After what has been quite an exhilarating summer in the NBA, the Pistons found themselves at the center of the fray since the 2013 offseason began. Joe Dumars and his staff have been working endless hours to try and get your Detroit Pistons back to relevance. Being competitive in the NBA is not a difficult task, but building a franchise on high-character athletes with tremendous potential is. That’s what Joe Dumars has done.
Before Detroit was able to attract headline free agents and build a playoff worthy team around their two young building blocks of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, they had to find someone to lead the team on a nightly basis. The believe they found that guy in Maurice Cheeks. Cheeks was part of one of the most professional and successful coaching staffs in the business in Oklahoma City and was called a “great hire” by Phil Jackson, the Pistons temporary “Coaching Advisor.” After the debacle that was Lawrence Frank and his time in Detroit, Joe Dumars needed to get this last hire right. We will have to wait and see if this coaching staff (headlined by Mo Cheeks, Maz Trakh, and yes, Rasheed Wallace) can help steer the Pistons back to the promise land that is, the Playoffs.
The 2013 Offseason started off with a bang on draft night when the consensus top 2 players almost slipped to the Pistons at number eight. McLemore, who was Detroit’s top choice, was selected a spot earlier by the Sacramento Kings. Leaving Trey Burke for the taking. Detroit wisely passed on Burke to draft a player of need and a more NBA ready prospect. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope adds much needed athleticism on the wing, as well as perimeter shooting to a team that was ranked in the bottom half of the League last year.
Detroit finished out the draft by finding a pair of diamonds in the second round by drafting Louisville point guard Peyton Siva, and athletic forward Tony Mitchell out of North Texas University. Mitchell, coming off a sub-par sophomore season at NTU, was thought of as a lottery talent early in the college basketball season, but his lack of work ethic and motor saw his draft stock plummet as the days drew closer to the draft.
With newly plucked talent and returning young prospects headed to Orlando for the annual Summer League held at the Magic practice facility, the Pistons were anxious to get a glimpse at the future of Detroit Basketball. Coming into his second stint at the Orlando Summer League, Andre Drummond aka the “Big Penguin” was ready to show off his 290 pound frame and increased skill set, and boy did he not disappoint. Drummond set an Orlando Summer League record for rebounds against the Miami Heat on Day 5 of Summer League. Andre posted 18 boards to go along with 23 points in a Piston victory. Drummond also tied a Summer League record with 6 blocks in the opening game against former head coach Lawrence Frank and the Brooklyn Nets. Drummond averaged 15.5 points and 14.8 rebounds in Orlando, not too bad for a guy nicknamed the “Big Penguin.”
If Drummond’s success wasn’t enough to convince you about the success the Pistons had in Orlando, let’s include the play of the 2013 draft class. Lottery selection Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was second in scoring behind Drummond posting an average of 13.8 points a game. KCP finished the week with a pair of 20 point outburst off of sound shooting from the perimeter. Second round draftee Tony Mitchell showed off his astounding athleticism to the tune of some tremendous rejections and thunderous jams, including a game winning dunk against the Miami Heat. Reigning NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion Peyton Siva ran the floor for Lead Assistant Coach Maz Trakh in Orlando, and did it exceptionally well. Siva averaged 6 assists to go along with almost 10 points a contest. All in all, a rather productive trip to Orlando in July.
As July 1st came, came the start of NBA Free Agency 2013, headlined by Dwight Howard (Rockets), Chris Paul (Clippers), Andre Iguodala (Warriors), and Josh Smith. Reports came firing out of nowhere that the Pistons would be first in line to speak with the freakish athlete that is Josh Smith. After a reported 5 hour meeting between the two, it was reported that the meeting went very well, even though no formal offer was made. Still, the Pistons did their due diligence, holding meetings with free agents Andre Iguodala, Tyreke Evans, and O.J. Mayo, but their biggest priority was to ink a deal with Smith. Later in the week, as news broke about Dwight Howard’s arrival in Houston, it became clear that the Rockets would not have the money to sign Smith to a deal of his liking, and the rest is history. The Pistons would swoop in a few days later and ink Smith to a 4-year deal worth an approximate $54 million, cheaper than many thought Smith could be had for.
With the arrival of J-Smoove in Detroit, the Pistons immediately put themselves in the conversation of best front court in the NBA, with a projected lineup of Smith-Monroe-Drummond. Josh adds even more athleticism to what was a rather un-athletic team if you take Drummond out of the lineup. But with the positives of Josh, come the negatives. His poor shot selection and 27% three point shooting brings concern to Piston fans on how well the front court would mesh with is what is assumed to be a rather clogged lane. With improved outside shooting and better judgment, Smith and the Pistons can make this lineup work.
