Pistons acquire Corey Maggette, has nothing to do with Corey Maggette

Today, Joe Dumars made progress.

And that progress has nothing to do with what Corey Maggette may or may not bring to the Detroit Pistons in the 2012-2013 NBA season.

There was a time when Corey Maggette was an intriguing and productive NBA player who demonstrated a remarkable ability to attack the basket and get to the free throw line. But age and injury raise serious questions about his ability to do that while wearing Red, White, and Piston Blue. A quick look at his stats illustrate the point.

Stats courtesy of The NBA Geek

Yes, it’s possible (if very unlikely) that being traded to Detroit could rejuvenate Corey Maggette’s career. Antonio McDyess and Tracy McGrady both know a little bit about how injured veterans can rediscover their productivity under the careful watch of Arnie Kander.

But even if he doesn’t return to his pre-thirty-year-old form, acquiring Corey Maggette is an important step for the Detroit Pistons – if for no other reason than it demonstrates that the franchise is finally moving forward from its dismal failures of the summer of 2009.

Ben Gordon, signed in the summer of 2009 along with Charlie Villanueva, has been an enigma. By Wins Produced, Ben Gordon was never a star player, but since coming to Detroit, he hasn’t even played at a rotation-caliber level. A quick look at his numbers illustrate the point.

Whatever Ben Gordon’s problems have been, I sincerely hope he figures them out in Charlotte and realizes his full potential. He’s been an active member of Detroit’s community and seems like a genuinely good person.

From a basketball perspective, Maggette’s best has been better than Gordon’s, but that simply cannot be Dumars’ motivation. Likely, Maggette’s career is nearing its end, and he doesn’t fit any need the Pistons currently have.

This trade wasn’t about a talent upgrade, filling a roster need, or making an immediate improvement in the Win-Loss department. Corey Maggette the player doesn’t make the Pistons better.

But the financial flexibility that his expiring contract may provide might.

If Jason Maxiell picks up his player option, the Pistons suddenly have two expiring contracts that may be enticing to teams who will be scrambling to avoid the increasingly punitive luxury tax of the NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement by the summer of 2013.

But even if Maggette and Maxiel remain Pistons for the duration of the 2012-2013 season, this trade – I hope – was about cutting ties with a failed “retooling” strategy and starting a true rebuild around one of the game’s most promising young big men, Greg Monroe.

Here’s hoping that on draft night, Joe Dumars takes the next step in that reinvention.

Did Charlie Villanueva get it right? An early look at the Detroit Pistons.

Player

Position

Minutes

WP48

Wins Produced

WS48

Win Shares

PER

Value Added

Estimated Wins Added

Greg Monroe

5

2112

.200

8.8

.143

6.3

18.07

235.5

7.8

Jonas Jerebko

3.5

1848

.150

5.8

.095

3.7

13.99

82.5

2.7

Rodney Stuckey

1.5

1914

.100

4.0

.111

4.4

18.46

221.7

7.4

Tayshaun Prince

3

1680

.060

2.1

.062

2.2

15.13

116.1

3.9

Ben Wallace

5

784

.120

2.0

.072

1.2

12.29

19.8

0.7

Austin Daye

2.5

1200

.075

1.9

.070

1.8

13.02

45.1

1.5

Ben Gordon

2

1716

.050

1.8

.070

2.5

14.00

89.6

3.0

Jason Maxiell

4.5

1070

.050

1.1

.050

1.1

13.00

24.0

.08

Charlie Villanueva

4

1408

.050

1.5

.090

2.6

16.00

94.6

3.2

Brandon Knight

1

1254

.000

0.0

.000

0.0

14.00

56.1

1.9

Damien Wilkins

3

218.25

.100

0.5

.075

0.3

11.45

3.1

0.1

Will Bynum

1

555.75

.020

0.2

.050

0.6

15.28

35.5

1.2

Vernon Macklin

5

80

.000

0

.000

0

9

-3.0

-0.1

Totals

WP

29.6

WS

26.6

EWA

34.0

In January, Charlie Villanueva said (via retweeting a fan) that insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the result to change.”

