Greg Monroe received a second-place vote in Most Improved Player voting – Paul George won the award – and, while it’s appreciated when the Pistons receive national recognition, the choice is a little surprising. Here’s what I wrote when Monroe received a Most Improved Player vote in an ESPN panel:
Monroe showed a more well-rounded game this year, a sign of improvement as a player. But an increased attention to the less-efficient areas of his game (ball-handling, mid-range shooting, passing) at the expense of the more efficient areas of his game (offensive rebounding, interior scoring) made him less productive.
I’d argue Monroe is a better player than a year ago simply because he can do more on the court, and assuming his rebounding and low-post skills haven’t deteriorated, that bodes well for his future. But because of his change in focus this season, Monroe produced less for his team.
There are plenty of players who meet both criteria – real improvement and increased production – who are far more deserving of the award.
Many award voters make their picks public. Did anyone see someone declare a second-place vote for Monroe?
Former Portland and Seattle coach Nate McMillan has emerged as the front-runner to replace the fired Lawrence Frank and become the new head coach of the Detroit Pistons, according to sources familiar with Detroit’s plans.
The Pistons want to hire a proven head coach and are targeting McMillan
Nate McMillan would be a very satisfying choice – if he doesn’t get too much say in personnel decisions.
McMillan has proven himself to be an excellent overseer of a roster, but he’s also proven himself a coach, like many, with a strong preference for veterans. I think he would do a good job teaching the Pistons’ young talent, as long as he doesn’t have the option of playing steadier veterans. McMillan developed young talent with the Trail Blazers. He just preferred to dump it for more immediate help.
The Pistons can’t simply hire McMillan and declare all is well now, but if they create the right environment for him to work, he very well could be the best option available.
Meet Zeljko Obradovic.
Not to be confused with former Pistons’ center Zeljko Rebraca, Obradovic is arguably the most intriguing candidate to be mentioned for Detroit’s vacant head-coaching position.
But who is Zelly (that’s what I’ve already decided I’ll call him) Obradovic, you ask?
The winningest coach in Euroleague history is none other than Zeljko Obradovic. A World champion as a player in 1990, Obradovic led Partizan to its only Euroleague title in 1992, downing Joventut in the final. He compensated Joventut’s fans by leading them to the 1994 Euroleague title, the only crown in club history. Obradovic then joined Real Madrid and won his third Euroleague title in 1995. He also won Saporta Cup titles with Madrid in 1997 and Benetton in 1999 before joining Panathinaikos. In his 10 seasons with the Greens, Obradovic has won nine Greek league crowns, five Greek Cups and four Euroleague titles in 2000, 2002, 2007 and 2009. Obradovic also captured gold at EuroBasket 1997 and the 1998 World Championship with Yugoslavia
He’s the Red Aurebach or Phil Jackson of Europe. If we blindly judged coaches on “ringz” like some do players, he’d be an absolutely obvious pick for the job in Detroit.
There is a catch, though.
We know very little about him. Yes, he’s got the resume, but his style of play is still somewhat ambiguous and, unless you are fluent in reading Spanish, his intentions with an NBA team are somewhat confusing — potentially because the Google Translation of this Spanish article is tough to understand.
The contract would be set at a figure close to $ 4 million this season. Amount charged similar to his predecessor Lawrence Frank in Detroit. Obradovic want a computer in order to compete effectively and get to play offs. Detroit has more than enough cap room since they only have committed for next season of $ 30 million.
But this excerpt from the same post may be the most interesting part of the entire idea:
Coach Zeljko Obradovic wants to be assuming functions to propose a signature basketball, similar to that practiced Greg Popovich in San Antonio Spurs but with the virtues that characterize the former coach of Panathinaikos.
Popovich has a lot of pull in the Spurs organization — especially after once serving as the team’s GM before successfully appointing himself as head coach — and from the way that sounds, it may feel like Obradovic wants in on Dumars’ personnel decisions.
With as big of a summer as this is for the Pistons, that would mean putting your hope into the hands of a currently not-so-well-thought-of Dumars and a coach with zero experience as any sort of coach in the NBA.
It’s a boom-or-bust idea, but that might be what this team needs. You can only pluck the wrong up-and-coming assistant or retread coach so many times before you need to hit it big, again.
