Pistons Mailbag - January 31, 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.

Derrick (Shelby Twp., Mich.): With the addition of Calderon, what do you think the rotation in the backcourt will be? Think they will move Brandon Knight to shooting guard with Rodney and have Bynum back up Calderon? What about Singler?

Langlois: Good question, Derrick. I surmised some of the possibilities in my postgame blog from the Indiana game last night. Of note, all of the top four guards in the rotation now – Stuckey, Knight, Calderon and Bynum – have played point guard primarily over the course of their careers, though Stuckey has played more shooting guard since Frank and Knight arrived and Knight has played off the ball a fair amount when paired with either Stuckey or Bynum. I think Singler will now spend all of his time at small forward with both Prince and Daye gone, so he’s out of the equation. Anything is possible here. But I think a few things are likely: (1) Stuckey stays at shooting guard; (2) Calderon gets plenty of playing time so the Pistons get to evaluate his impact and decide if he’s someone they’d like to keep here beyond this season. Whether that means Calderon starts or not, we’ll have to see. The Pistons love Knight; they see his intent and his work ethic and believe he will continue to improve and evolve for many more seasons. But they aren’t wedded to the idea that his future has to be running the offense with the ball in his hands, necessarily. Joe D and Lawrence Frank both have said guards are guards. There is room for shared responsibility and, from a coaching staff perspective, their job is to take the talent on their roster and find the best fit among playing units and draw up a playbook that plays to the abilities of those units. Calderon is clearly the best pure playmaker the Pistons now have. And Will Bynum is having a strong season. If Frank stays with a four-guard rotation, then Calderon and Bynum are going to get most of the minutes at point guard, which means Knight will play more off of the ball. But he could scale back to a three-guard rotation and that would mean somebody would get squeezed. One more option: spot minutes at small forward for Rodney Stuckey, who played there with some success under John Kuester. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Darrin (Mio, Mich.): Now that the Pistons are overloaded at a couple of positions, who gets traded to make this team a real playoff contender?

Langlois: I don’t really see an overload, Darrin. In fact, this trade puts the roster into better balance. The Pistons had four players best suited to playing small forward: Prince, Daye, Maggette and Singler – five if you want to add Jonas Jerebko to the list, who has said he just wants to play but still sees himself as a more natural small forward, the position he played in Italy. Singler was playing out of position at shooting guard, so this puts him back at his best spot. The Pistons were a little thin in the backcourt before and now they have five guards, including Kim English. So it’s really not a question of who “gets traded” to make this team a more viable contender, it’s a question who “gets added.” I can’t tell who you, but I would guess the ideal is to upgrade on the perimeter with players who bring consistent scoring punch and a dose of athleticism.

Ryan (Taichung, Taiwan): What sort of offensive identity does Lawrence Frank eventually want the Pistons to have? And Joe Dumars has mentioned that the Pistons are likelier to use their cap space to facilitate trades than to sign free agents, so who do you see us going after?

Langlois: Frank talks a lot about defense. Everything starts on that end for him. That doesn’t mean he spends no time thinking about the offensive end – he just believes to his core that a team that can defend at a high level will be able to generate a significant amount of its offense from its defense. So in individual evaluation of players and in focus as a team, he’s more defensive oriented. But he does speak often about the importance of getting great ball movement and taking the most efficient shots – dunks, layups, free throws and 3-point shots, in particular, corner 3-pointers where the distance is shorter and accuracy is greater. As for cap space, I don’t know that Joe D has spoken with any specificity about his plans for the summer and the cap space the Pistons figure to have, but using that cap space to facilitate trades as opposed to spending on free agents appears the more likely course, as I’ve written consistently for several months. No idea what players they’re targeting, if indeed they’re targeting anyone in particular. We’re at the stage of the season where teams are feeling each other out for what players are available as the Feb. 21 trade deadline nears. When the deadline passes, those talks will open the door to re-engagement talks in the time between the end of the season and the draft and the onset of free agency. Right now, the Pistons’ front office, I’m sure, is conducting daily due diligence to assess contract status of all NBA players and the salary-cap structures of all teams, gauging on their own – and matching their assessments with what they’re hearing in organization-to-organization conversations – which teams will be likeliest to be looking to pare payroll and, in the process, making attractive players available.

Steven (West Bloomfield, Mich.): For all the cap space and flexibility the team has, I’m having a hard time seeing how this team is going to be better next year. I’m unconvinced that trades and free agency are going to yield significant upgrades over guys like Bynum, Maxiell, Daye, Jerebko, et al. Please don’t mention the incremental improvement of guys currently on the roster. I think we have a pretty good handle on this “young nucleus” and I’m not holding my breath for them blossoming into a championship core.

Langlois: Well, I’m guessing Oklahoma City fans are thrilled their management didn’t adopt that view when the Thunder were 3-29 and looking hopelessly overmatched a few years ago. Extreme example, I know. But if you think Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight don’t have vast room for improvement, then that’s a non-starter as a debate tactic. I disagree with extreme vehemence. I’m not writing off free agency – I do think that if an inviting opportunity to swing a trade using their cap space doesn’t eventuate, that there will be useful players, if not stars, that can be had to plug roster holes and improve the roster through FA signings. And it’s an easier task this time around because the blueprint has been made clear now – build around the talents of the last three lottery picks rather than targeting the best available players and then molding a team to their abilities. Breakthroughs are tough in the NBA because of the inordinate influence of the individual great player and the difficulty in obtaining those rare players, but they happen. Who’d have guessed a few years ago that the Clippers and Thunder would be among the handful of title contenders? Drummond has a chance to be one of those rare players and Monroe, management feels, is a budding All-Star. That’s a pretty good start.