The Detroit Pistons the past decade have been perhaps the saddest, least consequential, most boring franchise. That’s tough to admit as an ardent fan of the team who has spent untold hours following the (low) highs and (high) lows of the franchise. But when thinking about how to really quantify the past decade, only a comprehensive look under the microscope will do. I decided to rank every single player to play for the Pistons for the past decade and the results are, frankly, shocking.
Perhaps that’s just me being in denial. But fact that Detroit’s 10th best player of the past 10 years might not crack other team’s top 20 or 30 …. damn.
This ranking would be as impossible as it would be boring if I used objective measures of stats, advanced or otherwise, and tenure to dictate these rankings. No, instead these are pure, uncut subjective nonsense straight from the brain of a highly trained and traumatized Pistons fan who has watched about 1,000 games in the past 10 years factoring in summer league, preseason, the regular season and some awful playoff appearances.
There are a handful of good, if flawed, players worth talking about and seriously considering their rankings. Then there are those awful, high-profile players who deserve special places on the bottom rung. But there is also a vast middle. To help make sense of the process I put players into descriptive buckets, and did my best to rank the members of that tier against themselves.
Those tiers are: The Top 25; The Ones Who Got Away; To Be Determined; Rearranging The Deck Chairs; The End of the Road; Failed Second Round Picks; A Cup of Coffee; Failed First Round Picks; and The Not So Elite 8.
Maybe a player from one tier technically belong above a player in a previous tier, but if you want to get that pedantic just look up Win Shares on Basketball Reference or something.
No, instead, this is the perfect list of unimpeachably correct opinions for everyone to argue about as we say goodbye 2019, bid hasta la vista to a horrendous decade of Pistons basketball and look forward to the potential decade to come with what looks like an honest-to-goodness rebuild right around the corner. Remeber, these rankings are arbitrary, don’t matter, but are, at the same time, exactly correct, and if you disagree you are the one who is wrong.
Let’s go to work.
The Top 25
The divisiveness of Drummond and the fact that he is far and away the best Detroit Pistons player of the decade really underlines exactly where this franchise has been the past 10 years. He is a decidedly flawed player that doesn’t have the inherent awareness and anticipation to be a lockdown defender. And that’s a shame because with his size, skill and athleticism, he otherwise has the building blocks of a DPOY candidate.
Drummond, however, flawed, is also extremely talented and has slowly but surely gotten better year year. As a player with no range, he’s a fascinating experiment in the modern NBA. He has found ways to be effective, however, by improving his defense, developing plus passing skills, all-universe rebounding and excellent hands to amass deflections, steals and the occasional lob dunk. Sadly, his time in Detroit has been more defined by the dearth of talent on the perimeter – at point guard and regarding perimeter defense.
A terrific player who the Pistons stole from the Orlando Magic, Detroit was scared of being the team to give him a max contract and sent him away for Blake Griffin. The Sixers ultimately became that team and while Harris is unequivocally overpaid, it becomes a lot more palatable when he’s your No. 3 option on offense and not No. 1. He’s a great complementary piece on a championship team, which means he ultimately made no sense long-term in Detroit.
The most talented player to ever grace a Pistons uniform in the post Going to Work era, Griffin was readily available because of the myriad injuries piling up on his body. Detroit took a risk that as Blake remade his game into a point forward with 3-point range, he could be effective during the length of his mega contract. Last year, Griffin rewarded Detroit’s trust with an All-Star season and a playoff berth. This year, Griffin has been banged up and ineffective and proving all his doubters right.
His contract is likely untradeable until he shows he can be healthy so his time in Detroit might be defined by being an easy player to root for, immensely talented and a leader in the locker room while the Pistons rebuild. Blake, frankly, deserves better and so do the Pistons. That’s just how life is sometimes.
4. Greg Monroe
Monroe is a quintessential Pistons player. Good enough that you can always reverse engineer why his draft selection made sense. But not talented enough to be a difference maker or a true No. 1 option. A traditional big drafted just as the NBA entered a new five-out era. He was also, of course, miscast and mistreated by the organization and became one of the only lottery picks to ever sign his qualifying offer. He’s now finds himself playing overseas while contemporaries drafted after him Paul George and Gordon Hayward fight to lead their teams to titles.
