The Pistons are in a terrible state as a franchise. After yet another good start, they have once again limped through December and cannot even put together multiple wins in a row. It has been the story of this team the last few years and a new coach or a flashy trade for a superstar are not going to change anything. It all starts at the top.
This is not going to be another rant about how Tom Gores sucks as an owner because he lives in California and only attends a couple games a year. That is a tired argument and something that really shouldn’t matter.
Every offseason Tom Gores talks about how he wants a winner. He doesn’t care how much he has to spend as long as the team is winning. If that is the case, how come the team tried so hard to avoid the luxury tax this offseason? I understand it is bad business for a team that is not a championship contender to be paying the luxury tax, but after approving the trade of Blake Griffin, the time is now to put together the most competitive team.
Approving the acquisition of a superstar with a big contract on a team that already features a lot of big contracts is sending a message that you want to win no matter the cost. You cannot then turn around and do all that you can to avoid spending extra money out of your pocket.
This season should have been the season for the Pistons to go all-in. The bad contracts they have are still going to be around next season, so there still won’t be any room to add any players. Players like Ish Smith, Reggie Bullock, and Stanley Johnson are all going to be free agents this offseason, and the likelihood of any of them being re-signed are very slim due to the Pistons insistence on avoiding the luxury tax and the fact that they will still be up against the luxury tax. That is an understandable stance, but why not go all-in on this season and pay the luxury tax to put the most competitive team around Blake Griffin that you can while he is still at his peak?
Why not spend the extra money to sign a Seth Curry instead of Jose Calderon or re-sign Anthony Tolliver instead of letting him walk? There are things like the MLE and Bird rights that could have made these signings possible, but the Pistons didn’t use them because they didn’t want to pay the luxury tax. It would put the team in a bad place financially for this season, but if you are giving those players one year deals, you are maximizing the talent on the roster for this season before things start to go south and you have to consider a rebuild as some of the bad contracts expire.
It’s easy to say that Tom Gores should spend his money as I sit behind a keyboard and type this, but if your message as an owner is “win at all costs,” going halfway in on it is going to get you exactly what the Pistons have, a mediocre team. Granted, signing somebody like Seth Curry and re-signing Anthony Tolliver isn’t going to put this team over the top, but it gives you the best possible team you could have for this season while Blake Griffin is still at his peak.
The Pistons have a couple of trade exceptions from a couple of the trades that they have made in the past that will likely not get used this season because the team is trying to avoid the luxury tax. Those could have been useful to add a player to the bench if the team actually wanted to go all-in.
There is no way to know what the future will hold for Blake Griffin. He could age gracefully and never make his contract a complete albatross by the end (that is very unlikely). Maybe once the bad contracts expire, Blake Griffin is still playing at a high level and the Pistons are able to build the proper team around him. That doesn’t change the fact that they have an owner who doesn’t actually know what he wants.
Tom Gores needs to pick a side. Either you want the most competitive team as possible and are willing to pay the luxury tax, or you give in and start a proper rebuild like what should have probably already happened. These fans will support the team if they are playing well, like they have in the past. But not going all in while you likely have the best roster you are going to have for the next couple years is how you end up in NBA purgatory. That’s where the Pistons are and things likely aren’t going to change anytime soon.
The Pistons current stance of doing nothing is now the correct approach. They had the opportunity to try and go all-in during this offseason, but chose not to and now trying to ride things out and avoid the luxury tax is the right move. It is now time to trust the process and hope that Blake Griffin stays healthy and keeps playing at a high level.
At this point of his time as owner, it appears that Tom Gores cares more about making statements then actually backing up those statements, and that is a huge issue.