Monday, June 02, 2008

Blow 'em up

The Pistons lost in the Conference Finals for the third consecutive year surprising nobody. It’s clearly time for a change. It was time for a change in 2006 when they were embarrassed by the Heat in the Conference Finals. It was time for a change in 2007 when they were embarrassed by the Cavs in the Conference Finals. Joe-D kept trying to “plug the square peg into the round hole” two years too long, in my opinion. I don’t necessarily blame him for milking the current roster as long as possible. It’s much easier to do nothing when you know you’re going to sell-out every game whether you make a move or not. Instead of opting for the always-dangerous overhaul, he simply tried to convince Pistons fans that his team was one attitude-adjustment away from winning another NBA Championship. The “attitude” excuse—albeit a legit one—was just a convenient way to hide the fact that the Pistons just weren’t good enough.

The Problems

Demanding change is one thing. Anyone and everyone can demand change. Providing viable options for change is what people should be focusing on. The easiest way to do that is to identify why the Pistons failed. Everyone knows about the problem the Pistons have had with motivation. That certainly contributed to the playoff failures. It was always somewhat apparent but it became clear this season that Rasheed Wallace and Chauncey Billups are the two biggest culprits in that regard. Their indifference on the court has cost the Pistons dearly over the last three years. However, the biggest problems have more to do with X’s and O’s than attitude. There are three fundamental problems that have relegated the Pistons to Eastern Conference Finals doormats…1). They have no offensive post-presence 2). They have nobody who can penetrate and 3). They are a jump-shooting team without good jump-shooters. For the Pistons to have any chance at an NBA Championship in the near future, those areas absolutely must be addressed.

The Culprits

A lot has been made lately of Rasheed Wallace’s temper and Detroit’s motivation-level. In fact, some of the local newspapers ran stories about how Wallace’s ability to keep his emotions in check was the key to beating Boston. It would be great if basketball were so simple. The key to beating Boston was Rasheed planting his butt in the paint every minute of every game and Billups creating off the dribble. Seeing how KG fueled Boston’s offense was torture because he showed us exactly what we weren’t getting from Rasheed. Three things happen as a result of having an offensive presence in the post. 1). You get easy buckets. 2). You get the other team in foul trouble and 3). You demand double teams which free up your shooters. Boston got the benefit of all three thanks to KG. The Pistons got none of it no thanks to Rasheed. That needs to change. Rasheed and Billups are cancers for the Pistons and it has nothing to do with their attitudes. Apathetic play from the point-guard and power-forward positions is devastating for a team. It’s bad enough that the Pistons are trying to be a jump-shooting team with poor shooters. It’s even worse when nobody draws a help defender to get your poor shooters an open shot. The Pistons are a tremendously flawed team. It’s amazing that they were able to make it to the Conference Finals with so much dysfunction in their game-plan. I’m not the biggest Rip Hamilton fan because he is a turnover machine but the Pistons would be lost without him. He is the only player who does anything to stretch the defense. Rip attracts so much attention from constantly running around screens that he is occasionally able to offset the fact that Rasheed and Chauncey are stationary. Rip has been the MVP of the Pistons for six years running and he deserves recognition for that.

Joe D Needs to be Proactive

Boston and LA have proven something that everyone already knew. You win NBA Championships with superstars who can score inside and outside. LA was nothing with just Kobe. They teamed him with Pau Gasol and now they are a juggernaut. Boston was nothing with just Paul Pierce. They teamed him with KG and Ray Allen and now they are a juggernaut. The best teams in the league are too talented for a team like Detroit to try to win solely with the “team” mentality. Joe D needs to infuse Detroit’s lineup with players who make things difficult for the opposition. He needs to bring in players who can be counted on to score. In the NBA, “the early bird gets the worm” when it comes to trades. That’s why there have been horribly lopsided trades over the last few years We saw it with Memphis and LA. The Lakers got Gasol for nothing. They were probably the only team sniffing around mid-season and were rewarded for their efforts. The Pistons got Rasheed for nothing in ’04. They were probably the only team making the effort and wound up with a Championship as a result. The Celtics didn’t exactly get KG for nothing but they clearly made the effort. They showed Minnesota they were interested and were the lead-suitors the whole time. Joe D needs to identify who he wants and then make it happen. The longer he waits, the more likely another team will make a move first. There are only so many impact players available around the league.

