Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Stan's Huge Challenge

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH
PHOTOS BY CANDICE EBLING

I've never felt as bad for a coach or front office executive as I do for Stan Van Gundy.

Prior to accepting the challenge of turning the Detroit Pistons around, he had successful tenures with the Miami Heat and Orlando Magic compiling a 371-208 record.

The 55-year old was hired as President of Basketball Operations and Coach on May 14, 2014.

Unfortunately for Stan, he inherited a situation where past Pistons President Joe Dumars made a trade that cost Detroit a lottery pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.

He's had the dilemma of dealing with Greg Monroe's free agency at the conclusion of the season. 

Monroe was waiting to see if the Pistons would turn the corner to see if the team was headed towards being a contender. He's never made the playoffs in Detroit and the way things are going, it's apparent that he won't see the postseason playing in Auburn Hills, MI. 

It doesn't help that Monroe has played for numerous head coaches.

When you think of the moves that Dumars made in recent years, here are some of the players that have been productive elsewhere. 

It's hard to believe that back in the 2005 Draft, the Pistons selected Point Forward Amir Johnson out of high school in the second round, 56th overall. 

The 6-9, 240 pound native from LA has found a role with the Toronto Raptors. In his ninth year, Johnson is averaging 10.3 points-per game (PPG) and 5.2 rebounds-per-game (RPG). 

Toronto is currently 22-7.

All the kid needed in Detroit was a coach that believed in him and gave him a chance, which he's earned North Of The Border. At 27-years old, he's still in his prime.
Who got the best of the Brandon Jennings for Brandon Knight/Khris Middleton trade with the Milwaukee Bucks?

The way things are looking now, the Milwaukee Bucks are looking like winners. 

In 2011, Detroit selected Knight with the eighth pick in the first round out of Kentucky, and he's performing well under Bucks Coach Jason Kidd. 

I wonder how Knight's 17.6 PPG, 5.8 assists-per-game (APG) and 4.7 RPG would look in the Pistons line-up. 

The 6-3, 189 pound point guard now gets to develop with Bucks rookie Jabari Parker, the second overall selection in the first round from Duke. 

They're the foundation of a franchise that has new owners, whom are trying to get a new stadium built to keep the franchise in Milwaukee. Last year the Bucks were 15-67 and already have 15 wins.

The departure of Point Forward Middleton has to sting Pistons fans because here is yet another second round pick that never got a chance. Like Knight, he's playing for a division rival. Middleton was the 39th pick overall from Texas A&M. He is 6-7, 225 pounds.

Under the Bucks first year coach Kidd, Middleton, is averaging 9.1 PPG, and 3.5 RPG.

Both of these kids are 23 years old.

I never did understand the benefit of trading Tayshaun Prince to the Memphis Grizzles on January 30, 2013 which landed Jose Calderon. 

The Grizzles have been to the playoffs twice with Prince while Calderon left Detroit that summer via free agency and signed with the Dallas Mavericks.

Add other mistakes like not selecting Carmelo Anthony in favor of Darko Milicic, trading Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson, the 2009 free agent signings of Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon, to five year contracts worth $35 and $55 Million respectively. 

Gordon would get traded to the Charlotte Bobcats on June 26, 2012 for Corey Maggette and what turned out to be this years first round lottery pick for the renamed Charlotte Hornets. 

Villanueva is currently playing for former Pistons Coach Rick Carlisle in Dallas, Gordon is with the Orlando Magic while Maggette is a free agent.

After these moves, it's easy to understand why the Pistons are currently 3-18 and have lost 12-straight. I wonder how many hairs Van Gundy has pulled out of his head. 

Before long, he and his brother Jeff will have the same amount of hair. I actually wonder what advice Jeff has to offer Stan these days.

In the back of his mind, Stan has to wonder what life would be like with just a few of these players that have been moved that I listed above. 

How is he going to get the best out of Josh Smith, who appears to struggle at times on the front line?

I can only imagine what his conversations are like with Owner Tom Gores.

My dad recently suggested to me at dinner that Monroe's role with the Pistons would be better off as a sixth man. Van Gundy seems to be using him there.

Once upon a time, another No.10 for Detroit relished in his role as a sixth man. 

Remember Hall of Fame Forward Dennis Rodman? 

He's collected five championships through the years with Detroit and the Chicago Bulls.

In The Bad Boys Era, Rodman delivered Detroit two titles and was a great Spark Plug.

Unfortunately for Monroe at this stage, it doesn't seem like a trade is possible because he has control as to where he'll go. The only chance is at the trading deadline where Detroit would take less then what his perceived market value was last year. Monroe could be dealt to a contender.

At any rate, we have Kevin Love's Minnesota situation in Detroit. Only the Timberwolves were able to get a good package for him centering around No.1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins.

Detroit won't make out as well as they did when Grant Hill departed for Orlando in a sign and trade deal that enabled the Pistons to land Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins. 

That trade led to a 2004 title for Detroit while Hill, thinking he had no chance of winning a championship in Detroit, was derailed by injuries and never won a title going without a ring.

It will be interesting to see what Monroe's role will be for the rest of the season. Is he going to be a sixth man or go back to being a starter? 
Why would a coach use a guy who's going to pile up statistics to land a bigger contract elsewhere?

At this point, how many young players are going to be used to get experience and develop?

Aside from Center Andre Drummond, who are the real building blocks on this team?

Perhaps Detroit should look at all the players on their NBADL affiliate the Grand Rapids Drive and see if any of those are worth bringing to the Palace.

Obviously Van Gundy knows he has to blow this team up like the Philadelphia 76'ers are doing and start from scratch. 

The Pistons can thank the Minnesota Timberwolves for being the team that was the first to lose to Philadelphia that snapped a 17-game losing streak. Detroit was the 76'ers second win.

With play like this, Gores will be bothered should attendance figures go below 10,000 at The Palace.

I've heard comments in social media that the Pistons should move downtown.

Please people. Winning basketball will bring fans back to the Palace! Besides, the Pistons own their building. Why would they want to rent elsewhere?

It obviously appears that Monroe's departure is inevitable especially since it's likely the Pistons will once again miss the playoffs.

The only guarantee is once Monroe leaves, the No.10 will be permanently out of circulation and won't ever be seen again on the court. Rodman's number will be in the rafters with the other legends.

Meanwhile, the money that would be spent on Monroe will be utilized in attempting to acquire quality free agents or Van Gundy and company can use the financial flexibility in a trade to fit his system.

But one thing Van Gundy won't have to worry about is losing his lottery pick in 2015.

He'll have plenty of time to evaluate talent with his scouts.

In the meantime, what does Stan want for Christmas?

How about a few wins, less embarrassing losses and to avoid taking trips to the store, not having to purchase Tylenol, as well as avoiding Red Bull. I'm sure when Stan took the job that a 6-23 record was far what he expected at Christmas Time.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at www.scottsports33.com.  

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