Dumars has endured three bad hires after three good coach. Maybe the ultimate off-the wall-pick – Obradovic wasn’t even considered for our list of 23 potential Pistons coaches – would get Dumars back into the win column.
According to team writer Keith Langlois (hat tip: Matt Watson of Detroit Bad Boys), Obradovic has been around the Pistons during training camp and preseason, just observing. Perhaps he likes what he sees with the roster.
Who knows whether this rumor has legs or is the product of a media environment much different from our own? According to the Spanish article, Obradovic is one of the final two candidates along with “an American coach.”
Either way, it’s certainly an interesting idea.
The Pistons have recently tried a coach with NBA experience, Michael Curry. They’ve recently tried a coach with past success, Lawrence Frank.
Why not try for the best of both worlds?
Nate McMillan played in the league for more a decade and has turned around two franchises in pretty bleak times prior to his arrival. What he did in Seattle was good, but it was what he did in Portland that is really impressive. He dealt with tons of injuries (not including Greg Oden) and early character issues (Jailblazers holdovers), but he worked to rebuild and eventually turn it into a really fun and good team. Not to mention, he has experience working with older players in Seattle and younger ones in Portland, too.
Jerry Sloan has been out of the game for a fairly long time, but he is unquestionably a quality head coach. His teams have always been incredibly tough physically and mentally. Also, his teams have consistently executed quite well on offense as a product of his system. A little discipline and smarts could go a long way for the Pistons.
The criteria that could make his candidacy a little iffy: he is as old school as it gets. The younger players on the roster might encounter some issues with his hardnosed approach and fail to ingratiate themselves with him. This could potentially result in multiple DNP-CDs.
He was a possibility before Lawrence Frank, and there’s no reason to believe he isn’t one this time around. Sampson had his rough patches with the NCAA while he was coaching Indiana, but he was a pretty darn good coach while he was there – not to mention all the illegal stuff he did at Indiana is legal in the NBA.
Sampson’s been around the college game since Magic and Bird were battling for an NCAA title, and after spending the last four seasons learning the NBA game under Scott Skiles and Kevin McHale, he should probably be pretty well-schooled on the pro game now. It’s always risky to buy a college coach in a professional league, but Sampson could probably shouldn’t be pigeonholed as just a college coach anymore.
The hot new trend is to hire coaches who toiled in the video room to learn the game, and Fizdale, now a Heat assistant, did that. So did Erik Spoelstra. But so did John Kuester.
Fizdale helped LeBron James develop a post game, and that’s an instant draw to the coach. He’s recognized as one of the league’s up-and-comers, but he might have shown enough quite yet. Then again, a strong interview and a limited pool of candidates makes him an intriguing risk.
Budenholzer may be a name unknown to many fans, but as a career assistant under Gregg Popovich, he’s learned from the best he could in that span. The Popovich coaching tree, which is actually a limb of the Larry Brown tree, includes active coaches like Jacque Vaughn, Mike Brown, Monty Williams, Vinny Del Negro, Avery Johnson and Doc Rivers.
His playing experience is limited to a high-scoring season spent in Denmark while simultaneously coaching the team’s youth affiliate. But seriously, 19 years under Popovich is something in itself. If you’re going to blindly take a coach from any coaching tree in the NBA, it’s Pop’s.
The Warriors assistant is the son of former Pistons assistant Brendan Malone, who served under Chuck Daly during the 1988-89 and 1989-90 championship seasons. The younger Malone has developed a reputation for instilling a no-nonsense defensive approach, and it’s only a matter of time until he becomes a head coach. Plus, the Warriors have been pretty good – both in record and player development – under Mark Jackson, and I really don’t want to credit Jackson for that. So, maybe that’s Malone’s influence.
Brian Shaw is arguably one of the best assistant coaches in the NBA. The Lakers considered hiring him after Phil Jackson retired, but Mike Brown won the job instead. While he’s a great assistant coach and one of the main reasons Indiana’s defense is so good, Shaw very likely won’t join the Pistons. In fact, he turned down the Bobcats head coaching job because he wanted "to have a chance" to succeed. With the Pistons’ quick trigger for coaches, Shaw might not find this job desirable.
