Ever since Joe Dumars traded Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson the Pistons franchise has been on the downslope, and that move was not the only one that has led them from the Eastern Conference elite to a regular lottery team.
Detroit has become a less-than-average franchise yet, are one of few that have won more than 2 titles in the last 25 years. Someone needs to bring Detroit Basketball back to dominance and this is how I propose it happens.
Start with who needs to go, you cannot build a solid infrastructure without getting rid of a weak foundation. Luckily, most every player that is up for free agency this year is expendable.
The three free agents for 2012 that must go are Jason Maxiell, Ben Wallace and Damien Wilkins. None of them should be wearing a Pistons uniform next season unless you want to sign Big Ben to a league minimum contract for 1 year so he can retire a Piston.
Vernon Macklin is a young free agent worth keeping on the roster, he averaged 15 points and 14 rebounds during his stint of ten games with the NBA Development League and would likely be able to resign him cheap.
If we decide to not resign any of our free agents to be this year, we will gain $9.2 M of salary for next season. This will allow us to go out and add either 2 nice young additions or a talented player who is proven.
Any player wearing a Pistons uniform aside from Knight and Monroe should be put on the open trade market. Every team wishes they could build around a steady, young point-guard and a great young center. That is our foundation.
Monroe has been a revelation in the middle for the Pistons, but they really need to pair him alongside an athletic shot-blocker, like free-agent to-be JaVale McGee from the Denver Nuggets. Nuggets have a restricted $3.5 million Qualifying Offer.
Putting McGee down low with Monroe will solidify a front court that can defend the paint against any team in the league.
McGee will demand much more than $2.5 million next season on the open market, but with $9.2 million coming off the books they have the means to pursue him aggressively to try and get a deal done in Detroit.
Carl Landry and Ryan Anderson are also players to target down low, however Detroit’s prize pick would be McGee and with Anderson coming off a great season and Landry, Jason Thompson, Marcus Camby, Spencer Hawes and Chris Kaman in the mix of free agents they could most likely lock him up for a 6 year $48 million dollar deal ($8 million per season)
This leaves $1.2 million on the table to save for next year or to add in trades or to sign our rookie draft pick. Or we could sign Chauncey Billups back from the L.A. Clippers who played last season for $2.0 million in order to teach Knight the right way to be a Pistons PG.
As far as the draft goes, there is a lot of young talent to choose from with a top 10 pick and with the 9th selection overall the Pistons should be able to choose someone who can come in and be productive right away.
My top 2 draft choices who could likely fall to Detroit at the 9 spot in order are;
Andre Drummond, center from UConn. Drummond is a long and explosively athletic center with an NBA ready body. He is a fierce defender and has the ability and skill to hit open jumpers outside the paint.
Dion Waiters, shooting guard from Syracuse. Waiters can get to the bucket and create his own shot; he is a true scorer at the 2 and can play a little PG as well.
As I mentioned earlier, no players aside from Monroe and Knight are safe and honestly the expiring contracts of Villanueva and Gordon should be easily removed and players like Prince should be traded or dumped at all cost.
Golden State is an option to look at on draft day, considering they have expressed interest in dumping draft picks to prevent 4 rookies on their roster next season.
Look into the expiring contracts of Kyle Korver, Rashard Lewis or DeJuan Blair. These guys can be productive for the Pistons for a year and would be able to come off the books again before the start of the 2013 season.
Fast-forward a year in the future Detroit has Austin Daye, Will Bynum, Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva’s contracts coming off the pay roll in 2013. Their combined salaries add up to $26.8 million (Gordon $12.4, Villanueva $8.1, Daye $3.0, Bynum $3.3)
That kind of money coming off in one off season and hopefully more with some trades for expiring contracts will allow Detroit to easily resign both Knight and Monroe long term and also pursue some high market free agents.
James Harden, Josh Smith, Tyreek Evans, Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson would all be on the radar and affordable in the 2013 off season. Anyone of these players alongside Monroe and Knight can lead to wins and playoff appearances.
Last but not least Joe Dumars needs to make an offer at Maurice Cheeks, assistant coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder and former head coach for the Philadelphia 76ers and Portland Trailblazers to lead this new Pistons surge.
If that happens, Pistons will have a fresh coach who has been through just about anything you can ask of in a coach and played in the NBA to boot.
Detroit will have their point guard (Knight), center (McGee) and power forward (Monroe) signed long-term and an all-star to add in the mix (perhaps James Harden at shooting guard on a max contract) in the 2013 free agent market.
The Piston bench will be made of draft picks like Waiters or Drummond and players such as Jonas Jerebko and others acquired from trades, 2013 draft picks and free agency.
The key is to completely start over with this franchise, they are so broken that even if you try to fix the pieces that are currently in place the machine would not run properly.