Stretching the Field: Pistons making summer statement
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Joe Dumars was a gnat during his playing days; he compiled assists, steals and had an impact on both ends of the floor.
It's similar to what Dumars is doing now as the president of basketball operations for the Detroit Pistons, a team he won two championships with in 1989-90 and constructed another as a member of the front office in 2003-04.
The Pistons made one more run to the NBA Finals the following season, losing to the San Antonio Spurs, but since then things haven't gone as planned for "Joe D" and his vision of a continuous winner ... until now.
Detroit has missed the playoffs in each of the past four years, failing to surpass the 30-win mark every time. And when the Pistons last made the postseason in 2008-09, they finished the regular season with a 39-43 mark and were swept in the first round.
It shows how superlative the Western Conference is to the East with a team sporting less than 40 wins and reaching the playoffs. Even though the Miami Heat have won the last two titles, history has proven that the West is more dominant from seeds 1-8.
Detroit was nine games off the final playoff berth in the conference in 2012-13 and had more wins (29-53) than only three teams from the West.
So what would be a proper solution for a team with a few bright spots in the future? Who or what could ignite the likes of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond to push the Pistons to the sixth, seventh or eighth seed? Well, spending money and trades, of course.
Dumars gave the success-starved fans in Detroit something to talk about by agreeing to terms with free agent forward Josh Smith. What's even more surprising is that Smith wanted to play in Auburn Hills the whole time.
"This was my only option," Smith said after landing a four-year deal worth $54 million. "I didn't have any other options. This is where I wanted to be. We're definitely a playoff team, and we're definitely a contender."
Smith, though, caused Atlanta Hawks fans to pull their hair out with his shaky shooting from the perimeter; he made a respectable 46.5 percent from the field last season. A man with size at 6-foot-9, 225 pounds, Smith plays well from three-point territory, but is better driving to the basket since he's more athletic than most power forwards and centers. What he lacks in girth he compensates for with speed and raw talent.
Smith can rebound and defend, too, and has playoff experience.
As far as the Pistons being a playoff team, that's not far from the truth with Smith joining Monroe and Drummond in the frontcourt. Monroe led the Pistons in scoring last season and Drummond shined as a rookie. Their touches will go down now that Smith, an All-Star candidate every season, is on board.
Winning usually takes over egos and Dumars didn't hesitate when given the chance to plug guard Brandon Jennings into the backcourt. Jennings also has trouble getting into a rhythm on some nights, but still is a threat for any defense. His addition allowed the Pistons to say sayonara to guard Brandon Knight, who became popular not having a set position and getting dunked on by DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers (see youtube).
Jennings was acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks and averaged 17.5 ppg last season. There's no doubt Jennings can score and the Pistons will need him to facilitate the ball as well. He posted a career-high 6.5 assists per game last season and learned to split shots with Monta Ellis.
The Pistons have a new head coach in Maurice Cheeks, a former point guard in his playing days who will be able to give Jennings some pointers. Ah yes, Cheeks, another move that went through Dumars. How can the Pistons fail to have a formidable backcourt with Hall of Famer Dumars and Cheeks in their respective positions? It seems a win-win, right? It does on paper.
Guess who will be alongside Cheeks on the bench? You probably wouldn't have guessed Rasheed Wallace. Wallace, who won a title with Detroit 10 years ago, brings energy and experience to the bigs, especially Monroe and Drummond. The two young giants should soak in Wallace like a sponge and don't expect them to holler Wallace's trademark chant "ball don't lie" when they're whistled for a foul.
While Wallace will serve as a coach to the frontcourt, veteran guard Chauncey Billups can perform the same task as a role player for Jennings, Will Bynum and Rodney Stuckey. Billups was the Finals MVP back in 2003-04 and is back in his old stomping grounds. Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva, though, could save the Pistons a lot of money if they head elsewhere, but it's still early.
It's also early to speculate if Dumars' moves will land him executive of the year or if the Pistons are immediate playoff contenders. Right now it's clear the Pistons have the makeup and talent to reach the sixth seed in the East.
Give them until winter to see if that assumption holds true.
07/31 14:40:37 ET