The Detroit Pistons have made major changes this summer and are likely not done overhauling the roster quite yet. Joe Dumars who played a role in each of the franchises three NBA championships is now out as GM and Stan Van Gundy is in as president of basketball operations and head coach. The stench still remains from the end of the Dumars era and it is now up to Van Gundy to create a winning atmosphere once again in Detroit.
Last season Detroit was near the worst in the league in shooting percent and defensive efficiency, they had spacing issues down low with the signing of Josh Smith alongside Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. There was never a real philosophy in place considering the revolving door that has been their head coaching job. It certainly is not a maintenance process for Van Gundy, rather one that will take some creative renovating.
The biggest decision at the begging of the summer is what to do with restricted free-agent Greg Monroe. Van Gundy made it very clear at the start of his tenure that his top priority is Monroe and he would like the forward/center to be a part of the Piston’s future. Rumors then swirled around a sign-and-trade shipping Josh Smith out of town for Isiah Thomas, those went stale. Smith was definitely being shopped by the Pistons front office, however after nothing coming of any of it Van Gundy came out publically saying that they are excited to have Smith and that he would fit in nicely in the front court alongside Monroe and Drummond in a three player minute share.
The Monroe contract negotiations have seemed to go stale even considering he was Van Gundy’s “top priority” this summer yet is one of the only top tier free agents left on the market and it is already the middle of August. Then the news from Monroe’s camp came out that Greg is ready to accept the qualifying offer that would end in his unrestricted free agent freedom next summer. This is the one true bargaining chip that a restricted free agent has and Monroe has made his move.
Van Gundy and the Pistons have two options, they can either try to work out a long term deal that Monroe and his agent agree upon or they can complete a sign-and-trade with another franchise before the October 1st deadline to sign a qualifying offer. If they cannot complete a trade before the deadline and Monroe is prepared to walk after this season; the Pistons will forfeit their rights to trade him to any team during the season and Monroe will gain the right to have final say on his destination if a trade is proposed. This would limit the options Detroit can pursue to get equal value for their once budding star in Monroe.
The meat and potatoes of the current situation is simple, either commit to Monroe long-term and sign him for a deal that both parties can agree on. (Easier said than done) Or shop him now and get value considering he is a top tier center, one of only a handful of players in the NBA that averaged over 15 points, 9 rebounds and one assist per game last season, which was considered an off year for Monroe with the struggling Pistons.
Detroit signed Jodie Meeks, a 6’4” shooting guard who can shoot the ball with range and defend the wing. Meeks was in the top 25 for three-point-percentage as well as the top 20 in three-pointers-made last season and brings added range to the Pistons. Kantavious Caldwell-Pope – Detroit’s 8th overall pick last summer – had an outstanding summer league and looks poised to become the shooting threat that he was drafted to be.
Brandon Jennings is signed long term and had a career year last season in assists per game with a Detroit team that struggled to score. Jennings was part of the scoring struggle with poor shooting percentages across the board, however it is positive to see Jennings taking steps toward becoming a play-making lead guard instead of the shoot first guard he has been in the past.
Andre Drummond is one of the best rebounding centers in the NBA, he is young, he is dedicated and he is a Piston for the foreseeable future. Drummond is marketable and is clearly the player that Van Gundy is going to build the Piston brand around. Monroe was pushed to power forward last season in order to create more space for Drummond and with Monroe at the four Smith was pushed to the three and thus creating the spacing issues on both the defensive and offensive end.
Van Gundy shopped Smith to try to keep Monroe and Drummond together, yet the market proved to be dry for a 28-year-old Smith who just had his worst shooting season of his career. Van Gundy knows he can’t play Smith at the three and if he can keep both Monroe and Smith he would have to implement some sort of minute rotation where Drummond plays at center with Smith and Monroe rotating at power forward and when Drummond needs a break he can slide Monroe to center with Smith at power forward.
This could work and would have been nice if the team was able to get a deal done with Monroe earlier in the summer. With the drawn out process Monroe has been visibly frustrated taking to his Twitter account to discuss his free agent situation. One fan asked how he could turn down a five year $60 million offer to which Monroe responded, “can’t reject anything that was not offered to me…carry on”
It seems as if Monroe is ready to accept the qualifying offer and is ready to move on from the team that drafted him. Detroit has a hole at small forward; yes they signed Caron Butler and have Kyle Singler and Luigi Datome there currently. However none of those players are the athletic type wing player that is proven to be successful in today’s NBA.
The Boston Celtics are in a similar rebuild mode and are in need of a quality center to do all the things that Monroe does well night in and night out at the Garden. Celtics have Jeff Green at small forward and can afford to shop him to get that center. Green and Monroe averaged the same amount of blocks per game last season and Green was able to stay healthy and start all 82 games for the first time since 2009-10 season in Oklahoma City. Green has a player option after this next season and would not be a long-term liability for Detroit.
Whatever this team decides to do they need to right the ship in a hurry, Detroit sports fans are lacking patients and have yet to see the playoffs since LeBron James swept them in first round of the 2009 post-season. It’s clear the Monroe-Smith experiment was a failure last season and it is becoming clearer that it will be harder to shop Smith that it would be to get value for Monroe. If in fact Monroe was Van Gundy’s top priority this summer it would appear that his first year behind the desk as president has not started the way he wanted.
The Pistons only have three games nationally televised this season and none of which will be hosted by Detroit. They have missed the post-season each of the past 5 seasons and are likely to miss it again this season. The days of Detroit being a top franchise in the NBA are slipping further away and the window to create that atmosphere again is closing with every year Drummond’s deal gets older.
Van Gundy will be the coach of the future creating longevity on schematics on the floor and improving the perimeter shooting will be key with Meeks in place and likely sliding Smith back to the four. Van Gundy has plenty more work to do to get Detroit back to the top of the NBA food chain. The decision of what to do with Greg Monroe in the coming weeks will be a big factor in that future and will be telling to see what direction Van Gundy is headed with the team.