Pistons Mailbag - January 24, 2013

Pistons.com editor Keith Langlois answers your questions about the Pistons and NBA. Click here to submit your questions - please include your name, email address and city/state on the form. Return to the Mailbag homepage.

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Editor’s note: You can now submit Pistons Mailbag questions via Twitter. Include the hashtag #pistonsmailbag and, as always, your first name, hometown and state or country. Questions submitted via Twitter will also include the questioner’s Twitter handle.

Marcos (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil): Once again, the Pistons lost a game to Chicago where they led by double digits. Why do you think this is happening over and over again?

Langlois: There are probably two handfuls worth of technical or statistical reasons and they might vary from game to game, Marcos. In the big picture, it happens because that’s what teams that rely on so many young players – especially teams that rely on so many young players who have the ball in their hands as much as the Pistons’ young players do – usually must endure before they become hardened to the external influences that come into play during the tense moments of close games. That said, I’m of the belief that teams with strong character benefit in the long run from losses as stinging as Wednesday’s 85-82 heartbreaker in Chicago. It’s easy to overlook the fact the Pistons came from six points down to take a one-point lead after having the roof fall in on them at a raucous United Center, but the grit that took will pay dividends somewhere down the road.

Muka (Sydney, Australia): Drummond’s dunk off his steal against Orlando was so easy I think he could have easily taken off from the free-throw line and thrown it down. Care to pass this challenge on to Andre?

Langlois: I’ve talked to a few of Arnie Kander’s assistants and they marvel at Drummond’s athletic ability, Muka. What is so very rare is the quickness and agility for such a large young man. It translates on the court when you see Drummond out showing on pick-and-roll plays and then, in an eyeblink, snaring a rebound 18 feet away at the rim, or coming from one side of the basket to the other to grab a rebound above everyone else’s hands. He’s easily one of the fastest big men in the league already and Kander has worked on his running form to get him to use his hands more – he had a tendency to let them drop by his sides – to make him an even more efficient strider. If he stays healthy, Drummond has a long and productive career ahead of him, one that figures to be filled with highlight-reel plays – maybe even a dunk where he takes off from the foul line.

Chris (Brighton, Mich.): Drummond is putting up nearly identical stats in all areas except scoring as Anthony Davis in 10 fewer minutes per game. If the per 36 minutes advanced stats hold up, Drummond blows away Davis in terms of productivity. He’s already the “steal of the draft,” but could he end up being the best player from this draft, as well? If so, why did so many GMs miss on this one?

Langlois: To be fair, there wasn’t a whole lot to go on with Drummond and what there was indicated a risk factor that argued against taking him in the top few picks. If the Pistons had drafted No. 2, I believe they would have strongly considered Drummond. In fact, I was asked just that question in a few radio interviews leading to the draft and said as much. Do I know for a fact they would have taken him with that pick? No, and you know what? Even Joe Dumars probably can’t answer that question definitively. Since he never had the No. 2 pick, it’s something he never had to consider. They didn’t get the chance to work out the players who would have also been under consideration with that pick – Kidd-Gilchrist, Beal, Robinson, et al – and then compared them to Drummond, apples to apples. But I do know for a fact they were highly intrigued by Drummond before the lottery slotted them at No. 9. Assistant GM George David spent a week in Storrs, Conn., last February for the explicit reason of peeling the onion on Drummond, and he came back suitably impressed. Could he end up being the best player in this draft? Yes. His ceiling is incredibly high. And based on what he’s shown in his first three months, he has a much better chance to reach that ceiling than almost everyone believed last June.

Clark (Santa Cruz, Calif.): With Toronto having more success with Jose Calderon over Kyle Lowry, do you think the Raptors would consider trading Lowry? And, if so, is he someone the Pistons should be interested in?

Langlois: Short answer, no, Toronto isn’t dealing Lowry – or, at least, the Raptors certainly don’t logically figure to be looking to move him. Keep in mind they gave up a No. 1 pick – and a potentially very valuable No. 1 pick – to Houston to get him last off-season. The same GM who made the move, Bryan Colangelo, is still in place. Unless he can get back something as valuable as what he sacrificed, he’d look foolish. Besides, without knowing Toronto’s private thoughts on the matter, with Calderon a pending free agent and potentially a valuable trade chip as an expiring contract, Lowry is by all available evidence the future there at point guard. His defensive tenacity is in keeping with Dwane Casey’s aggressive defense mentality.

Dwayne (Detroit): I believe this Pistons team is steadily improving, but it feels as if there is something missing. I feel like we could use a 20-point scorer – a pure scorer. Do you see Joe D making a move for a scorer?

Langlois: I’m sure he’d love to add that ingredient, Dwayne. But 20-point scorers aren’t falling off the turnip truck. Check the salaries attached to those guys. Unless they have some overwhelming weakness attached to them, guys who regularly drop 20 points are making eight figures and up. And to get one in trade – again, unless there are unusual circumstances – would be very difficult without dipping into their young nucleus of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight. The Pistons will have cap space at their disposal over the summer, though, and while I don’t know that they’ll be able to land an elite scorer, the possibility of them adding consistent scoring punch is better. Again, that could be accomplished by using the cap space to execute trades as opposed to a free-agent acquisition.

Ken (Ankara, Turkey): To what do you believe the Pistons’ problems with turnovers can be attributed? Is it lack of focus, trying to do too much? Do most come off too much dribbling or errant passes? I know coaches talk about it regularly. Is there anything done to address it beyond reminders?

