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Friday, May 22, 2015

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA End of Season Worst to First Countdown: 23. Detroit Pistons

2014/2015 Projection: 38-44, fourth place Central Division, tenth place Eastern Conference

Actual Finish: 32-50, fifth place Central Division, twelfth place Eastern Conference

2014/2015 Finish

Actual 2014/2015 Finish

Team Statistics and League Rank

  • Points Scored: 98.5 (18th)
  • Points Allowed: 99.5 (14th)
  • Team FG%: .432 (27th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .456 (21st)
  • Team FT%: .703 (29th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .344 (18th)
  • Rebounds per game: 44.9(4th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 44.1(20th)
  • Turnovers per game: 12.6 (7th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 13.4 (18th)

Individual Statistical Leaders

SDH’s Hero to Honor: Reggie Jackson

Last season was a coming out party for Reggie Jackson as he exploded in November leading the +Oklahoma City Thunder in both scoring (19.5ppg) and assists (7.5) while the team's two stars, +Russell Westbrook and +Kevin Durant were hobbled by injuries; however, once the two came up and running, Jackson's role was then severely reduced which resulted in him wanting to break free from OKC and ascend from mere role-player to a future star.  He finally got that chance in February when he got traded to Detroit and it was like his spark from earlier in the season as he was given the freedom that he yearned for returning to his explosive way scoring the basket and taking full reins of his team on the court.  In his month and a half stint in the Motor City, Jackson was a virtual superstar averaging close to 18 points, 10 assists and 5 rebounds per game finally giving Pistons fans something to cheer after suffering such an abysmal season that fell well short of expectations.  With two more years left on his rookie contract, there is no doubt that coach/GM Stan Van Gundy will definitely be on the phone with Jackson's agent to make sure he can lock this star in the making who will most certainly bring Detroit Pistons' basketball back into the spotlight.  Similar to the +Houston Rockets+James Harden, Jackson grew to big for his britches in Oklahoma City and needed to spread his wings or else be suffocated and smothered by the immense presences of Westbrook and Durant which gives credence to the idea that the Thunder is a team where stars are made, but in order to become that, they will have to leave the team.       

SDH’s Face to Forget: +Brandon Jennings 

Years ago Brandon Jennings was viewed as an up and coming young star on the rise, yet at the same time as quite the enigma because although he had all the tools--the skill, speed, and athleticism--to become one of the league's greatest point guards, but only showed just small glimpses of the player that all who watched him hoped that he would become.  Unfortunately it seems as if time has run out for Jennings as both his luster and his reputation of being one of the league's top young talents have finally rubbed off and what we are left with is a shallow and empty husk of a player whose time in the limelight has finally passed.  Last season, former team president, Joe Dumars, tabbed Jennings as the team's point guard of the future when he brought him over from the +Milwaukee Bucks in a sign and trade deal and many saw this as the perfect opportunity for Jennings to finally step up and finally become the star that many who followed him hoped he would be.  Yet alas, over the past two years no fruit has bared from his arrival as it seems that at just the tender age of 25 years old, Brandon Jennings has fallen from grace and with next season being his last in the Motor City or possibly anywhere else for that matter.  He has been such a disappointment to so many people and with the arrival of Reggie Jackson, it seems as if the writing is clearly on the wall unless by some miracle he bounces back with a phenomenal season next year, he will be out of Detroit and out of the sight and minds of basketball finds everywhere.     

Basketball in the Motor City has basically set in neutral for the past six years after eight year period of post season glory that included two trips to the NBA Finals; however, after an overhaul of the team's front office which included the exit of former GM Joe Dumars and the arrival of new coach and GM Stan Van Gundy, fans in Detroit finally had hope that their team will turn on the ignition once again. Stan Van had never managed a roster as he usually worked with he had doing rather well to say the least as he brought both Florida teams--namely the +Miami HEAT and the +Orlando Magic--both to the playoffs with one appearance to the 2011 NBA Finals where his Magic would lose to the eventual champion +Los Angeles Lakers four games to one. Van Gundy gave the +Detroit Pistons and their fans what they have been lacking for years--a tough defensive minded coach whose attention to detail and focus on excellence and accountability would be a welcomed breath of fresh air; however, it would not only his coaching that he will be judged, but also his ability to build another championship caliber team. Unfortunately his predecessor did not leave him much to worth save for two top rated big men in +Greg Monroe and +Andre Drummond, an elite caliber athlete in Josh Smith, plus a point guard that had yet to live up to his billing as an elite caliber point guard in +Brandon Jennings.  Nonetheless hopes were still high that Van Gundy would somehow bring things all together and the Pistons will bounce back after years of spinning their tires in the mud going nowhere and finally get out of the mud pit that Dumars got them into the first; however, it proved harder than many had ever expected.

