Monday, June 05, 2006

Joe D wants to "Tweak" the roster, but will the tweaks include Ben Wallace?

Joe Dumars said today that the starting 5 plus 1, Rip Hamilton, Chauncey Billups, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace, and Antonio McDyess will all be back next season. He just wants to tweak the roster, specifically add bench depth and scoring punch. Thinking about it, that's the same thing we heard after last season.

So, is Joe D just feeding us rhetoric? Why do I say that?

Because anything and everything that happens in the offseason will pivot around the Ben Wallace contract situation. Will he resign? If so, at what cost? If not, what direction do you take the roster?

Ben wants to get paid. Have the Brinks truck back up to his front door. Jump into a pile of cash like Scrooge McDuck. I'll admit Wallace deserves a nice contract, and that he's been relatively underpaid when compared to performnce. But Wallace will be 32 at the start of the season, and centers are notorious for beginning to decline in the their early 30's. Wallace's worth is based on his athleticism, energy, and freakish defensive ability. You also have to factor in he's undersized for the position, and thus his body has taken its fair share of abuse. When you take that into account, the Pistons have seen the best that Ben Wallace is ever going to give. He's plateaued, and if not already, soon to be on the downside as a player.

The queastion remains, does Joe Dumars break the bank to keep Ben Wallace?

Odds are, Wallace wants 4-5 years at 12-15 million per. As good as his one dimenson has been, should you mortgage the future for a one dimensional player? Will someone else offer him silly money? Wallace is easily the biggest name in free agency, so some team looking to make a splash just might.

Say Joe D bites the bullet and gives him BIG money. There goes your flexibility in being able to add bench depth. All the Pistons would have is the mid level exemption, nothing more. For that kind of money, you might get someone that could help, maybe a 2 or 3 that can score, but it'll be a crapshoot. Remember the Michael Finley sweepstakes? To get the slashing scorer they need, they'll need that money, plus lots more.

Trades would then be the best option to help the roster. So who do you trade? Unfortunately, it takes something to get something. Dale Davis? Get real. Carlos Delfino? It looks as if he wants out anyway, but he hasn't played, so there's no value there. Marcus Evans? Role playes won't get you much, if anything. Anyone else on the roster? Throw-ins to make contracts match up. For the Pistons to get anyone in value in trade, they'll have to break up the starting 5 plus 1. That'll take huge brass ones on Dumars' part to break up a lineup that won 64 games.

Let's go in the other direction, and say that Ben Wallace's demands are too rich for the Pistons' blood. Then what? A sign and trade? What are the odds that the Pistons strike lightening twice? We have to be honest, the Pistons got damn lucky on the Grant Hill sign and trade. No one, and I mean no one, thought that the Pistons got the best of the deal. Concensus was that the Pistons got a couple of role players in exchange for a superstar. 9 times out of 10, or more like 99 times out of 100, the team signing the established superstar gets the best of the deal. So replacing Ben Wallace thru a sign and trade is a longshot at best.

As for signing a free agent, as I said, Ben Wallace is the biggest name availavle. Anyone else would be a downgrade. Here's a list of the top (Top being used generously) available big men I found in 10 seconds of googling...

Al Harrington, PF, Atlanta
Chris Wilcox, PF, Seattle (Restricted)
Nene, PF/C, Denver (Restricted)
Drew Gooden, PF, Cleveland (Restricted)
Joel Przybilla, C, Portland
Nazr Mohammed, C, San Antonio
Reggie Evans, PF, Denver
Keith Van Horn, SF/PF, Dallas
Alonzo Mourning, C, Miami

Eww. That ain't pretty.

We've now determined that the Pistons are between a rock and a hard place. Their only real option to keep the team at it's current level is to somehow, someway compromise with Ben Wallace. There has to be a happy medium between the Pistons' need to have some cap flexibility, allowing them to add a couple of good bench players, and rewarding Ben Wallace for his being the main reason the Pistons rose from irrelavent to elite.

Is loyalty worth a few million less a season? Would the idea of staying on a team that could contend, with your help, for the next few seasons worth leaving a few bucks and a year or 2 on the table? That's the reasoning the Pistons are going to have to use with Wallace. Take somewhat less money, and retire in the D with your jersey in the rafters as a legendary Piston, or go for bigger money in another city, with expectaions to match.

You'll hear the usual names. Trade for Kevin Garnett. Sign Mike James. What about Al Harrington or Peja Stojakovic, would they be good fits? How much would it cost for Sam Cassell? Don't bother. I'm not even going to try and throw roster ideas around at this point. It would be an exercise in extreme futility. You can't extrapolate what the roster will look like till you know if Ben Wallace is staying, and if so, for how much money?

The Pistons and Ben Wallace need each other. But do both sides realize that, and do what's best for both sides? Once that is determined, one way or the other, then and only then can you decide where to take the Pistons roster. Till then, our best guesses are nothing more than hot air.


  1. Last night on FOX2 "SportsWorks," Dan Miller said he'd heard Ben might be looking for 6 years/$100 million. If that's the case, I think Detroit has to let him walk. That's just WAY too much money, and far too big a chunk of the salary cap. A deal like that would handcuff the franchise for years.

    If that meant Nazr Mohammed in Pistons red-white-and-blue next season, I think I could live with that.

  2. You forgot to mention Grant Hill as a possible pick up in FA

  3. Hill is a good idea, but it all hangs on the Magic buying him out. But I could envision the Pistons using Hill like McDyess. Play him 15-20 minutes, and he could be damn effecitve and still syau healthy. No way Hill can play 30+ minutes anynore.