Posts Tagged ‘NBA’

Second-year player Greg Monroe (right) is nearly averaging a double-double for the Pistons this season and is a cornerstone for the future. He has helped the Pistons win seven of their last nine games. (AP)

When February began, the Pistons were struggling with a 4-19 record,had the league’s second-worst record and appeared to have a high probability of landing one of the top five picks in the upcoming NBA draft.

The past few weeks have shifted the Pistons’ outlook completely. With a 7-3 record this month and seven wins and the last nine games, the suddenly surging Pistons are 11-22 and suddenly find themselves five games behind eighth seed Boston for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Pistons have benefited from a favorable schedule this month to get on a bit of a roll, beating other struggling teams. Detroit, which is 8-10 against teams below .500, has beaten the Nets (10-24) twice and New Orleans (7-24) and Sacramento (10-21) during their February surge. They also own two wins over a Celtics team that is struggling with injuries. On the contrary they did nearly beat a red-hot Spurs team that has won 11 straight. But they also did lose to the Wizards (7-25) at home during their surge.

While it is a good sign that the Pistons are finding ways to win with young players Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe playing big roles, is it really in the best interest for the future of the  franchise to continue to win games? Currently the Pistons have the seventh-worst record in the NBA, but are within three games of becoming more of a middle of the pack NBA team.

Even if the Pistons were to sneak into one of the last playoff spots, is it really worth it to go against the far superior Bulls or Heat and see an early exit?

The case for lottery balls

In a league where star players now seem focused on playing in big markets with other stars by their sides (i.e. LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh on the Heat), it seems like the best way to stockpile talent is the draft. Detroit isn’t a city where elite free agents rush to play, so in that case it would be of the best interest for the Pistons to accumulate as many lottery balls as possible to ideally gain a top-five selection.

Plus there likely will be a talented group of players declaring for the draft this season, especially since no labor issues loom for the NBA this offseason like they did last year. A player like Kentucky freshman center Anthony Davis could be an appealing lottery choice for the Pistons if he were to declare for the draft. The Pistons need size and could pair him along side Monroe. Ohio State sophomore big man JJ Sullinger and North Carolina big men John Henson or Tyler Zeller are among other possibilities.

Lottery picks Kevin Durant (pictured) and Russell Westbrook are the highest scoring duo in the NBA and have helped the Thunder own the NBA's best record at 25-7 this season. (AP).

Oklahoma City used the draft to become a strong force in the Western Conference. Kevin Durant sand Russell Westbrook were each top-four draft picks that have become stars for the Thunder and helped them reach the Western Conference finals last season. Durant, a former scoring champion, is third in the league in scoring (27.7 ppg) and Westbrook (23.4 ppg) is fifth for the the Thunder, who are tied with Miami for the league’s best record. The Pistons could have a combo like that with Monroe and Knight.

The Hawks have also capitalized on draft picks. Lottery picks Al Horford and Marvin Williams and mid-first round pick Josh Smith have helped the Hawks compete in the East the last few seasons.

Dumars won without draft

On the flip side, when the Pistons became one of the top teams in the NBA in the 2000s and won the NBA title in 2004, it wasn’t the draft that made their team. GM Joe Dumars acquired most of the key players  that helped Detroit reach back-to-back NBA Finals (04-05) and six straight Eastern Conference finals (03-08) via trades.

Rip Hamilton was acquired in a trade with the Wizards,  Ben Wallace in a trade with the Magic, Corliss Williamson in a trade with the Raptors,  Rasheed Wallace and Mike James in a three-team trade with the Hawks and Celtics and Lindsey Hunter (a former Pistons draft pick) in a trade with the Raptors.

Chauncey Billups, who at that time had bounced around with several teams and was no star, signed with the Pistons as a free agent in 2002. The only main contributors Dumars drafted were Tayshaun Prince (first round pick, 23rd overall selection in 2002) and Mehmet Okur (second round pick, 37th overall selection in 2001). And yes, Darko was a member of the team but wasn’t a major contributor.

So Dumars has built a dominant NBA team without utilizing high draft picks in the past so maybe winning more games and making a run at the final playoff spot could be beneficial to the Pistons. More wins and a young base of talent could make Detroit a more attractive destination for solid free agents.