After three consecutive losing seasons, the Detroit Pistons will return essentially the same group of players, a new coaching staff, and presumably, expect better results.

Is this insanity – extreme foolishness, folly, senselessness?**

As the table above reports, expecting anything but more of the same in Motown would seem to qualify.

The Detroit Pistons have not been a good basketball team. I have argued this is due to employing players who don’t do enough of what it takes to win basketball games. A quick look at the returning players, new additions, and departing players unfortunately will reveal that little is likely to change in the upcoming season.

Returning Players

There really isn’t much to say here. Of the players who were under contract coming into this season, most are known quantities.

Greg Monroe had a fantastic rookie season (primarily during the 2011 calendar year), and Piston fans should expect good production and hopefully, significant improvement. I don’t think Monroe is a legitimate star yet, but he possesses that potential.

Ben Wallace is a year older, likely to decline, and play fewer minutes.

Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva have played their worst basketball in Detroit. I am hopeful to see some improvement from both (as reflected in the projection above), but I don’t expect them to be anything other than the players they are. Here’s hoping one of them convinces Detroit management that they are deserving of the amnesty provision this season.

Will Bynum is a player I love to root for. And who wouldn’t? Anytime a sub six foot player can make plays like this– to say nothing of his persevering optimism – it’s hard not to. But Bynumite is the player he is, and I don’t expect much more than serviceable backup play that’s likely to be pushed out of the rotation by Knight and Stuckey.

Jason Maxiell will probably play more minutes than he should, due to our short supply of tall people and a hectic NBA schedule that will limit Ben Wallace’s minutes. Perhaps he will discover his inner Chris Wilcox and surprise everyone during a contract year.

Austin Daye may be the only exception to this rule. Daye had a promising rookie season, but followed that up with a disappointing sophomore campaign. Hopefully, Coach Frank’s commitment to play Austin Daye more on the perimeter will foster Daye’s development.

Three Pistons are returning this season after being inked to new contracts.

Rodney Stuckey is returning for three more years. Joe Dumars seems to be banking on Stuckey making more than the incremental progress he’s made thus far. I’m not holding my breath. Stuckey’s a fine player and would make a serviceable backup on a Playoff team. But he hasn’t demonstrated that he’s worth the money he’ll be making in his new contract, and it would take significant improvement in order to do so.

Tayshaun Prince is returning for four more years, and Dumars seems to be banking on Prince discovering the fountain of youth. Prince will be grandfather age in NBA years in the final year of his contract. A slow but consistent decline seems inevitable.

Jonas Jerebko’s new four-year contract is the only off-season acquisition I’m excited about. He’s a useful rotation player at both forward positions, he’s locked up for most of his prime years, he plays like a Piston, and he will be paid fairly for what he produces.

Departing Players

The Pistons lost two useful players in Chris Wilcox and Tracy McGrady. I do not anticipate any Piston guard replacing what was lost in McGrady’s departure, but Jerebko’s return from injury should mitigate the loss of Wilcox.

The key addition by subtraction is Richard Hamilton being bought out of his contract. Rip was one of my favorite players during the last decade of Pistons basketball, but his production and attitude fell of a cliff during the past two seasons. The Pistons are better off with Rip in a Bulls’ uniform (the Bulls might not be, interestingly enough).

New Additions

I would love for Brandon Knight to mimic Greg Monroe as a rookie by producing more as a pro than he did as a collegiate. But while Monroe was an “average” college player, Knight was not a productive player in college, posting numbers below average for his position in several key categories.

Undoubtedly, Knight is talented, he certainly passes the eyeball test, and he could  be a productive point guard eventually. It is likely that PER and EWA will like him a lot more than WP48/WS48 and WP/WS will, though, because he will score his fair share of points (by taking plenty of shots). Knight has a long way to go, and I don’t expect a significant contribution to wins this season.

