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Central Division Grades (cont.)

Posted: Wednesday August 29, 2007 2:25PM; Updated: Tuesday September 4, 2007 11:33AM
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Detroit Pistons

Chauncey Billups
Chauncey Billups was a highly coveted free agent but decided to stay in Detroit.
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What Went Right:

They paid the Bill-ups.
Pistons president Joe Dumars made no secret that his No. 1 priority this summer was to re-sign point guard Chauncey Billups. He got it done with a five-year, $60 million deal that will keep the two-time All-Star in Motown for as long as the Pistons want him. After watching Ben Wallace walk away a year ago, Detroit didn't want to lose another key part of its '04 NBA title team.

They shored up their perimeter depth.
By signing free agent small forward Jarvis Hayes, and drafting Eastern Washington guard Rodney Stuckey (No. 15) and UCLA guard Arron Afflalo (No. 27), the Pistons added some new blood to their bench. Hayes, who spent the past four seasons with the Wizards, could be a particularly valuable contributor with his outside shooting. It should enable Detroit coach Flip Saunders to give Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince more rest during the regular season.

What Went Wrong:

They didn't address the frontcourt.
With Chris Webber and Dale Davis both unsigned free agents, Nazr Mohammed is the lone returnee at center. Even if C-Webb decides to return to Motown, the Pistons still look to be thin in this crucial area. Their inability to address this hole in the middle could come back to haunt them, particularly if Rasheed Wallace balks at sliding over from power forward to center.

They lost out on Grant Hill.
The former Pistons star seriously considered re-signing with his old team (and good pal Dumars), but ultimately decided to take a free agent deal in Phoenix. The 6-8 Hill would have been a more-than-solid backup to Prince, and his leadership would have been welcomed by Saunders. Hayes might be a better outside shooter, but he doesn't bring nearly the same intangibles.

They got little for 'Los.
After three years of waiting for Carlos Delfino to blossom, the Pistons finally cut their losses and sent the Argentinean swingman to the Raptors for two second-round draft picks. The Pistons did the right thing for Delfino, who was stuck behind Hamilton and Prince, but they didn't appear to get much in return for a player with his skill level.

Grade: B-

They accomplished their main objective by locking up Billups, but they didn't do the shakeup many expected. Only time will tell if that strategy proves wise.

Indiana Pacers

What Went Right:

They found an experienced coach.
Jim O'Brien
might not have been their first choice to replace the fired Rick Carlisle as head coach (Sam Mitchell and Stan Van Gundy were higher on the list originally), but they could have done worse. O'Brien at least has experience from his days with the Celtics and Sixers. The Pacers will need a steady hand if they are to get out of the mess they are in right now.

Jermaine O'Neal backed down.
After causing a minor firestorm last month by saying he would welcome a trade to the Lakers, O'Neal quickly backed off and said he would be just as happy to stay in Indiana. The Pacers surely are open to the idea of trading their All-Star forward, but it would only lower his value to have him issue a Kobe Bryant-like demand at this point.

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