When word started at the end of last week that Cheeks was likely to be the pick as the Pistons next head coach, I immediately wanted to start doing some research to see where the team might go under his guidance as compared to Lawrence Frank. However, I didn't want to be too hasty since things weren't finalized and waste my time. Now that it's official, I've begun to dig.
On the surface, as has been mentioned elsewhere, Cheeks has a career winning percentage of .498 in 570 games (two games under .500). When Frank came to the Pistons, he had a career winning percentage of .482 in 466 games (eight games under .500). Cheeks had two previous stints as head coach with Portland (301 games, 162-139, .538 winning percentage) and Philadelphia (269 games, 122-147, .453 winning percentage). Frank only had one stop at New Jersey.
Frank's worst start to a season is the infamous 0-16 his last year in New Jersey. Conversely, his best 16 game start was when he started coaching New Jersey, leading them to a 14-2 record (he finished that season going 11-13). However, outside the anomalies, in the other 5 seasons Frank coached the Nets, his worst 16 game start was 4-12 (second year with the Nets) and his best 16 game start was 9-7. Cheeks on the other hand doesn't really have any "outliers". Cheeks' worst 16 game start to a season was 5-11 (twice, middle two years with Philadelphia) and his best 16 game start was 9-7. Before coming to Detroit, combining all of the first 16 games of each year, Frank was 49-63 (.438) in 7 seasons and Cheeks was 58-70 (.453).
As far as being streaky, Frank takes the cake. He started his career with New Jersey winning 12 games straight and finished it losing 16 straight. However, Frank did have 3 winning streaks of 10 games or more with his time in New Jersey. And his longest losing streak other than the 16 games before he was fired was a 9 game losing streak. Cheeks isn't nearly as streaky. He's had a few winning and losing streaks of 5, 6, sometimes 7 games, but only one winning streak over 10 games (12 - Portland) and one losing streak over 10 games (12 - Philadelphia).
Ok, now onto the meat of the article I wanted to work on the most. There's been things thrown around about Cheeks being good at developing young talent, including/especially point guards. The team we currently have is quite young and getting younger, so that may be good. However, what I really want to see is what kind of change the teams have made before and after Cheeks and Frank took over their teams. Cheeks had two stints to go off of and Frank only had one, but we have the benefit (not sure if that's the proper word) to see what Frank's impact was to the Pistons when he joined (in a shortened season with no summer leagu....ah, "f" it).
Before Frank in New Jersey, there was Byron Scott. Frank took over 42 games into the year. At that time, the Nets were 22-20 and just snapped a 5 game winning streak by beating a 17-26 Miami Heat team. As stated before, as soon as Frank takes over, they go 14-2 in their next 16, but 25-15 over the final 40 games of the season, finishing 45-35. They make it to the playoffs, eventually take the Pistons to 7 games and lost. They get swept the next year in the first round of the playoffs (having a worse record than the year before by 3 games), and then lose in the second round the following two years. He then coaches them to two 34-48 seasons in a row, and the next season he's fired.
Seeing as how Frank came in almost at the exact half way point of the season, it's quite adequate to see what the team did with the same players (there were a few 10 day contracts, but nothing major). So comparatively, under Frank, the team shot better (marginally - .453 FG% vs. .442, .340 3P% vs. .336) except for at the free throw line (also marginally - .751 vs. .753), rebounded better both offensively (+.27) and defensively (+1.4), assisted more (+.8), turned the ball over less (-0.4) and scored more (+2.9). The only things they didn't do as well was steal (-0.7), block (-0.2) and foul (+.9). So if you ask me, the team was pretty much the same team with Frank as they were with Scott.
For Cheeks, his first head coaching job was a full season having replaced Mike Dunleavy. When Cheeks took over, he inherited a team that lost 9 players and brought on 7. Those lost: Antonio Harvey, Arvydas Sabonis, Detlef Schrempf, Gary Grant, Greg Anthony, Rod Strickland, Stacey Augmon, Steve Smith and Will Perdue. Those added: Chris Dudley, Mitchell Butler, Rick Brunson, Ruben Patterson, Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje, Steve Kerr and Zach Randolph. Obviously, Randolph wasn't then what he is today. The year before Cheeks took over, the team went 50-32 (www.basketball-reference.com says their Expected W-L was 53-29), but when Cheeks took over they went 49-33 (Expected W-L of 50-32). Under Cheeks, the team shot better from 3 (marginally - .354 vs. .349) and free throws (marginally - .763 vs. .762), shot 161 more 3's, rebounded better offensively (+1.5) and overall (+1), turned the ball over less (-1), stole the ball more (+.37), fouled less (-1.6) and scored more (+1.2). However, with a PG as a coach (not that there's an actual correlation), they didn't assist as much (-.5), blocked less (-.6), and shot worse overall (.450 vs. .468) along with shooting more (+254).
