Firing Maurice Cheeks is not likely the Answer in Detroit

The Detroit Pistons ended the Maurice Cheeks era after 50 games.  The argument the team advanced is that the team is underperforming.  The numbers, though, suggests that changing coaches is probably not the answer.

Pistons in 2013-14

after 50 games

Minutes

WP48 12-13

Wins

Produced

2012-13

WP48

Wins

Produced

Difference

across 82

games

Andre Drummond

1626

0.309

10.5

0.329

11.2

1.1

Greg Monroe

1582

0.099

3.3

0.089

2.9

-0.6

Brandon Jennings

1741

0.073

2.6

0.076

2.8

0.2

Kyle Singler

1262

0.062

1.6

0.091

2.4

1.3

Josh Smith

1771

0.060

2.2

0.054

2.0

-0.3

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope*

1155

0.041

1.0

0.041

1.0

0.0

Josh Harrellson**

317

0.134

0.9

0.113

0.8

-0.2

Tony Mitchell*

43

0.448

0.4

0.448

0.4

0.0

Rodney Stuckey

1091

0.064

1.4

0.012

0.3

-1.9

Jonas Jerebko

256

0.075

0.4

0.039

0.2

-0.3

Charlie Villanueva

125

0.007

0.0

-0.106

-0.3

-0.5

Peyton Siva*

76

-0.241

-0.4

-0.241

-0.4

0.0

Chauncey Billups

309

0.137

0.9

-0.067

-0.4

-2.2

Will Bynum

548

0.018

0.2

-0.039

-0.4

-1.1

Luigi Datome*

174

-0.142

-0.5

-0.142

-0.5

0.0

Summation

24.5

21.8

-4.5

Across 82 games

40.2

35.8

* – rookies, so WP48 numbers this season are used for 2012-13 projection

**-Harrellson didn’t play much in 2012-13, so these WP48 numbers are from 2011-12

- WP48 12-13 are my own calculation.  This year’s WP48 numbers from boxscoregeeks.com

 

The above table presented the Wins Produced numbers from this season (taken from boxscoregeeks.com) as well as the what Wins Produced would be given what each vetern player did last season (these are my own calculation).

There is indeed a difference.  Had these veteran players performed as they did last year the team would be on pace to win 40 games this year.  Instead the team’s Wins Produced in 2013-14 suggest a team that is on pace to win 36 games.

Okay, not much of a difference.  And the difference we see is connected to two players: Rodney Stuckey and Chauncey Billups.  Each of these players has missed games due to injury, with Billups missing the most.

Could Cheeks have changed this? Probably not.  Would it have made any difference if Stuckey and Billups didn’t produce less?  Again, it doesn’t appear that is the case.  Even if these players were the same the Pistons would only have a few more wins this year.

The problem in Detroit seems quite simple.  Entering the season the team had one player – Andre Drummond – who was a “star” last year (WP48 above 0.200).  And they didn’t have another player who was expected to play major minutes who was above average.  With so little productive talent, it is not a surprise this team is below average.

That suggest the problem in Detroit is the person picking the players.  Joe Dumars did build the Pistons title team in 2004.  But it is increasingly looking like this was simply a product of good guessing.  Since the Allen Iverson trade, which ended the Pistons title contention in the East, the Pistons have made a series of acquisitions that simply indicate that Dumars can’t tell a productive player from an unproductive player.  Given how few players actually led to the Pistons’ success in the past, it appears Dumars just guessed correctly in the past.  But because he doesn’t really know who is good or bad, his guessing has gone badly in recent years.

So will a new coach change anything?  Dumars has gone through a number of coaches and each time we hear that this new coach is going to make a difference.  And then later we hear that this same coach is the problem.   I think at this point it should be clear the person picking the player is the problem. And until that changes, the Pistons will probably continue to struggle (unless, of course, Dumars gets lucky again!).

- DJ

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