The Pistons have designs on winning another championship, prompting them to three key offseason moves: Re-signing Rasheed Wallace and signing free agent Antonio McDyess and 2003 first-round draft pick Carlos Delfino. The Wallace deal isn't yet official, but these moves have the potential to make Detroit a better team than last season when it beat the Lakers to win the NBA title.
I still feel Detroit is the top team in the Eastern Conference, even with Shaquille O'Neal now a member of the Miami Heat.
Miami has Shaq, but the Heat still have to make significant additions to their roster to rise to Detroit's level.
The Heat had to part with Caron Butler, Lamar Odom and Brian Grant and a first-round draft pick to get O'Neal so they are now in the market for help at both small and power forward and at point guard.
With Shaq coming to the East, there is added importance for teams in the conference to have as many big men as possible and the Pistons' mix not only includes Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace and McDyess, but also valuable backup center Elden Campbell, who is under contract for another season.
Making the Motor City home
Obviously re-signing Wallace would be huge for the Pistons, who reportedly will give the power forward a new contract for at least five and possibly six years with a total value of $48 million or $64 million depending on the length of the deal.
I don't believe the Pistons would have been Eastern Conference or NBA champions if they had not acquired Wallace from Portland in a three-team deal on Feb. 19.
Wallace is the one player that put Detroit over the top in the East, making the Pistons superior to the other top contenders, Indiana and New Jersey.
Detroit's record with Wallace was 36-13, with 20 of those wins coming in the regular season and 16 more in the playoffs.
Wallace's presence meant so much to the Pistons in terms of low-post play, size along the front line, shot blocking and defense.
He was what Detroit needed, especially on offense since the talents of the team's starting center, Ben Wallace, lie primarily on the defensive end.
Another key is that when Wallace was playing in Portland, the Blazers were trying to make him the go-to guy and he does not have the kind of mentality or personality needed to flourish in that role.
Wallace does not want to be the go-to guy, feeling he is not that kind of player.
With Detroit he has found a team where he fits in nicely as he isn't asked to be anything more than one of the top three or four players on the team.
A new challenge
A big plus for the Pistons is that Wallace seemed to leave his troubled past behind in Portland as well as his propensity for getting called for technical fouls.
Since he was playing for a new contract -- in Detroit or with some other team -- the pressure was on Wallace to be on his best behavior with the Pistons.
He passed that test, but now faces another challenge -- to prove that a new contract won't cause him to revert to the Rasheed of old.
The jury is still out on whether the change in Wallace will last, especially if the Pistons are hit with some key injuries next season -- injuries that if severe enough could turn the defending NBA champions into a middle-of-the-pack Eastern Conference team.
That's usually when problems start and that's where Wallace has gotten into trouble in the past, getting very combative with the fans and media as he doesn't seem to handle losing very well.
A gamble worth taking
Not a lot will be expected of McDyess, whose deal is reportedly worth $23 million over four years with a fifth year kicking in if he plays over 60 games in the fourth year.
The once-promising power forward has missed substantial time over the last three years with knee problems, including all of the 2002-'03 season.
He is not going to be asked to play 30-35 minutes as a starter, but rather backup Rasheed Wallace now that restricted free agent Mehmet Okur, who held that role last season, is headed to Utah.
I think McDyess is also insurance over the long haul so the Pistons are deep in big bodies with talent to go along with their size.
McDyess brings size, toughness and experience to Detroit.
At 6-foot-9 and 245 pounds, he gives the Pistons more of the kind of size and strength they needed to not only get out of the Eastern Conference last season, but to knock off Shaquille O'Neal and the Lakers in the Finals.
What the Pistons likely expect out of him is what he gave the Suns in closing out last season by playing 24 games with Phoenix, averaging 21 minutes and just short of six points and six rebounds per game.
That's almost exactly what Okur provided, so if McDyess can stay healthy, he fills the hole -- and maybe even then some -- left by Okur's departure.
Direct from Europe
Detroit couldn't have been happy with the depth in its backcourt last season.
So that's where Delfino comes in.
The Pistons drafted the 21-year-old 25th overall in 2003 and the 6-foot-6 Argentine guard has reached a buyout with the Italian club, Skipper Bologna, he previously played for allowing him to join Detroit.
Delfino brings a successful resume to the NBA, having led his team in Europe to the title game in its league while averaging 12.3 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.2 assists last season.
The Pistons hope he can give them quality minutes as a reserve at both shooting guard and small forward, but to do so he has be able to adapt to playing for Detroit coach Larry Brown.
The way starting point guard Chauncey Billups modified his game under Brown was a big factor in the Pistons winning a championship.
Having someone who is not only a solid backup to Billups, but whose presence will also push Billups to his best play is a key for Detroit.
Brown would also like to be able to use a three-guard rotation of Billups, Delfino and Rip Hamilton.
Staying on top
Elsewhere among the East's elite, Indiana is a little wobbly right now after dealing Al Harrington to the Hawks in a sign-and-trade deal for Stephen Jackson.
Jackson is not as good a defensive player as Harrington and his turnovers could hurt the Pacers.
And in New Jersey the futures of Kenyon Martin and Kerry Kittles still must be decided.
In the big picture, it's a little early to say that Detroit is the team to beat for the NBA title, but the Pistons' moves certainly put pressure on the best in the West -- San Antonio, Minnesota and Sacramento -- to tweak their rosters to raise the level of their talent above that of the champion Pistons.
Indiana lost Game 1 in OT on a LeBron James layup at the buzzer. Game 2 offers a chance to even the series.
PBT: Pacers coach Frank Vogel said that the Heat have a more effective plan of attack against Roy Hibbert than the Knicks.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
DPS: Is it really all about the rings?
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