Ewing is well known for his role as a superstar on 90′s Knicks teams, but he’s been an assistant NBA coach for 10 years now, most notably as the Orlando Magic’s assistant coach for six years. He was a really big factor in developing Dwight Howard, who was, until this year, the best center in the league. Ewing becoming the Pistons head coach would be huge for Monroe and Drummond’s development and a lot of fun.
Laimbeer’s WNBA success is undeniable, and for a moment, let’s pretend coaching in that league – which features a radically different power structure and playing style – is identical with coaching in the NBA. The big difference is NBA coaches make more money, and that draws a better pool of coaches. That means NBA coaches compete with the best coaches money can buy. WNBA coaches compete with less coachers. So, just because Laimbeer can outcoach his WNBA peers doesn’t mean he can necessarily outcoach NBA coaches.
In no way is this a knock on Laimbeer. It’s just an acknowledgement his résumé – which also features helping the Timberwolves to 15 and 17 wins as an assistant coach – shouldn’t simply mean he wins wherever he goes, because that sentiment lacks proper context.
Stan Van Gundy
Unlike his TV-loving brother, Stan Van Gundy appears to be the more likely of the two brothers to return to an NBA bench soon. There are some reasons that might make the Pistons a good fit for him — notably Andre Drummond in a Dwight Howard-like role — but the rest of the roster (no great shooters) doesn’t really fit his coaching personality offensively.
Howard made a living out of impersonating him, but Van Gundy also isn’t afraid to get on a guy who isn’t performing. We’ve seen coaches in Detroit who were a little more laid back, to an extent, and perhaps a coach who will get on guys would help — or maybe they’d tune him out, too?
Jeff Van Gundy
Well, we can start off with the reports Jeff Van Gundy apparently isn’t too fond of the current construction of this team:
"Detroit Pistons basketball slogan: When the going gets tough, we fire the coach," Van Gundy said. "It’s unbelievable. It’s unbelievable. You know what surprises me, Chris? These new owners in Detroit have to be exceedingly bright to have made as much money as they have. And to be duped again that your G.M. tells you that the roster is good and the coach is bad … what was the problem with Michael Curry? What was John Kuester? Now Lawrence. They run through coaches and they haven’t even begun to address their problem. They have very little talent and very little basketball character. You combine that, you’re going to be in a long rebuild.
"I’m just surprised that when everybody acknowledges it’s a player’s league – everybody would agree with that – then the most important player or person in any organization is the person that picks the players. But we don’t, as organizations, examine them. We just take the easy way out time and time again. You lose, the G.M. convinces the owner ‘We got good players. It’s the coach’s fault.’ We fire the coach; we bring a new coach in; we continue to lose. We fire that coach, saying that ‘We have better players.’ It just goes on and on. It’s typical and I can’t believe that the Detroit owners fell for it. I just can’t believe it."
Maybe Jeff Van Gundy, the smartest guy in the room on every NBA broadcast he’s ever done, has a strict idea of “basketball character.” I can see him thinking Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva have low basketball character, but most of the Pistons are basically young and naïve puppies. Van Gundy also built his reputation on hard-nosed defensive teams. At the Pistons’ current pace, they’re likely closer to being a good offensive team than a good defensive team, but it doesn’t look like he’s a likely candidate.
Way back in 2009, before John Kuester and long before Lawrence Frank, Drew Sharp said the Pistons had a deal in place to sign Avery Johnson to a two-year contract. That deal was shot down by then-owner Karen Davidson, and so began the current dreadful stretch.
Fast forward to today, and it wouldn’t surprise me the least if Avery Johnson is one of the first guys Joe Dumars calls. He’s had success in the NBA as a player and coach, even though Brooklyn fired him. The question with Johnson is how would he handle coaching a mostly-young roster — something he’s never handled as a head coach.
The Pistons could use a head coach in the mold of Mike Brown. During his stints with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers, he put a big emphasis on rebounding and defense. Considering the Pistons’ defensive shortcomings, Brown could potentially shore up that facet of the team. Granted, part of the issues can be attributed to the team’s youth, but Brown has proven that he can incorporate various types of players into his schemes.
