Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Detroit Pistons: Good, bad, or somewhere in between?

If you can figure out the Pistons, and their chances for this season, you'll get my kudos, because I sure as Hell can't.

The Pistons are still undeniably a talented team, and in the watered down Eastern Conference, a threat to reach the NBA finals. They are also a highly flawed group, a team that may have seen their championship window close.

From what we've seen so far from the Pistons, despite their recent 9 game winning streak, is a team that has raised more questions than give us answers.

They still have little depth, despite their attempts to shore up the bench. Jason Maxiel was in the rotation, now he's out, and only plays in garbage time. Carlos Delfino was in the rotation, then out, now he's back in. For how long is anyone's guess. Flip Murray has been Flip Murray, in other words, "Meh." Antonio McDyess has been solid, as always, but his scoring is down. Lindsey Hunter is constantly nursing injuries (Currently his achilles), and considering he's about 95 years old in basketball years, it was to be expected.

With that lack of depth, be it due to Flip Saunders not developing the bench, or their not being as talented as we were lead to believe, he is still playing the the big 4 starters extended minutes. Sheed, Hamilton, Billups, and Prince are all averaging over 35 minutes a game, just like last season. We all saw how gassed the Pistons looked in the playoffs. Didn't Flip learn from history? If he didn't, he's due to repeat it.

'Sheed is still 'Sheed, dominating at times, disappearing at others, always frustrating, thanks to not always using his awesome skills, and still their best low post presence. He's much like the Tigers' Curtis Granderson, in that he's their catalyst. When 'Sheed plays well, the Pistons win. When he's in one of his funks, the Pistons struggle. It's as simple as that.

Nazr Mohahmmed, given a big 5 year contract, has been disappointing. 30 million for 20 minutes, 6 points and 5 rebounds per game is not exactly free agent money well spent. I'm guessing the Spurs knew something after all, considering you don't normally let talented big men walk.

Chauncey Billups has played well, but not quite as well as last season. He's still one of the top 5 point guards in the league. With all that in mind, is Billups really worth a max contract? Personally, I'm torn. I don't think he is, mostly due to his age. Despite that, if I was in Joe Dumars' shoes, I think would give him the money. You can't let Billups pull a Ben Wallace, and take a Brink's truck worth of cash from another team. And you know some GM out there will give Billups that max contract.

Joe Dumars has a tough decision, one that I wouldn't want to make. If you sign Billups to a MONSTER contract, you are now pinning all of your title hopes on an aging point guard. You keep him, and then pray that he staves off declining, a la Steve Nash. On the other hand, does Dumars trade Billups, if he knows he won't be offering him a max deal? If he's not going to be able to keep Billups, you might as well blow things up, and start building for the future.

Dumats could do nothing more than cross his fingers, and hope that Billups gives the Pistons a home team discount. Any way it all plays out, it's a scary scenario. The Pistons could very easily lose 2 all-star caliber starters in consecutive off seasons, and get absolutely nothing in return. That would kill the franchise.

Supposedly the upcoming draft is loaded. Unfortunately, the pick that the Pistons got in return for Darko is looking more and more like it will not be very high at all. Orlando has the best record in the east. The Darko pick is going to haunt this franchise for a decade. when it is all said and done, the Pistons will have parlayed the 2nd overall pick in the draft into nothing more than a late first round pick. Ouch. The Darko pick will haunt the Pistons for a very long time.

I was optimistic
about the Pistons chances before the season started. I'm not quite so optimistic now. I still think they will win 50 games, if only due to the fact that majority of the teams in the East outright suck. I was hoping that the Pistons would be more than that, instead of being just a team that might be the best of a bad bunch.

The Pistons may be more than that, and the big 4 starters could carry them quite far. But just like 'Sheed, the Pistons are consistent in their inconsistency. And that is what continually tempers my optimism.

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