Chad Ford’s second NBA mock draft for ESPN has the Pistons selecting Shabazz Muhammad with the No. 7 pick:
The Pistons have had a bit of luck the past few years in the lottery. Every year a player who is ranked very high at the start of the season seems to slide to them later in the draft and somehow fits a perfect need. First it was Greg Monroe in 2010. Brandon Knight slid in 2011. Last year it was Andre Drummond. At times, all three were ranked in the top five with Monroe and Drummond going as high as No. 2. Could it happen again this year with Muhammad? The Pistons clearly have a need for a shooter, and before the season began, many scouts had Muhammad as a top-three pick. He didn’t look like one at UCLA, but draft prospects rarely shine in Ben Howland’s system.
Unless the Pistons move up in the May 21 lottery, expect a lot of mock drafts projecting them to draft Muhammad. A top consensus top six has emerged – Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, Otto Porter, Victor Oladipo, Trey Burke and Anthony Bennett – and most mock drafts, like Ford’s, will have those six taken before the Pistons pick. At that point, Muhammad is a big name whose scoring ability and position makes him a decent fit with the Pistons.
J.B. Bickerstaff is perhaps best know for being Bernie Bickerstaff’s son and a piece of one of David Kahn’s harebrained schemes. Jerry Zgoda of the StarTribune:
The idea with hiring Bickerstaff — 67 and a head coach with four different NBA teams during his long career when he also was a president and GM — would be to sign him for a year or two while his son J.B. is groomed to take over the job when he’s ready.
Fortunately for the Timberwolves, they hired Rick Adelman instead. It worked out for Bickerstaff, too. He went to the Rockets and worked with a team with a winning record for the first time since 2000-01.
Obviously, that losing streak isn’t only Bickerstaff’s fault, but it’s certainly not a positive. Teams obviously like to hire winners, so how did Bickerstaff shine amid despair work his way up the coaching ranks while losing? Nepotism, perhaps? Leonard Laye of BobcatsBasketball.com when Bickerstaff was a Bobcats assistant:
John-Blair is the NBA’s youngest assistant coach. His father had the same distinction when, in 1973 at age 29, he started his coaching career in the league as a Washington assistant.
“Getting an opportunity like this, at my age, is a blessing,” John-Blair said. “Getting to work with my dad every day is a blessing.
Even if Bickerstaff got a leg up because his dad coached – and that’s not necessarily the case – maybe he seized the opportunity and developed into a worthy coaching candidate. For a small window into what Bickerstaff does, here’s an article excerpt from 2011, when Bickerstaff was a Timberwolves assistant. Judd Spicer of City Pages:
Bickerstaff is quick to laud the lack of generational gaps between the rest of the staff — coaches Kurt Rambis, Bill Laimbeer, Reggie Theus are all 53-years old; Dave Wohl is 61 — and the players, but adds that being a young coach has allowed him to serve in a conduit-capacity with players.
"The relationships — because of the similar generation I have with players — it opens doors up for us as a coaching staff," Bickerstaff explains. "It gives me the ability to relate to the guys, but also to be in a position as a coach to demand things from players. I think I can get a lot out of people because I do have that relationship with them. And it’s a relationship built on respect, and they understand that my best interest is for them and the team. Because of that, the coaches can come to me and I can go to the guys and get what we need to get done."
By nature, assistant coaches have different relationships with players than head coaches do. Assistant coaches often smooth over the hardline messages head coaches must deliver, and it sounds like Bickerstaff fills his role well. But can he also make and communicate the difficult decisions as a head coach?
And what has he done to prove himself in Houston? There’s only so much work for assistants to do, and the Rockets have two – Bickerstaff and Kelvin Sampson – good enough to interview for head-coaching positions. By both sharing responsibilities, there’s a limited opportunity for either to prove himself. But Sampson at least established his bona fides with the Bucks and Indiana University.
I asked for a wide-ranging coach search that includes candidates who would command a large salary, and the Pistons – who have or will interview Nate McMillan, Nate Budenholzer, Lindsey Hunter and Bickerstaff – are doing jut that. If they hire Bickerstaff because they like him more than McMillan and Budenholzer, I could maybe get behind that. If they hire Bickerstaff because more-established candidates turn them down, I’d be pretty underwhelmed.
In the meantime, I’ll keep reminding myself it doesn’t matter who they interview. It matters only whom they hire, and they’re probably not going to hire Bickerstaff.
