It was sad and sobering to find out that the rumors of Joe D’s courtship of Ben Gordon were true. Reports suggesting Joe D’s interest had been around for a while but I—along with what I’m assuming were many dumbfounded Pistons fans—didn’t want to believe that such an inexplicable infatuation existed. Gordon is not versatile enough to merit such a large chunk of the payroll especially considering he’ll be coming off the bench. His game leaves a lot to be desired. He is not a particularly good defender. He is undersized for a shooting guard. He isn’t particularly good at getting to the rim. Plus—and most troublesome—he plays the same position as Rip Hamilton. Remember when the Lakers spent $12 million on Joe Johnson to backup Kobe Bryant at shooting guard? I don’t either. Most NBA GMs are smart enough to not do such a thing.
I’m slightly more enthused about the addition of Charlie Villanueva mainly because a) he costs less and b) he isn’t a shooting guard. The Pistons inked Villanueva to a deal that pays out $7 million a year. Considering some of the mammoth stat lines that he put up in 2008, he could end up turning out to be a monumental bargain. He could also turn out to be a less effective and equally frustrating version of Rasheed Wallace. Still, the gamble isn’t a bad one and I would’ve been intrigued just as the Pistons were. However, I certainly would not have let the addition of Villanueva ruin the possibility of signing two max-contract players which seems to be the case.
I had written extensively over the last few months about Detroit’s generous cap space and how to not ruin the advantageous situation it presented. The Pistons had room for two max contracts next season and considering the absurdity of riches available in the Summer of LeBron, daydreams of Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson signing with the Pistons were difficult to ignore. I implored Joe D not to simply spend his fortune a year early just because he had the money. Obviously, I have no influence at 4 Championship Dr. The money is gone and so are all of the dreamy scenarios that fans had mapped out in their heads.
My opinion may be in the minority but I’ve never been afraid of blowing a season on rebuilding/retooling if it’s necessary to get to the next level. For instance, if Rich Rodriguez leads Michigan to the success that I think he will, then suffering through one pathetic season will be well worth it. The problem is that GMs have such precarious job security that they don’t have the luxury of burning a year. Joe D’s job is not in jeopardy, though. If anyone has the luxury of burning a year without consequence, it’s him. Joe should’ve rolled with what he had for 2009-10 and banked his loot for next season. The Pistons would’ve come away with three things: 1) lottery pick for 2010, 2) a better understanding of Rodney Stuckey’s ability (or inability) to play point and 3) $30+ million to burn on the greatest free agent class in NBA history. Instead, Joe D psyched himself out and blew all of that on an undersized shooting guard and a shakier version of Rasheed Wallace.
Even after Joe inked Gordon and Villanueva, this whole transition didn’t have to go poorly. The addition of Gordon makes little to no sense given the presence of Rip Hamilton. However, rumors circulated that the Pistons were talking to the Jazz about a Boozer for Hamilton trade. That would’ve changed everything. The addition of Boozer would’ve given the Pistons immediate credibility and a roster more talented than most of the league. Boozer, Villanueva, and Tayshaun Prince to go along with Ben Gordon and Rodney Stuckey in the backcourt would’ve given the Pistons a bevy of scoring options. Boozer would’ve been the answer to the low post woes that have haunted the Pistons for years. Even if you don't like Boozer, it would've been a great move. He is a free agent next season which would’ve made the trade an even bigger score for the Pistons. Boozer would either re-sign with the Pistons or go somewhere else leaving them enough money to shop for one of the superstars of the 2010 free agent class. Either way, acquiring Boozer would’ve been a huge score. It would change my view of Joe D permanently if it came to light that he was responsible for nixing a Hamilton for Boozer trade. Instead, I’ll have to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume it was Utah who declined.
Joe D is very close to painting himself into a corner. He has $23 million allocated to shooting guards for the next four years. That would be #2 on the list of “How Not to Build a Championship Contender” just behind “hiring Kevin McHale to make important decisions.” Joe has one way out and it’s exchanging Rip for a big-man. His legacy likely rides on it.