Finals are over for me, giving me loads of free time to waste. Hooray! With this new free time, I've been devoting a lot of time to the moves we can make this offseason. Now, MFMP did a more than admirable job tackling the available spread of free agent point guards. So, to avoid redundancy, I'll skip over that aspect of our plans. We're overstocked with 2's and 3's, so I don't see any point in analyzing our options at those positions. That leaves big men -- which is undoubtedly our biggest "need" position.
Where Are We Now?
As Will Smith famously said in the video for his magnum opus, Will 2K, "You never know where you're goin', 'til you know where you've been." The wisdom of this statement is pretty universal (which is to be expected of Fresh Royalty), and it definitely applies to our offseason plans.
- Charlie Villanueva: Barring any trades, we're in for 4 more years of alopecia and tweets from him. Villanueva is the poster boy for this year's struggles. He couldn't play defense, was slowed by injuries, briefly feuded with John Kuester, and -- by pretty much every account -- didn't live up to the contract he was given.
- Jason Maxiell: He's still a fan favorite -- and still goes out of his way to eat a few newborns -- but Maxiell's production has dropped every year since he signed an extension. Most importantly, his post defense is no longer much of a strength. That said, he's still a solid bench player, and I look forward to having him on the team for 3 more seasons
- Chris Wilcox: There's no way he doesn't accept his player option. Wilcox is a bench-warmer being paid like a rotation guy. He wouldn't get close to $3 million through free agency, so he'll stick around (unfortunately).
- Kwame Brown: I really can't see us resigning him. We had some good times with the Cakehammer, but that's in the past -- slipping through our hands like so many passes to the big lug.
- Ben Wallace: The Benaissance was one of the few silver linings to a turd sandwich of a season. Hopefully Ben will forgo retirement and take the veteran minimum again.
What Are Our Needs?
Defense, for starters. Villanueva deservedly made a few "no-defense" teams, Maxiell's defense has been slipping the past two seasons, and (if he returns) Ben Wallace is not a long-term defensive solution. Our defensive inadequacies might be OK if we had reliable, consistent scoring in the post, but that wasn't really the case, either. Villanueva is a talented post player, but he has a Sheed-esque tendency to take jumpers and 3's instead. Maxiell's dunks are about all he has going in the post, although he has added a semi-reliable close/midrange jump shot. Many things have been said about Ben Wallace's lack of an offensive game, so I'll skip over that. So, our needs are... well, pretty much everything.
The Pistons will address these needs through two means: Free Agency and the Draft. Because we're in the lottery, I'll start with the draft.
This is our best opportunity to land an impact player. The Pistons will likely have a top-7 pick, as well as a high second rounder. So who are we looking at?
- Demarcus Cousins: This is pretty dependent on Detroit ending up in the top 4 or 5 picks. There are concerns about his character, but he's just too talented to fall out of that range. Cousins has Kwame Brown size (6'11", 270 lbs), but with soft hands and a myriad of offensive skills. He'd immediately bolster our offensive post play, and has all the tools to be groomed into a good defensive player. At best he's pre-injury Alonzo Mourning, at worst he's Zach Randolph or Derrick Coleman.
- Derrick Favors: He's insanely athletic, and was more impressive at Georgia Tech than his stats would indicate. GT's guards sucked, and were really, really bad at getting the ball to Favors in the post. Plus, he was fighting for touches with Gani Lawal -- who could also go in the first round. When he did get the ball, Favors scored efficiently (61% fg). He also averaged two blocks and one steal per game -- which is pretty impressive. His rebounding could be better, but he'd have good mentors in that department with Big Ben and Maxiell.
- Cole Aldrich: Very solid. Not great. Not much growth potential. He basically projects as a ten and ten guy who will give you good post defense and block a couple shots per game. If we end up in the latter half of the top ten, I'd be happy to pick him.
- Ed Davis: I have never been impressed by him, but he is talented. I really hope we don't pick him, because he looks like a bust, and he didn't handle adversity well at UNC this season. Scouts still have him as a lottery guy, so I guess he merits consideration
- Al-Farouq Aminu: This is pretty much the worst case scenario. He's raw, and he doesn't really fit the 3 or the 4 all that well. He's a great rebounder for his size, and he definitely has potential, but he really doesn't make sense for us. Considering the number of jokes we've made at his expense, the DBB Community would revolt over an AFA pick.