We’ll always have the #PayKCP era, at least. As a largely unheralded player out of Georgia, it was always fun to root for Caldwell-Pope and his ability to defend on the perimeter has been sorely missed since he left to big-money deals from the Lakers as they made as many Klutch clients as happy as possible in their (successful) pursuit of LeBron James.
6. DJ Augustin
Perhaps my most controversial pick, I simply always loved watching DJ Augustin play basketball in Detroit and elsewhere. He’s by no means a difference-maker at point guard but he’s never been paid like one. And the truth is, he’s a smart player, he can shoot and he can run your offense. The Pistons traded Augustin away for an upgrade that has never been reliably on the floor. If the Pistons simply kept Augustin, point guard just likely wouldn’t have been a topic of conversation for the past four years. And that sounds really damn refreshing to me.
7. Rodney Stuckey
Stuckey represents the true beginning of the end of the Going to Work era, but that doesn’t mean Stuckey was an awful player. He just wasn’t an NBA point guard. Sadly, Joe Dumars disagreed, and he disagreed so vehemently that he traded away Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson and the doomed “rebuild and contend” era. Stuckey was a middling to effective player and passer but was a offensive-minded sixth man who was cast into a role he didn’t fit into.
Undoubtedly talented, and just as clearly a player who can’t stay healthy. He’s a plus scorer who could never finish at the rim well enough for you to wave away the concerns the come regarding his playmaking, passing or 3-point shooting. His ability as a shooter, honestly, has gotten much better during his years in Detroit but his health issues have short circuited the Pistons year in and year out. A common refrain from me over the years has been “as goes Reggie Jackson so go the Pistons.” Well, the Pistons are 30 games below .500 since the Reggie Jackson trade.
9. Luke Kennard
The first sign of recency bias, I really love watching Kennard play and because he still has upside, he landed high on my list. He looks like he’ll surely hit 40% of his 3s every year of his career, and has enough craftiness and playmaking ability to be more than just a catch-and-shoot player. His defense and lack of size remain large concerns, but he’s super talented. He just needs his coaching staff and his own belief in his ability to allow him to rise into the second option relied on for 16 shots a night. There’s not such thing as a bad Luke Kennard shot, and, therefore, he’s a top-10 Piston of the decade.
10. Will Bynum
11. Anthony Tolliver
Two bench players who it was impossibly easy to root for, Bynum and Tolliver played their roles to perfection in Detroit and even acquitted themselves well when asked to step into starting roles or fill holes beyond their capabilities. Bynum made games electric in Detroit and somehow remains the best point guard Detroit has had at finding Andre Drummond for lobs. That is likely because until Derrick Rose came to town, Bynum was Detroit’s best point guard at finishing at the rim (hint: he wasn’t even that great at it).
Tolliver, meanwhile, is the consummate professional, has his own universe amongst Pistons fans, could play respectable defense and hit down 40-45% of his 3s. Like I said, super easy to root for.
12. Brandon Jennings
The bringer of Swag, the patron saint of the Post Josh Smith and the game winning shot in San Antonio. Jennings was far from a perfect player and maybe it’s better he lives on in legend as opposed to being exposed by the harsh light of reality. He was unfairly dinged by his association with Josh Smith (more on him MUCH later) and by being a part of the Khris Middelton and Brandon Knight trade, but he really was never a part of the problem in Detroit. An Achilles injury sidelined his career so we never got to see if he could truly be a part of the solution but I will always look back on Jennings fondly.
13. Christian Wood
Another case of recency bias but, hey, I’m desperate for a little hope as it looks like Detroit gets ready for a proper rebuild. The truth is, there is a hell of a lot to like about Wood now and into the future. Already on his eighth professional franchise (combining NBA and G League), Wood is still a young 24 years old. He is shooting better than 60% from the floor and 39% from 3. When he’s on the floor he is flat out productive, and he has room to get better. Will he learn to rebound better and how to be effective on defense? Who knows, but I hope we find out while he’s in a Detroit uniform.
14. Aron Baynes
The greatest unheralded Pistons player. He was phenomenal on defense and sets the best screens in the NBA. When he was on the floor Detroit’s defense suddenly turned into a top-7 unit. He’s never been appreciated for how much of a difference-maker he is simply because he’s got bad hands and a somewhat limited offensive game. But I loved Baynes and always will.