I don’t expect much, if anything, from Vernon Macklin.

Damien Wilkins was a puzzling addition, given the plethora of perimeter players already employed, but he has posted respectable numbers over the past two seasons. Still, it’s hard to imagine him playing significant minutes, and even if he did, his contribution would be minimal.

Projecting the 2011-2012 Season

By necessity, I’ve done a little bit of educated guessing here with regards to minutes. With a new coach and a 66 game schedule, this obviously won’t be perfect. This year, I decided to branch out and include Win Shares and Estimated Wins Added in my projection.

With regards to production, I’ve allowed for improvement from young players (Monroe, Daye, Stuckey, Jerebko), declines for aging vets (Prince and Wallace), and returns to form for the younger veterans, Gordon and Villanueva across all three metrics.

Brandon Knight is a little harder to get right because he is so young, but based on his college performance, it would take drastic improvement for him to make a significant impact this season.

Unsurprisingly, the metrics disagree about which players will be responsible for the Pistons’ wins. Estimated Wins Added likes points, Wins Produced likes efficient scoring and possession creation, and Win Shares lands somewhere in between.

But they agree that the Pistons won’t be winning a whole lot. We are likely to be cheering this team on to a win total in the mid twenties.

And ultimately, that shouldn’t surprise anyone. A team doesn’t emerge from the lottery to playoff contention by doing the same thing over and over again, year after year.

That’s just crazy.

——————————————————

**Hopefully, the hyperbole is obvious. I don’t think that anyone in Pistons management is literally insane!

Prince to Miami?

I am among those who thinks Joe Dumars should have traded Prince for Caron Butler and Dallas’ first round pick. Given that there was so little trade buzz about Prince at last year’s deadline, I was anxious to take whatever trade we could get.

Obviously, that did not happen, and it appears tas though Dumars will try for a sign and trade if Prince cannot be re-signed outright.

Color me skeptical.

What does any Playoff team have that it is willing to part with that we would want in return for Prince? I struggle to find an answer to that question. A sign and trade seems very unlikely to me.

Still, Prince is the type of player that one would expect to sign one last large-ish contract, given his age and injury history. Four-five years, $25-30 million with a Playoff team looking to add one more piece to bolster their rotation. Shawn Marion signed that type of contract with Dallas, as a recent and familiar example.

Recent reports suggest Miami might be that team for Tayshaun Prince.

I have no strong preferences about where Prince signs his next contract. I wish him well, as he’s certainly contributed a great deal to the franchise. But Mosi Platt of the Miami Heat Index does have some strong feelings about wthe King doesn’t need a Prince.

As always, it’s a great read from Mosi. And for those who might have thought that this season was Tay’s best season, well, Mosi offers a differing perspective.

A Wins Produced perspective on Lawrence Frank

It appears as though Joe Dumars and Tom Gores have found the next coach of the Detroit Pistons – Lawrence Frank.

Most recently, Frank is known for leading the New Jersey Nets to the worst start in NBA history. But before falling to such record-breaking lows, Lawrence Frank found significant success in New Jersey.

In what follows, I will briefly examine Frank’s five full seasons with the New Jersey Nets (leaving out the partial seasons of 03-04 and 09-10) through the lens of Wins Produced in hopes of revealing what he might accomplish in Detroit.

For those new to Wins Produced, feel free to check out the Required Reading page for an introduction. As always, we’re powered by Nerd Numbers.

First, some spreadsheets (also available via Google Docs here), then some commentary.

Frank 04-05

Frank 05-06

Frank 06-07

Frank 07-08

Frank 08-09

First, it’s pretty obvious that like all winning coaches, Frank’s success in New Jersey was driven by quality players. When Jefferson, Vinsanity, and Kidd were young, healthy, and productive, Frank looked like a pretty good coach. But when injuries and age started catching up with that core trio, New Jersey struggled to win basketball games.

