Joe Dumars: Madman or Genius?

Tony WichowskiCorrespondent IAugust 3, 2008

Throughout his tenure as President of the Detroit Pistons, Joe Dumars has been known for finding diamonds in the rough. He and his staff have demonstrated an ability to pick out those players who have something nobody else saw.

For this reason, up until this summer, most people have given Dumars the benefit of the doubt.

Ben Wallace was thought to be a throw-in so Detroit would not lose Grant Hill to the Orlando Magic for nothing. Chauncey Billups was considered a bust and a wasted number-three lottery pick. Antonio McDyess was washed up, Richard Hamilton was too one dimensional, Tayshaun Prince was too skinny, Rasheed Wallace was a cancer, Corliss Williamson was too short, Mike James was another throw-in, and Mehmet Okur’s game was too European to be effective in the NBA.

Each of these players proved their doubters wrong after becoming Pistons.

Joe Dumars has also taken in a number of players who were considered too old, and most have made significant contributions. The first player who comes to mind is Lindsey Hunter, who has been considered too old for half a decade now, only to make a big impact each postseason.

The Pistons have also gotten solid playoff performances from former All-Star big men like Chris Webber, Dale Davis, Elden Campbell and Theo Ratliff, who each proved they had a little left to give, helping the Pistons reach the conference finals or beyond. The other veteran bigs, Nazr Mohammed, Derrick Coleman, and Danny Manning, were not given the chance to show what they could do in the playoffs, due to a numbers crunch.

It isn’t just aging veterans with something left to give that Joe Dumars has pulled out of his hat. Recent draft picks were also overlooked by other teams for perceived flaws.

Jason Maxiell was too short. Amir Johnson and Cheikh Samb were too skinny and too raw. Arron Afflalo was not athletic enough to defend in the NBA. And Rodney Stuckey—whom everyone now covets—was supposedly only good in college because he played against sub-par competition. Many other aging contending teams wish they had prospects like those.

Of course Joe Dumars is not without his botched draft picks. Rodney White is out of the league now, Mateen Cleaves is a fringe NBA player, Darko Milicic turned out to be a role player instead of the star he was projected to be, and Carlos Delfino did not enjoy success in the NBA until he was traded to Toronto prior to last season.

However, the last of those players were drafted in 2003, meaning the Pistons have not had a bad draft in five years. What’s more, Milicic, White, Delfino and Cleaves were not supposed to be diamond-in-the-rough players. Each was highly touted. It seems Joe Dumars has done his best work finding players nobody else wants—those with something to prove.

In recent months, Dumars has continued the tradition of searching the wilderness for gems, but why are pundits questioning Dumars’ genius now? This summer—against all the hoopla initiated by Dumars stated intention to shake up the core of the team—the Pistons have only made small moves, again acquiring players nobody else wanted, and one player most fans never even heard of.

What raises more eyebrows this time is the questionable history of the three Pistons acquisitions. Kwame Brown, the bust with bad hands. Walter Sharpe, the player who was dismissed from two college teams for different reasons before being diagnosed with narcolepsy. Will Bynum, a former European castoff.

To top it off, Joe has hired a rookie coach with little assistant coaching experience to run the team, Michael Curry, who succeeded as a player despite having more knocks against him than many of the above-mentioned guys.

These moves have left some to wonder if Joe Dumars has lost his Midas touch, or if he has just lost his mind.

Perhaps he has lost neither. Maybe in each case, Joe Dumars knows something that the other guys did not. It’s not like it has not happened before.

Personally, Joe has earned my trust. He is, after all, a genius.