Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Monday, February 13, 2006

You could've had him, Joe D

Friends and family have told me that I sometimes dwell too much on the past. Mulling over the "what ifs" and "could've beens" of events that passed long ago is a sure ticket to Crazytown, they've warned. And I've gotten better with that. Really.

But after watching Dwyane Wade score 37 points (and hit the game-winning shot) against the Pistons, leading the Miami Heat to a 100-98 victory, I found myself wishing I had paid more attention and tried harder in my high school and college science classes. If I had, maybe I'd be capable of creating the time machine needed to fling me back to 2003, right before the moment Joe Dumars turned in the draft card with the name "Darko Milicic" on it. It could be one of those slow-motion "NOOOOO!!!!" moments. Or if that's a little too melodramatic, maybe I could just stop time. Then while Joe D was frozen in time, I could just switch the cards in his hand without him knowing.

(Photo by Luis M. Alvarez/ AP)

Of course, if Detroit wins another NBA championship this season, that little fantasy will probably be pushed back in the dusty corner of my mind with other past delusions, such as playing third base for the Tigers, dating Ashley Judd, and becoming Batman.

But if Miami somehow knocks Detroit out of this year's playoffs, or the Heat go on to become a perennial Eastern Conference power after the Pistons' window of championship opportunity has closed, I'll be trying to read Stephen Hawking books and looking up "flux capacitors" on Google again.

During last year's Eastern Conference finals, Evan kept me out of a padded room by convincing me that Wade wouldn't be a good fit on the Pistons, as presently constructed. And it's true, he might be the team's sixth man, rather than America's Next Top NBA Superstar. But oh, can you imagine if Flip Saunders could bring him off the bench right now to spell Chauncey Billups or Rip Hamilton? Or what if Wade was a starter, and Rip came in for instant offense, a la Vinnie Johnson? No second-string guard in the NBA could run with him. And what if the Pistons had Wade in last year's Finals vs. San Antonio?

I know, I know. Check back in May and June, and see if Wade can do that against Detroit in a seven-game series. And even with Wade's superstar effort, Miami only won by two points. If Tayshaun Prince hit his shot at the end of the game, Detroit would've won. The Pistons still have the best record in the NBA (though not by much). They have four All-Stars.

But if they'd drafted Chris Bosh instead of Darko, they might've had five All-Stars. And think about how good Detroit would be if they brought Bosh off the bench to spell Ben or Rasheed Wallace. What if the Pistons could've thrown Bosh at Tim Duncan in last year's Finals...

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  • At February 13, 2006 9:59 AM, Blogger Ian C. said…

    Two notes I forgot to add:

    1) The Miami Herald's Israel Gutierrez says the Heat plays better when Pat Riley coaches like Stan Van Gundy.

    2) According to MLive.com, Orlando's offered a 1st round pick and Kelvin Cato for Darko and Arroyo.

    If the first-rounder is for this year's draft, it could be a top 10 pick. But I'm not of the "get anything for Darko right now" mindset, so I wouldn't make that deal. How about you?

  • At February 13, 2006 10:58 AM, Anonymous Kevin said…

    First, the Bosh thing makes me sick to my stomach. I don't like talking about it.

    Second, no way do I make the Darko/Cato deal. Mainly because Arroyo still might be needed. If Hunter doesn't come back as the "old" Hunter, or worse yet, if he comes back as an old Hunter (isn't he like 45?), Carlos will be an important guy come May and June.

  • At February 13, 2006 11:30 AM, Blogger Big Al said…

    Joe D's 1st round drafting history is the one chink in his formidable armor. Cleaves, White, and Darko are not the legacy one would like. Yes, Joe D drafted Prince, but he dropped into his lap late in the 1st. I can only hope that Joe D has something up his sleeve, as I think we all realize that Darko will never be successful in Detroit.

    As for the trade, I agree that you don't make it. On the Pistons, Cato is an end of the bench guy. The 1st rounder is tempting but Arroyo is the kicker. You best have another decent PG in your hip pocket if you decide to trade Arroyo. There is no way you can fully depend on Hunter as Billups' backup.

  • At February 13, 2006 11:59 AM, Blogger The Armchair Quarterback said…

    I'm feeling the same way about the Jazz's choice to choose Deron Williams over Chris Paul as their point guard of the future. I was pissed when it happened and I'm getting more pissed with every new story about Paul becoming a star.

  • At February 13, 2006 1:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well, I'm depressed now.

  • At February 13, 2006 4:36 PM, Anonymous Evan said…

    I still defend Joe D's decision. When they drafted Darko, they were set at EVERY position *except* at power forward or center.

