Thursday, February 27, 2014

Looking Ahead to Next Year: Preview, GM

*Follow Six Championship Drive on Twitter, @Kevin6CD

Wednesday night's expected loss to the Spurs pushed the Pistons to 3.5 GB of the 8th seed Bobcats Hawks.  The loss was yet another blow to the playoff mandate that new owner Tom Gores established for the team in the offseason.  The Pistons have all the talent in the starting five to make the playoffs in this year's Eastern Conference.  The backcourt is the obvious weak spot, and Josh Smith didn't get off to a great start, but the Bobcats arguably don't have as talented of a roster as the Pistons.  However, they have a team that plays well to their coach's style of play, and they can win games when their offense doesn't show up.  The Bobcats didn't just fall into a playoff spot this year, they've earned it, and it starts with their front office building a team the right way.  Joe Dumars doesn't know what that way looks like; so that leaves us to look ahead to next season, even though the Pistons are only 3.5 games back of a playoff spot with 24 games left to play.  That might as well be 13.5 games back, so it's time to take an early pulse on what next year might look like, starting with the guy who built this year's dumpster fire.

GM: Joe Dumars - His contract expires at the end of the year and the team hasn't been legitimately competitive in the last six years.  His best moves in that time span were extremely lucky draft picks of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.  If the Warriors had taken Monore over Ekpe Udoh in 2010, Dumars probably would've been fired when Gores bought the team.  Dumars' stay for the last few seasons is just a result of draft luck.  Let's run down his personnel moves since 2008:

Bad Move; Good Move; Neutral Move
  • Traded Primoz Brezec for Juan Dixon
  • Named Michael Curry as Head Coach. 
  • 2008 Draft: 2nd Round - Walter Sharpe, Trent Plaisted, Deron Washington
  • Signed Will Bynum, Kwame Brown, Alex Acker; Extended Arron Afflalo, Rodney Stuckey, Walter Hermann
  • Gave Jason Maxiell a 4-yr, $20M contract extension (yes, really)
  • Traded Chauncey Billups, Antonio McDyess and Cheikh Samb for Allen Iverson; McDyess would be waived and re-sign w/Detroit a month later
  • Traded Alex Acker and 2011 2nd Round pick (Trey Thompkins) for a conditional 2013 2nd Round Pick (Peyton Siva)
  • Traded Amir Johnson for Fabricio Oberto in a three-team deal (yes, really)
  • 2009 Draft: 1st Round - Austin Daye (15th); 2nd Round - DaJuan Summers, Jonas Jerebko, Chase Budinger (traded to HOU for cash, future 2nd)
  • Fired Michael Curry, would later hire John Kuester
  • Signed Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva (THERE ISNT A SHADE OF RED DEEP ENOUGH)
  • Traded Arron Afflalo, Walter Sharpe and cash for a 2nd round pick
  • Signed Chris Wilcox, Ben Wallace, Chucky Atkins, Maceo Baston
  • 2010 Draft: 1st Round - Greg Monroe; 2nd Round - Terrico White
  • Re-signed Will Bynum, Ben Wallace, signed Tracy McGrady
  • Fired John Kuester, hired Lawrence Frank
  • 2011 Draft: 1st Round - Brandon Knight; 2nd Round - Vernon Macklin, Kyle Singler
  • Re-signed Tayshaun Prince, Jonas Jerebko
  • Signed Damien Wilkins
  • Traded Ben Gordon and a future 1st round pick for Corey Maggette (sigh)
  • 2012 Draft: 1st Round - Andre Drummond; 2nd Round - Khris Middleton, Kim English
  • Signed Slava Kravtsov
  • Traded Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye for Jose Calderon in three-team deal
  • Fired Lawrence Frank, hired Mo Cheeks
  • 2013 Draft: 1st Round - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope; 2nd Round - Peyton Siva, Tony Mitchell
  • Signed Josh Smith, Luigi Datome, Chauncey Billups, Josh Harrellson; re-signed Will Bynum
  • Traded Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton, Slava Kravtsov for Brandon Jennings
  • Fired (kind of) Mo Cheeks, named John Loyer as Interim Head Coach
So, how did he even keep his job into 2010?  The stretch from the start of 2008 up until the night that Dumars lucked into Greg Monroe might be one of the worst runs an NBA GM has ever had.  Seriously, just look at it.  Hired a terrible, over-matched Michael Curry to coach a team full of players who weren't going to respect him from day one.  Had three second round picks in the 2008 draft who ended up playing a combined 8 NBA games (all 8 belonging to Walte Sharpe).  HE SIGNED KWAME BROWN.  He gave Jason Maxiell a contact worth $20 million dollars.  Traded the MVP of the NBA Finals from four years prior for a past-his-prime combo guard, thus truly signaling Joe Dumars' love affair with combo guards.  Traded Amir Johnson for beef jerky, or something like that.  Drafted Austin Daye ahead of Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson, Darren Collison, Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson.  Fired Michael Curry to replace him with an older, whiter Michael Curry.  Gave $92 million dollars to Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.  You work too hard, you really do.  Traded Arron Afflalo for a 2nd round pick which never actually turned into a pick.  That's a run of bad decisions that could make Robert Downey Jr., circa 1998, blush.  That's a run of decisions so bad, that it's not even worth organizing it into a coherent paragraph.

