Dumars had been especially kind to Charlotte recently, gift-wrapping a generous first-round pick with some seemingly adequate protections to the Bobcats. The trade was centered around a Corey Maggette-for-Ben Gordon swap, which served as a cash dump for Detroit and as a draft pick boon for Charlotte, who was in the middle of a franchise low point.
Basically, the Bobcats bought a first-round pick from the Pistons, but the Bobcats would have had to spend that money somehow anyway and they were already in the midst of rebuilding so it's not like they were about to make a huge free agency splash anyway with that cap space.
The Pistons' protections were this: lottery-protected in 2013, top-8 this summer, top-1 in 2015 and unprotected after that.
As Dan Feldman of Pistons Powered wrote over a year ago, Detroit set themselves up to make use of their suddenly available cap space last summer.
The Pistons have to use their cap space this summer. They can't look at the market, decide there are no value options and defer until next offseason. Otherwise, the entire trade would have been pointless.
Detroit traded the last two years of Gordon's contract for the final year of Maggette's, essentially giving themselves cap room one year early. So, if they don't use that cap room this summer, they'll look pretty foolish.
Of course, the Pistons could wait until 2014 if they don't like the 2013 market, and anyone who understands sunk costs would give them at least partial credit for their patience. But I don't think the Pistons will operate that way.
I think they've backed themselves into a corner, where they're going to spend this money this summer - no matter what.
And spend they did, adding Josh Smith for $54 million over four years, and Brandon Jennings for $24 million over three years. The moves were drastic enough to thrust the Pistons into playoff discussion (which usually doesn't take much in the East).
Then the season started and the best laid plans of Joe Dumars -- as they often do -- went awry.
New head coach Mo Cheeks was fired in February. Josh Smith turned in one of the worst three-point shooting seasons to grace the NBA, joining Antoine Walker as the only other player with 265 or more attempted 3-pointers and making 26.4 percent of them or fewer. Brandon Jennings had his worst scoring season since his rookie year. All told, they had one of the worse defensive teams, a mediocre offense, and only excelled in offensive rebounding.
Ultimately they finished with the 8th worst record in the league, putting them just at the line inside that top-8 protection.
Effectively, the only way the Pistons pick would go to the Bobcats would be if they slide to ninth or 10th in the lottery, which has a 17.5 percent chance.
Even with those small odds, the outlook had been prospectively rosy since it didn't seem like the Pistons' dysfunction would be solved soon and they could give up an even better pick next season.
But now Joe Dumars is out and Stan Van Gundy is in as both the Pistons' president of basketball operations and as their head coach.
I'm not sure how well Van Gundy will perform making basketball management decisions, but I'm expecting him to be rather good at it. His former players describe him as one of the most prepared coaches and I think that'll probably transfer over to his managing ability as well. And then there's Van Gundy the coach, who has taken his teams to the playoffs each year he's been a head coach. Van Gundy's talent as a coach is top notch. In Orlando he shined and innovated with an inside-out offense that relied heavily on three-pointers and utilized the stretch-four position before many other teams knew what to do with it. And their defense was rock solid every night with exceptional execution based around the generational defensive talent of Dwight Howard.
Van Gundy could turn around the Pistons quickly if all goes smoothly. He has a decent guard in Brandon Jennings and some terrific frontcourt talent in Greg Monroe and Drummond. The pick and roll could pay dividends in Detroit like it did in Orlando. This could culminate in the Hornets future pick being worth less than originally imagined.
All that said, nothing's a given here. Their roster needs a bit of an overhaul to get more success. Van Gundy doesn't have a stable of capable three-point shooters or a ton of defensive talent from top to bottom. There are major question marks and who knows if he can handle the duties of both positions. Word is former Magic general manager Otis Smith might join the crew as the team's general manager, which could help, but Smith certainly didn't have a shining record in Orlando, especially fiscally as Evan Dunlap of Orlando Pinstriped Post describes here. He also had a rather poor track record on draft day, as they cataloged here, too.
Whatever happens will just be. If the value of the pick falls because of Van Gundy's success, it'd be unfortunate but the Bobcats still made a great decision in acquiring the draft pick in a deal absent of risk for them.