Skiles, a former Michigan State player, resigned as the head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks earlier this season after four and a half seasons as head coach. He’s coached the Bucks, Bulls and Suns in the past 14 years. He’s made the playoffs in six of them, losing twice in the conference finals. Skiles was widely known as a hard-nosed coach (much like his play style), and a lot of people frown upon that. But in the end, Skiles wins more than he loses, and maybe the Pistons need some discipline. Lawrence Frank never seemed to fire the team up.
In hindsight, Dumars might regret how quickly he fired previous coaches. Saunders was fired not because he wasn’t good enough to coach a team past the first round of the playoffs, but because he couldn’t coach a team to a championship. This team doesn’t have championship aspirations, and Saunders has been a good NBA coach. It would be a little awkward to return to a previous coach, but Saunders might be the most accomplished coach willing to take the job.
Another coach Dumars fired too quickly? Probably not, but many coaches improve in their second head job. Curry’s reputation, both among players and executives, is reportedly positive, and there’s a very high chance he’ll get another top gig, possibly as soon as next season.
Enough of the Pistons’ roster has turned over where re-hiring Curry wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world. But the same general manager is in place, making this a near impossibility.
When the Pistons fired Rick Carlisle, who never won few than 50 games in Detroit, the logic was defended, because when you have a chance to hire Larry Brown, you do it. Well, once again, the Pistons probably have a chance to hire Brown, who’s coaching Southern Methodist University.
Brown’s fallout in Detroit mostly came with Bill Davidson, who’s no longer around. That doesn’t mean Brown didn’t also burn bridges with Pistons who are still with the franchise, but maybe Dumars is still fond of the Hall of Famer.
It’s extremely unlikely the Pistons could hire a better basketball mind than Brown. It’s also unlikely they could hire a bigger headache. At this point, the aggravation probably isn’t worth it.
Another ex-Pistons coach, Collins might be the least likely of the group listed here to become the Pistons’ next coach. Collins’ flame burns hot, but it doesn’t burn long, and that pattern is well-established throughout his career.
Coach three years, sit out six. Coach three years, sit out three. Coach two years, sit out seven.
Collins just coached three years with the 76ers. He’s not coming to Detroit now. This is his hibernation period.
No. I mean, we could spell N-O out in a million ways, but there is literally zero chance that Phil Jackson is whistling to get Andre Drummond‘s attention from his special super-padded chair this season.
Phil’s basically got the keys to the car, and unless there’s a Hall of Famer waiting, he’s not driving. He can choose what he wants, where he wants to go, and how much power he’ll have there. To top it off, he’s going to cost an astronomical amount of money, like, $10-plus million a season. There’s no way Tom Gores go that route for a short-term option to lead a team that isn’t ready to win big.
Isiah is one of the legends of Detroit basketball, leading the Pistons to two titles as a player. The reality is, he’s never been successful in any other profession. He’s tried to make an impact as a coach or in the front, and it hasn’t worked out. He took a talented Pacers team in the early 2000s and made them mediocre. After that, he got another big opportunity with the Knicks. We all know how that worked out. Once he seemed to be completely out of a job, he got hired by lowly Florida International and drove them further into the ground. Thomas was a great player, but he’s an awful coach. The Pistons should not, and will not, hire him.
Stevens should be the top choice of any NBA team looking to the college ranks, though that doesn’t necessarily make him a good candidate. College coaches haven’t translated well to the NBA lately, but Stevens – with his calm demeanor, thorough gameplans, attention to statistics and tactically sound defenses – is a better bet to buck the trend than anyone.
I’m an Izzo fan boy and will always love him, but he’s not the right guy for the job. At Michigan State, he’s molded good college players into great college players. But the best coaches in the NBA don’t only mold players, they keep stars in check. Izzo doesn’t have enough experience doing that.
If we’re going to mention Tom Izzo every time this job opens, shouldn’t Beilein come up, too? Moving past his small-time roots, Beilein has managed a roster with several future NBA players, shifted his style to use more ball screens and less zone defense and won a lot of out-scheming his peers. Beilein seems like a classic college coach, and I’m not sure he’d embrace the difficulties of being the NBA. But if he ever succeeds in the NBA, a lot of people would wonder why they didn’t see it coming.
Pistons players ‘constantly’ complained about Lawrence Frank: ‘He doesn’t listen. There’s no real relationship’
One thing I constantly heard from Pistons players was "he doesn’t listen, there’s no real relationship". How is that on anybody BUT Frank?