Though there is some validity to the shortened season, no summer league, starting Brandon Knight at PG (though due to injuries mostly), etc...I'm going to leave it out of this analysis. Under Frank in his first year, the Pistons shot better from the free throw line (.752 vs. .737), rebounded better both offensively (+.4) and defensively (+1.3), blocked more (+.2) and fouled less (-.3). Sadly, there were so many things that regressed when Frank took over. Shooting got worse (.438 FG% vs. .460, .346 3P% vs. .376), we assisted less (-2.4), turned the ball over more (+2.6 - Knight?), stole less (-.3) and scored less (-6). Now, to go along with the shortened season, Wilcox, Summers, Hamilton and McGrady left. However, not much was added: Knight, Wilkins, Macklin, Russell and Jerebko. Jerebko was likely the most added out of all of those, and he was only "added" because he missed the previous season due to injury. The Pistons went 25-41 (.379, exceeding the Expected W-L of 22-44) under Frank in his first year as compared to Kuester's 30-52 (.366) the year before.
Cheeks second stint wasn't as "bad" as Frank's was, but still not encouraging. The team went 38-44 (.463, exceeding the Expected W-L of 35-47) compared to the 43-39 (.524) from the year prior). Under Cheeks, the Sixers shot better overall (.458 vs. .437) and from 3 (.364 vs. .348), turned the ball over less (-1.4), blocked more (+1), fouled less (-2.1) and scored more (+.2). However, they shot less (-191 overall, -322 from 3), rebounded less offensively (-.4) and defensively (-1.4), assisted less (-.7) and stole less (-1.3). The team lost 8 players from the previous years and added 8 back. Those lost: Aaron McKie, Brian Skinner, Corliss Williamson, Josh Davis, Kedrick Brown, Kenny Thomas, Marc Jackson and Rodney Rogers. Those added: Deng Gai, James Thomas, Lee nailon, Louis Williams, Matt Barnes, Shavlik Randolph, Steven Hunter and Zendon Hamilton.
Is Cheeks a retread? Absolutely. Is he better than Frank? In my opinion, absolutely. Not by a mile, but definitely better. Will he have us competing to get into the playoffs (regardless of if it's good or bad that we do)? Not exactly sure. But here's what I do think. I feel as though the Pistons will be much better to watch next year due to Cheeks. I don't think the Pistons will likely go on lengthy losing streaks as often as they did with Frank. When looking at PPG for the team, most of Cheeks teams were better than Franks and they had comparable rosters (my opinion, with the exception of AI). I also hope that signing a former PG as a coach entices Jose to come back and that we're ideally looking for a PG in this draft. And one other hope, though I'm not sure there's anything quantifiable about it, I'm hoping that since Cheeks coached previously in the Western Conference, that he may be able to help us with our extremely sorry record against the West.
Here's my fears though. Cheeks isn't enticing. I don't see any free agents that are likely to come to Detroit because we have Cheeks as a coach. Like The Boourns said, I'm happy to have a coach, but that's reality. Now, it's not like I expected us to land a Pop, Jackson or Riley which would make free agents swoon to us. If the "connection" to AI deux is a possibility, I'm neither for nor against it at this time (depends on the price points). But I really think that by signing Cheeks means that Dumars is going to have a much harder time trying to spend the cap wisely when/if buying free agents out right. This would be a good reason to use that cap to facilitate trades. I also fear that if Cheeks can't push us into the playoffs and Dumars doesn't put the right players on the team, we'll eventually lose Monroe to free agency.
My honest hopes are the Dumars is afraid to lose his job, spends the money right, we get "lucky" again in the draft (or Dumars is able to make a trade/trade up), and that the Pistons make at least the 8th seed next year. I don't want another lottery pick, I don't want to tank, and I want to see some playoff ball (even if it means being swept by the Heat). I also think Playoff ball will be beneficial experience wise for the players, but also make them see the potential and give them a reason to stay here when it's time to resign.