When the Detroit Pistons fired head coach Mo Cheeks earlier this month, a common reaction was that they had axed the wrong guy. With the hodgepodge of combo guards and power forwards general manager Joe Dumars had assembled, it seemed unfair to jettison Cheeks for failing to make it work just a few months into his contract.
There was pressure for the Pistons to win this season, though, and Cheeks took the fall. Now it is on Dumars to rejig the roster, and this trade deadline could be when he makes his next major move.
Time to trade Monroe?
The Greg Monroe dilemma is complicated. Fans in Detroit assumed last season was the first of many in which Monroe and then-rookie Andre Drummond would man the frontcourt. Head coach Lawrence Frank was reluctant to play the two together for extended minutes, but Drummond's sophomore season was supposed to be the one in which the Pistons let their bigs grow together.
That hasn't happened, exactly. Dumars signed Josh Smith to a four-year, $54 million deal last summer and the three have started together, even if the team is much better when there are only two of them on the court. It's possible that Monroe and Drummond just don't fit together as nicely as the Pistons hoped, but Smith's presence has gotten in the way of them trying to figure it out.
Monroe did not sign a contract extension with Detroit before the start of the season, and he'll be a restricted free agent in the summer. If the Pistons want to avoid choosing between matching a huge offer from another team and losing Monroe for nothing, it could be best to deal him now. The problem is that it'll be difficult to get equal value for him, as other teams don't know exactly what they'll have to pay to keep him around long term.
In the midst of these rumors, Monroe is averaging 14.3 points and 8.7 rebounds per game, shooting 51.9 percent from the floor. Detroit will listen to offers but is not actively shopping him, according to John Niyo of the Detroit News.
Two longtime Pistons could find themselves on the move if the right deals present themselves before Thursday. Guard Rodney Stuckey, drafted by Detroit in 2007, is having his most efficient season and his $8.5 million contract will be off the books in the summer. Stuckey is averaging 14 points in 25.7 minutes per game, shooting a career-high 45 percent from the field. The Pistons' dreams of Stuckey as the point guard of the future died long ago, but he has proven he can put points on the board quickly. Dumars is surely considering what contenders might offer for Stuckey's services, as he might be going elsewhere at the end of the season anyway.
Charlie Villanueva's time in Detroit is almost up. Finally. Dumars inked him to a five-year, $37.7 million contract in July of 2009 and was never able to shed his salary. Now might be the best time for Dumars to find a home for the forward and his $8.5 million expiring contact, but there's also nothing wrong with just letting that money come off the Pistons' books.
The untouchable Andre Drummond
For all of the criticisms that have been levied at Dumars over the past few years, he deserves credit for selecting Drummond with the No. 9 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. Several teams have to regret passing on him, as this past weekend's Rising Stars MVP is averaging 13.1 points, 13 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 32.4 minutes per game in his sophomore season, shooting 61 percent from the field.
Dumars has his work cut out for him if he wants to make Detroit's situation more stable, and if the team stands pat and fails to make the playoffs, the rumors will likely turn to his job security. There's a lot up in the air with regard to the Pistons' future, but they do have a 20-year-old franchise player, which is a hell of a luxury.