You want great guard play, intimidating defense, and relentless rebounding?
Then what you want is the Detroit Pistons All-Time Team.
The Pistons have a history of great guards and badass interior defenders. In their 69 seasons (through 2016) they’ve made the playoffs 41 times and won three NBA titles. After dynastic periods in the late 1980s and the early 2000s, the team is a little down right now, which makes this all-time team a nice (and fun) distraction.
Here’s a 12-man team that will probably start more arguments than it will end.
Isiah Thomas, point guard
It was once said about Isiah: “he can tear your heart out and smile about it.” He had an unparalleled competitive drive that he stamped on the Detroit franchise the first day he arrived as a baby faced rookie in 1981.
Early in his career, Isiah had to carry the load as both the floor leader and the scoring leader. But later he sacrificed his offensive game for the benefit of the team, and oh how it paid off for the Pistons.
At just over 6’1, Thomas was the most fearless little man to ever play the game. No other guard his size ever drove into the land of the giants and attacked the basket with such tenacity (no, not even Allen Iverson or Russell Westbrook).
Once Jack McCloskey built a talented team around him, Isiah subdued his score-first instincts and turned into a more traditional point guard, making everyone else on the team better. Dennis Rodman and Joe Dumars should send a gift to Thomas every Christmas for the way Zeke helped to make them Hall of Famers.
Like many little players, Isiah wore down quickly, but for about a decade he was one of the three or four biggest stars in the sport and that was in the Magic/Bird/MJ era. He’s the greatest Piston of all-time.
Dave Bing, shooting guard
He poured in 22 points per game during his nine seasons in Motown while also dishing out six assists per. Too bad for him that he played on teams that were not that good, but he was still a clutch player. In his first postseason series, Bing scored 28 points per game for the Pistons. On this team he’s the starting shooting guard, and with Isiah feeding him the ball after a dribble penetration, Bing would be able to rain in jump shots like layups.
Joe Dumars, shooting guard
There’s no other evidence of Jack McCloskey’s genius than his choice of Dumars with the 18th pick in the 1985 NBA Draft. It may look obvious now, but Dumars was just another high-scoring guard from a small school as a collegian. In Detroit he learned a ton from his idol, Isiah Thomas, and his work ethic and natural skills at handling the ball and shooting the long range jumper made him an All-Star.
No one could have known (except probably Jack), that Dumars could be the best shutdown defensive guard in the league, capable of making Michael Jordan a marginal threat. Jordan called Dumars “the toughest defender he ever faced” and that in-your-chest defense was pivotal when Detroit was eliminating Chicago three straight years in the playoffs. Dumars played more games and took more three-point shots than any other player in Pistons history.
Richard Hamilton, shooting guard
Like his hero Reggie Miller, “Rip” loved to run around screens and pop a jumper on the move, and he was great at it in his nine seasons in Detroit. Hamilton averaged 19 points and four assists in a Pistons uniform and he was the leading scoring threat for the 2004 NBA Champions.
Vinnie Johnson, shooting guard
Even this team needs instant offense off the bench, and no one was better at providing that than Vinnie. One of the most popular players to ever wear a Pistons uniform, Johnson was a pure playground-style shooter who line-drived his jumper into the hoop in spurts that drove the defense batty. “The Microwave” worked well in a three-guard rotation or coming off the bench for Isiah or Dumars when points were needed.
Grant Hill, small forward
It’s easy to forget how good Hill was during his years with the Pistons. His timing was bad, but that had nothing to do with him, he couldn’t help it that the franchise was crumbling just as he arrived from Duke as “the anointed one.” He wasn’t Isiah and he wasn’t Joe, and he also wasn’t the next MJ (some people actually thought he would be), but Hill was a fantastic player. He used his slashing style to score 22 points per game in his six seasons as a Piston (17 per in his 18-year NBA career) and he also tore down eight rebounds and handed out six assists. He was a triple-double threat every night during his years in Detroit. Forget what he and the team looked like in teal, Hill was a great player.