Lawrence Frank benched Jonas Jerebko after a poor start to the season, played Rodney Stuckey off the ball and made Corey Maggette a perpetual DNP-CD. I’d argue each of those moves, while not in the individual players’ best interest, were best for the Pistons.
Jerebko was shooting too much and not defending or rebounding enough. At that point, he didn’t deserve regular minutes. Giving other players a chance when the Pistons still had postseason hopes, even as long shots, made sense.
Though Stuckey plays better with the ball in his hands, the Pistons needed to give Brandon Knight an opportunity to sink or swim as a point guard, and relegating Stuckey to an off-the-ball role was the only way to accomplish that.
No team – and I literally mean no team – can put all its players in the best position to succeed. There will always be some degree of overlap between skillsets, so some players will have to take back seats or play at least somewhat outside their comfort zones.
The key for a coach is communicating with players so understand and at least tolerate this. Apparently, Frank didn’t do this effectively.
However, I don’t place all the blame on him. Players tend to be more willing to buy into winning teams, and Joe Dumars didn’t assemble a team that was definitely ready to win.
This sounds like a microcosm of Frank’s tenure. The Pistons failed him, but he failed the Pistons, too.
The (somewhat) annual Pistons roundtable has returned. Each day this week, our panel of Pistons writers will answer a question about the Pistons – all in one place. Please add your answers in the comments.
Drew Sharp, Detroit Free Press
Did this season show Tom Gores is being patient, or will it push him to show his impatience?
Gores made his fortune by nurturing an investment and maximizing its value. That demands patience and following a plan. I look for him to demand a playoff appearance next season and, as a result, I expect the Pistons to act more aggressively this off-season. But not impulsively. They won’t throw money at a problem simply because they possess the means.
Mike Payne, Detroit Bad Boys
It would be unfortunate, but not an irreplaceable loss. If Detroit can get ahold of Jarrett Jack’s agent before hitting the bargain bin and the trade market, I’ll feel better about the loss. Calderon should be looked at as a temporary solution anyway, and Detroit’s search for the next point guard should begin today, Calderon or not. Bonus points for avoiding all combo guards in the search.
Phil Fattore, Pistons 101
Which Detroit bench player has had the most encouraging close to the season?
Jonas Jerebko’s recent resurgence is impressive, but the most encouraging bench player has been Khris Middleton. Scoring at least 10 points five times across March and April, Middleton is proving to be an efficient bench scorer. With Will Bynum’s expiring contract leaving his future unknown, it’s comforting to know that Middleton is capable of performing at a high level.
Daniel Poarch, Life on Dumars
What have we learned from Brandon Knight‘s post-injury play?
It’s been a year Knight would likely prefer to forget, but while he struggled after his return from injury in March, he’s still shown he can score as well as flashes of potential facilitating the offense. We’re still looking at more questions than answers, however. Is he a shooting guard or a point guard? A starter or a bench option? They’re questions the Pistons need to answer.
Eric Stafford, Life on Dumars
Do you see any hope for Brandon Knight at point guard?
There’s a little hope, but not much. Whether there’s hope or not, I still think he’s better suited to play shooting guard. That way the Pistons can cut down on the number of decisions he has to make with the ball. In the end he might fit better as a 6th man combo guard off the bench.
Thom Powell, Life on Dumars
Middleton has such a small sample size of production that I’m a bit reticent to pick him, but I’ll do it anyway. I thought Kim English would be the 2nd rounder that would play his way into the rotation, but Middleton made the most of Detroit’s end-of-season tank-fest and finished strong. Singler hit the rookie wall hard in 2013 and never really recovered. It doesn’t help his case that he’s three years older than Middleton, either.
Natalie Sitto, Need4Sheed.com
Did you get any joy from Rasheed Wallace’s comeback season with the Knicks?
Do NBA players like tattoos? It was nice to see Sheed play the roll that he’s comfortable with in the past few seasons. Limited minutes, limited conditioning and hanging out behind the arc and knocking down three’s. It’s hard to live in a world without Rasheed Wallace screaming "ball don’t lie!"
Patrick Hayes, PistonPowered
Rank the NBA prospects who played college basketball this season in the state of Michigan, regardless of whether they’re entering this year’s draft.
