A defining story of the Detroit Pistons, since their last NBA championship win in 2004, is the big team that just could not get it done. In 2005 during the Pistons’ last championship appearance, Detroit had its shot at first back-to-back wins since the ‘Bad Boy’ era 1989-90 victories. In following years, Detroit’s success declined to mere conference championships until 2009, when it scraped together an No. 8 seed bid in the playoffs.
Since then, the Pistons have somewhat fallen into NBA obscurity. Detroit sports fans always look forward to the Red Wings and when they need some hope of a title during the dark days of the Lions. The Tigers have been decent, winning two American League championships within the last ten years.
As heartbreaking as the Lions have been, however, more and more fans are starting to see the Pistons as the new letdown of Detroit teams. A successive eleventh, tenth, and eleventh place finishes in the Eastern Conference for the last three seasons kept fans dismayed.
Even more disappointing has been the performance of Pistons general manager Joe Dumars’ draft picks. Dumars initially gained his love in Detroit as a member of the ‘Bad Boy Pistons’ which hosted many well-known players such as Isiah Thomas, Bill Lambeer, and Dennis Rodman. Though his teammates took other paths, Dumars stayed to work in the front office after his 1999 retirement.
Initially, his career as GM was bright, winning the Executive of the Year award for the 2003 season. Under his leadership, the team reached six straight eastern conference finals.
Dumars’ record in the NBA draft, nonetheless, has often been scrutinized. Probably the most notable example of Dumars’ questionable draft decisions was the use of Detroit’s number two pick in the 2003 NBA draft on none other than Darko Milicic. Four out of the top five draft picks that year have been selected for an all-star game as well as an all-NBA team.
While Milicic went on to win a championship the following year, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade have had many more years of prosperity. All of the players mentioned above still play in the league with the exception of Milicic, who was released last season by the Boston Celtics.
Other moves by Dumars – like the trade of Chauncey Billups and two other players for Allen Iverson – have also stirred controversy. Over the years, the players that won either left or were slowly traded away. It seemed as if Dumars was attempting to rejuvenate the team with draft choices like Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, and Andre Drummond, all of whom were top ten picks.
His signings have taken the team in another direction though with the addition of experienced players that only lasted one or two seasons in Detroit like Tracy McGrady. Now, for the first time since 2008, Chauncey Billups is in town. This time he’s 37 years old.
The coaching staff of the Pistons has been a similar story of a high turnover rate. Rick Carlisle was canned in 2003. Larry Brown, the savior of 2004, left Detroit in 2005. Flip Saunders, the replacement, lost his head coaching job in 2008. Lawrence Frank only made it to 2013 before losing his job as well.
Now with Maurice Cheeks as the new head coach, and Josh Smith, Billups, and Brandon Jennings (who replaced Knight) on the roster, the 2013-14 pre-season reflects more of the same. Despite a close loss to the Heat, the Bulls and Cavaliers pulled out wins.
Dumars made some key decisions in the past that turned around an organization. Only time, though, can tell if it has either come full circle or will reorient itself toward victory.
Colin Jackson is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.