Free agency officially begins tomorrow, December 9th, but the dust has already settled in Detroit. Reports suggest that the Pistons have offered Tayshaun Prince a four-year deal ranging between $27 and $30 million dollars. In a word? Buffoonery. Do you all know what that means? This is a waste of cap-limited resources, a hindrance on youth development, a reward for bad character and a poor investment in an already-declining asset. For a team that needed to break down before it could rebuild, the Pistons just took another step back toward continued mediocrity.
You know what stings so badly about this? Over the last year, Pistons fans have been waiting patiently for the sale of the team, the transition to new ownership and the resulting changes that could lead the team back to relevance. Pistons GM Joe Dumars "had his hands tied" and there was nothing he could do to clean up the mess of a roster he had constructed. Now, in the wee hours before post-lockout free agency begins, the first move of the Tom Gores era happens. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what we have all been waiting for.
Filling a $30 Million Dollar Hole Detroit Didn't Have
Our shrewd investor in chief, Mr. Tom "Our job is to challenge Joe" Gores just spent $30 million dollars of Platinum Equity's money to fill a hole the Pistons didn't have. Had Mr. Gores watched Jonas Jerebko start 31 games in place of Tayshaun Prince in 2009-10, he might not have been so generous. The Pistons won 14 of 31 games when Jonas started at small forward, good for a 45% win record. Meanwhile, the team only won 12 of 49 games when Prince started at SF-- good for a 24% record.
If Jonas Jerebko is an injury risk, there's always the team's lottery-caliber draft pick from 2009, Austin Daye. Per minute, Austin Daye gave you roughly 80% of the production Prince did last season for about 20% of the cost. Sure, he's still got plenty of kinks to work out, but nothing tempers warped metal like a trial by fire. Not exercising your liberties with Daye is another risk, as this time next year he could be showing the Pistons what we were missing all along.
Beyond those two, if you need spot-up minutes, don't be afraid to slide Richard Hamilton to the 3. He started 13 games in 2008-09 and performed quite admirably, enough to warrant 8-10 minutes a game behind Jerebko and Daye. Then there's Villanueva, who plays like a
girl small forward but runs like a girl big man, good enough for spot up minutes as well.
Tom, I assume your crew at Platinum are not new to a good old cost-benefit analysis. In light of the above, I would be thrilled to see how this appears even remotely justifiable. And if Joe Dumars sold you on it, and is this good at sales in general, perhaps he might be better suited higher up in your organization.
A Waste of Cap-Limited Resources
The Pistons won 30 games last season, and this move reflects a larger investment into the personnel that got us there. For a team in transition, the goal should be to make wise, small-scale investments on upward trending talent. This is an above average contract for a player who is downward trending-- and as I mentioned above, an unnecessary expense. Young, transitioning teams need cap flexibility to grow, to make trades and to supplement the core with free agent signings. By signing Prince, and bringing Detroit's salary profile up to the cap, the youth movement in Detroit doesn't have this flexibility. Although by re-signing Prince, I wouldn't categorize Detroit as a "youth movement" team. The trend here is pointing in the other direction.
Rewarding Bad Character
Detroit had the most toxic locker room in the league last season. There was a group mutiny, a refusal to play by a player or two now and then, oh, and one player even called his coach a buffoon to the press while his teammate was interviewed. Tayshaun Prince would never do that though. Oh wait, yeah he would. Given the fragile nature of morale on a sports team, rewarding this kind of behavior is dangerous. What kind of signal does this send to your team's younger players? "You are more important than the coach. It is okay to refuse orders and talk back. It is okay to talk trash on purpose within earshot of the media. We'll fire the coach and pay you like a king."
A Poor Investment in an Already-Declining Asset
Back in 2007, Tayshaun was the weakest link amongst the remaining group that won the 2004 championship. In the playoff-eliminating rounds of 2007, 2008 and 2009, Tayshaun was the worst player on the court for both teams. He was defending Lebron James in the first and third of these series, Paul Pierce in the second. His defense was abysmal (and understandable to an extent), but what cost Detroit was his complete disappearance on offense when he had a big job on the other end. From the field, Prince averaged 26%, 32% and 24% shooting across each series in which the Pistons were eliminated in those three years. But the Pistons passed on extending Ben Wallace, they traded Chauncey Billups, they let Rasheed walk and were determined to keep Prince around. They gutted the Going to Work crew-- and kept only the junk.
Last season, Tayshaun appeared to have a renaissance, but his increase was only in his career-high usage rate, not his actual production. Tayshaun went from the fourth option years ago to the number one option in 2011. Statistically, the offense went through Tayshaun on a surprising 21% of possessions in which he was on the floor. The script was pretty simple. Stuckey or McGrady would bring the ball up the court and pass it to Tayshaun who was about 15 feet from the basket. Tayshaun would dribble and back his man into position, then hold the ball extended while seconds burned from the shot clock. With a few seconds remaining, Tay would pass the ball only if an older player was semi-open, other wise he'd turn and take a contested jumper. He shot these pretty well, but the team's offense suffered. We coined a term for that here at DetroitBadBoys-- "Isolayshaun". Creative, isn't it.
Last, Tay's wiry frame and finesse game isn't effective in the Eastern Conference. It hasn't been since Lebron hit puberty. He earned his name as a lock-down defender by shutting down guys like Tracy McGrady, Reggie Miller and Kobe Bryant, guys who play with finesse, not muscle-driven penetration and barrel-through-your-defender sensibilities. But that's how things are in the Eastern Conference now. It's not the same in the West, where finesse forwards reign supreme. Tay was built for that kind of play, and would have been a perfect addition to so many teams out West. In Detroit, however, he's a 31-year-old player approaching his twilight whose high usage will only get in the way of an inevitable transition in Detroit. A transition we fans were hoping to see start this summer. Instead, we see more of the same.
Excuse My French, but What the Fuck?
Over the last four years, the Pistons have drafted five small forwards. Their second-round steal in 2009 was one of the best rookies of that year, and he performed better as a small forward than the man you just contracted for $30M dollars. If you really felt you needed a veteran presence at that position, there were and are other, less expensive options available. Yet for a team that has been in dire need of big men since the original Big Ben moved to Chicago, your priorities are still completely out of touch with reality.
This is what you bought, Tom Gores. You now own a team where the worst players make more than $4 million a year, and the best players make $4 million or less. You're paying a bunch of garbage players the bulk of your salary while the real talent is also the cheapest. We should be more like the Minnesota Timberwolves (facepalm) and David Khan (facepalm), who actually pay their talent lower than the Mid-Level and don't blow $40M+ a year on utter fucking garbage.
So many of us were so excited about the end of the lockout, the opportunity to bring a change that this team has needed for years. But once again, Joe blew another contract to an aging player who is not going to get any better. This time, it's just salt in the wound for a team that can only heal once we get rid of those horrible contract mistakes he made over two years ago.
See this right here?
"And we’re going to push Joe. I mean he knows that, we already told him that ’we’re going to challenge you every single way, whether it’s right or wrong, we’re going to push you and we’re going to push you hard.’ Because our job isn’t to agree with Joe. Our job is to challenge Joe, and hopefully that will make the outcome better.
Tough talk, tough guy.