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Monday, January 19, 2015

SDH's 2014/2015 Worst to First Countdown for the First "Slap-mester" (Oct/Nov/Dec): 30. Detroit Pistons

Win/Loss Record as of December 31st, 2014:  8-23, fifth place Central Division, 13th Place Eastern Conference

Projected 2014/2015 Finish
Current Rank as of December 31st

Team Statistics and League Rank as of December 31st,  2014: 

  • Points Scored: 95.5 (25th)
  • Points Allowed: 100.7 (19th)
  • Team FG%: .419 (29th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .457 (18th)
  • Team FT%: .683 (29th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .343 (19th)
  • Rebounds per game: 45.1 (6th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 45.2 (29th)
  • Turnovers per game: 12.9 (8th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 13.5 (18th)

Individual Statistical Leaders as of December 31st, 2014:

Worst of the Class: Stan Van Gundy
Okay, it was bad enough that the Pistons have started the season winning just eight games in his first season as both the team's Head Coach and Head Honcho, but that would not be nearly as worse than what old SVG would do next.  In a complete act of desperation, Van Gundy capped off a horrid 2014 by jettisoning arguably the team's best player in Josh Smith; however, he did not do something as stupid as trading him for pennies to the dollar. He instead chose to by out this the remaining 30$ million or so from his contract thus allowing him to leave without getting anything in return while paying him to help another team win.  Many Pistons fans supported the move saying that Smith was this supposed toxic influence on the team and "Stan the Man" used a "stretch provision" which would pay off Smith for the next five years at a smaller rate thus giving the team about 8$ million in cap space; however, who is going to take it?  The Pistons are already a mess with Greg Monroe looking to bolt once his contract expires at the end of the season and it's doubt full that they can attract anyone on such a sad sight of a team.  Good Job SVG! Can't wait to see what you'll do next!!   

First of the Class: Andre Drummond
Out of the wreckage and refuse which has classified the Pistons' season thus far, there has been a slight shimmer of hope that has come in the form of third year center Andre Drummond.  Thus far, Drummond  has been the only player  able to consistently put the ball into the basket which is something that none of his teammates has been able to do as can be shown by the Pistons' league worst .419 field goal percentage.  After a so-so start in November of averaging 10 points per game while shooting .453 from the field, Drummond's performance shot up astronomically to 15.6 points while hitting his shots at a scintillating rate of .556.  His sudden offensive surge to finish 2014 was accompanied by his sheer domination of the boards at an average of nearly 13 per game as well as his 2.2 blocks and 1.6 steals to go along with it.   As it stands now, he is probably the only reason why the Piston have lost their games by a mere five points despite allowing their opponents to shoot over .450 from the field.   

It was supposed to be a new day for basketball fans in the Motor City as the stain of the Joe Dumars era had been finally flushed away and had been replaced by a man who brought a much needed breath of fresh air to a Pistons team which had been suffocating over the past six years.  The arrival of Stan Van Gundy was supposed to revitalize a team which had suffered through a half decade of incompetence which included unwise free agent signings, poor roster decisions and four coaching changes. Although he did not make any major moves during the off season in terms of trades or free agent signings, there was still a glimmer of hope from not only Pistons fans, but by the general basketball viewing public that the upcoming regular season will be the one where Detroit will finally turn things around.  No one expected the team to instantly return to championship contention or even make the playoffs for that matter, but they certainly expected far better product than previous seasons with better defensive effort and offensive execution making the Pistons at least somewhat watchable.  Unfortunately, thus far in the regular season, it has been much of the same as the team has continued to look confused and out of sync on the court resulting in not only Detroit finishing 2014 at the bottom of the standings with the third worst record in the Eastern Conference, but also as the league's worst offensive team.

The team started the regular season rather bumpy with a three game losing streak to the +Denver Nuggets (10/29/2014), +Minnesota Timberwolves (10/30/2014), and +Brooklyn Nets (11/1/2014); however the Pistons would bounce back winning two straight against the +New York Knicks (11/5/2014) and +Milwaukee Bucks (11/7/2014).  The bliss of those two victory would be sadly short lived as the Pistons would once again lose three straight games on the road against the +Utah Jazz (11/9/2014), +Chicago Bulls (11/10/2014) and +Washington Wizards (11/12/2014) which they then managed to stop the bleeding once again with an overtime win against the +Oklahoma City Thunder (11/14/2014).  Despite the roller coaster start to the season, there was still a shared sentiment of optimism among those who rooted for the Pistons that were heading on the right track as they started with a rough yet rather respectable 3-6 record; however that optimism would soon evaporate as Detroit would go on and lose a whopping thirteen straight games until they managed to temporarily stop the bleeding with two wins in a row against the +Phoenix Suns (12/12/2014) and +Sacramento Kings (12/13/2014).  Their wounds would split open once again as Detroit followed that short win streak losing four straight once again--three of them rather lopsidedly at the hands of the +Los Angeles Clippers (12/15/2014), +Dallas Mavericks (12/17/2014), and +Toronto Raptors (12/19/2014) by an average of nearly eleven points. And although they managed to finish 2014 winning their last three games, the overall sentiment for fans in the Motor City has been of disappointment as it looks as if the their home team will once again fail to live up to expectations; however, that would not be the most disheartening aspect of this so far tragic season.

