NBA Handicapping: How to Bet the Pistons Moving Forward without Cheeks
by Trevor Whenham - 2/12/2014
We learned something this week — everything that has gone wrong in Detroit with the Pistons was the fault of Maurice Cheeks. Or at least that is what management would like you to believe after they fired him just eight months after they had hired him. John Loyer, who was an assistant for Cheeks in Philadelphia and Portland as well as in Detroit, has been named interim coach, and he will reportedly be in charge until the end of the season. It all seems like an odd move, but then it’s the Pistons, so what can we really expect?
For bettors, all that matters amidst the drama is whether it can make this team more attractive to bet on — at 23-27-1 ATS they have been far from the most attractive bet in the league. There is a lot working against the team, though. Let’s look at some of the most significant factors to consider when looking at what to expect from this squad:
Loyer is a Cheeks guy: It’s hard to get too excited about the prospects of a move like this when the interim is so entrenched in the ways of thinking of the former coach. The change of coach becomes less of a radical overhaul, and more of a minor tweak. This could be worse because Loyer was in Detroit long before Cheeks arrived, but it still isn’t ideal. As significantly, promoting an assistant midseason means that the assistant coaching staff is depleted. You can’t argue that this team doesn’t need coaching, so this young team will be at a disadvantage throughout the season because of the lack of coaching personnel.
Trade deadline: The NBA trade deadline looms, and that is going to provide a whole other level of uncertainty for this team. There is an argument that could be made that the team should stand pat and let the rest of the season play out. There are a lot of potential deals, though. There is a traffic jam in the frontcourt, and either Greg Monroe or Josh Smith could be moved to deal with it. Monroe is a restricted free agent after this season, and he would seem less likely to sign with the Pistons with Smith around, so the team could at least try to salvage something for him. Smith has a long and expensive contract, and his departure could give the team some flexibility. There is some buzz around other players like Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva as well.
Dumars is a moron: Cheeks took the fall, but it sure seems from where I am sitting that Joe Dumars, the man in charge of basketball operations, is the problem. He took over the team in 2000. Early on he had a lot of success, winning a title in 2004 with a roster he built masterfully. He has been trading off that success since, though, and has done a worse and worse job every year. He has fired eight different coaches in his tenure, and he has made roster moves that just don’t seem to make a lot of sense. It is beyond time for a change, and until there is a change it’s hard to trust this team going forward.
There is talent: While I don’t love the team that Dumars has built, there is no denying that there is talent here — and that it should probably be a more successful team than it is. Brandon Jennings, Andre Drummond, Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, and Rodney Stuckey are nice players. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was a horrible pick at No. 8 in the draft last year, but he has upside. There are some other nice pieces around. The chemistry obviously needs work, and I’m not sure that the right pieces are in place, but there is at least the potential for this team to be better than they are with their current roster.
Playoffs are still possible: Despite the poor play this year, the playoffs are still a real possibility for this team in the lousy Eastern Conference. They are just 22-29, but that has them only a half game out of the playoffs behind Charlotte. It could be a dogfight with Charlotte, New York and even Cleveland for that last spot, and all they would earn is the right to get crushed in the opening round of the playoffs, but it could provide some motivation for the players down the stretch.
Next hire is crucial: It isn’t likely to be a factor the rest of this year, but the next coaching hire for the Pistons is absolutely crucial. They need to find someone who can inspire confidence and someone that they can stick with and start winning. How the process plays out will be a good indicator of where this team is at and what can be expected from them. There has been the inevitable Phil Jackson talk among fans and the media. The team needs to move past that — Jackson isn’t a long-term solution, and he is very unlikely to take the job. Any flirtation would just be a distraction. They need to get serious and get this right. Of course, Dumars has had many chances to do so in recent years and hasn’t, so there is little reason for optimism here.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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