The Fix

As I’ve discussed, the Pistons need two things badly...1). an offensive post-presence and 2). a proactive point guard. As recently as last year, there were a number of talented power-forwards stuck on bad teams. Bad teams, of course, are the most likely to trade good players. The Gasol and KG trades changed all that. Now, there is really only one option left and it’s a pretty good one: Elton Brand. The Clippers are terrible. There have been rumors of them shopping Brand for the last few years. He is a monster in the paint. He gets easy baskets and owns the boards. He would be the perfect antidote for the Pistons' paint-woes. The problem is that he has a player-option for next season at $16 million. I would expect him to take the option. So, the Pistons would have to trade for him. I would be more than willing to trade Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace for Brand. I’m not sure what the Clippers would think of that offer but Rasheed would provide them with a). a replacement for Brand and b). an expiring contract for next season. Billups would give them an All-Star point guard at a position that is desperately in need of an upgrade. I don’t see how the Clippers wouldn’t be interested in that trade. A Billups, Rasheed, Maggette, Al Thornton, Chris Kaman starting-lineup has to look pretty good to them. That team might even be better than this year's Pistons.

My next move would be to contact Gilbert Arenas. Arenas has stated that he will opt-out of his current contract this summer to pursue a more lucrative deal for 2008 and beyond. Joe D should hard-sell Arenas on the idea that the Pistons would have a legitimate chance (not like the “legitimate” chance they supposedly had this year) of winning an NBA Championship. Arenas wants to “break the bank” but his knee-issue will likely keep teams from giving him as much money as he is looking for. The Pistons should offer him something in the $14 or $15 million range and sell him on the idea that the Wizards will keep losing to Cleveland every year while the Pistons would have a dynamic line-up capable of beating anyone.

If Joe D can pull of both moves, that would leave the Pistons with a starting lineup of Arenas, RIP, Tayshaun Prince, Jason Maxiell, and Elton Brand. Rip becomes the second scoring-option which would be great for everyone involved. They’d have one of the top scorers in the NBA at point guard. The Pistons might actually have the best backcourt in the NBA (not like the “best” backcourt that they supposedly had this year). They’d have rebounding machines in the post in Brand and Maxiell. They’d have an offensive-post force in Brand. It would also allow Prince to do what he’s supposed to do which is be a role player. Prince is one of the most valuable role-players in the NBA. He can be a great fourth scoring-option especially when he has a mismatch. At 6’9, with a 7’2 wingspan, Prince gives the Pistons a tremendous advantage defensively and on on the boards at small-forward. He has taken a lot of heat for not “stepping up” but he isn’t supposed to step up. He is the perfect complimentary player. This avenue would also allow Detroit to keep its talented core of young players in tact. The bench is already cheap and talented. Rodney Stuckey, Jarvis Hayes (assuming the Pistons choose to re-sign him), Amir Johnson, and Arron Afflalo are all young and making next to nothing. The Pistons have plenty of money to fit both Arenas and Brand under the cap with room to spare.

One idea that is being floated around is that Joe D might just be inclined to ride out the current contracts of his “stars” and simply be content with turning the future over to Stuckey, Maxiell, and Amir Johnson. If he opts for that route, the Pistons won’t sniff the Finals for years. To win in the NBA, you need superstars and you need an inside/outside game. You need proactive players. You need a post-presence. If you don't have those things, then you have to go out and get them. Joe D just has to realize he has nothing to lose.

