Who’s to blame for Detroit Pistons’ Disastrous Season?

detroit-pistons-disaster-seasonLooking at rosters of the Eastern Conference teams before the 2013-14 NBA season began, many saw the Detroit Pistons returning to relevance this season. Strangely enough, these predictions not only failed to come true, but they almost look silly in light of a 28-49 season so far. And with just 15 games left in the year, Detroit isn’t turning things around.

The blame game has of course been going on for the past several weeks. After all, nobody is going to let a team with Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Greg Monroe Rodney Stuckey and Andre Drummond perform this badly in the middling East without some repercussions. The repercussions have already come and gone for former head coach Maurice Cheeks, who was fired almost two months ago.

This failed to turn the team around, so GM Joe Dumars has become the next popular target. Dumars has no doubt done a good job of bringing talented players to the Motor City. Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to think about how these pieces would fit together. Both Drummond and Monroe are excellent big man, just not when they’re trying to occupy the same space. Then there’s Josh Smith, who’s been forced to play more small forward than ever before due to the logjam down low. And the end result: he’s taken 265 three-pointers and hit just 25.6% of them.

detroit-pistons-disaster-season-1Many wonder if Dumars will be back next season, seeing as how the roster that he assembled has done so poorly. Rumors are that owner Tom Gores has taken control of the team and is merely keeping Dumars around because he’s a beloved name in the franchise.

Of course, Dumars isn’t the only guy who’s been bashed continually throughout this dismal season. Smith and his outside shooting have been referenced many times as to why Detroit is struggling. And Smith is tired of others pointing fingers at him, which is why he told Detroit News the following:

I am an easy target to be able to blame. I’m very outspoken. I’m an emotional player. I can easily be a target night in and out…If you played the game, if you know X’s and O’s, it’s not all my fault. I’m not gonna say I’m perfect, by far, but I’m not the guy you can point the finger at. I’m a firm believer in you point one finger at one person, point three back at yourself.

When you sign a $54 million contract like Smith did last summer, people start looking at you first when things go wrong. The same can be said of point guard Brandon Jennings, who signed a fairly large three-year, $24 million contract. From a ball-handling and passing aspect, Jennings has been better than ever, averaging 7.7 APG against 2.6 turnovers. However, his shooting has been cringeworthy since he’s hit just 37.6% from the field. Jennings has never been a great shooter, which his 39.1% career field goal percentages suggests. But then again, he’s gotten more open looks than ever before thanks to opponents doubling down in the paint.

detroit-pistons-disaster-season-2But as everybody knows, basketball is a team effort and it’s not just Jennings and Smith’s shooting that has led to losses. They give up 102.6 PPG on defense (27th in the NBA) and opponents hit 46.6% of their shots (29th). Additionally, the Pistons rank dead last in both three-point shooting (30.9%) and free throw percentage (66.7%). Finally, this team is about as far from clutch as you can get since they rank last in fourth-quarter points scored (22.3) and allow opponents to score 25.5 fourth-quarter points (23rd).

Obviously things aren’t working in Detroit and there are going to be some changes this summer. Popular speculation is that Dumars will finally be canned in the offseason. There’s also been talk about trading either Drummond or Monroe to free up the paint so that Smith can move back to his natural power forward position. The latter move would certainly make sense because the Pistons don’t need two talented guys playing the same position. In any case, it’ll definitely be a busy offseason in Detroit.

Dwight Howard to Houston and Other Big NBA Offseason Moves

dwight-howard-hostonThe Houston Rockets are the big winners of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. Many NBA analysts and writers tabbed Houston as the favorite to land the 7-time All-Star center all along. And Howard confirmed these rumors with the following tweet:

I’ve decided to become a member of the Houston Rockets. I feel its the best place for me and I am excited about joining the Rockets and I’m looking forward to a great season. I want to thank the fans in Los Angeles and wish them the best.

Many people wondered if Howard would stay at least one more season since the Lakers could’ve offered him $30 million next year. However, he decided that a four-year, $88 million deal with Houston was plenty of money.

