For better or worse, this is our team for the shortened 2011-2012 season (there's about a 1% chance Joe-D lets Stuckey walk, so I went ahead and penciled him in): C: G. Monroe(3.0-5.5mil, 4yrs), B. Wallace(2.2mil, 1yr), V. Macklin(*0.8mil, 2yrs) PF: J. Jerebko(4.5mil, 4yrs), C. Villanueva(7.5-8.6mil, 3yrs), J. Maxiel(5.0mil, 2yrs) SF: T. Prince(6.75mil, 4yrs), A. Daye(1.9-4.1mil, 3yrs) SG: R. Stuckey(*8.0mil, 4yrs), B. Gordon(11.6-13.2mil, 3yrs) PG: B. Knight(*3.0mil, 5yrs), W. Bynum(3.5mil, 2yrs) R. Hamilton(*6.4mil, 2yrs), T. White(*0.4mil, 1yr) Estimated 2011-2012 Salary Cap: 58.0 mil Estimated 2011-2012 Team Salary: 64.6 mil Estimated 2011-2012 Salary Cap Space: -6.6 mil There's still a lot we don't know salary-cap wise; but, to say the least, our future free agent acquisition prospects look dim. I'm making some rough estimates here, but the totals should be at least somewhat accurate. I'm guessing that about 50% of Rip Hamilton and Terrico White's contracts are going to count against our cap. I'm guessing that Brandon Knight and Vernon Macklin's contracts are going to be similar to comprable 2010 draft picks Greg Monroe and Terrico White. And I'm guessing that Rodney Stuckey's going to be resigned at about (a predicted) 7-9 mil per season. So, it looks like we're actually going to be 6.6 mil OVER the salary cap this off-season; meaning that the MLE is all we'll have to work with. .....How about next off-season!? (I'm just going to assume/hope that the salary cap rises enough to negate the annual raises of players like Gordon, Villanueva, Monroe and Daye). It doesn't look much better. Even if we use our amnesty clause on Charlie Villanueva, we'll probably still be about 0.5 mil over the salary cap next off season (- 7.5 mil for Charlie Villanueva, - 2.2 mil for Ben Wallace, - 0.4 mil for Terrico White, + about 4.0 mil for draft picks.....total of - 6.1 mil, and we'd be about 6.6 mil above the salary cap to begin with). So, again, the MLE is all we'll have to work with. .....How about the next off-season!? Again, it doesn't look much better. Even if we don't use our MLE this year or next year (which is highly unlikely), we're only going to be 4.8 mil under the salary cap (- 5.0 mil for Jason Maxiel, - 3.5 mil for Will Bynum, - 0.8 mil for Vernon Macklin, + about 4.0 mil for draft picks.....total of - 5.3 mil, and we'd be about 0.5 mil above the salary cap to begin with). So, yet again, the MLE is basically all we'll have to work with. ......The next off-season Ben Gordon's significant contract will come off the book, but we're talking about the 2014-2015 season there!! The morale of the story is to ABANDON any hope of free agents coming in to save the franchise. The MLE is basically all we're going to have to use over the next three off-seasons, and that can only bring in so much. Even if all we had was salary cap space, the city of Detroit is nowhere close to becoming a big time free agent destination anyways (ala Miami, New York, LA, etc.). The morale of the story is that if this rebuilding process is going to happen...it's going to be done through wily drafting and trading. So, what does this team have, and what does this team need. C: *???* PF: G. Monroe SF: J. Jerebko/A. Daye, T. Prince SG: R. Stuckey, B. Gordon PG: B. Knight .....#1) We've got Greg Monroe. He's a very solid young - and improving - big man. I'd say he's most definitely good enough to be a starter on a championship team. But I still think we need to add an elite big man next to him. Let's start off with his weaknesses. Defensively, he's just not that big or athletic. He works his butt off, but he's never going to be an elite post defender. He's never going to be a great shot-blocker or rebounder. But he's always going to be at least solid in those areas. He's not going to be a 'negative' in those areas. But you all saw how horrific our post defense was with him as the leading man last year. Offensively, again, he's very solid. But he's never going to be a go-to scorer. He's never going to be a Tim Duncan-type presence. Maybe a Brook Lopez-type presence, hopefully. He's a good passer from the high post, allegedly, so that's good. He's at least somewhat crafty with the ball down low. He's good enough to make the easy buckets you need him to. But he's definitely not a guy you really plan on going down low to. He just doesn't have the low post game, and he's not really much of a shooter yet. He's got some tools, and he's always improving. But expecting him to be your #1 option down low, IMO, is expecting to not be a championship winning team. IMO, we need to add another elite big man. We need a guy that is a very good low-post scorer. We need a guy that is a very good interior defender. All in one. Very hard to find. But still very essential for us to ever be serious contenders. Gotta hope someone that fits the bill is available in the draft. Gotta hope that we can maneuver to get him. .....