Potential 2008-09 lineup:

PG Gilbert Arenas
SG Rip Hamilton
SF Tayshaun Prince
PF Jason Maxiell
C Elton Brand

Bench:

Rodney Stuckey
Arron Afflalo
Jarvis Hayes
Amir Johnson
Cheikh Samb
Lindsey Hunter

14 comments:

Jeff in Cols said...

I was with you until you mentioned Arenas. That guy is the last person I would like at point guard. Way too selfish and frankly I think his knee is shot. I think Stuckey could play the point guard spot if we needed, but it would be good to have someone.

It is time for the painful transition of brooming out these old guys. They have ahd a good run. Back in 04 I thought this group would win another title and maybye a 3rd one. I think we could won it again in 05 but LB sabotaged that title chance.

At least Joe can make some deals and find some talent. We will see....

jim said...

Couldn't agree with you more with the whole, "40% of the starters need to be traded" argument, I was debating that idea with my buddies regarding a trade for KG last year.

The more you think about Elton coming here, the more you have to like it: much like Dyess he went on a stretch for years of being a Top 5 PF only to have his legacy tainted by injury. After playing on the Clippers, of all teams, you have to figure this dude is hungry to get out of the West and have a legitimate title shot every year. Moreover, hopefully being on a team that is deeper than the Clippers will help shield Brand from further injury, because with the Pistons he can pass out of the post instead of going strong with it every time.

People deride the idea of trading for Amare Stoudamire, but I'm not sure it's as unrealistic as people think. I looked at Phoenix's roster yesterday; it isn't deep and Shaq's burns a hole in the team's payroll...you'd think they'd be willing to listen to replacing Amare with Rasheed/Rip or Rasheed/Tayshaun.

Anonymous said...

Nice post. Two thoughts though:

1) Why wouldn't Washington offer Arenas at least that much money (if not more)? Because if you can't get Arenas, it makes it a lot harder to pull the trigger on trading Billups.

2) and this is minor, but I was under the impression that Hunter was retiring.

Tony said...

I think it is definetly time for a change. As much as I would love for them to blow it up I'm still not convinced Joe will go for it.

I've heard a lot of rumblings that say that it might only take Sheed, a first and some filler ($) to get Brand in a sign and trade. I can see Joe making a move like this without changing any more of the lineup. Assuming Brand is fully healthy he can be the dominant low post presence that Sheed should have been and could be when he wanted. At least with Brand it would be consistant. I love that Sheed can step back and knock down a 3, it could be demoralizing and he was a tough matchup, but he was at his best being a big man down low.

One of the Detroit papers made an interesting scenario involving Sheed and parts for J-Rich and Okafor. I'm not sure what parts they'd be looking at. I think they want to get out of J-Rich's contract (3 years left at 12.2 next year). While Sheed and J-Rich match up I don't see how the Pistons can match the 7 mil for Okafor (who would be in the last year of his deal). We currently don't have the "parts" as I don't see the pistons trading Amir, Max, and Afflalo as those 3 equal 7 mil. So unless the parts include Rip or Prince (or Hunter signing a one year deal for 7 mil and then both parties know that he would pull a keith van horn) I don't know Okafor and J-rich come to town.

There are many options out there for a blowup. Arenas wants a max deal and with Stuckey being groomed I think the Pistons will build around Billups and Stuckey for the next few years. I'm thinking something more under the radar like Jamison coming into town. He's made his money now maybe he'll take a pay cut and play for a championship. Maybe signing him means the team would move Prince (who disappeared against Boston, his heart seemed out of it) with sheed for J-Rich and Okafor.

Billups, J-Rich, Jamison, Dyess, Okafor. Everyone can slide down for a Billups, Stuckey, J-Rich, Jamison, Dyess/Okafor lineup too. Throw Max in and some Amir and Afflalo Minutes.

There are many many options out there this year. I'm not sure if I would really be upset with any of them other than standing pat. We'll see how good Joe really is.

Frank said...

dude, you gotta be kidding, how is the pistons gonna offer agent zero 14 mill if they are over the cap?