He’ll now join a strong Rockets cast that features All-Star shooting guard James Harden (26.3PPG, 6.7RPG), small forward Chandler Parsons (18.2PPG, 6.5RPG), point guard Patrick Beverley (11.8PPG, 2.8APG) and center Omer Asik (12.3PPG, 11.2RPG). Asik isn’t expected to be in Houston much longer though since the Rockets are furiously trying to trade him with the arrival of Howard.

Five teams with cap room courted the thee-time Defensive Player of the Year, including the Lakers, Rockets, Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks. But after considering all of the offers, Howard chose to go with the team that he feels gives him the best opportunity to win.

dwight-howardThis was supposed to be what Los Angeles was last season. However, they struggled all year long, finally making the playoffs as a seventh seed. Leading scorer Kobe Bryant went down at the end of the regular season, which heavily contributed to San Antonio’s easy sweep of the Lakers. With an aging Bryant still rehabbing his ruptured Achilles tendon, Howard figured that Houston’s young nucleus of Harden, Parsons and Beverley gives him a better long-term chance to win.

Dwight Howard’s signing has created a slight domino effect where other big-name players have finally ended their team search. That said, let’s take a look at some of the recent NBA offseason moves and rumors.

Pistons land Next Best Thing in Josh Smith 

josh-smith-hawksWith several teams focused on Howard, Josh Smith was somewhat of an afterthought in the free agent market…except in the Detroit Piston’s eyes. Detroit management made it clear from the start that Smith was their man, and he rewarded them by signing a 4-year deal worth $56 million.

Last year was pretty dismal for the Pistons after they finished 29-53 and never made a serious playoff push. So having a multi-talented power forward like Smith on board will immediately pay dividends. He averaged 17.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG and 4.2 APG for the Hawks last season. Detroit figures to have one of the league’s better front courts since they also feature 6’11” Greg Monroe (16.0PPG, 9.6RPG) and 6’10” Andre Drummond (7.9PPG, 7.6RPG, 1.6BPG).

Gasol staying put with Lakers

pau-gasol-steve-nashTo say that Pau Gasol struggled to find his place last year with Howard in the lineup was an understatement. The Spaniard suffered one of his worst season ever after averaging 13.7 PPG, 8.6 RPG and shooting 46.6% – all down from career averages of 18.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG and 51.8%.

This being said, it was thought that L.A. might trade Gasol if Howard re-signed with them. Since this fell through, it’s a given that the Lakers will keep Gasol, and he’s likely to move back over from power forward to his natural center position.

Paul Millsap signs Two-Year Deal with Hawks

paul-millsapNow out of the running for Howard and all but guaranteed to lose Smith, Atlanta salvaged something by inking a two-year, $19 million deal with Paul Millsap. The former Utah Jazz power forward averaged 14 PPG and 7 RPG last season, and should make a nice compliment to center Al Horford and PG Jeff Teague.

Millsap’s Utah teammate, DeMarre Carroll, will also be coming to the Hawks after signing a two-year, $5 million deal. The fourth-year man out of Missouri averaged 6.0 PPG and 2.8 RPG in 16.8 MPG.

Dallas Mavericks grab Jose Calderon

There is no consolation prize to losing Dwight Howard this summer – especially for a desperate Mavericks team. But they’re hoping that the addition of PG Jose Calderon can boost their chances of returning to the playoffs next season.

Calderon, who played with both the Raptors and Pistons in 2013, signed a fairly big four-year, $29 million deal with Dallas. He averaged 11.3 PPG, 7.1 APG and shot 90.4% from the free-throw line last year.

San Antonio is eyeing Kenyon Martin

Despite being 35 years old, Kenyon Martin showed that he still has something left in the tank after averaging 7.2 PPG and 5.3 RPG for the New York Knicks. Now that he’s a free agent, the Spurs are interested in adding him to their bench. He would back up Tim Duncan at power forward and spell Tiago Splitter at center.