Langlois: The Pistons went into Tuesday’s game with Orlando 24th in the league, which obviously isn’t good but also is a little misleading. Their per game average at the time of 15.35 was less than one turnover per game above the league average. I asked Lawrence Frank just this week what he considered an acceptable number and he said 13 or under is his target. Only three teams right now – New York, Philadelphia and Toronto, all Atlantic Division teams, strangely enough – hit that mark. In their past two games, the Pistons have come under that mark both times, combining for just 20 turnovers in the past two games.

Mack (Shelby Twp., Mich.): I was just wondering if you knew whether the Pistons have been tracking Vernon Macklin’s progress. I thought he was showing signs of becoming a great rebounder and a possible double-double machine. With Maxiell’s contract being up after the season I think Macklin would fit. What do you think?

Langlois: I’m sure the front office is monitoring Macklin as they monitor all international leagues. Keep in mind that the Pistons have no contractual ties to Macklin any longer. He’s free to sign with any NBA team that makes him an offer, if it comes to that. The Pistons obviously felt that Slava Kravtsov offered more NBA potential than Macklin. While Kravtsov hasn’t yet had the opportunity to prove he belongs, the Pistons are still optimistic for his future. They’ve talked about finding the right time to send him to the D-League to give him some playing time and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see that happen in the relatively near future. Once the season ends, of course, the Pistons will sit down as they do every year and explore their options. Given their history with Macklin and the comfort level he has with the coaching and support staffs here, if all else is equal, there’s no reason they couldn’t reunite. They parted on good terms. Remember, Macklin chose to go to Summer League with the Pistons even though he knew at the time they didn’t have a roster spot available for him.

Michael (Dana Point, Calif.): I recently read an interview where Kobe claimed he’d never lost a game of one on one. He said he would probably beat LeBron. Why not a game of one on one during the All-Star break? Surely this would be an awesome event that would raise lots of money for charity. Your thoughts?

Langlois: Never happen. You’d have too many hoops to jump through and, bottom line, the teams and agents would never allow their players to do it for fear of injury. I suppose at some point, money would drive the process. If there’s enough money in play so that the players would take a cut and the teams would be appropriately compensated in the event of injury, it would be possible. I have no idea what that number would be. But how do you guarantee the potential loss of LeBron James to Miami or Kobe Bryant to Los Angeles? The number would be enormous. Yup, there was a series of one-on-one games back in the ’70s that would air at halftimes, but the economics of the game were radically different at the time.

Eric (Seattle): In Tuesday’s win against Orlando, why did Kim English play in the closing minutes and not Jonas Jerebko? Nothing against English, but Orlando had already pulled their starters and it looked like a Pistons win was in sight.

Langlois: Don’t read anything into it, Eric. There’s no back story here. Jerebko was in the rotation, the Pistons weren’t playing well and he was struggling. The Pistons needed more scoring punch in their second unit and that’s Charlie Villanueva’s calling card. The move worked. Jerebko, though, remains an important part of the team’s young core. There is nothing contradictory about those sets of facts. I suspect Lawrence Frank is hesitant to play Jerebko in what is commonly known as “garbage time” – Frank wouldn’t call it that – to avoid what might be perceived as further marginalizing him.

Steve (Lincoln, Neb.): What would you think of a trade of Maxiell and Maggette to Portland for LeMarcus Aldridge and Nolan Smith? Would it work for both sides?

Langlois: Not for Portland. Neil Olshey, Portland’s GM, has been pretty clear that he sees Aldridge as the piece to rebuild the Trail Blazers around. He’s a bona fide All-Star and he should just be in the early years of his prime. You don’t trade a player like that for expiring contracts, Steve – you acquire expiring contracts in an attempt to pursue a player like that.

Nick (Brisbane, Australia): Just wondering about your thoughts on how many pieces the Pistons need to be a true contender? It seems to me we are one more high draft pick away from competing and I like the form of rebuilding through the draft. Do you think a No. 8 playoff seed this year could actually be detrimental to rebuilding by losing that quality draft pick?

Langlois: How many pieces away are they? Depends on the pieces. Put a consistent 20-point wing scorer in the lineup and they’d be on the cusp once players like Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Brandon Knight soak up a little more experience and the right complementary parts that can be had on the open marketplace every summer are found. Finding that kind of scorer is never easy, of course. So it might require more than one piece and it might take a few years of mixing and matching and experimentation to strike the right chemistry. As for a No. 8 seed hurting the process, no. I’m a firm believer that for a young team building toward playoff contention and ultimately title contention, the more times and the earlier in that process you can experience the playoffs, the better you’ll be in the long run. Even a game like Wednesday’s at Chicago – as close to a playoff atmosphere in a regular-season game as the Pistons have experienced in a long while – helps forge the mentality a team eventually needs to win in pressurized situations. And the difference in the draft between, say, the No. 12 or 13 pick – just outside the playoff field – and the No. 15 or 16 pick just isn’t big enough to spend much time fretting about the downside.

Ben (Detroit): If the Pistons are still in position to make the playoffs by the trade deadline, do you see Joe D making a move to bolster the roster? Not a blockbuster, but maybe for a consistent 3-point or low-post scorer? Aside from the big three – Drummond, Monroe and Knight – I would think the Pistons have some valuable trade assets.

Langlois: Agree that Joe D is in a strong bargaining position at the trade table these days, Ben. Don’t see him making a move for a short-term boost this season unless it also registers as a plus – or at least as neutral – for next season and beyond. In other words, he’d love to make the playoffs this season, of course, but he’s not going to risk weakening the future to do so.