Jake said...

Jim,

I’m all for Amare. I’m just not sure that Phoenix would be dumb enough to get rid of him. I know there were rumors last year but that was when Amare and Marion apparently weren’t getting along. Shaq, Grant Hill, and Nash are 36, 35, and 34 respectively. Amare is the only thing they have long-term. If they want to field offers, then Joe D needs to get all over that. Amare is a beast.

Jeff,

I knew when I started putting my post together that there were going to be a number of people who wouldn’t be excited about Arenas. I can understand where you’re coming from. I just don’t think a lot of those issues would be present with Detroit. He has been the Wizards main guy his entire career. Every superstar in the NBA would be selfish on a bad team. There were a lot of people who didn’t want Rasheed in ’04. He had the worst reputation in the league. I think Arenas could work well in Detroit. His knee issue is definitely a cause for concern but that is also what might make him available for less than the maximum. Healthy superstar free agents don’t sign with Detroit which means Joe D either has to take a risk on someone like Arenas in free agency or make a trade. Arenas isn’t a sure-bet by any means but he is a realistic possibility. There aren’t many of those out there.

Anon,

1). It’s possible that Washington is willing to offer him $15 million per year. I would be surprised to see any team offer him much more than that considering the questions surrounding his knee. Then it becomes, do you want to play with the Wizards or the Pistons? The Wizards with Arenas are pushovers. The Pistons with Arenas are Championship-contenders. It’s no guarantee but it’s worth a shot. $15 million is more than reasonable. That’s more than any Piston makes right now and that’s $2 million more than Arenas makes right now. I agree with you that getting Arenas is crucial if Joe D is going to trade Billups in a Brand-trade. He should make sure he has a way of replacing Billups before trading him. So, his first step in all of this should be to talk to Arenas.

2). As for Hunter, I read yesterday that he was still deciding whether to return next season or not. I hope he comes back for another season. In my opinion, he was probably the most effective Piston in the Boston-series. Sad.

Tony,

I agree. I’m good with a number of scenarios. If the Clippers will give up Brand for just ‘Sheed and some change, that’s great. However, Billups is a huge problem. Replacing ‘Sheed with Brand won’t be enough. Arenas “wants” a max contract but I want a gazillion dollars. It may happen but I would be surprised if any team gives him the max coming off a serious knee injury. Plus, $15 million isn’t chump change.

Frank,

Rasheed, Chauncey, and Dyess along with other expiring contracts on the team would more than make up for Brand and Arenas. Money is not an issue here unless Arenas demands a max-contract in which we tell him to take a hike.

Tony said...

I like Chauncey. I like his ability to take/make the big shot. He's good at getting to the line and he's great when he's there. He's not the best penetrator and while he's not old, he won't be getting any quicker. He's a good calming influence and a great leader. Assuming you can have a counterpart to him that can truly attack the basket, Billups is a good fit. My main to issues with Billups come down to him not taking control/being selfish at times and too often taking shots that are crazy off balance just because he is trying to get a foul call. I know I said I love his ability to get to the line but a lot of times it's either a whistle or a horrible shot and a defensive rebound for the other team.

The other issue with Billups is that he'll be 32 going into next season with 4 years (including option year) left on his deal and $50 mil. Only teams that are close to being at the elite level looking for a veteran leader will want that contract. Those teams are also teams that generally are not looking to unload a guy entering his prime with superstar talent, which is likely what we'd be willing to accept in return. I guess if Chicago wanted to offer us the number 1 overall pick I'd be interested but that doesn't seem realistic. Maybe Miami, who doesn't seem to want Beasley would give up the 2nd pick for Billups. Getting Beasley would be awesome but he seems to be a bit undisciplined and that would leave us with Stuckey and almost force us to have to get Arenas (and if we didn't I don't think Stuckey is ready to lead us to a championship as our point guard). Unless we were guaranteed Arenas I think Billups is the most untouchable starter.