Chris Copeland signs with the Pacers

Chris Copeland may not be much of a defender, but he can definitely provide some offense (8.7PPG) along with a nice three-point touch (42.1%). Taking this into account, Indiana picked up the second-year man out of Colorado through a two-year, $6.1 million deal. As a hybrid small forward/power forward, he’ll definitely give the Pacers a different look off the bench.

Plenty of Deals made at the NBA Trade Deadline

josh-smithGoing into the February 21st NBA trade deadline, the big question was whether the Atlanta Hawks would trade Josh Smith. The star forward, who averages 17.2 PPG, 8.6 RPG and 2.1 BPG, certainly drew plenty of interest; but he ultimately ended up staying put.

With the Smith trade rumors now squashed, it was a relatively quiet NBA trade deadline. However, there were some teams that made moves in an effort to either upgrade their club or dump salaries. That said, let’s take a quick look at some notable trades that happened yesterday.

Sacramento Kings deal No. 5 Pick Thomas Robinson to Houston Rockets

In perhaps what is the biggest trade deadline move, the Sacramento Kings sent fifth overall pick F Thomas Robinson, F Tyler Honeycutt and F/G Francisco Garcia to Houston for G/F Patrick Patterson, F Cole Aldrich and G Toney Douglas. The rookie Robinson (4.8 PPG, 4.7 RPG) hasn’t done a whole lot thus far, but he should get more chances in Houston’s high-powered offense. As for Sacramento, they’re getting a solid contributor right away in Patterson (11.6 PPG, 4.7 RPG), who shoots 51.9% from the floor.

jordan-crawfordWashington Wizards send Gunner Jordan Crawford to Boston Celtics

With their season going nowhere, the Wizards made a move to improve team chemistry by dealing unhappy G Jordan Crawford to the Celtics in exchange for G Leandro Barbosa and C Jason Collins. Crawford is averaging 13.2 PPG and 3.7 APG this season, but wasn’t happy playing second fiddle to John Wall and Bradley Beal in the backcourt. He’ll get plenty of shots with the playoff-hopeful Celtics, who were desperate to fill the backcourt void left by an injured Barbosa and Rajon Rondo.

Orlando Magic send J.J. Redick to Milwaukee Bucks

The Magic are clearly in rebuilding mode and sent sharpshooting G J.J. Redick, C Gustavo Ayon and G Ish Smith to the Bucks in return for F Tobias Harris and G Doron Lamb. Redick (15.1 PPG, 4.4 APG) spent his first six and a half seasons with the Magic. However, his 3-year, $19 million contract is up after this season, and it appears that Orlando had no intention of paying even more money to re-sign him.

New York Knicks deal Ronnie Brewer to Oklahoma City Thunder

New York sent swingman Ronnie Brewer to the Thunder for a 2014 second round pick and cash considerations. Brewer (3.6 PPG, 2.2 RPG) actually started for the Knicks to open the season and helped them get off to a strong start. However, the Arkansas product quickly fell out of the starting lineup, and eventually out of the rotation altogether. New York plans to replace his roster spot with Kenyon Martin, who’s back from an injury.

sebastian-telfairPhoenix Suns send Sebastian Telfair to Toronto Raptors

Journeyman point guard Sebastian Telfair will be playing for his eighth team in nine seasons after being sent to the Raptors for C Hamed Haddadi and a 2014 second round pick. Telfair (7.5 PPG, 3.5 APG) had seen his minutes decline rapidly under new Phoenix coach Lindsey Hunter. But he should definitely get more playing time in Toronto after the Jose Calderon trade to Detroit.

Atlanta Hawks trade Anthony Morrow to Dallas Mavericks

As mentioned before, the Hawks didn’t pull off any big deal involving Josh Smith. However, they did trade G Anthony Morrow to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for G Dahntay Jones. Morrow (5.2 PPG) is an excellent shooter from 3-point range (39.5%), but has struggled with injuries this year. Jones (3.5 PPG) is a strong perimeter defender who should provide some quality minutes off the bench for Atlanta.