Because the Detroit Pistons have been in the mix for so long, there's a certain sentiment of finality around the squad once again falling short in the Conference Finals. But it does seem worth pointing out that their future actually looks pretty bright. They have no bad long-term deals on the books whatsoever -- they're two highest-paid players ('Sheed and Billups) are their two highest-paid players, and the two guys on long-term deals (Billups and Tayshaun Prince) are the ones you want on long-term deals. They have several talented young players in Stuckey, Jason Maxiell, and Amir Johnson who it's reasonable to expect to see improve and who could probably step up to play a bigger role if necessary.

Consequently, can plausibly afford to trade part of its current core (most likely 'Sheed or Rip Hamilton) if a good opportunity comes along but can also plausibly afford to say "no" to potential offers and hold out for a better opportunity. All things considered, the extent to which this franchise has been well-managed continues to impress. One can't, however, help but wonder how things might have turned out if not for their unfortunate 2003 draft choice.

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