Playoffs Providing a Hint of Pistons Blueprint?
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We don’t yet know the identity of the successor to Joe Dumars. We’re not sure if that person will come with the title of general manager, president of basketball operations or something else. We’re not certain if Tom Gores’ management team conducting the search has zeroed in on a top 10 or a top five or even launched the round of preliminary interviews.
But we can safely assume the person who ultimately sits in the big corner office overlooking the practice court is intently watching the playoffs, in all their sweaty palm-inducing drama. And we would logically predict that the ultimate choice to lead the Pistons has been struck by a few things as the thrilling first round winds down this weekend.
- It’s a Gap, Not a Chasm – It’s possible neither conference’s No. 1 seed will reach the second round. That might be a fairly routine assumption in the NHL, but almost never in the NBA’s history has such been the case. There are a lot of very good teams in the NBA, but there might not be any great ones right now.
- It’s About Offense – The bromide that “Defense wins championships” … yeah, not so sure about that. The Pistons, to be certain, failed to make the playoffs this season because of their defensive failures as much as anything. But these playoff games have featured a stunning array of shot-makers. Particularly from 3-point distance, it’s been taken to new heights. You won’t win without a player or two who can make something out of nothing.
The first one is nothing but good news for the Pistons. They’ve won three NBA titles in their history spanning two distinct eras. The current era much more closely resembles that of a decade ago – we’re closing in on the 10-year anniversary of the Goin’ to Work Pistons “five-game sweep” of the Lakers – than 25 years ago, when the Bad Boys needed to slay the giants of the league to win the franchise’s first two NBA titles.
It would be foolhardy to suggest a 29-win team can return intact and expect different results next season. But it would be just as silly to suggest a tear-down is required to put the Pistons back in play.
The guess is the new GM will come in and choose something less dramatic than a housecleaning, a blueprint buttressed by the fact that division champ Indiana has been stretched to seven games by an eighth-seeded Atlanta which lost a critical home game to the Pistons he’ll inherit in the season’s final days. There might not be any real dragons to slay in the East, depending on the retooling Miami manages in an off-season during which LeBron James could opt out and land elsewhere. The fact Andre Drummond is 20 gives the Pistons the luxury of patience – to a degree, at least – in putting a complementary team around him.
Who would qualify as complementary? Different candidates might have different ideas about that. But it wouldn’t be a stretch to surmise the new GM will look at the team’s 29th ranking in 3-point shooting and make improving that aspect a priority. If he’s watched the playoffs, that notion would be further reinforced.
Getting the players to move the needle on 3-point shooting? Not a snap of the fingers, certainly, but not like finding, oh, say, a dominant 20-year-old 7-footer, either. Troy Daniels was in the D-League a few weeks ago; now he’s helping decide playoff games. All these playoff teams, it seems, have a player or two on their bench who can change the scoreboard in a heartbeat.
Scores of players become free agents every summer. Surely, there will be a few available shooters intrigued by the possibilities of coming to a team that features the league’s best offensive rebounder, Drummond. If Greg Monroe is retained – the likely reality of restricted free agency – that’s two high-quality interior players, a nice launching point for any reconfiguration.
There are probably no fewer than a dozen well-qualified candidates around the NBA who’d love the shot to sit in that big corner office above the Pistons practice facility. As these playoffs unfold, they perhaps occasionally allow themselves to think about what they might do should they get the chance to tailor the Detroit roster to compete on that stage. My guess is the consensus opinion holds that they wouldn’t be starting from more than a few paces behind the field.