2012 NBA Off Season Preview: Detroit Pistons

Detroit Pistons

2011-2012 Record: 25-41, 4th in Central
Stat Leaders: Greg Monroe, 15.4 ppg, 9.7 rpg. Rodney Stuckey, 3.8 apg. Ben Wallace, 0.8 bpg.

Depth Chart

C - Greg Monroe (TO)
PF - Jason Maxiell (PO), Jonas Jerebko, Charlie Villanueva
SF - Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye (TO)
SG - Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon
PG - Brandon Knight, Will Bynum

Unrestricted Free Agents: F Vernon Macklin, G Walker Russell Jr, FC Ben Wallace, GF Damien Wilkins

The Good: Greg Monroe had a fantastic sophomore season and could have some All Star appearances in his future. He was the first Piston player to lead the team in  points, rebounds, steals and field goal percentage, and he played all 66 games, though he did suffer a late season slump. Brandon Knight had an up and down rookie season but showed plenty of scoring ability, culminating with a career high 28 points in an April game against the Cavaliers. Knight and Rodney Stuckey are a good offensive back court, both guys can score and handle the rock. Knight will probably be the primary ball handler going forward, but he must improve on his assist to turnover ratio. He is more of a scorer then a distributor at this point.

The Bad: This team has too much dead weight and not enough talent to be competitive on a nightly basis. Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva were the two key free agent signings a couple of years ago, but both players have been monster disappointments and are nothing but a drain on the salary cap. Gordon can at least score some points, Villanueva is completely worthless. Other then the three players mentioned in "The Good", this team doesn't really have any young players to build around. Austin Daye regressed badly in his third year and might not have a future with the team. Of course, he didn't get any minutes because Joe Dumars questionably resigned Tayshaun Prince. Dumars seems to lack direction for the way he is building this team, and they are stuck in mediocrity as a result.

Key Free Agents: Ben Wallace will most likely retire, and the other three guys were depth signings only. I do not expect any of these guys to be resigned.

Projected Cap Space: -$4,655,729. The Pistons are over the cap due to some terrible contracts. Ben Gordon is making 12 million, Charlie Villanueva 8 million, Rodney Stuckey 8 million, Tayshaun Prince 6.7 million. Of those four, only Stuckey is considered a part of the teams future. I am not sure what Joe Dumars was thinking with those other three deals. Then again, I am not sure what Joe Dumars is thinking most of the time. Richard Hamilton was simply waived, not amnestied, meaning his old contract will count as 5 million dollars against the cap for 2012-2013.

Amnesty Possibilities: Joe Dumars has to admit his mistake and use the amnesty clause on either Ben Gordon or Charlie Villanueva. Even though Gordon makes more, he at least provides some production. Villanueva played in a handful of games this past season and was not any good when he did play. He is owed 16 million dollars over the next two years. Cutting ties with him is a no brainer, but Dumars might be stubborn enough to keep him around.

Free Agent Possibilities: The Pistons are over the cap despite being a losing team,  so they only have the exception to use. Detroit desperately needs rebounding and shot blocking help, but so do 29 other teams, so they probably will not find a future starter willing to sign on to a losing situation. They might have to be the next team to sign and then be disappointed by Kwame Brown.

Draft Possibilities: Detroit holds the 9th pick in the draft and will be looking to add a big man to play next to Greg Monroe. Tyler Zeller, Meyers Leonard and John Henson are all possibilities. I think out of the three, Leonard would be the best pick. He offers much more upside then the other two players. He stands at 7'1 and offers intriguing ability. He is a very talented big man but will probably be a project, as he is still thin and has question marks about his intelligence. He is probably not NBA ready. Zeller is NBA ready, but he has a lower ceiling. He should be a decent starting center for the next ten years though. Henson would give the Pistons elite shot blocking ability but would not offer any offensive ability and is too skinny to be a starter, at least for now. There is also Andre Drummond, who could possibly slide down to Detroit at 9. If so, they should pounce all over him. He is clearly worth the gamble over those three guys.

Contending, Rebuilding or Status Quo?: Dumars seems to think his team is contending, but they should be rebuilding. The Villanueva and Gordon signings were horrible, as was the decision to resign Prince. Detroit has drafted well the past two years, adding Monroe and Knight, and they need to continue to build through the draft. The team most likely will have to suffer through a few more seasons in the lottery, but if they can continue to add pieces through the draft and show the patience to let the bad contracts run their course without adding any more, they could be back in the playoffs in a few years. This team is a long way from winning anything meaningful, though.

All logos courtesy of www.sportslogos.net

Jonathan Carrano

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