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Stan Van Gundy, the Pistons, and the risk that comes with a mandate for winning

It was March 2017, and the Detroit Pistons were tied for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with 12 games. Prior to looking at the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center, Piston's president and coach Stan Van Gundy raised a question about their decision not to swap forthcoming free agent Aron Baynes before the deadline.

The whole league knew that Detroit would hardly sign Baynes again after the season, and Van Gundy said the management had talked about the possibility of moving him. Eventually, the Pistons decided that Baynes was "an important part of what we do," and so they kept him for their playoff chase.

"That's another thing for professional athletes: It can not always be about the next year," Van Gundy said. The present is important .

Detroit lost to the low Nets on a Brook Lopez summer-beater that night and then lost the next four games, with the Pistons finishing 37-45, 1

0th in the East and four games in the playoffs Baynes signed with the Boston Celtics in the summer.

In hindsight, it's easy to say that Van Gundy's front office would have to sort out Baynes for a second round, any return is better than losing a player for nothing entire Detroit organization – from owner Tom Gores downstairs – desperately wanted this playoff spot, and the team was better off with Baynes on the court than with him on the bench.

This is the part of the column in which I argue why the decision of the Pistons to swap no backup center last season is relevant today. [Monday Van Gundy and the Franchise parted one result, of which he said before a few M "This business is about winning games, and we have not done enough. "

That's a diplomatic way of explaining how Detroit came to this point – more specifically, the team has consistently moderated short-term championship competition and, in this case, prioritized the wound with neither of them, Baynes holding on to a playoff run that never materialized is a microcosm of Van Gundy's four-year tenure.

When Gores Van Gundy hired the Pistons missed the five-season playoffs and only the 30-win mark in one The idea was to bring Van Gundy back into relevance in a short space of time, without forfeiting the future completely, Van Gundy said in his press statement about his attitude: "It's an honor to be selected to be Tom Gores to help build the Pistons into a team fighting for championships. Tom's vision of building for the future is a challenge that I embrace.

It's also the hardest thing a franchise has to do.


Stan Van Gundy tried to build a coherent team, but the timing was not right.

There is no foolproof way to build a championship contender in the NBA. Each path has a low probability of success and inherent risks. Gores and Van Gundy decided not to go down and armor to get a superstar, but to try and build around center Andre Drummond and do opportunistic business and signing. The risks were obvious: if Drummond did not turn out to be a true franchisee, finding another would be unbelievably difficult. And if Detroit was unable to disperse its resources, or if it had a terrible injury, it would be incredibly easy to be in a low-cap core.

To the Pistons credit, they tried to execute this strategy in a meaningful way. While they would never undergo a full-youth movement, they would acquire players who were nearing their climax and would not care about old guys who were on the other side of their careers. They decisively won some trades (for Reggie Jackson and Tobias Harris) and put up with a few calculated risks that did not pay off for them, such as signing Boban Marjanovic and signing Spencer Dinwiddie. For the most part, however, their decline was that they continued to invest substantial money in only competent role-players .

It is not fair to destroy Van Gundy for signing Jody Meeks, Baynes, Ish Smith, Jon Leuer and Langston Galloway in recent years. They're all good role-players, and his job was to find players who fit in with Jackson and Drummond. However, Jackson has been injured time and again, and while Drummond has made great strides this season, the big man is still a long way from the dominant colorant he might be. In this context, with Detroit still outside the playoff picture, his cover page looks awful, especially with Blake Griffin's enormous deal on the books.

About the Griffin Trade: As shortsight as it may seem, ESPN's Zach Lowe reported on Monday that the decision to acquire him was not one last last attempt for Van Gundy was to save his job. The Pistons Brain Trust has made this decision collectively. Again, the entire franchise was in win-now mode during the Van Gundy era, and all of their decisions should be considered through this prism.

The argument here, is not necessarily that Detroit should have gone full trial and spent the last few years hunting lottery balls. The quest for respectability is an even more dangerous game. To be more than mediocre, your hits must be much larger than obliging Anthony Tolliver and Reggie Bullock to do business. Normally, you have to beat gold somewhere around the edges, like drawing a star outside the top 10. Last June, Van Gundy's front office took on Luke Kennard # 12, a spot in front of jazz Donovan Mitchell. 19659002] Four seasons after Van Gundy's arrival, the Pistons profile is undeniably better than it was, but there's no clear path to competition. Anyone who inherits an awkward selection of players without the financial flexibility to easily fix their problems. Is that all Van Gundy's fault or is it because the owner gave him a team with Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith who shared the frontcourt and told him to win fast? I wonder what Gores Van Gundy's successor will ask.

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