Stuck in Neutral

So where do we go from here?

With the Pistons drafting Brandon Knight and being close to finding a coach to replace John Kuester, we are close to seeing the foundation of the Pistons future whenever we have basketball again.   Obviously, we won’t know what the Pistons will actually look like until the lock-out is settled and free agency has occurred, but we know some of the players currently on the roster who will play a key role.

The biggest question mark currently is the head coaching position.  Marc Stein reports that Joe Dumars favors former Hawks head coach (and assistant on the 2003-2004 Championship team) Mike Woodson, while new owner Tom Gores and his team prefer former Nets coach Lawrence Frank.  Under Woodson, the Hawks improved every season, while under Frank the Nets record peaked in his second full year and started to go downhill from there.

Of the two candidates, I support the decision to bring in Woodson to fill the hole at the top.  Under Woodson the Hawks were one of the best defensive teams in the NBA and were consistent playoff contenders.   He seemed to get the most out of Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford, guards similar to Rodney Stuckey, Ben Gordon and Brandon Knight.  Unfortunately, he had trouble keeping volatile players like Josh Smith under control.  Bringing in Woodson, would be a sign of rebuilding and starting over with a new young core.  This team would be built to utilize players like Jonas Jerebko, Knight, Austin Daye and Greg Monroe.

This core is unproven, but has a lot of room to grow and could be given that opportunity under Woodson.  Jerebko showed signs of being a solid rebounder and athletic swingman as a rookie, but after missing all of last year there are a lot of questions about his health and what he can bring to the table.  Greg Monroe and Austin Daye both look like very nice offensive players, but leave a lot to be desired on the defensive end.  Knight has a chance to be the best young point guard that Detroit has seen in a long time.  His biggest issue is simple, he is a point guard that likes to score first and pass later.   He is like Rodney Stuckey with a jump shot.  Unlike Stuckey though, he came from a big time school, was highly touted out of High School, and is a graduate of the John Calipari school of NBA Guards.  He seems motivated to succeed and should be able to develop if given enough playing time.

Frank stepped in and took over a veteran Nets team with leaders like Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson.  From there the team struggled to advance in the playoffs for four years, never making it farther than the conference semifinals.  I would be interested in seeing what he can do with this Pistons team, as he did seem to handle the veteran roster of the Nets very well and there were never any personality issues like those that came up under Kuester, Curry and even all the way back to Flip Saunders.  If they bring in Lawrence Frank, it is more likely that the team will try to win now and will stick with older players like Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rodney Stuckey, and Ben Gordon.

The veteran lead team will have some issues as both Prince and Stuckey are free agents this summer, and re-signing both will be difficult.  It seems unlikely that Tayshaun will be back next year, since he seems like a player that would want to go play on a contender.  Meanwhile, Stuckey is a restricted free agent and Brandon Knight makes his future murky.  Rumors say that Stuckey is part of the future of the Pistons, but can two combo guards make one point guard?

Two veterans that need to bring something next season are Charlie Villanueva and Jason Maxiell.  Villanueva and Maxiell are two contract black holes that need to do something to live up to the giant contracts that they received in the past couple years.  Both players fill different important roles off the bench.  Maxiell was a solid rebounder and defensive role player just a couple years ago, but since getting paid he seems to have rested on his laurels.  Villanueva is a piece that didn’t make sense when he was signed and still hasn’t found a way to get productive minutes for the team.  If he can give the Pistons a scoring big man off the bench, it will be a huge boost to the team.

So this is where we are in the middle of the lockout.  The Pistons are at a crossroads going forward, and clearly several issues need to be addressed before we tip off next season.

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