I was browsing the nbadraft.net forums the other day and I came across a mock-draft where someone had the Pistons taking Harrison Barnes to fill a perceived "void" at the SF when Prince leaves town. While I'm a huge Barnes fan, the Pistons already have their heir apparent to the 3; the seeming clone of Prince himself; Austin Daye. So I thought I'd take this opportunity to highlight one of the players going under the radar in all the madness in Detroit these days.
The 6'11" Daye fits the mould of a Durant-type small-forward; good ball handler, respectable outside shooter and most importantly, very long. He's also quick for his size, due in part to his slight 200 lbs. frame. However, while the numbers aren't gaudy - the sophomore is only averaging 7.4ppg and 3.4ppg - but his efficiency is good, and he's only getting 20 minutes or so a night. Another factor that comes into play is that infamous killer instinct; the willingness to take and make a big shot at the end of games. This season, a number of times Daye has come through in the clutch with 3-balls to force overtime and other late-game heroics. For a guy who isn't getting big minutes, that's an admirable quality.
While Daye is the focus of this post, there are some other young Pistons showing promise. The injured Jonas Jerebko is a hustling, grinding PF who complements the finesse game of Detroit's lottery pick this season Greg Monroe. On the face of it, these three players mean that Detroit should have a bright enough future that their current mediocrity shouldn't hurt too much.
But wait, there are some awful contracts and disgruntled veterans hanging around which are making the rebuilding process a bit of a pain. Instead of embracing youth, GM Joe Dumars decided at the end of the 08-09 season to "reload" with Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon. To put it bluntly, the move was disastrous. Villanueva has failed miserably to earn his weighty contract, and while Gordon has provided scoring off the bench and some late game buckets, that role is better suited to a contending team, not a bottom dweller. These two relatively young under-achievers aside, there's also a core of disgruntled veterans hanging around; Prince and Hamilton principle amongst them.
Most recently, five veteran players were benched for staging a player protest, and Rip Hamilton was revealed to have launched an expletive-laden rant at Detroit coach John Kuester, destroying the perception he was an innocent victim. While I agree that Kuester isn't the right man for the job, players must be professional in their conduct.
To put it simply, the situation in Detroit is baffling; there is a mix of young talent, over-the-hill veterans, bad contracts and poor coaching. Caught somewhere between rebuilding and battling for relevance, off the top of my head, I can't think of a team in a worse situation than the Pistons; and no I haven't forgotten about the Cavaliers, but they have two lottery picks this year. The solution is simple, blow up the team, ship off the veterans and turn the team over to the youth players they have. The team as it stands isn't going anywhere, but if they can keep drafting players like Austin Daye, the future might just get a little brighter.