I seemed to have touched a nerve.Â While I was waxing ecstatic about the upcoming season and my excitement towards it, I wrote about some things I had been contemplating. They were meant to illustrate the absurd fact that when my brain is idling, it tends to flit towards things like “What was Ryan Gomes’ True Shooting Percentage last year, roughly?” and “How does Anthony Johnson feel right now?” This is not meant as a compliment.
What I ended up writing was something that had crossed my mind, the only thing I’d been able to lock down about the Pistons after their offseason flip. And make no mistake, that’s what it was. Dumars flipped the Pistons as best he could. Sheed was the flooring you had to pull up. When you installed it, it was pretty much the best thing about the house. It made the house, you know? But eventually, the kids ran over it on the skateboards too much and the dog clawed it up and it became time to get lighterweight floors, so to speak. I still have the feeling Dumars isn’t finished flipping this one, but it’s certainly not the team it was last year at this time.
The problem that arises whenever I start focusing on the Pistons is just that. I can’t focus on them. There’s no central idea. A traditionally defensive-focused team with two new players that are almost entirely offensive players. I believe that Gordon and Villanueva work hard as defenders, I’m just not sold on them in terms of knowledge and focus. The team is somehow deeper (two A-level small guards) and thinner (I love V-Nuv more than the average fan, but he creates a slew of positional depth issues because you can count him as a 3 or a 4 but not a true either one).Â They’ve got more muscle, but less experience. They’re not an outright disaster, but the Gordon-Hamilton inevitable friction could be smoke in the kitchen or a napalm meltdown. Trying to get a lock on them before the season is like trying to provide census information on Guatamala from a silhouette outline of the coastline.
The one casual comment that did float in was: â€œThe Pistons are pretty much last yearâ€™s Bucks when healthy with better uniforms.â€
It wasn’t really meant to be any sort of deep seated analysis.Â It was an analogy that I thought would sound kind of funny, and had an element of truth to it. But man, Pistons fans took it to heart. Stunningly enough, Full Court Press decided to take a look and concluded that I wasn’t completely insane. Which is a nice sentiment.
The main correlation is really the Ridnour-Sessions-Redd combo compared to the Stuckey-Gordon-Hamilton conundrum the Pistons now face. Gordon’s not great at running an offense, but he’s their best offensive weapon. Hamilton’s still capable of putting up tons of points and producing, but he’s not the future of the franchise. Stuckey shows a lot of talent, but he still has to take that step. Outside of that, what you have is Villanueva as the common thread, and talented veteran small forwards with some nice young pieces off the bench. Bogut really is the damning piece here, as he’s the only A-Level center between the two teams.
That said, I was describing the two teams, not necessarily evaluating them. I’m a lineup guy. I obsess over combinations of players that mesh in interesting ways, that provide the best spacing and allow all players to do what they do best. But chemistry is still a large part of the game, and the Pistons, even in their fragmented form, have it. Their whole is greater than last year’s Bucks’ sum of parts. There’s no way to tell if that will translate to victories, but it certainly does lend itself to wondering what, besides injury, happened to last year’s Bucks team, and provides a case study for the “talent isn’t always the answer” thesis.
I’m still waiting for Dumars to pull the trigger on another move. I just can’t believe, looking at this team 1-8, that this is where he’s headed over the next few years. He knows he’s got time sensitive materials in Hamilton and Prince, and he has to use him. What he gets for them, if anything, will be the deciding factor in if he’s validated for all the gambles he’s taken.