The 2004 Detroit Pistons earned their plaudits – every win was hard-fought, and they did it without a league-recognized top 75 player in their ranks
The early 2000s were dominated by the Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs. A few teams managed to break the cycle, but none more prominent than the 2004 Detroit Pistons. Their run to the finals was not as easy compared to the other teams. They did not sweep anybody but fought tooth and nail on defense to crowd out any opposition attacks.
The rebuild for the championship-winning team started in 2002 when they won 50 games in a season for the first time since 1997. All of this began when Joe Dumars worked out a trade between the Pistons and the Magic. The trade saw Grant Hill and Ben Wallace swap jerseys – a move that would pay the ultimate dividend in two years.
Arguably the greatest undrafted player ever, Ben was a defensive stalwart for the Pistons. They shored up the leaky defense, drafted and traded shrewdly, and quietly built a team that would do anything to win a basketball game. Tayshaun Prince, Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Rasheed, and Ben Wallace. A core group of players who knew the final goal takes precedence over individual accolades.
The 2004 Pistons are the only championship team to not have a single NBA Top 75 player. pic.twitter.com/DjcEDQSpiK
— Hoops (@HoopMixOnly) February 23, 2022
The 2004 Detroit Pistons were an anomaly – They traveled to back to back finals and none since
The Pistons would go to the finals in 2005, but this time come up short against the San Antonio Spurs. They peaked in the 2005-06 season, winning 64 games, a number never matched since. That team came apart as quickly as they came together – even Ben had a few stints around the block before he retired in Detroit.
They stayed competitive up until the late 2000s but fell off from there, never to recover again. The shrewdness displayed in the early 2000s was no longer there. They accepted their fate to be a lottery team, constantly tanking. Their best player since the successful era was a washed-up Blake Griffin. Nobody found Detroit an attractive destination anymore – and why would they?
If the team was not competitive, then the city had nothing else to offer. Everybody would prefer to play in the sunny state of California, or the bright lights of New York – the rundown city of Detroit has nothing for a millionaire.
Ben Wallace should have been a top 75 player – easily over someone like Damian Lillard
No disrespect to Lillard, but considering Ben is an NBA champion, 4-time defensive player of the year, 4-time all-star, and 5-time All-NBA player, he should have been picked. He Along with Dwight Howard were some of the biggest names that were left out, along with Chris Bosh.
The recognition for steering a team that struggled for so long before him, and struggled ever since he left is next to nothing. Players with much less to show for have been included in the top 75 list because their image was cleaner. Even his induction into the Hall of fame was delayed – he had to wait for 6 more years than usual.
The fans know what a great player he was – and how effective that one trade proved to be in the Detroit Pistons legacy. For a player, that recognition is enough.