“Despite their tremendous talent, NBA players are still, by and large, young adults, seeking validation from an authority figure, and there is no greater authority figure on a team than the coach. Needless to say, in today’s warped, self-indulgent climate, too many players couldn’t care less about appeasing the coach.”
- Phil Jackson
Coincidentally, Jackson was an advisor to Detroit Pistons general manager Joe Dumars in last offseason’s coaching search that eventually led to the hiring of Maurice Cheeks.
One week before the All-Star break, the Pistons became the first team to fire their head coach by dismissing Cheeks this past weekend, just 50 games into his first season.
Comparable to the preferential treatment Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder gives to Robert Griffin III, there have been reports that describe Drummond as being very close to Pistons' owner Tom Gores.
“Drummond and Gores communicate every couple of weeks about things, the player said, and seeing the franchise player unhappy probably didn’t go over well with the owner,” Dave Mayo of MLive reports. “Within a couple of days, Gores was in southeast Michigan, and the process of dismissal began to take shape.”
Despite the Pistons spending spree this past offseason that resulted in the additions of Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith, the centerpiece of this franchise clearly remains Drummond. The Pistons need to immediately begin surrounding Drummond with the right system that suits him best.
One of the main culprits that have hindered the offense efficiency of this talented roster is the pairing of Drummond and Greg Monroe on the court together, along with Josh Smith at the small forward spot.
Smith is a natural power forward that is being forced to play on the perimeter and becomes an inefficient shooter. Known more for his slashing ability, Smith posts a below average 12.4 PER at the small forward while giving up an above average opponent PER of 17.9. At power forward, he posts a strong 17.6 PER while only giving up a close to average opponent PER of 15.2.
Like many traditional big men, Drummond best fits when he is able to take up the paint himself and spaces the floor for shooters around him. Since Monroe is a back to the basket player that likes to post too, it does not allow Drummond to fully utilize his skill-set to dominate the paint. Moreover, as a big man at the professional level, it is important that they can protect the rim. Monroe does not fit that bill as he has failed to average even one block in any season in the NBA.
Given the unproductive numbers of this trio, and the fact that Greg Monroe is a restricted free agent this upcoming offseason, it would make sense to deal Monroe for a more traditional small forward. This would allow Smith to slot back to his natural position at power forward and give the new frontcourt duo of Drummond and Smith a shot-blocking tandem that would terrorize the rest of the league.
Prior to this season team, even before former coach Lawrence Frank was fired, Gores gave the realistic goal for this season to make the playoffs or else.
“We better make the playoffs. That’s realistic,” Gores tells Dave Pemberton of the Oakland Press, “one of the things I realized this year is we have great players on the team.”
Since the Pistons improbable title run in 2004 with coach Larry Brown, the Pistons have gone through five coaches and still have yet to establish a team identity. Given Dumars’ contract expires after this season, he must now realize that the title they won a decade ago has only given him so much leeway for underachieving. He must act now to save his job and it better be around Andre the Giant.