The Pistons are a young team. They have a lot of talent on their roster, most of it composed of high draft picks that haven’t reached their peaks. They have a finesse passing big man. An athletic freak. A fearless combo guard. They have a logjam of forwards with various skill-sets that haven’t been utilized correctly by previous coaching regimes. They have an excellent fanbase, a coach that connects extraordinarily well with young players, and they have new ownership desperate to prove themselves. What don’t they have? The elusive missing piece: an established NBA star. This is a league of stars, and as much as the Pistons have bucked that trend (hello 2004 championship!), Joe Dumars has to be in the hunt for a true difference maker. Well, as I’ve previously said, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul aren’t waltzing into the Palace, and I question (though it would be “fun” to watch) the wisdom of making a run at the ticking time bomb that is Josh Smith. But there have been rumblings of another option for the Bad Boys.
Sam Amico of Fox Sports has indicated the Pistons are once again throwing their hat into the Andre Iguodala “sweepstakes”. This had been previously been speculated on before the Draft, but the rumor mill is set to explode soon, with the July 10th Free Agency deadline quick closing in. The Eastern Conference was already shocked by a few draft day trades, including the Sixers shipping out talented guard (and their best player) Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans and the Celtics trading old warriors Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets. Philadelphia and Boston have opted for a policy of burning down their mansions rather than letting them very slowly go to ruin. Brooklyn’s moves were made ostensibly to become a contender, but this seems like a move that will get them to a Second Round Game 6 at best.
The Pistons are a team on the rise, and can be expected to be in the thick of the race for a 7th or 8th seed going into the season just by virtue of the fact that they actually have talent on their roster. Greg Monroe shows flashes of stardom, and Andre Drummond is a potential nightmare for nearly every big man in the association. Brandon Knight, say what you want about him, can score baskets, and lottery pick Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, in addition to having an amazing name, fits an immediate need, adds size and defense to the wing, and can be expected to develop into a reliable shooter once he gets over the jitters of professional play. What do the Pistons need? Well, they need a lot of things but the addition of Andre Iguodala would automatically make them a playoff team, albeit not a team guaranteed to do much winning once they get there. The onus on becoming an elite team will ultimately fall on Monroe and Drummond’s development.
But to become a very good team Iguodala or someone like him is necessary. His game can charitably be described as kind of LeBron-lite. His defense can be out of this world at times and he can get to the rim at will when he is on. His basketball instincts are superb, he is a very good passer and can initiate the offense at times, and he doesn’t need to be set-up in his sweet spots to score. On the other hand, his offensive game remains frustratingly inconsistent, especially since he actually can score like LeBron once every ten games only to barely crack double digits in the next ten. And make no mistake, Andre wants long-term money and security. He aims to get paid and somebody will pay him. He’d be occupying a large chunk of the Piston’s cap space (too large for what he brings), and he’s cresting the wrong side of his career, getting to that age where elite athletes start to break down, the age where leaping and first step’s start their decline.
So am I in favor of this move? Yes. The Pistons need to learn how to win. Teams that win tend to keep winning because they know they can. Iguodala might be the psychological shot in the arm this young squad needs to start taking care of business against the sewer dwellers of the league and to have a fifty-fifty shot on any given night against the good teams. To play devil’s advocate on my own arguments: he’s getting older but he’s not old, he brings a veteran presence and basketball IQ that the young players would absolutely benefit from, and though he’s going to cost a lot of money, if the time came to sever ties, the Pistons can always get rid of him. Anyone can be traded. Gilbert Arenas and Rashard Lewis proved that.