In a move that would outdo even the biggest blunder ever committed by Joe Dumars, his successor Stan Van Gundy decided to waive Josh Smith and the nearly 30$ million left on his contract letting him him go for essentially nothing and continue to pay him off for the next five years.  Despite his troubles finding a way to fit in with the team, Smith was arguably one of the team's best players one both ends of the floor as both a facilitator on the offensive end and as defensive stopper; however, instead of trying to trade him to get at least something of value in return, SVG choose to essentially pay him off to go play somewhere else.  And it was not as if Smith was a player on the tail end of his career or such a disruption detrimental to the team that would warrant such a harsh and extreme measure even though the Detroit press would say otherwise.  Before being let go, Smith had played every single game in Detroit, put up solid numbers in spite of his poor shooting, and despite the rumors and innuendos of him being a team pariah, he was never disciplines or labelled as such by Van Gundy, himself.  Regardless of what fans of Detroit thought of him, Smith is still regarded by many as one of the elite athlete in the league at his position, despite not being named to an All Star team, and could have been traded as the season progressed. 

If Smith was such a problem as had been claimed by the media, Van Gundy could have easily shelved him for the season giving him the time to find at least a deal suitable enough to pull off a mutually beneficial trade.  Any of ideas that have been floating around that Smith was untradeable are simply beyond belief considering his already strong reputation as one of the league's premier players and the fact that at the age of 29, was in no where near his prime as an athlete.  Given enough time, there would have been a team, especially one look to make a push for the playoffs, willing enough to take a chance on assuming the last two years of his contract knowing that his abilities will be a possible game changer down the line. There were numerous team who could have provided assets suitable enough that would have offered the Piston's the financial flexibility that it used to justify waiving Smith in the first place while at the same time brought them a talent that would have fit in better with Van Gundy's system.   Unfortunately now Van Gundy as well as his supporters will have to swallow the fact that now Smith has turned the +Houston Rockets into a championship contender for a fraction of the cost to originally sign him in the first place while having to pay him to watch him win for the next five years.

Even the idea of Detroit freeing up extra cap space as a result of this deal is equally unpalatable considering that the Pistons are in so much of a mess that no self respecting free agent would even consider signing with that team. Even Greg Monroe, who could have signed a lucrative long term contract, choose instead to sign the one time qualifying offer which would make him an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season because he wanted to make sure that in no way Detroit would be able to match any offer that a team made for in the off season.   So in essence, Pistons fans have to swallow the jagged little pill of not only watching their team pay to get rid of one talented player, but will most likely be seeing another one bolt as a free agent leaving their team in an even bigger mess than it already was.  It was bad enough that the Pistons stumbled out of the gates and fell flat on their faces to start the regular season; however, to end it knowing full well that two of their most talented players will bid them farewell and will forever be reminded that they will be paying one of them rather handsomely for the next five years.  No amount of extra free agent cap space can relieve the pain or heal the scars left from the departure of Smith and soon to be departed Monroe as the Pistons are in no place to attract any marquee free agents and will probably continue to wallow in the misery that they created for themselves for quite sometime.   

Unless, by some miracle, there is a major turnaround to start 2015, it seems as if Detroit's fate is essentially set in stone with its overall poor performance and their season will be also marred by the infamous Josh Smith buyout.  Stan Van Gundy has certainly had a rocky start for the first year of his tenure as both coach and general manager as not only has he failed to live up to the expectations of fans and the media, but will be continuously reminded of the blunder he committed letting a quality player like Smith go for nothing and paying him to win somewhere else.  If anyone needs a turnaround, it will certainly be him as he need something to divert the public's attention from his past transgressions and not have them be reminded of his decision to release a player, but the not the financial obligation that the team still has with him despite playing for another team.  Perhaps those three wins after the infamous waiving will lead to a major winning streak resulting in the Pistons wiping away their rather disappointing start; however that is a long shot at best. Nonetheless, one can still hope for the best--after all the Pistons still have 51 games left in their season and who knows?  Perhaps a miracle might happen since the team has been long overdue for something good to happen to them.