15. Marcus Morris
The aesthetics of Morris’ game are awful, but he was pretty damn effective in his role as a reliable scorer and defender. Competence on both ends of the floor has been sorely lacking in Detroit, and he was a quality teammate to boot. He was a black hole. He shot too many mid-range jumpers. But he was good. I like good players.
16. Derrick Rose
By talent, he’s the best point guard the Pistons have had since Chauncey Billups. That is sort of damning with faint praise, but I think his detractors focus too much on what he doesn’t do as much as Rose stans are … well, insane, frankly. The bottom line is 44% assist percentage plus hitting 65% of your shots in the restricted area equals an extremely useful and talented point guard the likes of which Detroit has not seen in a long, long time.
17. Reggie Bullock
A really good player and an even better person. He was a guy who never got a shot until Stan Van Gundy showed some faith in him, and that faith was rewarded with some really solid wing play in Detroit.
18. Jonas Jerebko
A super effective second-round pick who just never quite had the talent to push himself over the top in Detroit. Didn’t quite have the size, quite have the shooting ability nor the athleticism. But he was talented and he played his ass off. His limitations meant it was sometimes hard for him to carve out a role for himself in several flawed Detroit rotations but he carved out a solid 10-year-career for himself, and his best years were in Detroit.
19. Bruce Brown
If Bruce Brown can become a point guard this is likely too low. If he can’t become a point guard then this is way too high. I’m skeptical but the team seems invested in his development and nobody can accuse him of not working hard. He’s a plus defender on a team with nobody to help ease his burden. He can make the simple reads and simple passes in year two. That’s not bad for a second-round pick shooting guard pressed into duty. He’s also shooting 36% on 3s (albeit in limited attempts) including 48% on corner 3s.
20. Ish Smith
Detroit’s jitterbug journeyman point guard had a good three-year tenure in Detroit. He was a great change of pace player, everyone in the locker room loved him and he was able to overcome some severe shooting limitations and remain a reasonably effective player during his time in Detroit. He also gets bonus points for playing for 10 teams before finally finding a home in Detroit. And Detroit being a place where vagabonds and castoffs can finally settle in is part of Detroit’s legacy as a franchise.
21. Jason Maxiell
A first-round pick who grinded away for years, dunked the ball plenty and ate an endless series of babies. A reminder of the good old days.
A killer shoe collection and the kind of trigger a fan base can learn to love. He’s always been a shot maker, and he’s especially been a shot taker. He runs hot and cold but when he’s hot he’s as easy to root for as any player since Bynum.
23. Ersan Ilyasova
This is when the sad reality of where the Pistons find themselves in really comes into focus. Detroit has been so bereft of good players that out of 90, Ersan finds himself this high on the list. He could make 3s, take charges and he opened up the offense. Fun!
24. Ben Wallace
This reflects some partial legacy points but also an acknowledgement that the Benaissance was real and it was fantastic. Glad Big Ben got to end his career on a high note in Detroit.
25. Tayshaun Prince
Speaking of legacy, this one was really tough. Prince was hard to root for and he was pouty in his final years in Detroit. Still, he was a good two-way player and represented Detroit’s championship era. In the end, my sympathies got the better of me – regarding Prince, anyway.
The Ones Who Got Away
26. Khris Middleton
These two showed intriguing signs in Detroit but never really did anything in a Pistons uniform. Still, they are among the most talented players to ever come through Motown and deserve special mention. Middleton is a terrific second or third option on a championship team and Dinwiddie, despite a surprisingly unreliable 3-point shot has turned himself into a really good starting caliber point guard. Detroit would be lucky to have either. They had both. And letting them go are part of the reason this franchise has been terrible for 10-plus years.
To Be Determined
28. Sekou Doumbouya
Honestly, I created this category simply because I didn’t want to irrationally turn Sekou into a top-5 player. I am super high on Doumbouya and what he is doing as an 18-year-old in the G League. But he’s 18. It’s the G League. He’s still not getting any NBA run. We’ll see. But I’m bullish.
29. Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
Mykahiliuk is acquitting himself quite well as a recent mainstay in Detroit’s rotation. Will he be a 3-point specialist? Something more? Will he keep hitting at an elite clip? We’ll find out.
30. Jordan Bone
People I trust that watch more of the Grand Rapids Drive than I am able to manage say that there might be an NBA player in Bone. At the worst, we’ll have plenty of jokes along the way.
31. Khyri Thomas
It just doesn’t look like Thomas is going to find a role in Detroit. That happens with second-round picks. I’m glad the team didn’t cut him in favor of a washed up vet like Joe Johnson, but Thomas has been injured all season after not getting much run in his rookie year.
32. Louis King
Who the hell knows? Not me. But since he hasn’t ruled out the chance that he can be an effective NBA player, I am putting him here. Who is going to stop me? You?
Rearranging the Deck Chairs
33. Jodie Meeks
Meeks was oft injured in his time in Detroit, but when he was healthy he was an underrated player. He was a sharp-shooting 3-point specialist who could secretly do just a little bit more – run the floor cut to the hoop. He was just a smart basketball player who couldn’t overcome foot injuries. Year one in Detroit was a fun time.
34. Wayne Ellington
A in-season free agent acquisition, Ellington allowed the loss of Bullock to not sabotage Detroit’s quest for the playoffs. He was a hell of a shooter and played hard on defense.
35. Eric Moreland
A quality defender who entered the year as a training camp invitee and quickly established himself as a reliable backup big man.
36. Chris Wilcox
Wilcox was part of an extremely sad era of Detroit basketball full of surly, limited veterans. He hustled, though. He was a good rotation forward who played hard and could take advantage of opportunities.
37. Tony Snell
Snell is having a largely invisible and unremarkable first season in Detroit, but he’s hitting 42% of his 3s, and that is largely what Detroit was hoping for as it looked for a Stanley Johnson replacement.
38. Boban Marjanovic
The most effective, largely unplayable big man in the NBA. But he’s one part of the Bobi and Tobi show, and always scored when he hit the floor. Unfortunately, so did the man he was defending.
39. Tim Frazier
Third-string point guard has been a graveyard for years – I’ll call it the curse of Spencer Dinwiddie. Frazier started his first year in Detroit awfully, but seems to be turning it around. He’s certainly no Jose Calderon and for that we can all be thankful.
40. Markieff Morris
I’ve always liked his twin brother’s game much more than his own, but Morris is acquitting himself OK as a backup power forward. Again, Detroit’s rosters have been so bad that he’s much higher on the list than anyone would hope to see.
41. James Ennis
Ennis was a darling of the smarter basketball fans but he didn’t manage to do much of anything during his 27 games in Detroit. He’s probably too low on this list but I just flat out didn’t enjoy any of the lineups when Ennis was out on the floor. Bad memories, bad taste in my mouth. Glad he’s had more success elsewhere.
42. Glenn Robinson
A crushing disappointment as a bargain free agent signing that looked pretty savvy when the deal was struck. But Robinson was so bad in his one year in Detroit that when the team traded away literally all its small forwards, he still couldn’t find his way in the rotation.
43. Cartier Martin
44. Aaron Gray
These were two of Stan Van Gundy’s first free agent deals as an executive and showed right away why he was unsuited to the post. His lack of patience and desire, as head coach, to get “his” guys, meant handing out two-year guaranteed deals to two players who weren’t NBA players. Martin played 198 minutes and washed out of the NBA. Sadly, Gray had a heart condition and never suited up for the Pistons. He spent time on the sidelines as a coach and Van Gundy stretched the contract to spread the pain out a little bit. At least they were minimum-salaried players.
45. Josh Harrellson
46. Luigi Datome
The Pistons won a bidding war for Datome’s services as a sharp shooter out of Europe. He didn’t have NBA skills, and to make matters worse, a talent-starved Pistons team was wasting a roster spot on Datome the same year the consensus best player not on an NBA roster Robert Covington was in the G League (drafted by the expansion Drive with the No. 1 pick). Before he ever even practiced with his new team, the Sixers took a flyer on him and gave him a guaranteed deal. From there, he blossomed. Datome played 447 minutes total in the NBA.