There are some restricted free agents out there that teams might move. Philly might not think they can keep Igudala and he's an interesting slasher type, something we haven't really had since I guess Stack.

I'd like to keep Billups and get a true offensive force...TMAC

Anonymous said...

I totally agree that Sheed and Chauncey need to be shipped out. Brand is okay but I don't think Arenas would be a good addition. Primarily because the reason why Sheed and Chauncey should be traded is because their attitude and commitment issues are hurting the team. And I think Arenas isn't that much improvement in that regard.

Frank said...

jake,

Under the salary cap system, a team over the cap cannot sign a player to a contract bigger than the 5-6 million dollar exception. Lets say Elton doesn't opt out and comes to the pistons in a trade, they would only be able to offer Gilbert a contract that starts with 6 mill a year. He would never do that. If he's gonna play for less money, he'd probably go to the lakers, its his hometown and he has a better chance to win.

Jake said...

Frank,

I don't understand how the Pistons would be over the cap. They currently have $53 million allocated for next season. Subtract Billups and Wallace and it's $29.1 million. Add Brand and it's 45.5. The Pistons had a $65 million payroll this past year. That leaves plenty of money for Arenas. If there's something I'm missing, please let me know.

Jake said...

Tony, T-Mac might be OK but I’m not sure I’d roll the dice with his $21 million salary. If you want to keep Billups, you’d have to trade Sheed and Rip. That would leave us Billups, McGrady, Prince, no front court, and very little financial flexibility. I’d be more interested in going after Wade. I don’t think either will be on Joe D’s radar, though.

Frank, I’m getting my information from the same place (hoopshype.com). Draft picks can be signed even if teams are over the cap per the Rookie Exception. A Brand and Brevin Knight for Chauncey and Rasheed would make it an $18.44 for $24.73 million trade. That puts the Clippers very close to the cap depending on how much the cap is for next season. If the Clippers are under the cap in that scenario, then the Pistons have enough to sign Arenas for $14-15 million. If the Clippers are over the cap, then they would be able to use the Traded Player Exception which allows a team to receive 125% of what they are giving up regardless of their cap situation. The Clippers would be receiving just over 125% with the above numbers. They could re-sign one of their own free agents for $1.3 million (which is what it would take to get to 125%) and include that in the trade. The Pistons and Clippers could also bring a third-team into the equation if the numbers don’t work. A third team wouldn’t need to do much since the numbers are close to doable if they aren’t already.

In the event that a). the new cap prevents the Clippers from being under in this trade or b). there is a rule that I am unaware of that doesn’t allow the Clippers to re-sign one of their own free agents for $1.3 million to complete the trade, then the Pistons have other options.

They could offer Rasheed, Afflalo, and a First Round pick for Brand. Then, they could attempt a sign-and-trade for Arenas involving Billups and Max or Amir Johnson.

There are a number of potential scenarios in which the Pistons could add both players.

I like your Van Gundy idea but I fervently disagree that keeping this unit intact is the best course of action. I certainly agree that you can’t just say “blow ‘em up” without having a plan in place to make the team better. If nothing is out there to make the team better, then you begrudgingly have to bring the same team back with a mid-level exception thrown in there. I just think there is something out there to improve the team via Chauncey and ‘Sheed. Brand and Arenas would be one option. Brand and someone like D-Wade would be another.

Everything you need to know about the cap can be found at the website below. Everything I’ve written has to do with my understanding of the cap from that site. It would not surprise me if I’ve interpreted something in the wrong way because there is a lot of information there and some of it is ambiguous but everything I’ve said is how I understand that information.

http://members.cox.net/lmcoon/salarycap.htm

Frank said...

If the clippers did everything in its power to help the pistons get under the cap then what you proposed might work. But you are asking Donald Sterling to take on more money. I live in LA and Donald Sterling is not gonna do that.

