Since 2008, a lot of things have changed in the city dubbed as Motown. When looking solely at sports - there's a plethora of positives revolving around Detroit.
In 2008, the Red Wings won their most recent Stanley Cup, and haven't failed to remain relevant since then. Although the football team hasn't had as much success since the departure of Barry Sanders in the 90s, they've been on the upswing. They have arguably the best wide receiver in the game, and they've earned a playoff spot once and look ready to capture a division title this year. Next, we can look at arguably Detroit's most successful team in this stretch of five years - the Detroit Tigers. In this stretch they've obtained a World Series appearance, three division titles, and currently have two AL MVPs and two AL Cy Young Award winners.
Thus far, we've mentioned three sports teams residing in Detroit - all of whom have attained one level of success or another in their respective sport. Unfortunately we're leaving out one franchise, one that's arguably the most storied franchise of all Detroit sports. The Detroit Pistons. They have a rich history, ranging from the Bad Boys in the '80s to the 2004 underdogs. They're often considered a top team of the decade, ranging from their regular season to postseason success in the early part of the 2000s. Unfortunately like Detroit's crumbling economy, the Pistons' success haltered too.
This once defensive juggernaut of a line-up, is simply a thing of the past. The few left are shells of their former selves.
It all began in 2008, when the decision was made to trade Chauncey Billups to the Denver Nuggets for Allen Iverson. Billups was returning to his hometown, and Iverson was getting out of a situation that clearly wasn't working with two ball dominant scorers. The side effects for Denver were quickly evident, and positive, as Denver reached the Western Conference Finals - this being the first time getting past the first round during the Melo era in the Mile High City. The effects weren't as positive on the opposite side of the deal, as the Pistons barely made the 8th seed in a weak Eastern Conference. They were quickly ousted in the first round, and Iverson's run in Detroit lasted about as long as their playoff chances.
The next few years were really a blur to Detroit Pistons fans. They rotated in and out of past their prime stars and let go of the final pieces from their past success. In the upcoming years, the Pistons' management made some questionable decisions. Signing players to large contracts based on limited success really put the Pistons in a bind fiscally. They were locked into contracts for players that weren't helping them, and they were temporarily stuck in mediocrity.
The acquisitions of Charlie V (left) and Ben Gordon (right) were both questionable at the time, and never payed off for Detroit.
The rebuild for Detroit was slow, and rather painful as a participant or a fan watching from the outside. The only thing the Pistons were consistent in was getting middle lottery picks. They never gave fans hopes of the playoffs, and never gave the fans hopes of getting a #1 pick overall, which would have potentially turned the franchise around. It was a slow rebuild, but the idea is finally beginning to come to fruition.
In the past couple of years, the Pistons have made the most out of their draft selections. Great scouting, and a little bit of luck can be accounted to some solid picks. In 2010, the Pistons selected Greg Monroe with the 7th overall pick. He was who they wanted all along, and he's been nothing short of spectacular so far. He's been improving every year, and has been on a near all-star level statistically. The next year, the Pistons selected Brandon Knight, with the 8th overall pick. He wasn't anything spectacular, wasn't disappointing either though. His success was negligible, as he was later used to acquire a better piece moving forward for the Pistons, at least temporarily.
The formidable front-court of the future, in Greg Monroe (left) and Andre Drummond (right).
The most interesting of the Pistons recent draft selections, has to be Andre Drummond - with whom they selected 9th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. He managed to slip to the Pistons, after being surrounded with mounds of hype coming out of High School. After a disappointing stint in UConn, he showed flashes of greatness in Detroit. Although he was still very raw offensively, he's shown flashes of what's to come, and if you're nothing short of ecstatic for his future, you're probably a fearful fan of another NBA team.
The Pistons have been more than adequate at drafting, but that's not the only way you rebuild. You have to manage your money correctly, make signings that fit your team, and build chemistry between the players. This past off-season was nothing short of a huge leap forward in terms of talent for the Pistons. Josh Smith was signed to a $54 million/4 year contract, and Brandon Jennings was signed to a $24million/3 year contract. The talent is undeniable between these two, the only thing in question is their basketball IQ and their effort.
Josh Smith's (top) and Brandon Jennings' (bottom) atrocious shot charts are displayed here.
Both players mentioned above have questionable shot selections. The talent is there, and there's plenty of it. The players just pose the question, what are the Pistons doing? The addition of Smith questions the need for both Drummond and Monroe. The addition of both Smith and Jennings almost hints that they're trying to compete now. The team clearly lacks cohesion and enough talent to truly compete at the highest levels at this time, but maybe down the road.
Either way you look at it, the Pistons got a lot more talented. With the additions of free agents, the progressions of previous draft picks, and the acquisition of aged veterans - the team does pose a lot of questions from top to bottom. But they are a lot more exciting, and regardless of the players in question, they have to have Detroit fans smiling, at least for the time being. With a city in such turmoil, isn't that all that they really need?
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