The Detroit Pistons Should Not Fire Dwane Casey

I am a lifelong Pistons fan who was fortunate to witness the Back to Back Bad Boys championships and the Going to Work trophy. This franchise has had highs and lows and a lot of mids since I first became a fan as a child and it’s been a lot of losing over the last three-plus seasons that has some Pistons fans calling for Dwane Casey’s head.

Detroit Pistons Coach Dwane Casey
Detroit Pistons Coach Dwane Casey sporting the throwback teal. Photo credit: MLive

Pistons Twitter, Pistons Instagram, Pistons Reddit, Pistons Facebook – hell, at this point any post anywhere about the Pistons this season have all had fans calling for former NBA Coach of the Year Dwane Casey to be fired. 

I disagree. Before I explain why, let’s first look at how the Detroit Pistons got here.

This franchise has been in the doldrums of being mid for decades. Bad signings, taking on washed up vets, a move out of Auburn Hills into the city – the Bill Davidson era could not have ended any more unceremoniously than his widow taking over with Joe Dumars as GM and eventually selling the team to Tom Gores in 2011. That 2010 season – hoo boy – was one to forget and should’ve started the process of tearing the roster and bad contracts apart. 

The 2010-2011 season’s starting 5 was Austin Daye and Rodney Stuckey along with holdover members of the 2004 Goin’ To Work squad Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace. This group went 0-5 before Tracy McGrady assumed a starting role for one game and pulled out the team’s first win replacing Rodney Stuckey to beat the Charlotte Bobcats 97-90. 

Detroit Piston Tracy McGrady
We have no idea why Joe Dumars brought you to Detroit either, Tracy.

Yes, the Pistons once had T-Mac on the roster. This followed the other previously bad signing/trade for a fading Allen Iverson in ‘08-’09 and free agent Chris Webber in ‘07-’08. The New York Knicks might be the only other franchise willing to take on even more washed stars than Detroit during the 2000’s having signed Jason Kidd, Baron Davis, Mike Bibby, Chauncey Billups, Tracy McGrady, Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby and Joakim Noah well past their primes to play at the Garden.

In order to make the franchise more attractive to a potential successor at GM and Coach, the Pistons fired Dumars and brought in former Nets, Grizzlies and Raptors executive Ed Stefanski to clean up the books from the Stan Van Gundy era. Ed’s tenure didn’t last very long, but he set the stage for the current Troy Weaver “Restore” era. 

Pistons fans have been through a lot of losing since the glory days of the mid 2000’s. And prior to the 2022-2023 season, the worst win percentage during a three year win stretch from 2019-2022 (63-157, 28.6%) since the 1978-1981 seasons (67-179, 27.236%). 

This season was supposed to finally be different. After clearing the roster and tanking hard, Detroit was in position to challenge for a play-in spot with its young core of Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Saddiq Bey, Jalen Duren and Killian Hayes. A decision to have season ending surgery to repair a leg fracture ended Cade Cunningham’s season and from there the season went off the rails. Mike Curtis of the Detroit News has a great write up of the five factors that derailed this season (paywall): Cade’s injury, inexperience, the lack of defensive effort, more injuries and inconsistency.  Notice that maybe one could be put on the coach (defensive effort), however having a good defensive scheme also means having players available to execute. 

Detroit’s Marvin Bagley III has been out for long stretches this season and Jalen Duren and Isaiah Stewart have missed time leaving only Nerlens Noel as the last standing center. Bojan Bogdanovich has proven to be a CBG (certified bucket getter) but his defense – especially on the perimeter and against true centers – has been bad. Ivey is a rookie and while he can outrun anyone in the League not named Morant his footwork on the defensive side needs help. In fact, despite the premature calls to dump Killian Hayes, Killian is easily the best and one of the only good perimeter defenders this team has. 

Matador defense (olé!) by guards on the perimeter without a rim protector explains why Detroit is second to last in the league in net defensive rating, only ahead of the rebuilding San Antonio Spurs. One of my favorite sayings this season about the NBA is that the best ability is availability, and Detroit simply could not afford to lose players – let alone their best young player and a plethora of rim protection – to stay competitive this season.

Given this, once Cade went out this season became about player development and getting the younger players more court time.

And once you understand that is the goal, it has been a success given the growth of Ivey, Duren and Hayes – the former two will be playing in the NBA Rising Stars game as rookies and Hayes has put up career high in points including an absolute takeover down the stretch and in OT against the Dallas Mavericks. He’s grown, the minutes have allowed them to grow – even if it comes at the expense of a winning record. With Cade out, any free agent or trade moves to improve would be for naught as the team won’t come close to sniffing the play in tournament given who’s above them.  

Anyone who’s expecting wins this season should take them as a gift, which given that Detroit has one of the most favorable remaining strengths of schedules should start happening. 

Perspective matters. 

Leave a Reply