A few days ago, Doc Rivers was taken off the short list of NBA head coaches that also have front office power when he was relieved of his role as general manager of the Clippers and replaced by former Pistons coach Lawrence Frank. This sparked a wave of conversation around Stan Van Gundy’s role, including DBB’s Lazarus Jackson arguing for the Pistons to keep SVG as is.
This brings to light an interesting topic to look at during this dead period of basketball. How has SVG (and Jeff Bower) done as an executive?
We will figure this out by looking each and every move he has made from free agent signings, draft picks, and trades.
Signed Jodie Meeks to a 3-year, $19 million contract: The idea behind this signing made sense. The Pistons needed shooting and they signed one of the best available shooters on the market. Meeks was coming off a season where he shot 40 percent from beyond the arc on five attempts per game with the Los Angeles Lakers. He was also a career 36 percent 3-point shooter. However, injuries got in the way of Meeks doing what he was brought here to do. He shot 35 percent from three in his first year with the team in only 60 games. He only played in three games the following year and was traded to the Orlando Magic for a second round pick during that offseason. You cannot call this signing a win, but it is tough to call it a loss because Meeks did not play that much. This one is kind of inconclusive.
Drafted Spencer Dinwiddie: The Pistons only had their second round pick in this draft, and they took a chance on a player coming off injury who many thought could have been a first rounder. He never really got any playing time with the Pistons. However, he is still in the league with the Brooklyn Nets, which is more than you can say for a lot of second round picks. However, if you look at the players taken a couple picks after Dinwiddie, this move becomes a loss. The 40th pick was Glenn Robinson III, the 41st pick was Nikola Jokic (ouch), and the 46th pick was Jordan Clarkson. For the most part, second round picks are a crapshoot, but Stan Van Bower botched this one.
Signed Cartier Martin: Another shooter who was brought in to shoot. Never really broke the rotation, but also never broke the bank as he was signed for the minimum. It was the right idea and a good risk to take, but it ultimately did not work out. Not really a huge loss though.
Signed Aaron Gray: Another weird early signing by SVG. Never played a game with the Pistons as a heart issue forced him to retire. Is still with the team as a coach helping develop the big guys. Wasn’t signed for a ton of money ($1.2 million), although SVG used the stretch provision to waive him which was a bit questionable. This one is another loss, although not a huge one.
Signed DJ Augustin: Signed a two year, $6 million deal, which was a steal for what the Pistons got out of him (10.6 points and 4.9 assists). Also helped acquire Reggie Jackson. This one was a win.
Traded Will Bynum for Joel Anthony: “Will the Thrill” had his moments during the dark, rebuilding years for the Pistons, but it was time to move on. Joel Anthony was a solid veteran presence for the locker room. Although he did not play much, his leadership was valuable to a young team. This one is a win.
Waived Josh Smith: I don’t think anything more needs to be said on this one. However, SVG’s decision to stretch his salary is a bit questionable as the Pistons are still paying him $5.4 million until 2020. Still, the positive of waiving this disgrace to Pistons basketball outweighs that fact for me at least. This one is a win.
Traded Tony Mitchell for Anthony Tolliver: Another trade in which SVG made out very well. Tony Mitchell has been out of the league since Phoenix waived him after the trade, and Anthony Tolliver gave the Pistons a reliable veteran stretch-four for the year and a half he was here. This one is a win.
Traded DJ Augustin, Kyle Singler, and two 2nd round picks for Reggie Jackson: Regardless of your opinion of Reggie Jackson now, this trade is a win. The Pistons flipped a point guard who was on a hot streak after taking over as starter for Brandon Jennings and Kyle f’n Singler for a player who was one of the better pick-and-roll point guards in the league. While Jackson’s knee brings a lot of mystery for the future, what the Pistons have gotten out of him makes this trade a win.
Traded Gigi Datome and Jonas Jerebko for Tayshaun Prince: This is one of the few losses on the trade record of Stan Van Bower. This trade still makes no sense to this day and I have tried wiping this short-stint by Tayshaun Prince with the Pistons from my memory. The Pistons needed a small forward after the Reggie Jackson trade, but they would have been better off just playing Jonas Jerebko out of position there.
Claimed Shawne Williams on waivers: This move sucked as Shawne Williams forgot how to shoot a basketball once he joined the team, but he played a role in another one of SVG’s great trades.
Signed Caron Butler: Another solid veteran leader for a young team. Was better than Joel Anthony because he actually played. Was signed to a 2-year, $9 million contract which was a bit steep for what they got on the court, but his leadership made up for it. This one is kind of a wash, but I lean towards it being a win.
Speaking of which...
Traded Caron Butler and Shawne Williams for Ersan Illyasova: This was a great trade as SVG flipped two non-guaranteed contracts for a solid starting stretch-4. Ersan Illyasova was solid for the Pistons and was flipped in what was the best trade of the SVG era, which I will get to later. This one is a clear win.