The clearest example of quality players driving wins in New Jersey is the mid-season trade of Devin Harris for Jason Kidd. Subtract a productive veteran and replace with a middling upstart, and what do you get? Unfortunately for Lawrence Frank, you eventually get to start looking for a new job.

Frank’s story in New Jersey once again demonstrates that first and foremost, winning coaches are a product of winning players, not the other way around.

The obvious implication for Pistons fans is that we don’t have any true star power like Kidd or Carter (yet), so we shouldn’t expect Frank’s coaching prowess to propel us from cellar dweller status.

I make this second comment hesitantly, because work done by Dr. David Berri suggests that very few coach coaches are able to impact the statistical performance of their players significantly. With that necessary qualifier out of the way, Brook Lopez had his most productive season as a rookie under the tutelage of Lawrence Frank. He was a much better rebounder and much more efficient offensive player while being coached by Frank than he has been since.

I’ll be watching Greg Monroe’s stats closely from start to finish next season for this reason.

Finally, and most importantly, Frank has done a pretty good job of playing his most  productive players. Yes, there are some exceptions – Boone and Diop probably deserved more minutes from Frank, and Jianlian’s minutes scare me a bit given that Charlie Villanueva is on the roster – but overall, Frank let his best players carry the bulk of the weight.

Finding a way to accomplish the same thing in Detroit while juggling personalities (and bloated contracts) would be a significant accomplishment in year one of his tenure.

This quick look at Frank’s tenure in Jersey doesn’t reveal anything new or groundbreaking. Coaches that have and play good players tend to win, and as a result, they tend to look like good coaches. Unfortunately, the Pistons aren’t stacked with talent right now, so we shouldn’t expect an immediate run at the playoffs.

However, Frank seems to have an eye for productive talent, and establishing a consistent rotation made up of its best players is something the fans and the franchise sorely need.

Here’s hoping our new coach can make that happen.

Pistons Prospects via Win Score

Preface: I take absolutely no credit for the statistical analysis that follows; only the commentary is original to me. Ty originally posted these numbers here, and it was re-posted at the Wages of Wins Journal here. I’m re-posting these numbers for any Pistons fans who might follow this blog, but not those two others (and if you don’t, start already!).

Bismack Biyombo

We’ll start with Bismack Biyombo, who has become the fan favorite, or at least as far as I can tell by following the blogosphere and social media.

Bismack

On the one hand, Biyombo appears to represent two things the Pistons desperately need: rebounding and interior defense. On the other hand, the stats support the perception that he has very little to offer on the offensive side of the ball. I may get some flack for this, but he just looks more like Junkyard Dog than Ben Wallace to me, and he’s high risk due to uncertainty about his age. A raw eighteen year old who is full of potential posting slightly sub-par numbers looks quite different than a twenty-one year old doing the same.

I’m not opposed to drafting him. I simply worry that he’s not as good as his hype, and the question marks about his age should raise some red flags.

Kemba Walker

In spite of posting better-than-average numbers, the last thing a roster populated by Stuckey, Gordon, and Bynum needs is another under-sized guard whose position is a question mark. I think Kemba will carve out a role somewhere, just not here. I hope.

Kemba

Jonas Valanciunus

As Ty rightly notes, this is a crapshoot. He’s posted some very nice numbers with a small sample size from a league whose numbers don’t always project well to the NBA. At only nineteen, though, he’s certainly worth thinking about if he falls to #8.

Jonas V

Kawhi Leonard

For reasons I can’t quite understand, Leonard is reportedly rising up the Pistons draft board. Even if Prince and McGrady both depart, it seems Daye and Jerebko could man the small forward position for a year. Like Walker, Leonard posted some decent numbers, but he doesn’t seem to fit an obvious need, and his talent isn’t so great that it should demand selecting him.

Leonard

Tristan Thompson

Another projected combo forward in the NBA, but this time with below-average numbers. Pass.

