Coach: John Kuester
2008-09 Record: 39-43
Pythagorean Record for 08-09: 40-42
Offensive Rating: 107.4 (21st in the league)
Defensive Rating: 108.0 (16th)
Possessions per 48: 86.7 (29th)
|Offensive||48.3 (26th)||.117 (2nd)||.297 (8th)||.212 (27th)|
|Defensive||48.5 (6th)||.117 (30th)||.740 (11th)||.248 (20th)|
Roster (Red indicates new acquisition, Blue indicates rookie) Click to enlarge
You know, I want to trust Joe Dumars, I really do. This offseason though…I don’t know. Signing Ben Gordon when you just extended Rip Hamilton and have Rodney Stuckey as a combo guard? Drafting 3 players who play the same position as your best player (Tayshaun Prince)? Letting Amir Johnson go? I understand that Carlos Boozer not opting out really affected their plans, and that it was a bit of a sparse free agent crowd, but they really didn’t make great use of all that cap space. They almost certainly could’ve signed Ramon Sessions, who would’ve been both cheaper and a better fit than Gordon. They could’ve outpriced Orlando for Marcin Gortat, who would’ve filled their massive void at center. They could’ve gone after David Lee (a better player than Villanueva). Instead of gathering young assets or useful supporting players, they got two almost-stars who demand a lot of touches but aren’t good enough to make you a real threat.
The Hamilton extension really confused me. First of all, it was completely unnecessary. Hamilton is a nice player, but were people going to be racing to ink him for $12.65 mil a year? They were bidding against themselves, and they really overpaid him. Second, he’s 31, declining, and this team is rebuilding and has a young combo guard that needs minutes. Why would you extend him for 3 more years? Now they’re stuck with almost half their salary committed to two shooting guards for the next three years, and neither of those guys is a consistent All-Star caliber player. That’s not a recipe for success, it’s a recipe for mediocrity.
That said, I really like Ben Gordon. There are teams where he would be a good fit, but not here. He’s one of the purest shooters in the league, and there aren’t a lot of guys who play almost exclusively on the perimeter who manage to be as prolific as he is and still be efficient. He’s that rare shooting specialist who, like Ray Allen, can also create his own shot, and that makes him tough to stop at the end of games. Defensively, he’s not bad if you have a big point guard and can cross-match him onto opposing points. If he has to guard other shooting guards though, he just doesn’t have the defensive edge to make up for his height disadvantage. This would’ve been a really good pickup if it weren’t for the Hamilton extension. As is though, there aren’t enough minutes to go around, and somebody making $10+ mil a year is going to spend extended time on the bench.
The one player on this team that I really like is Tayshaun Prince. For the last 5 seasons, he’s been extremely consistent on offense, and he’s one of the best defensive wings in the game. He’s the consummate role player. He can score inside or out (he’s actually a surprisingly good finisher, given his wiry frame), he can be a spot-up shooter in the corner, he doesn’t turn the ball over, and he’s a good passer for his position. Above all else, he’s a top-notch defender. His length enables him to play much farther off his man than most defenders, and that makes it really tough to get a step on him, even though he doesn’t have great lateral quickness. Though he had some back problems last year, Prince has the kind of game that should hold up well as he ages. He’s an excellent shooter with great size who doesn’t depend on his athleticism, and that should allow him to be effective well into his 30s.
Two years in, and I still see no reason to think that Rodney Stuckey is any better than average. He’s got good size for the position, but he’s a terrible shooter and, despite his size, a mediocre at best finisher around the rim. He also doesn’t have particularly good court vision. He really should be playing off the ball as a wing, or coming off the bench as a backup for either guard spot. Instead, because of Hamilton and Gordon, he has to be the starting point guard, and he’s nothing to write home about there. I know that Detroit really likes him as a piece for the future, but I don’t see it.
X-Factor: Charlie Villanueva – Of all the guys on this roster, I think Villanueva is the one who has the best chance of taking his game to another level. He actually had a really good year last year, posting a mediocre 106 offensive rating, but doing it while bearing an immense load (28.5 USG%, 8th in the league) without much help. As a 6′11 forward who can shoot from deep, handle the ball and rebound, he’s got the talent to be a real force. The question with Villanueva has always been effort level. When he puts his mind to it, he has the talent to dominate in many ways, but he is often too complacent, especially on the defensive end. If the Pistons coaching squad can light a fire under him, Villanueva has legit All-Star talent
What to make of the Pistons? After being the class of the Eastern Conference for so long, the bottom fell out last year after they traded away Chauncey Billups. We knew losing Billups would hurt, but to go from being in six straight conference finals to being below .500? Ouch. Gordon and Villanueva should add to their win total, but the rest of the East has improved as well. They should finish right around .500 this season, maybe a little better, so the playoffs are definitely a possibility, but they’re certainly no threat to advance to the second round. More importantly, they’ve commited over half their salary cap space to four players over the next four years (Villanueva, Gordon, Maxiell and Hamilton), and none of those guys are stars. That’s just shoddy roster construction. We’ll see if Dumars can work the magic again, but I think we’re going to see how difficult it is to rebuild without tearing things apart and starting from the ground up.