To sum up the previous paragraph, Joe Dumars won't be back next year.  So, who might be running the ship for the Pistons this coming offseason?  There are a few logical choices, both from Detroit's past regimes, and from up-and-comers around the league.  Phil Jackson's name will be brought up plenty.  Until the day he's officially hired, tell anybody who says he's coming here that they're an idiot.  Here are a few realistic options of executives who might be calling the shots for the Pistons starting this offseason:

Scott Perry - Orlando Magic Assistant GM: Perry served four years under Joe Dumars as his VP of Basketball Operations.  The 49-year-old Perry might feel like it's his time to finally run the show.  He had a hand in Dumars' reign of terror from 2008-12, so maybe we don't really want him here.  However, Orlando's rebuild after the Dwight Howard trade is running very smoothly.  They stole Tobias Harris away from Milwaukee, arguably won the Howard trade, and have a good young core that should be competitive soon.  It's hard to tell how much credit Perry deserves for the Magic building a core, and how much blame he deserves for what happened in Detroit from '08 to '12.

Allan Houston - New York Knicks Assistant GM: No executive working for the Knicks really has too much of a say in personnel moves with James Dolan (literally) lurking around every corner.  Buzz around the league suggests that Houston may be next in line in New York; maybe the Pistons could scoop him up before the Knicks can give him a try?  He had talent as a player, but as we've learned over the last decade, that doesn't mean he knows how to see it in other players.

Bryan Colangelo - Former Raptors, Suns GM: I know I don't like retread coaches, but I don't know how I'd feel about a retread GM.  Things didn't really work out for Colangelo in Toronto, but he does have a record of success from his time in Phoenix.  Much like Dumars, Colangelo's better days are well behind him.  Another negative, if Colangelo is hired, there is always a threat that he'll hire Mike D'Antoni.

Chris Grant - Former Cavs GM: Just kidding!

Bill Branch - Portland Blazers Assistant GM: As a huge Rich Cho fan (current CHA GM, former POR GM), I would love to see one of Cho's assistants take over the Pistons.  Branch has been a part of adding pieces like Wes Matthews and Damian Lillard to Portland's core.  He also was a part of the Blazers building an extremely deep bench this past offseason.  Branch hasn't been the one calling the shots necessarily, but if he's had a say in some of Portland's moves, he might be able to run the show in a different city.