End of the Road
47. Beno Udrih
There is a giant midsection of players who came through Detroit who largely didn’t matter. They were either no-names who came and went or veterans on the last steps of their NBA journey. The best of the latter was probably Udrih who was a sneaky good point guard on a bad Pistons team.
48. Tracy McGrady
Speaking of point guard, McGrady played one year in Detroit and was somehow maybe best point guard on its roster. It was perhaps the most depressing team of the decade, but McGrady was a weird, funky surprise.
49. Caron Butler
Butler was obtained to be a 1. Veteran 2. Hit 3s 3. For his salary. He checked all three boxes and was subsequently trad
ed to the Bucks for Ersan Ilysaova who was subsequently traded for Tobias Harris.
50. Kwame Brown
Brown was a failure as a No. 1 overall pick with his Ken doll hands, but he was a surprisingly good defender in Detroit. I came away pleasantly surprised and had no complaints. Thanks, Kwame.
51. Joel Anthony
Anthony played similarly effective defense but he delivered as expected. He also provided zero offense, but that was OK.
52. Zaza Pachulia
Pachulia was pretty good when healthy, but he wasn’t healthy very often. He took some charges, threw some elbows and hit some 12-footers.
53. Chauncey Billups
Billups was sadly never healthy in Detroit and wasn’t able to have a swan song like his good friend and longtime teammate Ben Wallace. Still, I’m glad Billups retired in a Detroit uniform.
54. Steve Blake
A shitty third-string point guard pressed into duty because of injuries. Somehow, the team had even shittier third-string point guards pressed into duty because of injuries.
55. Chucky Atkins
He played 644 minutes in a second stint with the Detroit Pistons and I somehow have zero memory of it.
56. Damien Wilkins
Wilkins was an example of how Dumars ran his franchise. Always relying on veterans at the expense of young developmental players, Wilkins got a roster spot and did pretty much nothing with it.
57. Corey Maggette
Maggette was useless in Detroit and was obtained strictly so the team could ship Ben Gordon the hell out of town. That meant as Maggette came in a first-round pick went out. Dumb. But Dumars wanted Gordon’s deal off the books so he could blow money in free agency all over again.
58. Jose Calderon
The dictionary definition of a washed NBA player. It was sad because Calderon had a great, fun stint in Detroit years earlier after being traded from his longtime home in Toronto. He also had a reasonably effective prior year in Cleveland. But by the time he got to Detroit he had nothing left.
59. Jameer Nelson
Whereas Calderon was washed and it was frustrating, Nelson was so washed that it was just plain sad. A truly awful stint of basketball.
Failed Second Round Picks
60. Darrun Hilliard
Probably the most talented of a series of second-round picks who never panned out for the Pistons. He showed a bit of promise in Detroit and then caught on with the Spurs but eventually found his home overseas.
61. Peyton Siva
Siva was a one-and-done player in the NBA. It was clear his talents would take him outside the USA and he’s been a Euroleague mainstay for years.
62. DaJuan Summers
The wrong DaJuan. That DBB meme is pretty much all Summers was good for. Also an effective overseas player.
63. Kim English
English quickly washed out of the NBA after one year as a second-round pick. But he quickly transitioned to his next passion and joined the coaching ranks and is now a high-ranking assistant on Tennessee’s coaching staff.
64. Michael Gbinije
A wing who the Pistons were hoping could be transformed into a point guard. He couldn’t.
65. Tony Mitchell
Mitchell quickly went from SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEE! into shrug …. If you get that joke, congratulations, you’re a true member of the DBB tribe.
Cup of Coffee
66. Dwight Buycks
A bunch of players have come and gone without much of an impact in the Pistons. Buycks might be the best of that bunch. He spent years shuffling between the G League and the NBA but never quite caught on. He had a decent 29-game stint with the Pistons. Otherwise, he’s been getting larger paychecks in the Chinese Basketball Association.
67. Willie Reed
Reed seemed like a big man who could shoot, rebound and defend just enough to remain on the fringes of an NBA roster for years. But it never really worked out.
68. Slava Kravstov
Boy! Mop water!
Another in a long line of point guards who couldn’t really play but were given a shot on an injury depleted Pistons team. At least Russell had a fun story in that he finally made his NBA debut at the age of 29 after years of toiling in minor leagues and overseas.