Its really idealistic for the Piston fans to hope to get both Arenas and Brand. And unless someone offers kobe or lebron, miami is not trading wade. I think you guys are overvaluing the pistons roster. (every fan does it with their team) Chauncey's trade value is very low because of his age and large contract. Sheed is getting old. Tayshaun and rip are the number 3 quality players on champion contenders. Stuckey has the most trade value.
Why would the clippers trade for chauncey and get sheed for 1 year when they can just resign brand after next year?
They might do it if it was Sheed and stuckey. How would you guys react to that trade?

Jake said...

Frank,

I don’t believe the Pistons can trade for Wade. I was responding to Tony’s suggestion that they go after McGrady. If they’re going after anyone in that role, it should be Wade. He’s better (when healthy) and he makes less. The Pistons would have to gut their roster to get either player. I'm not even sure that would be enough for Wade. That’s why I didn’t mention either player in my original post. Arenas is injured and has enough question marks around his value that the Pistons could reasonably get in the running for him. Ditto Brand.

I think you are undervaluing both Billups and Rasheed’s trade value. Believe me when I say I realize they aren’t superstars. They are both incredibly flawed. However, Chauncey is still an all-star point guard and he has a reasonable salary. Rasheed is still an all-star power forward and his contract expires next year which makes him a valuable chip. If I’m the Clippers—especially if I’m Donald Sterling—I would love the idea of bringing in Billups and Wallace. I get a huge upgrade at point guard for a decent price. I get an all-star power forward that comes off the books next year. Even if Maggette walks, the Clippers would be able to pull this trade off and probably boast the best team they’ve had maybe ever with Billups, Rasheed, Kaman, Thornton, and Cuttino Mobley. If I’m Sterling, that is a lot more desirable than paying $16.5 million to Brand beyond next season or losing him for nothing via Free Agency. I’m actually surprised you’re not more behind this deal. It seems like it would work really well for the Clippers.

My biggest problem with a ‘Sheed and Stuckey trade isn’t the players they’d be giving up. I would have no problem giving up those two for Brand. My issue is that would mean Billups stays and that’s a problem. I really believe the Pistons won’t get better until they upgrade at both power forward and point guard. If they could get the Wizards to do a sign and trade for Billups, a player, and a pick or something, then I might consider it. Changing one spot won’t be enough. I don’t know if the Pistons can do both but there’s enough pieces on the team to come awfully close.

Tony said...

TMac was more a dream than antyhing. His monster contract and cranky back don't make him the best fit for the Pistons.

I still think keeping Billups over Rip is for the best. I just have no trust in Hamilton at all. He is solid but not clutch and can't take a game over and is, to me, a complimentary piece, not a number one option. With his age, salary, and skill set I think he'd be able to retrieve something of value in return.

I like Stuckey. I think he has potential to be very very good - but not yet. I think the team, assuming they can move sheed and or Rip, would be in good shape to keep Billups at the point, with Stuckey learning and playing some 1 and 2. Another year or two of Chauncey while Stuckey develops could be interesting as Stuckey drives and Billups shoots which is a nice dynamic. Billups isn't that old and will play at the exact same level for quite a few years based on his style of play. The only issue about his age is the new style of pg that is more quick than strong yet he will always be able to exploit those guys with his size. I say keep Billups for another year or two, and then maybe move him like Sheed this year when a team might need a veteran of his caliber with an expiring contract.

If I had any faith in Rip I might be on the other side. With that said I wish Billups was more aggresssive.

The only way I'd move Billups and Sheed for Brand is if I was guaranteed someone like Arenas. Even then, that might be the most expensive sign and trade deal ever.

Remember, Brand has a player option. He could just opt out and sign somewhere for nothing in return to the Clip. Brand might just want out. He'd still get a good deal on the open market even if its not quite the same because of the nba rules to allow a team to pay a guy more to keep him. I still like the idea of using Hunter like Van Horn. Sign him to a deal to equal out the difference between Sheed and Brand, he'd report to the Clip, I think they made Van Horn stay for a month, and then he could leave and come back to the Pistons front office.

 

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