The list above certainly isn't comprehensive, but it's a start on trying to identify who will be calling the shots this upcoming offseason.  I feel confident enough to say that Dumars won't be back. Let's just hope that his replacement is competent enough to not sign Kwame Brown.  Stay tuned for more Looking Ahead to Next Year, where a review on coaching candidates will take place, as well as an analysis on what kinds of roster changes might take place.  You can follow SixCD on Twitter, @Kevin6CD, and you can add your suggestion for the next GM, or list your least favorite Dumars move in the comments.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Warriors @ Pistons Game Recap

Warriors 104 Pistons 96
Points - 23 - Greg Monroe
Rebounds - 11 - Josh Smith
Assists - 10 - Brandon Jennings
It looked like the Pistons would undermine their tanking efforts early and often, as they hung with the Warriors for the first three quarters of the game.  However, true to form, the Pistons collapsed in the fourth quarter.  Golden State outscored the Pistons 23-13 in the 4th, as Detroit settled for poor isolation offense and allowed second-chance after second-chance on the defensive end.  In the end, much like Saturday night's loss to the Dallas Mavericks, the better team won the game over an opponent that only got one or two solid performances.

No one player really beat the Pistons for Golden State; the Warriors had five different players in double figures, and got at least four points from all ten players who saw the floor.  Golden State is yet another perfect example of why Joe Dumars' job isn't as easy as he thinks it is.  The Warriors are a well-assembled group of players with a strong, well-rounded starting five, and a bench that features four or five players who are all a threat to score, and most of which defend well.  Teams like the Pistons are built on individual talent, whereas the Warriors are built on individual talent, cohesion and a system of play.  Finding the talent isn't difficult, finding guys with talent who all mesh well is.  The Warriors have a calling card on each end of the floor, as a unit.  On offense, they space the floor and create open perimeter shots (13-31 3FG tonight); on defense they rebound the ball well and feature a blend of speed and size.  Would you even know where to begin if somebody asked you what the Pistons' calling card was on defense?

Tonight's loss pushed the Pistons to four games back of a playoff spot, however, the Knicks loss to Dallas kept Detroit 2 games ahead of where they need to be to keep this year's draft pick.  The Tank Watch is officially on again in Detroit.  So, dust off Charlie Villanueva, hell, maybe he can play Point Guard?  You'll never know unless you try.  Let Peyton Siva and Tony Mitchell get enough run to know whether or not they're worth keeping around long term.  What better way to learn than on-the-job experience?  Even if the Pistons don't sabotage their efforts, I have a feeling that what they're doing now will be enough to keep their pick.  The schedule is tough, Josh Smith continues to shoot and Andre Drummond finds foul trouble almost every night.  The Pistons aren't making the 2013-14 playoffs; it's time to embrace the tank.

Warriors @ Pistons Game Preview

Game 57; February 24, 2014; 7:30 p.m.

Golden State Warriors (34-22) vs. Detroit Pistons (23-33)
Palace of Auburn Hills; Auburn Hills, MI
TV: Fox Sports Detroit

The Essentials:

(NBA Rank) Pace Off. Eff. Def. Eff. TS% Off. Reb.% Def. Reb.%
WARRIORS 98.7 (5th) 104.1 (12th) 99.1 (3rd) 54.5 (10th) 25.7 (16th) 76.2 (3rd)
PISTONS 97.6 (10th) 102.5 (18th) 105.3 (21st) 51.6 (24th) 31.3 (1st) 73.9 (18th)

The Pistons enter Monday night's contest against the Golden State Warriors 3.5 games back of a playoff spot.  They looked much further back of the playoffs than that in Saturday night's home loss to the Dallas Mavericks.  Dallas had their way with the Pistons' defense en route to 113 points and an 11-point victory.  A new challenge awaits the Pistons at The Palace on Monday night, as a surprisingly stout Golden State Warriors team comes to town.  The fast-paced, three-launching Warriors boast the NBA's third-best defense, up from 13th in the league last season.  Certainly the addition of Andre Iguodala and a healthy Andrew Bogut have bolstered the Warrior defense.  Golden State is excellent at limiting opponents to just one shot per possession, claiming the league's third best Defensive Rebounding Rate.  