70. John Lucas III
A lot like Russell but without such a heartwarming story.
71. Quincy Miller
72. Shawne Williams
73. Justin Harper
A series of wings/big men that Stan Van Gundy signed trying to find a player with both size and range. They weren’t it.
74. Kalin Lucas
75. Kay Felder
76. Zach Lofton
One game and four minutes of action. Ahhh, memories.
77. Reggie Hearn
Hearn ranks lower simply because Van Gundy only signed him because his brother Jeff coached Hearn as part of USA basketball and raved about him. Inconsequential, really, but I’d rather Van Gundy listened to his scouts and the vaunted “largest front office in the NBA.”
78. Luis Montero
Speaking of which, Montero played a good summer league game against the Pistons and then Van Gundy signed him to a two-way deal. Again, a sign of laziness. He did nothing in the NBA.
Failed First Round Picks
79. Stanley Johnson
The Pistons made four first-round draft picks in the decade that would be considered abjectly bad. Sometimes they picked a good player (Kennnard, Monroe) with a better player on the board (Donovan Mitchell, Paul George), but sometimes they picked straight up bad players. And blowing first-round picks sets a franchise back.
Johnson was perhaps the most talented and most maddening player taken in the first round. He undoubtedly has the talent to be a plus defender in the NBA but the offense was just never there. He was a player who needed to completely rebuild his shooting mechanics but was too stubborn to take the plunge. So instead he just shoots a flat, ineffective jumper. He’s also a below the rim player that can’t get past defenders. No shot plus no elite athleticism equals a player who might wash out in the NBA.
80. Austin Daye
Daye did have an elite shot and the advanced metrics loved him coming out of Gonzaga. But he was a spastic player who seemed to short circuit when asked to do anything as complicated as, you know, dribble. Or pass.
81. Brandon Knight
Knight was a player I just loathed watching during his time in Detroit. It took me about four games to determine he wasn’t really an NBA point guard, but he was force fed a starting role and big minutes as Detroit tried to turn him into something he was not. 4,500 minutes of bad basketball and one homicide by way of DeAndre Jordan later, Knight (along with Khris Middleton, sob) was traded to the Bucks for Brandon Jennings. Knight played a few months of quality ball and signed a huge free agent deal. But he’s been a highly paid, oft injured, rarely effective NBA player ever since.
To make matters worse, my lack of faith in Knight in the NBA Draft led me to be all aboard the no-duh defensive potential of Kawhi Leonard. Leonard delivered on that defense and somehow also became an elite offensive talent.
Doubling down on that disappointment, I was equally as skeptical of Kemba Walker (nobody’s perfect), and I saw Knight and Walker as equal as potential picks. Detroit gambled on the wrong guy and if they would have selected Walker who knows how different things would be.
82. Henry Ellenson
It was clear very early on that Ellenson didn’t have the skills needed to be a modern NBA forward. I hoped he was able to pack on some muscle and become a 3-point shooting center in the modern NBA. Nope. He became one of the many first-round picks in the 2016 NBA draft to completely wash out of the league. Brice Johnson, Wade Baldwin, Malachi Richardson, Georgios Papagiannis, Guerschon Yabusele and Dragan Bender have all played less than 1,000 minutes in the NBA. Marquese Chriss and Thon Maker look on their way to washing out of the league. And Pascal Siakam was taken after all of them with the No. 27 pick. The NBA Draft, man.
The Not So Elite 8
83. Charlie Villanueva
These players are obviously not the worst players to suit up for the Pistons strictly by talent. But they were my least favorite Pistons to watch or signify everything that has been wrong with the franchise for the past 10 years.
Charlie V. is somehow the least offensive of the bunch. As Brandon Jennings unfairly gets tagged to Josh Smith, Villanueva is associated with Ben Gordon as part of the worst NBA free agent spending spree in NBA history.
Villanueva was a marginal big man with limited offensive skills who got a huge deal in the offseason because Dumars had money to spend and a terrible free agent class to spend it on. A sign of truly the worst times in Detroit.
84. Jon Leuer
Leuer was the Villanueva of the Stan Van Gundy era. A big man brought in to stretch the floor who couldn’t actually stretch the floor. It’s a shame because Leuer was effective in his first season in Detroit as a player who could find his spots and convert his opportunities. But he was injured and couldn’t space the floor like Detroit needed. He was subsequently traded and then released and is out of the NBA.
