I have no idea what Joe Dumars thinks he’s doing, however, I know what he’s actually done: And that’s assemble a team of more has-beens and never-beens than the cast of the Expendables. Unlike Sly Stallone and company, the Pistons don’t have copious amounts of artillery to simply blow up their opponents, although that tactic would probably win the Pistons more games this season than trying to play the game of basketball.
Coming off a season in which they lost 55 games, Detroit’s big move was to sign Tracy McGrady to a 1 year contract. McGrady, who was nearly out of the league this summer, insists that he’s not washed up and that’s he’s ready to contribute in a big way. Not surprisingly, Pistons’ fans aren’t exactly buying it.
The Pistons have a rotation that is about 11 or 12 deep until they are able to move one of their veteran players. Charlie Villanueva is looking to start this season. So is Will Bynum. Pistons’ fans want Greg Monroe to start. Rodney Stuckey is more of a SG, but the team already has 5 shooting guards. Jonas Jerebko could play small forward, except that Tayshaun Prince, Tracy McGrady and Austin Daye will soak up all the minutes there.
Yikes. This preview could get ugly.
Best Guess at a Depth Chart
PG Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum
SG Richard Hamilton, Ben Gordon, Terrico White
SF Tayshaun Prince, Tracy McGrady, Austin Daye, Dajuan Summers
PF Jonas Jerebko, Charlie Villanueva, Jason Maxiell
C Ben Wallace, Greg Monroe, Chris Wilcox
Detroit’s best fantasy player last season was Tayshaun Prince, who finished ranked #97 on the 9-cat GMTR player rater. Yes, BEST. In fact, the Pistons were the team with the worst “best” fantasy player in the league last season.
Will they improve on that this season?
I wouldn’t count on it.
Especially not from Prince, who has always been a marginal end of the draft fantasy guy because he doesn’t do anything particular great, or even that good. Typically, I’d pencil him in for around 14 points, 5 boards, and 3 assists and call it a day, but the addition of Tracy McGrady’s corpse complicates things.
A one year deal for McGrady at the league minimum isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a team that isn’t going anywhere, but it does create an uncomfortable minutes situation (as in McGrady is going to want his minutes) for Prince, Rip Hamilton and Ben Gordon.
Anyone who has played fantasy basketball in the past decade probably has some well established feelings about Tracy McGrady. Unless Prince and/or Hamilton is moved (and that is unlikely until at least the 2011 trade deadline) it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which McGrady averages more than the 26 minutes a game than he did with the Knicks. Given the baggage that he brings along with him, it’s best to keep his 39% shooting and shoddy knees far away from your fantasy teams.
There was a time that Rodney Stuckey was kind of going to be a big deal in fantasy circles. Instead, he’s become a mediocre shooting guard in a point guard’s body. That would be ok in a Mo Williams kind of way if he could actually shoot or hit threes, but his 16.6 points a game last season came on 40.5% shooting from the floor. Stuckey is still only 24 years old, so expect enough improvement in his game to get to the neighborhood of 17 points, 6 assists and 1.5 steals per game, but Detroit’s roster is too crowded for anyone on this team to break out in a big way.
Ideally, the Pistons would play Stuckey at SG and let Will Bynum distribute the ball. However, the team already has about 1.5 more shooting guards than they need. Rip Hamilton, who is coming of an injury plagued 2009-10, is both the incumbent at the spot and is someone the team is active trying to move. And what team wouldn’t want a 32-year old who shot 41% from the field last season, is having trouble staying healthy, and still owed $45 million on his contract? Anyone? Anyone?
Given that Hamilton’s best days are behind him, he’s an injury risk and he has competition at the position, he’s a guy to stay away from in fantasy leagues.
Rip’s competition comes in the form of McGrady, Ben Gordon and to a lesser extent, 20-year old second-round pick Terrico White. Gordon was one of the biggest free agent busts of last season. Signed to be the team’s offensive dynamite off the bench, he instead averaged only 13.8 points a game on 41.6% shooting in 62 games. He also saw his minutes drop from 37 his last season in Chicago to 28 with Detroit. I like Gordon as a late-round sleeper this season simply because the law of averages demands that he improve over last year’s dismal season. Plus, Gordon becomes a big fantasy winner if the team were to magically move Hamilton. But definitely don’t draft him like he’s going to return to his 2008 form. That’s craziness.
Speaking of busts, believe it or not the Pistons second best fantasy guy last season was Charlie Villanueva, he of the 12 points and 5 rebounds a game. Villanueva is a talented offensive player (his 1.3 threes a game were the sole bright spot in a horrendous year), but his inconsistency and lack of effort on the defensive end led to him losing his starting job mere months after being handed a big fat paycheck by the team.
Piston Powered makes the case for starting Villanueva at PF (and it’s a pretty good case), but even if he starts, he’ll be squeezed for minutes because Jonas Jerebko has emerged as a legitimate NBA player. The 23-year old Swede quickly became the Pistons starting PF last season because, as The Detroit news’ Vincent Goodwill puts it, he has a hot motor.
Even with the Pistons’s crowded roster, Jerebko is worth a late-round flyer in drafts. He’s a hustle guy whose stats don’t necessarily translate that well into fantasy leagues, and I’d be a little higher on him if not for Pistons’ first round draft pick Greg Monroe. Pistons’ fans have a hot motor for Monroe, who comes into the league with a nice combination of offensive skills, passing ability and basketball IQ (a la Brad Miller). Monroe could end up starting either at PF or C sometime this season, but for now he’ll come off the bench behind Ben Wallace, Jerebko and Charlie Villanueva and be hard pressed to carve out a significant role, at least while Ben Wallace is still alive.
Remember when Ben Wallace was one of the best fantasy centers in the league? Yeah, that was fun. Wallace hung around the fringes of fantasy relevance last season thanks to his 8.2 rebounds a game He’ll start at center until Monroe is ready, but he shouldn’t get too comfortable in that role.
Jason Maxiell has a hot motor but lacks a clear role on this team; Austin Daye is a talented 6-11 SG/SF who would make an intriguing sleeper pick if Price or Hamilton were traded. For now, he’s 11th/12th on the depth chart; and Chris Wilcox sucks.
So, for the guys we want to draft… Here’s your official GMTR Guidance (for a 12 team league):
Rodney Stuckey: 9th
Charlie Villanueva: 9th/10th
Tayshaun Prince: 10th
Ben Gordon: 11th/12th
Richard Hamilton: 11th/12th
Jonas Jerebko: Last round
Greg Monroe: Last round
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