Besides there are no guarantees lottery picks will definitely be productive NBA players (i.e. the injury prone Greg Oden and Darko). But Dumars has found productivity with his lottery selections over the past two seasons with Monroe and Knight and even with second round pick Jonas Jerebko, who appear to be cornerstones for the franchise. Monroe is averaging a team-best 16.2 points and 9.7 rebounds, Knight has made 28 starts and is averaging 12.4 points and 3.5 assists and Jerebko is averaging 9.8 points off the bench.

With the season at its halfway point and 33 games remaining, it will be interesting to see what direction the Pistons head. But it seems that the best thing for the future would be to strike gold on another lottery pick.

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Its hard to figure out exactly what direction the Pistons are going with their team after the past couple days.

The team has provided mixed signals by signing Tayshaun Prince to a  four-year deal worth $27 million, but then the next day proceeding to all together waive veteran Rip Hamilton.

The Pistons parted ways with veteran guard Richard Hamilton on Friday. Hamilton is the franchise's all-time leader in playoff scoring. (B. Calloway photo)

Hamilton and Prince join veteran center Ben Wallace as holdovers from the 2004 Pistons team that won the NBA title. They are on the back ends of their careers and aren’t long-term solutions for the team. That is why it was surprising that the Pistons would sign Prince to a deal, especially after he had attracted interest from contending teams and could have also been dealt elsewhere to address a need for the Pistons (i.e a decent center).

You could argue that Prince will provide leadership for the young Pistons, but why can’t they use Wallace – who was already under contract – to do the same things and improve by getting something for Prince?

Also Prince and Austin Daye, who will be entering his third season, have similar games. Both are long, lanky players that can step outside and hit the 3. Bringing back Prince could take away from the development of Daye because obviously he will take away some playing time from the third-year player.

The Pistons aren’t close to being a contender and it would be best to build around a young core of second-year big man Greg Monroe, rookie point guard Brandon Knight and Daye.

Getting rid of Hamilton did free up a logjam the Pistons had at guard, which was something that needed to be done. Hamilton also was a lockeroom problem last season so that could help in that regard as well.But the Pistons didn’t use the amnesty clause to get his contract off the books so its interesting to see if they do indeed use it.

The Pistons are nearing the official halfway point of a season that has been filled with plenty of disappointments.

From their third quarter struggles, to blowing big leads to still not having any consistent starting group or rotation through 38 games, its clear second-year coach John Kuester doesn’t have a clue.

Wednesday’s 107-99 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies further illustrated the mess that the Pistons have become. The team used yet a different starting lineup, was unable to sustain and build upon an early lead in yet another setback. In addition, one of the franchise’s all-time leading scorers in Rip Hamilton failed to play based on Kuester’s decision.

Rip Hamilton (left) and Pistons coach John Kuester talk on the phone during a game last season. Kuester didn't play Hamilton in Detroit's 107-99 loss to the Grizzlies on Wednesday.

While the different starting lineups and blowing leads have been the norm this season for the Pistons, Kuester deciding not to even play Hamilton without an explanation at all when he was healthy and ready to go is ridiculous and disrespectful. He and Tayshaun Prince were very adamant about their thoughts on the situation.

“I think that’s the first time in my career that I’ve put on my jersey and didn’t play,” Hamilton told reporters following the game. “No one warned me about it. I was completely surprised. Do I think it was a level of disrespect or unfair or anything like that? I’ll leave that to y’all.”

Prince, who along with Hamilton and Ben Wallace were members of the Pistons’ 2004 NBA championship team, added his thoughts.

“Buffoonery,” Prince said about the Hamilton situation. “Do you all know what that means?”

Hamilton has been the subject of trade rumors for some time now and those have heated up over the past week with him rumored to be headed to New Jersey in a deal centering around Carmelo Anthony. Its customary for teams to usually rest a player when a trade could potentially get done that night, but this was not the case at all as noted by Kuester following the game.

Kuester acknowledged about wanting to shorten the rotation, but he should have definitely found some playing time for Hamilton, especially after the team was unable to sustain a fast start. Hamilton could have gotten time in the guard spot in place of Ben Gordon, who has struggled from the floor for a good portion of the season. Gordon struggled most of Wednesday night until heating up at the end of the third quarter.

While its clear Hamilton isn’t the player he was a few years ago and that time has caught up to him, he is still among the better options on this steam and should play if available. There was no reason to sit him and treating a veteran player like that and not providing an explanation is no good way to go about business.

It’s clear Hamilton’s marriage with the Pistons could be ending soon, but Kuester should a least continue playing him until he is no longer on the roster.