motivate him next summer? Is his only goal not to be so bad he sticks out as a scapegoat? Does he have the passion to stand out for positive reasons, not just the desire not to stand out for negative ones?

For those of you expect nothing or next to nothing from Villanueva this season, I think you’re in for a pleasant surprise. But when stakes are raised a year from now, I’m not sure Villanueva will deliver.

PH: Is this year make or break?

No player had a more bi-polar season a year ago than Charlie V. For stretches in December/January, he was putting up huge scoring numbers, carrying the team some nights, and he looked like he was legitimately going to have a breakout season. By the end of the year, he was out of the rotation.

Villanueva has a big contract, but it’s not completely unreasonable by NBA standards. He’s also young, can score and is nearly 7-foot.

If Villanueva’s talking points about being committed to defense, committed to being in better shape and committed to being a viable cornerstone don’t materialize, it’s a good bet he could be a trade candidate.

The Big Question: Jonas Jerebko

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: Will the Pistons reap the rewards this season of Jerebko’s summer?

As I wrote before, I was a little troubled Jonas Jerebko chose to focus on ball-handling and his mid-range game this summer. The Pistons needed him most at power forward, and those aren’t skills he will use a ton at that position.

A few commenter made a good point: regardless of this season, Jerebko’s long-term outlook is still at small forward. If he re-signs with the Pistons, they could still benefit from his work this summer once the roster is straightened out.

One way or the other, I hope this summer was productive for Jerebko and the Pistons.

PH: Will he try and rush back from injury?

The Jonas Jerebko we all know and love is competitive, tough and one of the hardest working players on the team. Those are all great qualities on the court, but they are all also potential detriments to a player rehabbing a serious injury. Players trying to come back too early from tough injuries are a fairly common occurrence in the league, and few do it successfully without some setbacks.

Jerebko’s game is predicated on athleticism and activity, so putting too much pressure on his Achilles too early could have a serious impact on his skill set. As much as I’d love to see Jerebko on the court again, I hope the Pistons are really careful with his rehab and that he’s 100 percent healthy before he starts playing again.

The Big Question: Joe Dumars

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: How limited is he by the ownership situation?

As constructed, the Pistons obviously aren’t going to win a title. Moves must be made. Can Joe Dumars make them now? Does he have to wait until a new owner takes over? Is he forbidden to take on payroll for the sake of Karen Davidson’s wallet? Will he have to shed payroll for the sake of Karen Davidson’s wallet?

It’s impossible to fairly criticize Dumars for his moves, or lack there of, without this information.

PH: Is he a tortured genius?

Often, people who have great success early on in their profession get a a genius complex. They think they’ve figured out “The Secret” as Bill Simmons would say and begin taking advice less or trying crazier ideas because their past success has them foolishly convinced that all of their goofy ideas will pan out.

Dumars constructed a title team, a year-in, year-out contender and did so in a way that no one has replicated: without a superstar. His two best players on his title team, Billups and Wallace, combined to make less money per season than Antoine Walker.

Now, Dumars has made a series of moves that can be described as reaches: believing that guys who have never been tough or physical or interested defenders in Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva can suddenly be taught, drafting guys who weren’t well known (Austin Daye might work out, but he passed on guys like Ty Lawson and Darren Collison for him, and they are already good players in this league), taking flyers on aging vets with major questions (Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady).

Could Dumars be supremely confident his moves will work simply because they’ve worked out in the past?

The Big Question: Tracy McGrady

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: Will Arnie Kander produce another miracle?

Because of reclamations like Dana Barros and Antonio McDyess, everyone considers Arnie Kander a genius. It’s not necessarily out of line. He has a great track record. For years, I’ve called Kander the most underrated aspect of the organization. His ability to keep the team healthy over the years has meant countless wins, especially in the playoffs. But were last year’s injuries a sign Kander isn’t as great as he seems? Has the hype finally surpassed the substance? Or did chance fall so far on the negative side that it outweighed Kander?

If Tracy McGrady looks anything like he did in his prime, the legend of Arnie won’t die anytime soon.

PH: Will the Detroit Pistons ruin another icon?

After he was traded to Detroit, Allen Iverson went from one of the league’s most popular players to a guy who couldn’t beat Mike Conley for a starting job in Memphis. Now, another 2000s alpha dog icon in the twilight of his career finds himself on the Pistons. I don’t know what McGrady will produce. I just hope that his career is not going to end embarrassingly in Detroit the way Iverson’s did. Whatever you think of either of them personally, they are two of the most brilliant players of this era and deserved to be remembered for that. I don’t know what to expect from T-Mac. I just hope he’s still a solid player.

The Big Question: Jason Maxiell

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: Can he really be a reliable backup center?

At just 6-foot-7, Jason Maxiell was the Pistons’ most reliable backup center last year. Maxiell hadn’t held a defined role in years, but when pressed into a set spot, even one that doesn’t appear to naturally suit him, he thrived. Did the Pistons stumble onto something? Do Maxiell’s long arms, strong lower body and impressive hops negate his height mismatch against backup fives? If so, Greg Monroe might not be pressed into duty right away.

PH: Have the Pistons finally figured out how to use him?

Maxiell has had an up and down career with the Pistons. He’s been in and out of the rotation. At times, he’s played well and hasn’t been rewarded with more minutes. At times, he’s played poorly and been left in the game. Last year, he was given his first extended opportunity to start, with mixed results. What we know is this: Maxiell is no worse than the Pistons third best big man (not counting Jerebko) and, if healthy, will be a rotation player all season.

The Big Question: Will Bynum

With a cloud uncertainty thunder-storming, snowing and hailing on the Detroit Pistons, we wanted our Pistons preview series to capture that. So for each Piston, Patrick Hayes and I will identify and explain what we each see as the biggest question surrounding him entering the season.

DF: Did his ankle injuries rob him of his all-around game?

At the beginning of last year, Will Bynum did an excellent job of scoring, passing, rebounding and even defending. Then, he was hit with a pair of ankle injuries. When he came back, he was more the one-dimensional scorer he appeared to be the season before.

So, I want to know whether that early-season production was skewed by a small sample size or derailed by injury. Bynum says his ankles are fine, so we should know the answer early.

PH: Can he win the starting point guard job?

The Pistons maintain that there is open competition at all spots. Rodney Stuckey is the presumed starter at point guard, but the Pistons have also expressed a desire to “return to their roots” and focus on the blue-collar style that has won the franchise three titles.

Bynum, the unheralded guy who has had to fight for everything in his career, better embodies that philosophy than Stuckey, the first round pick who was handed a starting job two years ago and shown little improvement.