Sunday, April 8, 2012

Dumars Must Step Up Rebuilding Process

Dumars Must Step Up Rebuilding Process
By Steve St-Pierre | @Steve_Courtside

Since beginning a rebuilding process over the last couple seasons, the Pistons have acquired several key components as their core. Once this season ends later this month, however, it will be on Joe Dumars, Pistons President, to finish the job he has started.

A year ago, Detroit had nothing to play for. The team was in the process of being sold, it had a coach who knew he would be fired and several players who didn’t care what happened to themselves or the organization.

Now, the Pistons know these last few weeks of games actually mean something. They have a foundation in place that includes a new owner, coach and group of players who are in it for the long run.

Some fans have suggested that the Pistons should purposely lose games down the stretch in order to give themselves a better shot at landing a top-three selection in the upcoming 2012 NBA Draft. That’s not going to happen under Dumars’ watch – he wants the losing to stop immediately. He has a plan to fix this team, and he intends on doing it the right way and making sure this current group of players continues building a winning culture.

Dumars knows this draft will be as critical as it gets to finalizing a group that can maximize its potential and restore a championship atmosphere to The Palace of Auburn Hills. He’s been criticized in the past for what some have called lackluster draft picks. However, the Pistons’ current starting lineup consists of all players drafted by the organization – Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince and Jason Maxiell. It’s a lineup that has flaws, but it’s also a collection of players that Dumars hopes to build around.

Over the last two years, Monroe has established himself as the team’s best player and center of the future. Knight and Stuckey appear to be the guards the Pistons want to keep as the long-term starting backcourt. Prince and Maxiell are veteran forwards who have played their entire careers in Detroit and, though they may not necessarily be long-term starters, provide the team with value both on and off the floor.

Clearly, the next step in the rebuilding process is determining who else joins Monroe in the frontcourt for the long haul. Jonas Jerebko, another Pistons draft pick, gives the team versatility off the bench at both forward positions. Same can be said for Kyle Singler, who was drafted last summer but spent this season playing in Spain.

The hope this offseason is that Detroit can somehow acquire that young, athletic power forward to plug in alongside Monroe. Maxiell, despite starting this year, is better suited for a reserve role. Dumars will have a shot at a quality player to fill the starting spot in this year’s draft as well as in free agency or even on the trade market.

Even if the Pistons wind up with a top-three selection, they still need to overhaul the bench. Besides Jerebko, Detroit hasn’t had any consistency from its reserves. Veterans Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva were signed in the summer of 2009 for a combined $90 million, and neither of them have panned out. The Pistons have the option of waiving one of them at the end of the season via the amnesty clause, which allows the team to release a player and eliminate his contract from the salary books while the player still gets paid in full.

Furthermore, Dumars will have to decide on the fate of other bench players. Forward Austin Daye, the Pistons’ first-round pick of 2009, has fallen completely out of the rotation behind Prince, Jerebko and veteran Damien Wilkins. The same can be said for backup guard Will Bynum, who remains one of the league’s best backup point guards and deserves to be playing more. Daye and Bynum present two potential trade chips at the Pistons’ disposal.

The team also needs a backup to Monroe at the center spot. Veteran Ben Wallace is set to retire at season’s end, and the Pistons have nobody else at the position. No matter who they pick up in the draft, Detroit will need to acquire additional depth in the frontcourt, and the only way to do so could wind up being through trades. Depending on which pick it draws, the team could even dangle this year’s first-rounder and/or the rights to Singler.

Any way you look at it, the Pistons are looking to Dumars to finally build around the pieces he has put in place. It’s clear that not all the pieces fit together, but the organization has had time to determine which players are worth keeping. It’s on Dumars and his staff to figure out which ones don’t, find a way to move them and obtain value in return.