Advancing to their sixth straight conference finals last night, the Detroit Pistons have proven to be a testament to balance and sharing the wealth. Even after losing Ben Wallace, the defensive centerpiece of the ’04 championship team, the Pistons have maintained their success by relying equally on All-Stars Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace.
But could each of Detroit’s “Big Four” be The Man on another team?
Chauncey Billups (17 ppg, 6.8 apg, 1.3 spg) — At worst he’s a Top-10 point guard, despite getting up there in age (31) and wear-and-tear (113 playoff games). Strong enough to score in the post on most PG’s, quick and crafty enough to take them off the dribble, deadly from the outside and accustomed to taking and making big shots in crunch-time, Chauncey would be a star on any team in the League and can run any system. Swap him for Steve Nash and he’d put up big numbers in Phoenix, not to mention be able to stop his man defensively. Swap him for Deron Williams and he’d kill on the pick-and-roll with Carlos Boozer while still getting Memo, AK and the rest their looks. And on a Lottery team with lesser talent and a lack of leadership, C-Billups would especially get his every night.
Rip Hamilton (17.3 ppg, 4.2 apg) — Rip is more of a system guy. It’d be erroneous to say he can’t create his own shot, but he’s not a clear-it-out kind of scorer who will get buckets no matter what defense is being thrown at him. Rip is closer to an NFL wide receiver; a playmaker who is infinitely better if he’s got a good QB and a solid offensive line. For unimaginative coaches like Mike Woodson, Mike Brown and Mo Cheeks in a “Pass it to Will” offense, Rip would still be good, but probably not an All-Star. But in a place like Boston (playing the Ray Allen role), Golden State (Monta Ellis), Sacramento (Kevin Martin) or San Antonio (Manu Ginobili), he could still be his team’s leading scorer, if not a stand-alone superstar.
Tayshaun Prince (13.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg) — Defensive credentials aside, Prince is adept enough at creating his own shot (see his Game 4 dagger in Orlando), scoring from the inside and outside, and occasionally taking over as the primary scorer. He could be The Man on a team like Indiana (i.e. Danny Granger), but that team would almost certainly be Lottery-bound. Tay’s ceiling as far as being a top offensive option is more like Josh Smith’s, being the second-best guy on a borderline playoff team.
Rasheed Wallace (12.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.7 bpg) — With his size and multi-faceted skills, ‘Sheed has the tools to be The Man on a lot of teams, but he doesn’t seem to want that. He could have had a Kevin Garnett-like career as the #1 option on a flawed team for a number of years, but like KG, wouldn’t have seen much postseason success. (We saw this scenario play out during Wallace’s Portland stint.) You could argue that if you swapped him for Dirk Nowitzki that the Mavericks wouldn’t be that much worse. The same could go for ‘Sheed replacing Chris Bosh in Toronto. But like Prince, he realistically tops out as the second-best scorer on an on-the-cusp team; like David West with the Hornets or LaMarcus Aldridge with the Blazers.