Dennis Rodman, forward
Rodman might have been GM McCloskey’s greatest move. Snatched from Southeastern Oklahoma State University (where?), Rodman only went on to become the greatest pure rebounder in the history of the NBA and worked his way into being a phenomenal defender, capable of taking on Jordan or big guys like Hakeem. Sure, he was a headcase, but “The Worm” was able to channel that crazy on the court to become a Hall of Famer.
George Yardley, small forward
I’m going way back for the crafty Yardley, who led the NBA in scoring in 1957-58 when the Pistons were in their first season in Detroit. He and Bing are the only Pistons to ever win a scoring title. Yardley was a master at the mid-range jump shot and he also grabbed a lot of rebounds (10 or more in a season twice) in an era when his 6’5 was still pretty big.
Rasheed Wallace, power forward/center
Ball don’t lie.
Bob Lanier, center
At the height of his career, Lanier was the second-best big man in the game behind Kareem Abdul Jabbar. “Dobber” was deadly from 15 to 18 feet with his jumper and he had a hook shot that rivaled Kareem’s “sky hook.” In his decade with Detroit, Lanier averaged 22.6 points (highest in franchise history) and 11.8 rebounds per game, while also dishing out really well for a big man (3.3 assists per game).
The Pistons traded him during the 1979-80 season and while he declined quickly on his weary knees, it would have been nice to have him in Detroit when Isiah came along a year and a half later.
On this all-time team, we can imagine Thomas sending a pass to Lanier on the low post and “Dobber” slipping around a defender for one of his patented scoring moves.
Bill Laimbeer, center
Cocky, annoying, and limited physically, Laimbeer still managed to have a tremendous career (a career that deserves to be honored in the Hall of Fame) because he had an unyielding drive to be a winner.
Though he could barely jump over a skateboard, Laimbeer twice led the NBA in rebounding and he was a four-time All-Star. He also worked hard on his outside game and became a threat from three-point range.
Ben Wallace, center/power forward
As if Lanier, Rodman, and Laimbeer wouldn’t grab every rebound in sight, then we add in “Big Ben,” the most intimidating defensive presence to crash the boards in his era.
After Larry Brown unleashed him, Wallace won four Defensive Player of the Year awards and led the league in total rebounds and offensive rebounds twice. He was the heart of the Pistons’ team that went to six straight conference finals from 2003 to 2008.
Chauncey Billups, Gene Shue, Ray Scott, Jerry Stackhouse, John Long, James Edwards, Tayshaun Prince, Lindsey Hunter, Rick Mahorn, John Salley, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond.
On a team with so many great guards, we couldn’t find a way to fit Billups in, but he’s clearly the best player who didn’t make this all-time team. Stackhouse had a great peak from a scoring standpoint, while Prince was a steady, dependable, winning player who could also be on this team if there were one more spot. Drummond might be on his way to earning a spot, but the big man will have to improve his low post game.
Chuck Daly, head coach
Who else could handle the egos on this all-time dream team of Pistons legends?
It’s time we start talking about this: Daly was the best coach of his era. I know Pat Riley and Phil Jackson were roaming the sidelines back then too, but Daly didn’t have Magic & Showtime or The Greatest Player on the Planet. Coach Daly was in Detroit with a lot of guys who were castoffs from other teams (Laimbeer, Mahorn, Edwards, Vinnie), as well as young untested guys (Dumars, Rodman, Salley), and one superstar (Isiah). He had to convince his team to play defense at a feverish level that demanded physicality never before seen in the NBA, and he had to massage the ego of Zeke and others.
With that challenge, Daly led the Pistons to the playoffs in each of his nine seasons, where he beat Bird’s Celtics, Magic’s Lakers, and Jordan’s Bulls (three times). No other coach had to face what he did, and he did it all while looking damn fine on the sidelines. Nicely done, “Daddy Rich.”