Drafted Stanley Johnson: The jury is still out on this one. He is still very raw offensively as he cannot really shoot that well. Has the confidence and mindset to be a star and is solid defensively. The key to him being more than a Tony Allen-type player will be the development of his jump shot, which is still a mess. This one is inconclusive.
Drafted Darrun Hilliard: Played solid as a second round rookie, shot 38 percent from beyond the arc. However, things came unraveled for him last season as he looked uncomfortable doing pretty much anything during his second season where he went on to shoot only 26 percent from three and 37 percent from the field. Was given an opportunity for playing time when Stanley Johnson struggled, but never really seized the opportunity. Not terrible for a 2nd round pick, but two players picked after him have gone on to be solid so far in Norman Powell and Josh Richardson. This one is a loss.
Traded a 2020 second round pick for Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock, and Danny Granger: This trade is one of the bigger trade robberies in recent memory. Getting two solid rotation players, including one starter, on cheap contracts for a guy who is still probably in high school is an absolute steal. There is no way you can call this trade a loss.
Signed Aron Baynes: SVB have not knocked free agency out of the park like they have with their trades, but this one is arguably their best signing. When he signed a three year $20 million contract with the Pistons, pundits across the NBA laughed at the overpay the Pistons made. Baynes went on to become a very solid back-up center and oftentimes the best center on the roster. Pretty good for $6.5 million a season. This is definitely a win.
Re-signed Reggie Jackson to a five year $80 million contract: This cemented Reggie Jackson as the face of the Pistons at the point guard position. He lived up to the contract in his first season as he led the team in scoring at 18.8 points. Was a key part of the Pistons claiming their first playoff berth in seven years. While his future his shaky and hinges heavily on the health of his knee, if he comes back healthy, this contract is more than reasonable for what the team will get. This one is a win.
Re-signed Joel Anthony: It was a bit of an overpay for what the Pistons were getting, a veteran leader who would not play much. He signed for two years and $5 million, and seeing how the next season went after he was let go, I think his leadership was pretty valuable. This wasn’t necessarily a win, but it was not a loss either.
Traded Quincy Miller for Steve Blake: Quincy Miller was an interesting prospect, but the Pistons needed a point guard to fill in for Brandon Jennings while he was still recovering from his torn Achilles. Steve Blake was nothing special, but he was a veteran who did what he could. Cannot really knock this trade too much because Quincy Miller didn’t even stick on the Nets after the trade and is now out of the league. Steve Blake was not good by any means, but he was the back-up point guard on the young Pistons playoff team. I’ll call it a win because he got value out of essentially nothing.
Traded Brandon Jennings and Ersan Illyasova for Tobias Harris: This one is absolute highway robbery and I still cannot believe that it actually happened. While Ersan Illyasova was having a solid year, moving him and an expiring Brandon Jennings for a 24-year old on a favorable contract who just needed a change of scenery is a steal. Tobias Harris was a key piece to propel the Pistons into the playoffs and is now the Pistons best scorer. This one is a clear win.
Traded Jodie Meeks for a 2019 2nd round pick: This one is a bit puzzling because Jodie Meek’s contract was not that expensive. Yes, he had struggled with injuries during both of his seasons with the Pistons, but he was a shooter on a team that needed shooting. If the 2019 second round pick ends up becoming a star, this will be another SVG robber, but that is unlikely. All that this trade really did was clear out the money to sign Boban Marjanovic, who was more of a luxury signing. I’ll call this one a win simply because Jodie Meeks was injured most of the year in Orlando and I like Boban.
Drafted Henry Ellenson: The Pistons were picking 18th and had a lottery talent fall into their lap. It was kind of a no-brainer pick and there weren’t that many players who could have been picked who would break into the rotation. Profiles as a potentially solid stretch-4 who won’t play much defense. He did not play enough to make a clear judgment on this pick. I will call it inconclusive.
Drafted Michael Gbinije: Never really got any minutes and struggled in the D-League. Did not have much potential as he was already 24 when he was drafted. It was thought that SVG wanted to develop him as a tall point guard when he was drafted, but never showed an ability to be a point guard in the NBA. There weren’t that many better players drafted after him, but somebody like Kay Felder or Georges Niang probably would have been a better pick. This one is a loss because he has since been waived.
Signed Jon Leuer: Might have been a bit of an overpay at four year $41 million, but there was a lot of money being thrown around during this offseason. Despite falling off a cliff in the second half of last season, I still think this was a good signing. Jon Leuer was miscast as a starter on this team and the heavy minutes that came with that got to him. If he resumes his role off the bench that he played to start off last season where he looked like a steal of a signing, this one will be a clear win. I still think it is a win, but it is definitely close.
