Hey guys, this is Steve Kays, here making my Life on Dumars debut. I hope you all enjoy my first piece!
As of late, Pistons President Joe Dumars has received a lot of criticism this past season and offseason for the recent moves he’s made for the Pistons, specifically the use of the $20 million in cap space generated by Allen Iverson’s expiring contract to sign Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. Now, it’s fine and all to criticize someone, but you had better have a better plan instead. The critics can’t seem to ever be happy. Let’s say that Chauncey Billups is never traded for Allen Iverson. The Pistons almost assuredly have a much better 2008-2009 season, one that perhaps ends in the Eastern Conference Finals again. But then what? Rasheed Wallace probably still isn’t resigned and Antonio McDyess doesn’t leave as a free agent since he has another year left on his deal. But that’s it. The Pistons can’t change. They’re still old and complacent. Sure, they might pick someone up for the MLE and improve with a draft pick in the 20’s, but that’s it.
Then the critics will say that Dumars should have blown the team up in 2008. You can’t have it both ways. That’s why we’re going to play Devil’s Advocate and assume that Dumars doesn’t sign Gordon and Villanueva right away. What should have he done instead?
There are those that think Dumars should have saved his cap space so he could trade a great player for little to no cost (a la the Pau Gasol and Kevin Garnett trades). That’s not the worst idea I’ve heard, but it’s a risky one. But it’s already September and there have been no such lopsided trades for any team so far. If Dumars doesn’t sign Gordon and Villanueva fairly soon then other teams would have. The Cleveland Cavaliers were rumored that they were going to offer Villanueva their MLE ($5+ million contract). If Detroit doesn’t offer more than Villanueva is probably is a Cavalier right now.
So if Dumars doesn’t sign Gordon and Villanueva he had better be getting a really good player in a lopsided trade in return. But what if no good trade proposals are available? Yeah, good idea Kelly.
But okay, let’s say Dumars decides to just sign other players. Out of the other high-profile free agents on the market, who was available that’s better than Gordon and Villanueva? Paul Millsap of the Utah Jazz? He was a restricted free agent meaning that the Jazz could match any offer for him, which they did when Portland offered him $32 million over 4 years. David Lee of the New York Knicks? Restricted free agent Lee still hasn’t signed a contract as he’s seeking a five- or six-year deal in the range of $50-60 million. No one is willing to give him that kind of money in these economic times as he’s probably going to sign to take a one-year deal. Lamar Odom? The LA Lakers had his rights and could have matched any offer for him. He flirted with the Miami Heat before signing a four-year deal worth up to $33 million. Ron Artest? Not to mention the whole Palace Brawl incident, but Artest was set on joining the Lakers since last year’s Finals. Hedo Turkoglu might be the only other free agent that I would have wanted the Pistons to go after, but then again he is 30 years old and despite his playoff heroics, he had a down year statistically.
This isn’t like the summer of 1996 when there’s an all-star, hall of famer type of player on the market such as Shaquille O’Neal. Joe Dumars has signed arguably the best two players on the market. He also signed two other free agents this summer, Chris Wilcox and Ben Wallace. I don’t have any problems with these players since Wilcox is a bargain at $3 million a year for a player who very recently averaged 13 ppg and 7 rpg. And Ben Wallace was signed for the veterans minimum (a little over $1 million), which is very economical for a starter on last season’s best team.
In summary, I’m not sure what the critics were expecting. Perhaps they thoughts the Pistons should have signed LeBron James or something like that. My only complaint about this offseason is the trading of Arron Afflalo for the cap space to sign Wilcox. Also, the decision to extend Rip Hamilton’s contract for so many years and for so much money is looking like a bad decision in light of the signing of Ben Gordon. But whose to say that Hamilton couldn’t soon be traded for an elite big man? Regardless, the critics shouldn’t be so critical of an executive of Dumars’ caliber since he’s led Detroit to seven straight 50 win seasons, six Eastern Conference Finals appearances, and one NBA title.