Thursday, March 27, 2008

Bulls and Pistons

In the late 80's to early 90's, the Detroit Pistons - Chicago Bulls rivalry was one of the best in sports. Growing up in Michigan as a die-hard Pistons fan, I hated the Bulls, especially after the Pistons' championship run was over and many Michiganders began jumping on the Bulls band wagon. Fast forward: the Pistons have won 50 games for 7 straight seasons and the Bulls will likely miss the playoffs in a conference where Davidson could probably grab the 8th spot. What happened? Joe Dumars has proved to be a better GM than John Paxson, just as he was the better player when they battled at the height of the rivalry.

  • Traded Jerry Stackhouse for Richard Hamilton
  • Signed journey man and career backup point guard Chauncey Billups
  • Traded 4 easily replaceable backups and 2 draft picks for Rasheed Wallace when no one else wanted him
  • Pulled off a sign and trade deal that sent Grant Hill (a restricted free agent) to the Magic for 3 players. One of those players was Ben Wallace.
  • Key draft picks: Mehmet Okur at #38 in '01, Tayshaun Prince at #23 in '02, Jason Maxiell with the 26th pick and Amir Johnson with the 56th in 2006. I know he had the #2 pick in '03 with Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosch, and Chris Kaman on the board but I just can't remember which one he decided to go with.
  • Refused to overpay an aging free agent: Ben Wallace
  • Key draft picks: Jay Williams #2 overall in '02 (OK that's just bad luck, but I bet he wishes he had Amare Staudemire), Kirk Hinrich #7 overall in '03 (pretty good pick), Ben Gordon and Luol Deng at #3 and #7 (not bad, considering the lack of talent in the draft in '04), Tyrus Thomas #4 overall in '06 with Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay still on the board (oops)
  • Signed Andres Nocioni as an undrafted free agent in '02.
  • Traded Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler with little to show for it.
  • Signed aforementioned aging free agent Ben Wallace to a 4 year, $60 million contract, realized his mistake and traded him.
Overall, Paxson's draft picks have been pretty good. Dumars has done more with less (with the exception of Darko). The biggest difference has been in their trades and free agent signings. Dumars has gotten the better end of most of his trades, Paxson the opposite. The team Dumars assembled has been the 2nd best in the league after the Spurs over the past 7 seasons. They play hard, play defense, and have a balanced offense. Paxson's draft picks have not been good enough to make up for his trades and free agent signings. He was unwilling to part with enough of his precious young players to acquire Pau Gasol or Kevin Garnett. Paxson may be fired soon, but I don't see the Bulls competing with the Pistons for the Central Division in the near future.


Tom said...

I remember after the Stackhouse/Rip trade there was one of those polls on, and I don't remember the percentage but the vast majority thought that the Wizards got the better deal. And once again over time Dumars was proven right.

Bill Simmons had some interesting commentary about the Darko pick. He said guys like Bosh and Wade were not even on the table, and that no GM would've considered any of those guys. The big 3 so to speak were LeBron, Darko, and Carmelo, and some pundits were actually advocating Darko #1 over LeBron. And, feeling that he already had a future all-star at the 3 in Tayshaun, Dumars didn't think Melo met Detroit's needs. So really we should only debate Darko over Melo, not Bosh, Wade, Kaman, etc. because no teams had those guys even in the same echelon.

Jon Vander Plas said...

You're right, but picks like this are never remembered correctly. Taking Sam Bowie at #2 over MJ wasn't a bad idea at the time, as the Blazers already had a great 2 guard in Clyde Drexler. No one thought Wade or Bosh would be this good.
So most GMs probably would have made the same pick, but you can't help wondering how many championships the Pistons could have won if Dumars had traded down or drafted somebody else. Even with Kaman I bet they win at least one more.