Detroit's last outing against the Warriors was an ugly affair, that was over within minutes of the tip.  Golden State cruised to a 113-95 win on November 12th, jumping out to a 35-16 lead after one quarter.  The Warriors were led by Steph Curry's 25 points (7-10fg) and received scoring from all 12 players who saw the floor.  Golden State shot 60% in the rout, including 8-16 from behind the arc.  Detroit was led by Andre Drummond's 16 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocks.  The matchup came after one of of many early season dust-ups between Mo Cheeks and Josh Smith, and ended with Smith only playing 19 minutes.  Going into Monday night's game, the Pistons are 4-16 against Western Conference opponents.  Two of those four wins were against teams in the Western Conference playoff picture (SA, PHX).

Hit the jump for a breakdown of the Warriors personnel...

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Pistons-Mavericks Game Recap

Mavericks 113 Pistons 102
Points - 32 - Josh Smith
Rebounds - 17 - Greg Monroe
Assists - 13 - Monta Ellis
For the 34th time this season, tonight, the Pistons weren't the better team on the floor.  The loss, coupled with Charlotte's win over the Grizzlies, drops the Pistons to 3.5 games back of the Bobcats for the 8th and final playoff spot.  The Mavericks took advantage of Andre Drummond's foul trouble, dominating the glass.  Dallas managed to rebound 34.8% of their misses, while holding the Pistons to a 21% Offensive Rebounding Rate, well below their league leading mark of 35%.  Dallas' well-executed system and willingness to share the ball showed to be superior to Detroit's isolation offense.  70.5% of Dallas' made field goals were assisted, where as the Pistons only managed an assist on 52.5% of their made baskets.  That stat proved to be most important in the fourth quarter when the Pistons stopped getting a slew of buckets from Josh Smith and had to rely on motion to score.  The well went dry and the Pistons just didn't have enough to muster a comeback in the fourth quarter after cutting the lead to 6 going into the final period.

Had the Pistons been able to manage a victory, the story of the night would have been Josh Smith's 32 points.  The bigger story behind that was how efficiently he did it; making 14 of his 20 field goal attempts.  It was a display of what he can do when he only launches one three in a game, as he worked from the mid-range into the post, attacking off the dribble.  Smith mixed in three assists, three blocks, three rebounds and a steal.  Greg Monroe also played well, tallying another double-double with 17 points, 17 rebounds and two blocks.  He demonstrated his persistence in the paint, scoring efficiently in the second half, after a rough first half.  Andre Drummond struggled against the Mavericks yet again, only managing 8 points and 3 rebounds in just under 20 minutes played.

The loss almost certainly pushes me into the tank camp.  After last night's somewhat inspiring win after a strong comeback, this loss was equally discouraging.  The team seemed to give up about halfway through the fourth quarter when they realized that the Dallas Mavericks weren't the decimated Atlanta Hawks team they had played the night before.  The Mavericks didn't roll over any time the Pistons made a small run, and Detroit didn't have the will to keep fighting when Dallas pushed the lead to 11 with three minutes left.  From here, the Pistons need to do whatever it takes to finish in the bottom eight of the league.  As of tonight, they are only two games up on the 8th-worst record in the league, and only 4 games ahead of a top-five draft slot.  The schedule only gets tougher, so let's do the familiar thing from the past few years, and root for some losses.

