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Two to Tango

By: Kevin Sawyer

While the David Stern wet dream plays out on ABC, we have bigger fish to fry in Pistonland. Joe Dumars has intimated major changes for next year, which gives us all the chance to play amateur GM. Well, if you wanna be a GM, you have to play by the rules. Sheed for LeBron? Not happening.

Here are some guidelines and thoughts that should guide an antsy comments section for the next couple of months.

1) We won 59 games last year. 59-win teams are hard to improve upon, generally.

2) Unless something bizarre happens, the Eastern Conference will again be mediocre. The Cavs are stuck. The Bulls missed their moment. Atlanta and Philly won’t be ready. The Celtics will be back, certainly, but the Pistons could keep this roster intact and still be competitive.

3) Unfortunately, Chris Wallace and Kevin McHale are out of all-stars to piss away.

4) Teams tend to make bad deals closer to the trade deadline, when business interests and panic trump talent. Look at this past season. Phoenix and Dallas committed seppuku, Memphis gave away Pau Gasol for nothing. If the Pistons are looking for $1.25 on the dollar, waiting until the trade deadline might be the way to go.

Further, it gives Detroit the chance to see where they stand. If, by mid-February, Detroit has clocked 40 wins, Kevin Garnett has clocked a career-ending injury, and 2-3 ring-chasers are on the waiver-wire, doesn’t that change the paradigm?

5) This particular 59 win team is perceived to be greater than the sum of its parts. That makes it hard to get fair value for our players. Billups could never bring back a superstar, and it would be a break-even proposition if he did. Sheed will be difficult to move for the very reasons we want to move him. That leaves Rip and Tay. But both of them have great contracts, great conditioning, and no backups on the roster.

Whatever meta-narrative you want to assign to this team, it comes down to putting the best players on the floor. Addition by subtraction is a myth, unless you are subtracting a bad player, and we traded Darko a while ago.

6) This draft is deep and not at all top-heavy. We can get a lottery pick, but one gets the sense that we would do nearly as well with our existing 29 pick. Is there really a Rip Hamilton worth of difference between a Chris Douglas-Roberts and an Eric Gordon?

7) Right or wrong, we will have a new coach. Saunders was a great offensive coach. Most coaches are great at nothing at all. While our existing roster knows Saunders’ offensive schemes, any new blood will need to see a playbook. Can we expect an incoming player to respect a new coach enough to play ball?

8 ) Call me conspiratorial, but isn’t all a bit coincidental that the biggest heists of the last year went to the Celtics and Lakers, courtesy of small-market teams? I have heard rumors that the Heat are willing to send Dwyane Wade to the Bulls, possibly for the sole privilege of exchanging the second pick for the top pick. LeBron to the New York in 2010 is a foregone conclusion. The NBA has been willing to change rules to send the "right" teams to the finals. Would they lend some under-the-table dollars to the cause? If so, it’s a dangerous trade market for a team like Detroit.

9) Before the draft, teams with lottery picks call the shots. Miami, in particular, seems poised to hold the league hostage with tantalizing trade rumors. For several weeks, the NBA is going to be on hold, waiting for 2-3 teams to decide what to do.

10) To some degree, this applies to the decisions of some of the particularly bad GMs. While Isiah Thomas and Larry Harris are out of the picture, the vultures will be swirling around the Bobcats, Grizzlies and T-Wolves. Jason Kidd for OJ Mayo? Why deal with the Dumars’ and Colangelos of the world when you can steal candy from a baby?