While the Pistons are currently floundering, the good news is that the future is wide open. With so much cap space coming over the next two years, there are so many different directions they could go in I find it really fun to think about. After a lot of consideration, I think I've come up with a 2-year game plan that will make the Pistons a quality playoff caliber team by the 2015-2016 season. I've put a lot of thought into this, so please give it some thought too before you tear into it.
Step 1: Draft Trey Burke, resign Jose Calderon for 2 or 3 years
Jose Calderon is a great point guard, but we need a point guard for the future, considering Jose is 31 years old. I think people who are concerned about Burke's height are silly; there are plenty of successful 6'0" or 6'1" point guards in the league. His skill set is fantastic; he's got a great jumper, finds the open man, can finish with contact, and has a great assist to turnover ratio. But what I like most about Burke is that I see a guy who has a will to win. What makes a good point guard is a strong mentality of hating to lose. You can see it in Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, and you can definitely see it in Burke. Few players carry their team like Burke does Michigan. I really don't see much of a downside to him. He's got a solid step back jumper and a floater to compensate for his height. With Burke and Calderon, we'll have an Andre Miller/Ty Lawson situation, with Burke eventually taking over the starting position like Lawson did as Calderon ages and Burke gets better.
A shorter contract for Calderon is preferable for financial flexibility down the road. On the topic of our other point guard, resigning Will Bynum is a toss up. If we can get him for cheap enough, go for it, but if he asks for over 5 mil it's not worth it.
Step 2: Next year, trade Brandon Knight and Jonas Jerebko for Wilson Chandler
This is probably my favorite and definitely most controversial move in the plan. Wilson Chandler of the Denver Nuggets is the best small forward not starting in the NBA. He could probably start for half of the teams in the NBA right now at shooting guard or small forward, but is currently overshadowed by Danilo Gallinari and Andre Iguodala, who are also excellent wing players. Chandler can score, is currently shooting above .400 from beyond the arc, can rebound well, and most importantly is considered to be a very good defender. If given starting minutes I think he would have a breakout year like O.J. Mayo is currently having. He's only 25 so he has his best years in front of him, and he's on a reasonable 7 mil a year contract. AND to top it all off, he's originally from Benton Harbor, MI so he'd love playing here.
On the flip side, Denver likes to run, and Knight and Jerebko would fit great for them. While I think Knight is a good player, his play style just hasn't meshed that well with Monroe and Drummond. He likes to push the tempo, but most of the rest of the pistons are too slow, and the pick and roll isn't his strong suit. But on the Nuggets, a fast break of Lawson and Knight would be deadly. Knight can shoot the 3 well, which is a category Denver needs help with, and would be good insurance if Iguodala decides to walk in free agency. Jerebko would be a great backup for small forward or power forward, he can also run and do the dirty work on put backs and rebounds. As much as I like Knight and Jerebko, I just don't think they're great fits for the Pistons in the long term. I think it's a great trade for both teams. Depending on how much Knight develops in the next year, the trade might favor Denver, so we could ask them for a pick as well.
Step 3: Sign a quality wing player in the 2014-2015 offseason
The current salary cap is approximately 58 million dollars. According to Hoopshype, if we let Stuckey, Villanueva, Maxiell, Kravstov, and Maggette walk, we'll have about $39-40 million dollars of cap space. Factor in that we'll give Calderon about $12 million and we'll have $27 million dollars to spend before the luxury tax. Let the free agency bonanza begin.
Priority #1 is to find a wing to complement Chandler, and there are a hefty amount of options. Going after O.J. Mayo is worth a shot, but will be unlikely since he'll probably resign in Dallas. If that doesn't work target Andre Iguodala. He probably will want to resign in Denver, but perhaps his old teammate Chandler can convince him we're on the upswing, or maybe Denver can't afford him. If that doesn't work go after Danny Granger. His contract will be up, and I don't think the Pacers can afford him with Paul George being a priority. If that doesn't work go after Shannon Brown, another free agent with potential. If that doesn't work go after Brandon Rush, a quality shooting guard currently injured for the Warriors. He has a great 3 point shot and the Warriors probably won't resign him considering they're stacked at the guard positions. I'm sure the Pistons can get one of these players.
Step 4: Fill the bench with veteran leadership on the cheap
All teams need veterans if they're going to be playoff contenders, and the older they are, the cheaper they'll be.
Backcourt: Sign Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton. Seriously how great would this be? Two old friends would get to retire as Pistons, the fans would love it, they bring veteran poise, and would be a potent 1-2 off the bench. Billups would be 38 and Hamilton would be 36, so neither would command more than 2 million in all likelihood.
Frontcourt: Chris Kaman, Hakim Warrick, Grant Hill? Chris Kaman would be 33 so likely wouldn't command that much. He can give a solid 10 points, 6 rebounds off the bench. I mainly picked him as a backup because he's originally from Michigan, and he'd love it here. Hopefully we'll have drafted a solid power forward in the second round so we would already have a backup, but if not Hakim Warrick is a good bench player, and he won't cost much more than 2 million since he will be 32.
Grant Hill seems like kind of a stretch since we traded him out of Detroit, but how hilarious and awesome would it be to have Billups, Hamilton, and Hill coming off the bench. He would be 42 so he wouldn't play much, but he'd be an amazing locker room presence.
A good breakdown of what other free agents will be available is here at the Hoopsworld website.
Step 5: Hire a better coach
We all know the Pistons need a better coach than Frank, and there are actually a lot out there with recent firings. Here are my top 5:
*I'm really wary on hiring anyone without proven head coaching experience given how Michael Curry and John Kuester went, but the other four would be good.
When it's all said and done
After these 5 steps, we would have a better coach and a roster heading into the 2015 season that looks like this:
PG: Calderon, Burke, Billups
SG: Quality Wing Player (ideally Iguodala, Brown, or Rush), Hamilton, Kim English?
SF: Wilson Chandler, Singler, Middleton, Hill
PF: Monroe, Warrick
C: Drummond, Kaman
probably one or two players from 2013 2nd round pick or 2014 picks
With good coaching, this looks like a playoff, potentially even championship caliber team to me, and it would only take two years. This took a while to write but it's been in my head so I wanted to share it. Again, I'm open to any criticism or discussion, so let me know what you think.