85. Kyle Singler
It’s unfair to put all this weight on Singler, but he’s sort of a victim of his own success. As irrational as that sounds, his effectiveness in his rookie year led to the Pistons deciding that Khris Middleton, who played Singler’s position and role and was recovering from an injury during most of his rookie season, was expendable. Detroit put Middleton into the trade for Brandon Jennings and the Bucks have been reaping those rewards ever since. Singler, meanwhile, was traded to OKC in the Reggie Jackson trade and was signed to a five-year $25 million deal with the Thunder they almost immediately regretted. He played fewer minutes in his three years combined with the Thunder than he did during his rookie season in Detroit. He was stretched and is still collecting a paycheck.
86. Thon Maker
Maker is just straight up not good at basketball. He plays his heart out and tries to do … things. But, man, the team is just a mess when he is playing either big man spot. It’s horrifying to watch and I hate it.
87. Richard Hamilton
Maybe I should provide Hamilton the grace I afforded to Prince, Wallace and Billups, but no. I can’t. I have no evidence but I’ve always blamed Hamilton for the teamwide mutiny against then coach John Kuester. And Hamilton’s tenure in Detroit seemed to be one of mutual hatred from the moment his good friend Billups was traded. And it didn’t have to be that way. Dumars could have used it as an honest reset but reportedly had negotiated an extension with Hamilton prior to the Billups trade. He gave Hamilton the option to tear up the deal and move on once Billups was traded or sign on the dotted line. He signed and wanted out instantly. He spent years working the league for a trade and blamed his coaches and his organization instead of himself for reduced effectiveness in his final years. He eventually negotiated a big-money buyout with Detroit and then conveniently signed a free-agent deal with the Chicago Bulls for the precise amount of money he was walking away from in Detroit. But he was just as terrible in Chicago but had nobody else to blame.
88. Avery Bradley
The post-KCP era seemed like it would be just fine as the team moved Marcus Morris’s team-friendly deal to shore up the starting shooting guard position and improve the team’s 3-point shooting and perimeter defense. Bradley managed to do neither. He was a negative on both sides of the ball who played way too large a role on the team’s offense. Luckily, he was so bad that the team had no qualms about parting with him halfway through his first year and shipped him to the Clippers in the Blake Griffin deal.
89. Ben Gordon
I hated just about every moment of the Ben Gordon era in Detroit. He was a tweener guard who had very few marketable offensive skills outside 3-point shooting. That’s not what you want from your high-priced free agent acquisition. He was 6-foot-3 but couldn’t play point guard. His most memorable skill as a ball handler was dribbling off his own foot. Even as a 3-point specialist he was lacking because he attempted perimeter shots at a career-low rate in his three seasons in Detroit. Dollar for dollar, he is perhaps the worst value in Detroit Pistons franchise history with one noteable exception. He was eventually traded with a first-round pick attached, compounding failure on top of failure. It was a truly miserable tenure.
90. Josh Smith
The Pistons are still paying Smith more than $5 million to not play basketball for them. Smith signed the biggest deal in the franchise’s history (pre-Drummond deal) and was worse than could possibly be imagined. The fact that the team slotted a light-shooting Smith as their starting small forward alongside fellow non-shooters Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe just added insult to injury. The move for Smith was laughable the moment it was reported and impeded the development of both of Detroit’s other big men. Watching Smith hoist an endless number of hopeless jump shots was truly maddening. The Palace crowd quickly grew wise and would scream in horror when it looked like Smith, who was never defended on the perimeter, was going to pull up from the perimeter. He was also surly, a severely overrated defender and was literally the definition of addition by subtraction. The franchise apparently had a few opportunities to move his deal for other garbage contracts but never pulled the trigger. In the end, he was stretched, thus still receiving a paycheck from Detroit through this season. The Pistons, free of the burden of Smith then rattled off seven wins in a row and 10 of 12. Signing Josh Smith was as close as any one deal could be to actually killing a franchise’s future. And the Pistons are still paying for it. It is as emblematic as any move of the decade to define the position the Pistons currently find themselves in.