Mavericks @ Pistons Game Preview

Game 56; February 22, 2014

Dallas Mavericks (33-23) vs. Detroit Pistons (23-32)
Palace of Auburn Hills; Auburn Hills, MI
TV: Fox Sports Detroit

The Essentials:

(NBA Rank) Pace Off. Eff. Def. Eff. TS% Off. Reb.% Def. Reb.%
MAVERICKS 96.5 (13th) 108.1 (4th) 105.5 (22nd) 56.2 (6th) 24.0 (23rd) 73.2 (23rd)
PISTONS 97.6 (10th) 102.5 (18th) 105.2 (21st) 51.5 (25th) 31.5 (1st) 74.1 (17th)

The Pistons look to expand on last night's win over the short-handed Hawks when they face a Mavericks team fighting for a playoff spot in the rugged Western Conference.  Coming into tonight, the Mavs are sitting in the 8th seed, one game above a surging Memphis squad.  Dallas has won 7 of their last 9 contests, with an impressive win over the Pacers in Indiana.  Other than a win over Memphis, their other five wins in that stretch were over five of the league's ten worst teams.  The last time the Pistons faced the Mavs was on Jan. 26th when the Pistons suffered a 116-106 loss in Dallas.  Dirk Nowitzki scored 28 points in that matchup, and figures to cause problems for the Pistons' slow-footed frontcourt (looking at you, Greg Monroe) again tonight.

Detroit rebounded 35.4% of their misses in the first match-up between these two teams, above their league-leading rate for the season.  That didn't matter though because the Pistons allowed the Mavericks to shoot 58.1% from the field, including 67.9% inside the arc.  Former Piston guard Jose Calderon was 7-8 from the field  Detroit missed 12 free throws (16-28) and was a meager 4-13 from three-point range in the loss.  The Pistons were led by 26 points (10-18fg) from Brandon Jennings and 25 (10-24fg) from Josh Smith.  Andre Drummond posted one of his worst lines of the season, only managing 4 points and 6 rebounds in 26 minutes played.

Hit the jump for a breakdown of the Mavericks

2014 Mock Draft 1.0

*Draft order as of 2/21/2014
** NBA Comparisons made for style of play, not talent or impact

1st Bucks - Joel Embiid - C - Kansas - 7'0, 250 
NBA Comparison: Dwight Howard

There has been talk lately, both by Embiid himself and the media, that Embiid might not enter the draft after this season.  I'll believe it if the early entry deadline comes and goes without his name in it.  Until then, he's the projected number one pick for obvious reasons.  No other player in this year's pool figures to impact the game on both ends as well as he does.  With extremely long arms, a frame that can hold more weight, and good athleticism for his size, Embiid figures to be a terror as a scorer, shot blocker and rebounder.

2nd 76ers - Andrew Wiggins - SF - Kansas - 6'8, 200
NBA Comparison: Rudy Gay

Wiggins has failed to match the hype that surrounded him entering his freshman season at Kansas.  While that raises red flags, it doesn't mean that he won't be a successful pro.  He has an NBA-ready body at either SG or SF, and possesses the necessary athleticism to play both positions.  What will determine where he plays and how successful he is, is if he can improve his three point shooting beyond his 34.4% shooting this season.  That doesn't bode well for the NBA's longer line.  However, the potential is there, and often times that's more of what the draft is about.

3rd Magic - Jabari Parker - F - Duke - 6'8, 235
NBA Comparison: Carmelo Anthony

Parker is built in the same body type as Carmelo Anthony and just might have the potential to pack the same scoring punch.  Averaging 19.2 PPG on 48/36.5/73.9 shooting, Parker can score in a variety of ways, with a good outside-in game.  NBA scouts have expressed worry over Parker as a tweener, but unlike most players who might lack a true NBA position, Parker can score at will against most opponents.  Passing game needs development.

Get the rest of the draft after the jump...

Thursday, February 20, 2014

2014 Trade Deadline Review

Today's trade deadline came and went and the Pistons roster is the same as it's been since the team signed Josh Harrellson on August 21st of last year.  Joe Dumars chose to sit idle and watch the house burn, instead of either pouring water or gasoline on it.  The result will certainly be a Pistons roster that is every bit as dysfunctional as it has been since the Josh Smith signing.  A team that is leading the league in points in the paint, but dead last in three point shooting.  A team that is a slap in the face to the notion of True Shooting%, a field goal efficiency measure which accounts for both free throw and three-point shooting.  A stat that the Pistons rank 25th in the league in; ahead of three tanking teams (BOS, MIL, PHI), Chicago's anemic Rose-less offense and the indescribable 2013-14 Cleveland Cavaliers.  If you haven't tuned out on this season yet, you're due for more of the same between now and the middle of April, which will likely be the Pistons' fifth straight season without a playoff appearance.