#2) We've got Brandon Knight. It's all a dream at this point. Hopefully he will fall somewhere in between the spectrun of Derrick Rose-John Wall-Tyreke Evans. He's big and athletic enough to be a plus defender, and it sounds like he's got the work ethic and intelligence to make that happen. Offensively, he's supposed to be a good shooter, a good enough distributor in time, and a threat to take it to the hole. But it's all fool's gold at this point. We'll have to wait and see...and pray. .....#3) We've got Rodney Stuckey. For all his flaws, this guy is still very young and chalk full of potential. He's enormous and athletic. There's no reason he shouldn't be a plus defender. Hopefully he responds well to Lawrence Frank's emphasis on that end. Offensively, it appears he's never going to be a plus shooter. But man, can he take it to the hole. I wish he did it more often. Outside of LeBron and Wade, no one takes it to the rack more effectively than him. His only real problem is finishing - and getting calls. That's something that can be improved, and I hope it does. He's not intelligent and/or instinctual enough to run the point (at least not full-time). But with Knight running the show - hopefully at a faster pace, which suits Rodney, he could be very effective taking it to the rim in the half-court offense, and especially on the break. .....#4) We've got a lot of solid role players. Jonas Jerebko. A very solid role player. Works his butt off. Does all the small things well. Can play three positions effectively. Can match up against a lot of great players. Can pick things up for your ball club emotionally. And has a little bit of offensive talent to boot. In an ideal world we'd be able to add an elite big man and wing through the draft, and he could be a bench player. But this isn't an ideal world is it? Is he solid enough to be the fifth starter on a championship team if we get a REAL-DEAL stud big man? - you betcha. Ben Gordon. An absolutely awful defender. Maybe the worst defensive guard in the entire league. But a very explosive offensive player. He can't start. But, if used right, he can come off the bench and pick up your offense in meaningful games. Austin Daye. When you look at this guy, tools-wise, there's really not much he doesn't have going for him that Kevin Durant does. Potential's sky-high. Always has been. But probably will never be reached. Will his shot ever start falling with consistency? Will he ever start being as assertive as he needs to be? Guy's probably never going to reach his full potential...and he's never going to be a good enough defender to guard anyone over 200lbs...so he'll probably never be a starter, but he's definitely worth waiting to see on. Tayshaun Prince. He's here. Get used to it I guess. He's average to below average as a starter at the three. He's certainly not improving. I'm really, really, really hoping that we can somehow land a stud three in the draft. The real go-to scorer that we've never had. It's hard enough to find a stud big man in the draft, let alone a stud big man and a stud wing though. Hopefully we can get at least one of the two. Pray that we can get both. In the event that we can't get both, Jonas Jerebko probably slides into the starting lineup to replace either. And if Daye never scratches his very high ceiling, Prince plays a valuable role on the team as a sixth man. So...basically, more than anything, we need a STUD BIG MAN in the draft. The answer to our prayers, IMO, is UCONN freshman center ANDRE DRUMMOND. He's probably going to be the #1 overall pick in the draft. If we ever want to be championship contenders again - and we're smart/patient enough - we'll intentionally tank this season. Lose as many games as possible. Easy enough, right? Pull all your starters in the 4th quarter if you need to. Trade whatever you must if you get unlucky in the lottery. If there ever was a season to do it, it'd be this one. This is the new blueprint for how you build a small-market contender. You tank. You get the #1 overall pick. You get a stud. You make him happy enough to want to stay. We've already got most of, if not all of, the exterior pieces in place. Just this one left to go.