Josh was not the only free agent signee of the offseason though, Joe Dumars used every resource in the book to get a proper profile on his next free agent signing, Luigi Datome, who signed a 2-year deal worth $3.5 million. Datome comes from Italy, where he won the MVP award in the Italian league and shot a career high 45% from arc, adding much needed spacing to a jammed front court. Datome along with draftee Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will try to bring the Pistons out of the bottom half of the league in three point shooting.
Even though there was a chance of Joe Dumars resigning one of his own free agents (Corey Maggette, Will Bynum, Jason Maxiell), it seemed unlikely a return of one of the three was in the cards, but that’s when another turn of events occurred. After drafting pass-first point guard Peyton Siva in the second round, Dumars added some depth to the point guard spot by resigning Will Bynum to a 2-year deal worth $5.75 million. A deal that would later become an even bigger head scratcher with his next transaction.
A fan favorite and 2004 NBA Finals MVP, Mr. Big Shot himself, Chauncey Billups was once again a great Detroit Piston. After what was a rather diminishing and injury riddled couple of seasons with the Clippers, Chauncey found himself at the steps of a place he used to call home, Detroit. Dumars signed the veteran point guard to a 2-year deal worth $5 million with the possibility of moving to the front office once he retires as a Piston. Chauncey said in his press conference with the media that he always wanted to be “remembered a Piston” and thought he would never play for another franchise before the infamous Iverson-Billups swap of 2008. With relationships healed and friendships renewed, Mr. Big Shot is ready to get back to work and lead the Pistons-both as a mentor as well as a leader on the court-back to the playoffs.
As the dog days of the NBA offseason rapidly approach at an alarming rate, the Pistons were projected to stand pat for the remainder of the summer. But, as Dumars likes to do it best, Piston fans were startled to see the latest move pulled off by the Piston brass. Detroit swung a blockbuster deal with longtime friend of Dumars and now GM of the Bucks John Hammond, that would send the disgruntled yet dazzling star point guard Brandon Jennings to the Motor City. But Jennings did come at a hefty price. The Pistons were forced to part ways with one of their young nucleus, Brandon Knight. Knight, along with 2012 second round draft pick Khris Middleton, and Ukrainian big man Viacheslav Kravtsov were sent to Milwaukee as part of the deal.
This allowed Detroit to agree to a deal with Jennings and his agent on a 3-year contract worth $24 million. Somewhat of a discounted price for such a young and glamorous point guard. Jennings was looking for a deal from Milwaukee early on in Free Agency that would fetch him a deal in the ball park of $10-$12 million a season. Detroit was able to nab Jennings at an $8 million a season rate for three years. The Piston brass expects big things from Jennings, as they count on him to lead a young nucleus of Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to the playoffs in 2014.
With the 4 player trade, the Pistons opened up 2 roster spots, leaving the roster at 13 as of right now. With about two months remaining in the NBA offseason, Joe Dumars has two orders of business he most accomplish before the Pistons hit the hardwood for training camp come October. Step one, sign Peyton Siva before you lose him. Siva showed in Orlando that he is no scrub; the man can flat out play. Averaging 6 assists a game in Summer League, Siva showed that he could run the show. He became a true pass-first point guard for Detroit, something that they haven’t had since Billups left in 2008. If Siva does not sign with Detroit this season, or the Pistons do not retain his rights as he plays overseas, it could come back to haunt Detroit.
Second and final order of business for Joe is to sign a cheap big man to take Slava Kravtsov’s spot in the rotation. Their are several serviceable big man left in the free agent market even in August. Recently waived Drew Gooden could be had at a cheap price, or maybe longtime Piston and Defensive player of the Year Ben Wallace could find his way back to Detroit. Big Ben was one of the few players in the NBA wanting a role on last year’s Detroit Piston roster, but was unable to due to the team being at full capacity.
With an open roster spot, and a glaring need for a gritty defensive player, it may be a perfect time to welcome Big Ben back to the Palace.
Topics: Ben Wallace, Brandon Jennings, Brandon Knight, Chauncey Billups, Drew Gooden, Joe Dumars, Josh Smith, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Khris Middleton, Lawrence Frank, Maz Trakh, Mo Cheeks, Peyton Siva, Popular. Luigi Datome, Rasheed Wallace, Tony Mitchell, Viachslav Kravtsov, Will Bynum