2011-12 Season Summary:
The former Eastern Conference power Detroit Pistons missed out on the playoffs for a third straight season. Coincidentally enough, that streak started when general manager Joe Dumars wasted his abundant cap space by overpaying Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva to long-term deals. The franchise is still in recovery mode from those signings and doesn't figure to make any major moves this offseason.
The most significant takeaways from this past year was the development of second-year big man Greg Monroe and play of rookie point guard Brandon Knight. By nearly averaging a double-double a night, Monroe made strides toward becoming a very good NBA center, which every team covets nowadays. Knight immediately stepped into the starting point guard role and showed enough promise to be labeled as the point guard of the future.
Monroe's emergence in the middle was sorely needed in a very underwhelming Pistons frontcourt. Jason Maxiell and Ben Wallace provided some toughness and physicality, but offered very little offensive production. Jonas Jerebko was effective coming off the bench after missing all of the 2010-11 season due to injury. Villanueva continues to be a major free agent bust, as he was bothered by ankle injury, but even when he was healthy, he found himself locked to the bench.
Knight's instant impact at the point allowed head coach Lawrence Frank to play Rodney Stuckey as his more natural off-guard position and bring Ben Gordon off the bench. It was an undersized trio that struggled to defend bigger shooting guards, but brought some solid scoring punch to help make up for Detroit's offensively-challenged front line - minus Monroe, of course.
Tayshaun Prince was typical Tayshaun Prince; a glue-guy leader, who can contribute a little bit in every aspect of the game, but isn't going to take over. Third-year pro Austin Daye actually took a step back and doesn't appear to be a piece of the long-term puzzle for the Pistons.
C: Greg Monroe/*Vernon Macklin
PF: #Jason Maxiell/Jonas Jerebko/Charlie Villanueva
SF: Tayshaun Prince/Corey Maggette/Austin Daye
SG: Rodney Stuckey
PG: Brandon Knight/Will Bynum/*Walker Russell
NBA Free Agents:
#PF-Jason Maxiell (PO)
C-Ben Wallace (UFA)
SF-Damian Wilkins (UFA)
*C-Vernon Macklin (RFA)
*PG-Walker Russell (RFA)
The Pistons acquire SF Corey Maggette from the Bobcats for SG Ben Gordon and 2013 lottery protected first-round pick.
2012-13 Team Salary: Approximately $58.3 million
NBA Offseason Needs:
1. Frontcourt Complement for Monroe:
Detroit needs to find an upgrade from the Jason Maxiell/Ben Wallace combination that started 53 games alongside Greg Monroe in the frontcourt. Charlie Villanueva has been a massive bust since coming to Detroit, while Jonas Jerebko is best suited providing some energy off the bench. With little flexibility in free agency, look for the Pistons to address this need with their first-round draft pick.
Brandon Knight and Rodney Stuckey are capable of getting to the rim, but Ben Gordon relies more on his outside shot. Meanwhile, Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye can't really break a defender down in iso situations. The Pistons would be wise to find an athletic wing who attack the tin and create in one-on-one situations.
3. Bench Scoring:
Gordon, and to a lesser extent Jerebko, are the only real bench scorers Detroit has on its roster. Villanueva can get buckets as well when he is actually on the floor, but the Pistons finished 27th in the league in scoring, partially due to their poor point production from their reserves.
4. Find a Sucker:
If I were Joe Dumars, I would hope to find some trade partner to take Villanueva and/or Gordon. Villanueva is owed more than $8 million dollars this season and has a player option worth almost $8.6 million for next season - he would be idiotic to turn that down. Gordon will make $12.4 million in 2012-13 and has a $13.2 player option for 2013-14. Those two guys and the cap space they take up are part of the reason Detroit is sort of in a holding pattern for another two years.
If the Pistons can find a suitor to take either guy and get an expiring contract in return, it would accelerate the revamping of their team. It certainly won't be an easy task getting another team to take either guy and his bloated contract though. Detroit also still has its one-time amnesty option, and Villanueva would certainly be a candidate for that.