Knicks assistant coach Darrell Walker is a candidate for the Pistons coaching job, sources say. Walker was a Pistons assistant from ’08-’11
Walker was a head coach for parts of three seasons between 1996 and 2000. In his best season, he went 15-23, and his career record is 56-113. It’s unfair to pin the losses of bad Raptors and Wizards teams entirely on him, but Walker hasn’t done enough to prove himself otherwise.
He served as an assistant in Detroit under John Kuester and Michael Curry, and if Walker impressed Joe Dumars during that time, I worry it was due only to the comparative level of the coaches he was working under.
The Pistons might be doing their due diligence by talking to Walker, and that’s great. But I’d be surprised if this is anything more than courtesy and shocked if Walker is a top-five candidate.
Pistons president Joe Dumars traveled to San Antonio on Wednesday and spent several hours meeting with Budenholzer, the top assistant to Gregg Popovich.
This is really exciting. I’m a Budenholzer fan, and even if he doesn’t get the job, it’s good he’s in the mix. The more quality candidates in the mix, the more likely the Pistons hire a good coach.
I’m also interested in the timing of the news breaking.
As Wojnarowski notes, this meeting occurred before the Pistons brought Phil Jackson on board. So why does it leak now? I don’t know, but completely speculating, here’s a theory: Dumars, upset with the perception he can’t run a competent coaching search, leaked it to prove he knows what he’s doing. If that’s the case, well done, Joe. Any general manager who scores a several-hour meeting with Budenholzer is doing something right.
Of course, there are a number of possibilities, such as Budenholzer or his agent leaking it to boost Budenholzer’s stock. So, don’t read too much into my speculation. Just sharing a thought that passed through my head.
To see how much a difference pace can make, here’s how McMillan’s teams ranked in points allowed per game/points allowed per possession:
2000-01 SuperSonics: 24th/24th*
2001-02 SuperSonics: 12th/17th
2002-03 SuperSonics: 6th/17th
2003-04 SuperSonics: 24th/27th
2004-05 SuperSonics: 13th/27th
2005-06 Trail Blazers: 18th/28th
2006-07 Trail Blazers: 14th/26th
2007-08 Trail Blazers: 8th/17th
2008-09 Trail Blazers: 4th/13th
2009-10 Trail Blazers: 3rd/15th
2010-11 Trail Blazers: 7th/14th
2011-12 Trail Blazers: 18th/23rd**
And his teams usually perform well offensively. After all, if his defenses do poorly, there has to be some reason his teams win more often than not.
There’s plenty of variation in rankings for McMillan’s teams offensively (using points scored per possession) — 10th, 5th, 19th, 3rd, 2nd, 30th, 20th, 14th, 1st, 7th, 10th, 11th — but they certainly skew to the positive.
Zach Lowe of Grantland wrote a great article (redundant) about New Age Shane Battiers, in other word players who can:
• Defend shooting guards.
• Defend small forwards.
• Shoot 3-pointers proficiently.
Lowe names two Pistons with the potential to meet that criteria:
• Kyle Singler: Singler shot 35 percent from deep and provided some valuable spacing for the shooting-challenged Pistons while logging time at both wing positions. Has to prove he can hold his own defensively.
• Khris Middleton: Detroit is high on Middleton’s potential to become precisely this sort of player, but he attempted just 45 3s and didn’t receive consistent minutes (or really any meaningful minutes at all) until the last month of the season.
It’s rather generous to include Kyle Singler and Khris Middleton, neither of whom shot even league average on 3-pointers. Middleton was a really bad defender when the Pistons inserted him into the rotation, and though he made great strides, he still didn’t prove he can defend either position. Singler lacked the foot speed to defend shooting guards, and he was only so-so against small forwards.
Both players have potential to improve on their rookies years and become New Age Battiers, but they have a long way to go to meet all three criteria.
Pistons might draft Ben McLemore, Otto Porter or Anthony Bennett with No. 1 overall pick in NBA Draft
In his latest NBA Draft rankings, Chad Ford of ESPN focused on which players teams would draft with the No. 1 pick, and he mentioned the Pistons when discussing Ben McLemore, Otto Porter and Anthony Bennett:
We now project McLemore as the No. 1 pick for five teams — the Pistons, Pelicans, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers and Jazz.
While we currently don’t project Porter to go No. 1 to any team, a number of teams — such as the Pistons, Suns and Wizards — would consider Porter there and would likely take him at the No. 2 spot if they landed it.
A few teams, including the Bobcats, Kings, Pistons, Wizards and 76ers, would probably give [Bennett] a strong look at No. 1.
Ford also linked the Pistons to C.J. McCollum and Shabazz Muhammad:
The Suns, Timberwolves, Pistons, Thunder and Jazz all could use [McCollum’s] skills.