- Jarvis Varnando: He's the only 2nd round option I'll throw out, mainly because we all seem to have a giant man-crush on the Var-nado -- and for good reason. Varnando seems like the perfect successor to Big Ben Wallace. He's the NCAA all-time leader in blocked shots, using both his excellent athleticism and defensive IQ to shut down his man in the post. He even gave Cousins trouble in the SEC championship game. He reminds me a lot of Tyrus Thomas, but I think he's smarter, and rebounds better, albeit with lower upside. If Varnando falls to us in the 2nd round, we have to take him.
The Pistons aren't going to have much cap space, so we're basically limited to the Mid-level and Biannual exceptions. Who can we get in our price range?
- Ben Wallace: I hope we sign him for the veteran minimum, but it would be worth the Biannual, or part of the MLE to resign Big Ben. You all witnessed the Benaissance. Big Ben, like Liam Neeson in Taken has a very special set of skills, and he uses them to great effect -- even despite his age. I think he wants to retire a Piston, so he won't need much coaxing.
- Tyrus Thomas: With the amount of teams who gutted themselves for cap space, I can see someone overpaying for TT's services after losing out on one of the major FA's. Still, there's a decent chance Thomas will be available for the MLE, and with the way he played down the stretch for the Bobcats, he probably warrants that kind of compensation. He's an excellent shot blocker and pickpocket (1.6 blocks and 1.2 steals per game in about 20 minutes), has a solid midrange jumper, and gets to the free throw line. Plus, he's only 23 (well, 24 at the start of next season). If he can get it together mentally, Thomas has the potential to be Josh Smith-lite.
- Brendan Haywood: Good rebounder and post-defender, but pretty limited offensively. Haywood is coming off a great season, but he's injury prone, and is already 30 years old. I like him, but only if we use part of the MLE on him.
- Udonis Haslem: Haslem is a great defensive player and pretty solid on the offensive end. He can defend stretch 4's exceptionally well, but still has the size and smarts to bang in the post. Haslem has always been underrated. He had the second most win shares for Miami last year, and I feel like the Pistons could get him for considerably less than he's worth. He's going to be 30, so his age is a bit of a concern, but I think his talents outweigh that.
- Jermaine O'Neal: There's really no reason to sign him. He sucked in the playoffs, and has aged pretty rapidly over the past couple years. He's still a solid post defender and rebounder, and his offense hasn't fallen off completely, but there are better options.
- Amir Johnson: With the way we booted his ass out of town, I don't think Amir will be too keen to sign here. That's a shame, because he was really, really, really good this year for Toronto. We pretty much know his skill set, so I won't go much further than saying I want him back.
- Channing Frye: An underrated aspect of this year's Suns. I don't see them letting him go, which is OK with me. I like Frye as a player, but his skill set (perimeter offense) doesn't meet our needs.
- Matt Bonner: A worse, older version of Channing Frye. We don't need him, and I sure as hell don't want any part of him.
- Hakim Warrick: An MP mainstay. He's an underrated offensive player, who doesn't do much on the defensive end. The man can dunk, too, which would add some excitement. If we could get him for cheap (maybe the biannual) I think he'd be worth a look.
- Louis Amundson: Man, I would love it if we could get him. The Suns will probably resign him -- and they really should. Amundson averaged 4.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, and almost a block in only 15 minutes per game. He shoots fairly efficiently (55%), crashes the offensive glass, and hustles his ass off. That said, his offense will probably take a dive upon leaving the Steve Nash bubble in Phoenix.
Ideal Course of Action
Our free agent signings are going to depend a lot on who we draft. If the Pistons end up in the top 5, I would hope we draft Cousins/Favors, resign Big Ben, and add another big for depth -- ideally someone like Amundson, or Warrick. If we end up with Aldrich, or forgo drafting a big man (which would be a terrible idea), I'd still want to resign Big Ben (duh), but I'd also like to pursue Thomas or maybe Haslem for a substantial portion (or possibly all) of the Mid-level exception. I'm not counting on us getting Varnando, because I think he'll go before we pick, but I'd take him over most of the Free Agents available -- probably excluding Thomas, Haslem, and Haywood.