    They were playing with Ben, Memo, Corliss, Rebraca, and Elden up front when they drafted him, knowing that Memo would be a free agent -- and knowing that he was going to be aiming to acquire Rasheed all year.

    And oh yeah, they were winning.

    In other words, the power forward situation was tenuous but not at all problematic. They had a solid line up that they'd ridden pretty far and were looking to upgrade.

    So do you draft a ready-to-play now potential star in Bosh, Anthony, or Wade that's going to bolt in 3 years because he's not getting enough playing time? Or do you draft the guy who might be around for 5 years and might develop into a stud big man, not something that's easy to come by?

    I still think he made the right decision, even if it hasn't panned out...yet. If Darko gets some playing time and a coach that manages the right balance of ass kicking and ego stroking, I have no doubt that his talent will show up as it has in flashes already.

    As for Wade...whatever. He's talented enough that he'll have those nights. As long as the Pistons only let it happen once in a blue moon when they play, they'll be fine come playoff time.

  • At February 13, 2006 4:41 PM, Blogger Ian C. said…

    Big Al, isn't it interesting that Joe D's weakness as a GM could arguably be Isiah's strength? Don't get me wrong; Bill Davidson obviously made the right choice. I just think it's amusing.

    Evan, I agree with you under the presumption that Carmelo/Bosh/Wade would've left for more PT elsewhere and that Darko could still develop and be the better long-term fit for the Pistons. But it's getting increasingly difficult for me to look at the 2003 draft in that context.

  • At February 13, 2006 5:53 PM, Anonymous josh b. said…

    In the end it's a lot of Monday Morning Quarterbacking. Is it a shame that it's turned out this way? Sure. But here's the thing...it wasn't just Joe D. that wanted Darko, there were a lot of other teams that would've taken him that high too. If Detroit hadn't taken Darko #2 he probably goes within the next 2-3 picks. He was being touted by EVERYONE and wasn't just a target for the Pistons.

    That doesn't excuse Joe D.'s history of bad drafting, but it does justify the pick within its context.

  • At February 13, 2006 8:50 PM, Anonymous Evan said…

    I also think that Joe D doesn't have that bad of a history with draft picks.

    Maxiell will probably pan out to be a competent role player, which is about all you can ask from just about anyone picked after #20 these days. Amir Johnson is only 18 or 19 and looks to have an awful lot of talent. He'll be playing in 2 years, I'm sure. Maybe even next year if he hits the gym hard in the offseason and works out with the starters a lot. Carlos Delfino has played EXTREMELY well this year -- lots of energy, good shooting, improved defense. Tayshaun Price is an obvious steal. Rodney White was a risk, but it was a shallow draft, and no one knew Richard Jefferson, who was picked after White, was going to turn out as good as he did. Mehmet Okur is ripping it up, which Dumars knew he would...but he's still overpaid, which Dumars smartly avoided doing.

    Is he a draft genius? No... But I think he's pretty clearly done some good, smart things. And even the guys he's drafted were talented enough that teams gave him valuable things in trade after he decided they weren't going to pan out in Detroit.

    In fact, doesn't Detroit still get a 1st round pick from the Kings from the Cleaves trade? Or is that gone?

    Anyhow, Dumars drafts to find pieces to a puzzle. And if the piece ends up not fitting, he ditches it. Look at Darko -- he's got the EXACT same skill set as Memo, except he *should* be even better. Tall, quick under the basket, long range jumper, better leaping ability, good shot blocking ability... Look at Rasheed. Same thing. Dumars picks guys that he thinks can fill a role he needs, NOT the best player available. It's not like a football draft. He's looking for very, very specific things when he drafts, I think. That might have changed now that they're so good. But I doubt it. He's probably always looking for the next guy in line. Delfino to back up Tayshaun. Darko to back up Rasheed (who he was after from the close of the 2003 playoffs). And so on. I have no doubt that the instant he thinks Darko isn't going to be worth it, he'll cut him loose just like he did with Mateen and White. And then he'll try to find the next guy.

  • At February 14, 2006 1:24 AM, Blogger twins15 said…

    As a fan of another team in the East, I am extremely thankful Detroit didn't take Bosh, Melo, or Wade, because then Detroit could be undefeated right now.

    It's almost scary to think about.

  • At February 14, 2006 12:57 PM, Blogger Greg Eno said…

    Drafting hasn't been Joe D.'s strong point, and he would be the first to admit it.

    His skill lies mainly in procuring NBA talent from around the league, usually with a mask and a gun!



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