The Kings, Pistons, Pelicans and Wizards all remain strong possibilities to select Muhammad in the top 10.
If the Pistons got the No. 1 pick, I’d take Nerlens Noel. To me, he’s a tier above every other player in this draft. I know he’s not a perfect fit with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe – heck, he might be a bad fit with them – but I wouldn’t settle for a lesser prospect unless someone who fits better elevates himself onto that top tier. So far, nobody has.
If the Pistons are forced to pick between players like McCollum and Muhammad, well, I really hope it doesn’t come to that.
“Yeah, probably, if I thought it would be the right situation,’’ Sloan, a Hall of Famer, told FOX Sports Florida on Thursday about still being interested in coaching.
Sloan said he hasn’t heard anything from Milwaukee, Charlotte, Philadelphia or Detroit, teams that officially have jobs open.
“I’ve not aware of any (interest from those teams),’’ Sloan said. “I haven’t said hello to anybody.’’
Considering the Pistons have had an opening for a couple weeks, I’d guess they would have already reached out to Jerry Sloan if they were interested in hiring him. But maybe they’ll miss out on their top targets, or maybe their new advisor will point them to Sloan.
Are the Pistons “the right situation” for the former Jazz coach? Who knows. They’re not going to win right now, but they have an intriguing group of young players who need molding.
The Pistons would probably prefer someone a little more patient with young players, but I could also see the Pistons wanting a coach with the potential to set a tone for the organization – much like Rick Carlisle did. (When he coached the Pistons, he wasn’t as advanced as a coach as he is now. His biggest contribution was getting the players to players to play hard, focus on defense and share the ball.)
But one source close to the situation told ESPN.com that Jackson’s willingness to counsel Gores and Pistons president Joe Dumars as they weigh candidates to replace the ousted Lawrence Frank is an unpaid consultancy stemming from Jackson’s friendship with Gores and "does not foreclose any options" with regard to the 11-time championship coach’s intentions to find a new full-time NBA management job.
When news of the Pistons’ hiring Phil Jackson broke, I wrote this would most likely be irrelevant or counterproductive (though helpful is certainly a real possibility, too).
We still don’t know which it will be, but put a tally in the irrelevant column.
Earlier today, I wrote about Tom Gores ‘looking to put his stamp on’ the Pistons coaching hire. It didn’t take long to learn what that meant. Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:
Tom Gores’ vow to use every available resource to restore the Pistons to greatness has led him to Phil Jackson, who has agreed to serve in an advisory capacity in the franchise’s search for a head coach.
“Phil Jackson is a friend and one of the best minds in the business,” Gores said. “We are thrilled to have him as an adviser as we make some very important decisions for this franchise. Joe (Dumars) and I discussed this and he and I are in full agreement that this is a great opportunity.”
“Phil Jackson and Tom Gores are friends,” said Mark Barnhill, a partner in Platinum Equity, Gores’ California-based private equity firm. “Based on that relationship, Phil has agreed to provide advice and counsel on the coaching search and immediate basketball needs. He will be in Detroit next week as a resource to Joe Dumars, who is leading the search.
Phil Jackson’s presence might be meaningless – a way to spread wealth from a billionaire to a millionaire friend, a Hollywood show designed to excite fans. I’m not one to tell Tom Gores how to spend his money, especially when it doesn’t affect the NBA’s salary cap, but that seems like a waste. No fan will spend any more money on the Pistons simply because they hired Jackson for a few-week or few-month job.
But maybe Jackson will have a real role in the search. If that’s the case, this could get very counterproductive.
Reportedly, Gores hired Lawrence Frank over Mike Woodson, despite Dumars preferring Woodson. I can’t imagine the Pistons hiring Frank unless Dumars at least liked him, but Dumars’ preference to a coach succeeding with the Knicks over one just fired by the Pistons should give Dumars more leeway in this coaching search.
Hiring coaches is Dumars’ job, and if Gores can’t trust him to do it, he should just fire him now. If Dumars actually wants Jackson on board as an advisor – see Langlois’ article for a boilerplate quote from Dumars about looking forward to working with Jackson – that’s one thing, but Dumars is basically forced to respond that way whether he supports adding Jackson or not.
What does this mean about the Pistons’ next coach?
If Jackson is a figurehead, nothing.
If he’s involved, I’d still call Nate McMillan the favorite, but former Jackson assistant Brian Shaw certainly has a better shot.
Or maybe Jackson will pull a Dick Cheney and hire himself. In that case, ignore all my negative concerns and check back for my post praising the big-thinking Gores.