1. Trey Burke – He’s probably not a Chris Paul caliber player, but he might be Ty Lawson
2. Mitch McGary – I’d take him over Cody Zeller right now
3. Gary Harris – He’ll probably stay another year, but at worst, he’s a likely three and D shooting guard in the NBA
4. Adreian Payne – Another guy likely staying, expect Payne, projected as a second rounder this year, to be a top 15 prospect next year
5. Glen Robinson III – I’d like to see more of him playing a more natural wing position (he’s played a lot of four at Michigan), but he’s a NBA athlete and he can hit the corner three. Those are enough to get him on the court for someone.
6. Ray McCallum – Don’t sleep on the University of Detroit point guard, who was a bigger prospect than Burke and Keith Appling in high school. He turned down high major offers to play for his dad (it remains to be seen if that decision benefits him in the long run), but he can certainly play and he’ll get draft attention next year.
J.M. Poulard, PistonPowered
What do the Pistons do on the court that is most difficult for opponents to gameplan against?
The Pistons’ athleticism on the offensive boards was simply a nightmare for opponents. It didn’t matter how, they always managed to stick their noses in there for put backs.
Jameson Draper, PistonPowered
Should the Pistons consider re-signing Jason Maxiell?
No. Maxiell is dead weight to this team and is not providing anything in any facet of the game. Detroit has enough young big men (Monroe, Drummond, Kravtsov, Jerebko) and could use the extra roster spot to sign someone better. Maxiell will be very cheap, but it’s still not worth it.
Brady Fredericksen, PistonPowered
What do you make of Rodney Stuckey‘s strong finish to the season?
Nothing. He’s done this in 2011, 2010 and 2009, too. Five years into his career, there’s no real explanation as to why he seems to get hot late, but the one thing that is clear is that he can’t sustain that pace during the parts of the season that actually matter.
Dumars will be the one running the show in this situation, as opposed to last time.
Gores will have his say but I don’t think he’ll be as adamant this time around. Likely the same as it was with Mr. D to an extent
If you recall, Joe Dumars preferred Mike Woodson to Lawrence Frank two years ago, but Tom Gores liked Frank more. I don’t think the Pistons would have hired Frank if Dumars strongly objected, but I believe if the call were Dumars’ alone, they would have hired Woodson.
Woodson certainly seems like a better coach than Frank, but Dumars’ last two hires before Tom Gores bought the team – John Kuester and Michael Curry – failed. I guess I have more faith in Dumars to find the right coach than I do in Gores, but it’s far from a lock Dumars will get this right.
Don’t think they’ll go through the Laimbeer thing again. From what I heard, nobody was really impressed with how he interviewed last time
This will disappoint a large and vocal contingent of Pistons fans who believe Laimbeer would answer all the team’s problems. I’m certainly not a member of that group, but the Pistons’ last three coaches – Lawrence Frank, John Kuester and Michael Curry – have failed. Maybe Joe Dumars doesn’t effectively use the interview process to determine the right hire.
The Pistons won both drawings for determining draft order today.
Most importantly, if neither the Pistons nor Wizards move up in the lottery, Detroit will pick ahead of Washington. The Pistons also get one more lottery combination than the Wizards.
In the other relevant draw, the Clippers landed the No. 56 pick in the second round, meaning the pick will be conveyed to Detroit.
As a matter of book-keeping, the Pistons also own their own second rounder. It will be No. 37 if they pick after Washington in the first round. It will be No. 38 if they pick before Washington in the first round.
His NBA head-coaching career began extremely impressively. He guided his team to a few playoff berths. But his star faded when his team got off to a terrible start to the season, and he was fired.
Still, another team hired him as a head coach. At his next job, he posted back-to-back seasons with the equivalent of about 30 wins each. Again, his team faced a decision of how to handle his future.
The Detroit Pistons fired Lawrence Frank.
The Boston Celtics retained Doc Rivers.
In the previous 10 years, someone has coached two consecutive full seasons with the same team and posted a winning percentage equal to or worse than Frank’s with the Pistons 17 times. In a majority of those instances (10 of 17), the coach was retained.
Neither the above numbers nor the Rivers example mean the Pistons should have kept Frank. Every situation is different. They’re meant only to provide a little context to Frank’s résumé.