It’s no secret that the Detroit Pistons have been a trainwreck for the past seasons as a casualty of a strangely constructed roster loaded with talent but lacking in any sort of basketball chemistry.
That losing culture was supposed to change, at least somewhat, this season due to the team’s offseason hiring of veteran coach Stan Van Gundy. However, it has remained exactly the same, maybe even getting a little worse as the Pistons are 3-19 and have lost their last 13 games, most recently with a blowout loss Tuesday night at home against the Trail Blazers.
On paper, there’s no real reason why Detroit should be so incompetent for so long (the Pistons haven’t made the playoffs since the 2008-9 season).
Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond make up a solid forward/center combo on both ends of the floor. Josh Smith–whose main problem is shot selection–is a great defender and rebounder who can score in the paint well. Brandon Jennings is a loose cannon with tons of ability and no consistency. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Singler and D.J. Augustin among others make up a reserve unit that has some decent pieces but overall isn’t great.
Just those six guys alone don’t make up such a terrible core but certainly one that should be winning more than three games through more than a month of the season. Granted, those guys all haven’t played that well this year, and in past years, but the evidence points to some bigger, underlying problems being present with this franchise that make rebuilding a tough task.
Van Gundy is the fifth Pistons head coach since their last playoff appearance. That glaring lack of continuity makes it hard for young players to develop especially when there’s a new leading voice in the locker room nearly every season. How often does a perennial playoff team have a different coach every two or so seasons? Not too often.
Then there’s the front office, which was led by general manager–and former Hall of Fame player for the Pistons–Joe Dumars from 2000 to his firing in 2014, when Van Gundy was named head coach and president of basketball operations while former New Orleans Hornets GM Jeff Bower was named to the same position in Detroit.
The Dumars years were first known for the success of the Big Five–Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace and Ben Wallace–which culminated in a NBA Championship in 2004. Then, as the decade progressed, that team was slowly dismantled and Dumars was never able to rebuild a winner, resulting in years of bad, bad teams that have yet to end.
It is just Van Gundy’s first year with the organization and there’s cause to be positive about his presence due to his winning history. A front office shakeup was what this franchise needed desperately and it got it, but has yet to see the on-court change in fortune.
If Detroit can rebound and sneak into the weak Eastern Conference playoff field this year, then all is good. However, if not, then there will be calls for player personnel change, not just executive change and those calls will be substantiated. At a certain point, the Pistons need to cut ties on this roster group and start fresh, unless it turns it around which doesn’t look too likely.