Assuming you can take NBA reporters on Twitter for their word (you can't), there were multiple players available in small deals that would have helped the Pistons win this season.  Players available for 2nd round picks or minimal talent investment that would have helped the Pistons were numerous.  Jimmer Fredette, shooting 49% from three this year, was supposedly available for a 2nd round pick.  Anthony Morrow, the Pelicans' sharpshooter who connects on threes at a 43% rate in his career and is shooting 47.5% this season, likely would have also only cost a 2nd round pick.  Fredette boasts a 58.4 TS% this year, Morrow's sitting at a fresh 57.7%.  Among Pistons players who have played more than 300 minutes this season, both Morrow and Fredette would rank second on the team in TS% had they been acquired today.  Instead, the Pistons saved their pick to draft a player who is way more likely to be Walter Sharpe than Kyle Singler.

The only bit of news we did get today was that the Pistons were shopping misfit SF Josh Smith, but were asking for far too much.  The news, via Grantland's Zach Lowe, was that the Pistons were asking for assets instead of expiring deals in return for Smith.  Lowe also implied that Dumars was just gauging the market for a potential deal this summer.  If true, Dumars might need a magnifying glass to read the writing on the wall.  His pick to coach the team has already been fired, his poorly assembled group of talent is on pace to miss the playoffs in the putrid Eastern Conference, and his contract expires at the end of the year.  Tom Gores didn't buy the team to muddle around the top half of the bottom third of the league.  Joe Dumars hasn't shown in years that he can build a roster that does anything but that.  So why stand pat?  Why not make one last-ditch effort to get this team into the playoffs?  Either Joe Dumars doesn't see the obvious signs that he's about to be fired, or he just doesn't care.

So, where to now?  Detroit enters an extremely tough stretch of games trailing the 8th place Charlotte Bobcats by 2.5 games.  Four of the Pistons' next five games are against teams over the .500 mark, including road games against San Antonio and Houston.  If the Pistons don't manage to win on Friday night against the Hawks, their only game of the next five against a sub-.500 team, they could possibly go 0-5 in the stretch.  That would certainly be the death blow to this fragile season.  By that point, the Pistons may very well be as many as five or six games out of the playoff picture.  With the Charlotte Bobcats rounding into form, it's time to play for next year if the Pistons don't win three of the next five.  The Pistons can't hold on too long this year, if they do, it will cost them a lottery pick, in what would be their biggest failure of a season in this "rebuilding" phase.  It's hard not to wonder if today's inactivity solidified their fate.  Oh well, unless your name is Joe Dumars, there's always next year.

Welcome to Six Championship Drive

Six Championship Drive is a new basketball blog created with the intent to produce new and different content about the Detroit Pistons.  When delving in to analysis of both players, the team and its opponents, advanced stats will be the main method of critique.  Most sports fans know what advanced statistics have done for the game of baseball, but advanced stats are also a developing realm in basketball as well.

As a huge Pistons fan who developed a love for the game of basketball while the Pistons were in the early stages of their success in the early to mid-2000s, I can say that the last few years of Detroit basketball have been very hard to watch.  The coming years may be equally frustrating to watch and write about.  The goal of this blog will be to enhance the watching experience through the advancement of knowledge about the team, its players and its coaches and executives. 

I probably don't have to make it known that I'm not a professional writer or an English major, you'll figure that out on your own.  What I hope will make my writing interesting and readable, is my passion for the game and the team, and my willingness to learn and introduce new concepts.  With that being said, check back in regularly and please follow on Twitter, @Kevin6CD.