The first two months were rocky at best as the Pistons won just eight games by the end of 2014 thus causing coach GM to take drastic measures which led to him making probably the most questionable personnel move in the 2015 NBA Regular Season as he he waived Josh Smith and buying out the remaining 27$ million of his contract.  There is no question that Josh Smith's arrival to Detroit was not necessarily a "slam dunk"as his offensive production and efficiency, but regardless, that decline did not deserve such a rash and extreme measure because he was not a team parriah or completely worthless on the trade market--in fact it was the complete opposite.  Despite his inability to mesh in the Pistons, Josh Smith was still considered as one of the premier athletes in the NBA, plus at the age of 29 along with his ability to score in transition as well his defensive prowess as a rebounder and shot blocked, given time Van Gundy could have found a viable trade partner; instead, he simply let Smith go--a player who has yet to even hit his prime--paying out around 7$ million for the next four years, receiving nothing in return. Smith went on to be picked up off waiver by the +Houston Rockets where not only would he and the team would finish second overall in the Western Conference and be playing in the Conference Finals against the +Golden State Warriors, but he would still be paid by Pistons for doing it.  To add insult to injury, over the course of the next three seasons while the Piston continue to struggling to find the right mix, in they might certainly do, the team will still be paying Josh Smith not only win for other teams, but also possible be eligible to receive an equally lucrative deal compounded upon that as well since he will be entering free agency once the Rockets' playoff run ends.

Pistons fans will argue until they are blue in the face justifying what the majority of common sense individuals will consider one of most stupid and illogical player transaction in possibly the history of sports claiming that Smith never fit in with the team and his departure opens up a piddling 8$ million cap exemption in which the Van Gundy can use to sign second or third tier free agent.  Even Kelly Dwyer of +Yahoo Sports+Ball Don't Lie went into great length and detail explaining the justification for this crime against financial logic and common sense by basically writing a dissertation using charts and graphs (12/22/2014); however, even he must have felt ridiculous trying to explain such this half-baked argument that chemistry and poor performance was the reason of SVG basically donating 27$ million to Josh Smith.  The whole team chemistry excuse holds absolutely no water, because if Josh Smith was such a detriment to his team, he would have been suspended and SVG could have sat him out for the season until he was able to find a proper deal for him that would would benefit the team in the long run; also instead of just paying the guy off quite handsomely for the next four years, why couldn't Van Gundy just wait and see if another team would be interested?  There would have certainly been interest in Smith during the trade deadline because his contract was not as bad a people made it out to be because he had only two years left on it plus he would have been a perfect addition to a team that either wanted to make a playoff push or add a extra weapon for the post season.  No matter how many ways the Detroit media or fan want to spin it, Van Gundy's decision was simply foolish because letting go of player of significant talent such as Smith not only shows his ineptitude as a GM, but also as a coach since he was simply unable to incorporate such a gifted player who fits into his defensive coaching philosophy.

Sure, one can point out that after Smith left, the Pistons won seven straight and followed that by winning five or their next eight games, giving credence to the ridiculous notion that all that was the result of the forward's departure;  however, that streak was short lived as the Pistons ended up finished the month of January losing four their next five games and just managed to win 15 games after that to finish the season.  Plus, in hindsight, had Van Gundy actually had the patience to try to work Smith's strengths into his system or kept him until the trade deadline, more than likely the same result probably would have occurred anyways--the Pistons probably would have finished with close to the same record and by mid February, there would have been plenty of interest in Josh Smith at the trade deadline.  One can list even more reasons why the whole Josh Smith situation was a such a blemish on Stan Van Gundy's inaugural season as both Detroit head coach and general manager; nonetheless, it happened, it is now in the past, and now both the Pistons and their fans have to push forward with the upcoming draft and the prospect of possibly having to lose another elite caliber player in Greg Monroe.  Last season, Monroe, who was a restricted free agent at the time--meaning that the Pistons would have been to match any offer a team gave--could have signed a long term extension worth around 60$ million; however he chose not to take the extension offer and instead optioned to take a one year final qualifying offer thus making him an unrestricted free agent--meaning he can to ANY team he wants with the Detroit having no say whatsoever--come season's end.  From all the information that has been circulating throughout the media, it has become quite apparent that Monroe, who led the Pistons in scoring this past season and ranks as one of the top free agent prospects in the off season, has little, if any interest in returning to Detroit thus adding more stress to Van Gundy's rebuilding effort plus further damaging his reputation as an NBA executive.

It is still too early to judge Van Gundy's tenure as both coach and general manager of the team because very few had the Pistons making the post season this year anywhere; nevertheless, the whole Josh Smith situation will probably haunt him forever and what happens with Greg Monroe will also make or break his legacy in the Motor City.  At least he could hold solace in that inspite of the result, the Pistons did play pretty well in that they were competitive in every game losing by slim average margin of just one point per game and that was an achievement in itself because not only was Detroit the fourth worst shooting team in the league, but the fact that they allowed their opponents to shoot nearly .460 from the field against them. Unfortunately, right now the team in complete disarray with no real foundation or balance in the roster and with all the uncertainly surrounding the off season, no one, even Van Gundy himself, has any real idea of what is going to how will it turn out in the end.  There will be plenty of time between the official start of the off season in July to when next season officially starts in October, so a lot can happen in that time; however, as of now, things are looking pretty bleak for Van Gundy, the Pistons, their fans and the city of Detroit.  To add pressure to this already tense  time is not on his side, because this impatient fan base who has been accustomed to winning and has had enough with all this chaos and losing so if Van Gundy has a plan, he better be quick to initiate some sort of positive change because it won't be pretty if he fails; however, the Josh Smith situation definitely forced the Pistons to take two steps back, so hopefully that will bee a small blemish in an otherwise fruitful era for Pistons fans.