Tristan

The Morris twins (numbers taken from here)

I’m not sure what to make of the Morris twins. Both posted respectable numbers on a powerhouse; however, to the surprise of many, Markieff’s Win Score numbers surpass his brother’s (Markieff, 13.5; Marcus, 11.6). Suddenly, Robin and Brooke come to mind.

Kenneth Faried

While not featured in Ty’s analysis, Faried has been a popular topic among the WoW network. He’s exactly the type of player that critics of Wins Produced like to highlight, because his productivity is directly (although not exclusively) linked to rebounding.

In spite of being older than many of the other big men in the draft, he boasts the highest Win Score (17.2) of any prospect. Because rebounding consistently translates to the NBA, he seems to be a lock as a rotation big man, but he will almost certainly fall out of the lottery. While he won’t fall nearly as far, he seems to be this year’s DeJuan Blair; he is like to drop far enough that an already good team will be able to add another productive and cheap asset.

What to do with the lottery pick?

Obviously, I am not a supporter of drafting any of the below-average big men whose stock is rising due to impressive workouts. I am also opposed to drafting Walker and Leonard at #8 (although to a lesser extent with Leonard, and if trading down is an option, I could be convinced).

Since the draft lottery, I have been an advocate of trading down, and I still prefer that under specific circumstances. If the Pistons can trade down and draft Faried (or maybe Leonard or Markieff) and/or land another asset such as an additional draft pick and/or unload a bad contract, I prefer this scenario. Faried appears to be a low risk, medium reward player. He’s not likely to be the next Marcus Camby or Ben Wallace, but he’s very likely to become a rotation player, and the Pistons can use a cheap, productive big man who can crack the rotation. Considering that our current rotation consists of Monroe, Jerebko, Villanueva, Maxiell, and Wallace, we desperately need help up front.

If trading down for Faried isn’t an option, I can support trading down for one of the other productive players mentioned above, as long as there’s an additional asset involved.

If we stand pat at eight, Biyombo or Jonas V. Both appear to be high risk, high reward players that could develop to fit a need, but the skeptic in me can’t shake the need to temper expectations.

Are there any Free Agent Bigs to be had?

In today’s Pistons Mailbag, Keith Langlois observes:

It won’t be a very robust class of free agents in general, Isaac. Samuel Dalembert, Carl Landry, Kris Humphries and Tyson Chandler are among the headliners, but there’s a reasonable chance they all wind up staying with their current teams. The Pistons would have to get creative to land one of them in a sign-and-trade type of deal. Two others who would be attractive have early termination options, David West and Nene. West might not exercise his since teams would be less likely to give him a long-term deal while he rehabs from a torn ACL. Nene probably isn’t going anywhere, either. Yao Ming will be a free agent, but it’s anybody’s guess how that ends – he might not play again. Two restricted free agents, Marc Gasol and DeAndre Jordan, also are unlikely to switch teams.

Admittedly, I don’t know exactly what Keith means by “robust.” On the one hand, I agree with him in that I think it’s unlikely that a lot of big men will change teams this summer, so perhaps what he’s saying is there won’t be that many big men available for the Pistons. In this case, then I agree it won’t be robust.

But, perhaps he’s insinuating that the big men he goes on to list aren’t that valuable, and thus, the free agent class isn’t that robust. If that’s the case, then I disagree. As the numbers will demonstrate, there are several productive big men on the market, and while none of them will blow you away by scoring the basketball, that doesn’t mean their contribution isn’t critically important.

As always, to the numbers, and again as always, powered by NerdNumbers. (I’m excluding David West due to his serious injury)

2011-04-21 FA Big Men

Obviously, this short list doesn’t compare to the bonanza of 2010, and by contrast, it’s not nearly as robust. However, there are several useful big men on the market this summer, and while none of them offers points in bunches, several of them are more than capable of helping their teams win in other ways. And frankly, those are precisely the types of players the Detroit Pistons ought to be targeting.

Hopefully, Pistons management feels the same.