Signed Ish Smith: It was a reasonable contract for a backup point guard at three years, $18 million. Far exceeded expectations last season. Averaged 9.4 points and 5.2 assists and looked like the best point guard on the roster as Reggie Jackson struggled with his knee injury. Started 32 games, and his ability to push the ball is a nice contrast to Reggie Jackson. Despite not being able to shoot at a position that it is pretty important to be able to shoot at, he makes it work and was definitely one of SVG’s better signings if not his best. This one is a win.
Signed Boban Marjanovic: A three year, $21 million contract is a bit rich for a guy who was going to be the number three center. However, this move was made with the expected departure of Aron Baynes after the season. He was a restricted free agent so SVG had to pay a bit more in order for the offer sheet to not be matched. Might be a bit of an overpay, especially because he might be a bit situational because of his slow feet. However, he has been dominant in the little minutes he has received throughout his career. If he becomes the full-time backup center next season, this will be a clear win. As it stands right now, this one is a loss.
Signed Andre Drummond to a max contract: This was expected as it was basically agreed to before the season, but put off to allow more financial flexibility to sign free agents. After the season he had, he was likely to get a max offer from another team, so the Pistons hands were kind of tied. Despite a down year, this contract could still end up being a win if Drummond reaches his potential and bounces back. The odds are against that happening, but it is not out of the realm of possibility. Due to the Pistons poor financial flexibility because of this contract, I am tempted to call it a loss, but I will call it inconclusive for now.
Claimed Beno Udrih off waivers: This was a very savvy move by SVG before the season started. With Reggie Jackson likely sidelined for the first couple months of the season and having to rely on the unproven Ray McCallum for backup point guard minutes, SVG went out and got a solid veteran to be his third point guard. Beno Udrih far exceeded expectations and was the best point guard on the roster at times last season. This one is a clear win.
Drafted Luke Kennard: It was the boring pick, but he will provide much-needed shooting to this roster. Donovan Mitchell may have the potential to be a better player, but Luke Kennard fits a need and sometimes you need to draft for need with a late-lottery pick. Until we see him hit the court, it is tough to make a call on this one, but if he shoots like he showed he can in college this one will be a win.
Traded Darrun Hilliard for cash considerations: This was actually a pretty savvy move for a team approaching the luxury tax. Houston needed unguaranteed deals in order to complete the Chris Paul trade, and SVG and Jeff Bower swooped in and offered a player they were probably going to waive anyways. The cash considerations ended up being $1 million, which is beneficial for a team with money issues. It is a bit disappointing to be giving up on a draft pick after only two years, but he did not have any trade value. This is a win for what they got, but a loss because the Hilliard pick was not a great one.
Traded Marcus Morris for Avery Bradley and a 2nd round pick: Marcus Morris was a fan favorite due to his no-nonsense attitude, but he really was not that great offensively for the Pistons. He is not a starter on a team with playoff aspirations beyond the first round. Trading him for Avery Bradley is a great trade as long as he re-signs. Avery Bradley made it so that the Pistons did not have to #PayKCP, which is good because that would have put them into luxury tax territory. I still think this trade is a win even if Bradley does not re-sign because I like Bradley a lot and am not that high on Morris.
Signed Langston Galloway: This one was a bit of a head-scratcher because it hard-capped the Pistons so that they were not able to match a max offer to KCP if he were to have gotten one. The Avery Bradley trade makes this a bit less questionable, but three years and $21 million is a bit of an overpay for Galloway. Him and Avery Bradley at the two will be a very small shooting guard rotation. I call this one a loss because it was an overpay and I think there were better options.
Re-signed Reggie Bullock: Bringing back Bullock for two years and $5 million is a steal. He will be suspended the first five games of the season, but if he can stay healthy, he will be a solid 3-and-D player on the wing who could maybe even start at small forward. This one is a win.
Signed Anthony Tolliver: The Pistons were missing some leadership last season. That is one of the big takeaways for me from the disappointment of last season. Tolliver not only brings veteran leadership, but he is familiar with a few of the players who are still here and is a solid stretch-four. The Pistons used their bi-annual exception to sign him so this one is a win.
Signed Eric Moreland: A solid third center who could see some minutes in certain match-ups if Boban Marjanovic is not able to handle it. Looked solid in Summer League and was signed using the rest of the Mid-Level Exception left over from the Langston Galloway signing. He is a solid defender and rim runner and there is little risk involved as his contract is not fully guaranteed. This one is a win.
Overall, Stan Van Gundy has not been perfect. The team is capped out and he has a shaky record when it comes to free agency. However, his trades have almost all been wins and he has flipped this roster on its head since taking over.
If the Pistons do not make it back to the playoffs, I think it is time to start questioning whether SVG is the right man for the job. Until then, any talk of relieving him of any of his duties is premature.
What are your thoughts on SVG as an executive? Should he only focus on one role? Which role should that be?