Pistons Mailbag - February 7, 2013
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Tiba (Detroit): I’m a huge Pistons fan and have followed Mailbag through two tours of Afghanistan. I have many questions. I’m wondering why didn’t the Pistons keep Rudy Gay? What will happen if Calderon plays well? Will we re-sign him and, if so, will we let Will Bynum walk?
Langlois: A big Pistons Mailbag “thank you” for your service, Tiba. Joe Dumars dropped a pretty broad hint last week, in discussing the three-team trade, that the Pistons talked with Memphis about Gay. He said the two teams had first talked “about a month ago” about a “bigger deal.” That’s right around when Gay’s name popped up as being shopped by the Grizzlies. But Memphis couldn’t find a single team that could accommodate its trade needs. It found a partner in Toronto, though, that had a key piece – Jose Calderon, not just a very good player but the ever-sought expiring contract – to close the deal by luring in a third team. We call it a three-team trade but, technically, this was two two-team trades. Memphis and Toronto agreed on the package of Raptors players, then the Pistons traded Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye to the Grizzlies for Calderon – so Gay wasn’t routed to Detroit on his way to Memphis. As for what happens this summer, Joe Dumars has signaled his intention to keep Calderon around, but both Calderon and Bynum will be free to explore their options. How these last 32 games play out will help shape the decision-making process for both sides. The Pistons need to see how their four guards fit together. Calderon will want to see how effectively he can mesh as a playmaker with the pieces already in place here. Bynum will monitor how he fits with both Calderon and Brandon Knight – not to mention Rodney Stuckey – all capable of playing point guard. As fun as it might be to project what will happen when July rolls around, it’s really just throwing darts at the board until everybody has something solid on which to base their decisions.
Gideon (Riverview, Fla.): We know that Calderon was acquired by the Pistons for his playmaking and ballhandling abilities as a true point guard. Rodney Stuckey is the better option at shooting guard than Brandon Knight, considering both ends. Is the coaching staff just trying to let Knight down easy by starting him with Calderon? Or do they legitimately believe a Calderon-Knight backcourt is better than a Calderon-Stuckey backcourt.
Langlois: It’s a starting point, Gideon. Lawrence Frank has said in the days since the Calderon trade that we would see a number of different playing combinations over the course of the season as they see which ones click. I think one consideration was to keep Knight’s 3-point shooting stroke on the first unit as a nice counterbalance to Calderon’s playmaking ability and Greg Monroe’s inside scoring presence. The second unit’s deep shooter is Charlie Villanueva. The units can use Kyle Singler and Stuckey in somewhat similar ways for their ability as cutters. But Frank has said any backcourt combination among the top four guards is possible, even a Calderon-Will Bynum pairing – though, he admitted, it would depend on matchups because that pairing would be vulnerable to a backcourt with size. I give the theory that Knight is starting instead of Stuckey to spare Knight’s feelings zero credence. Frank consistently says his loyalty is to the team over any individual and his awarding of playing time in fourth quarters reflects that. Witness Greg Monroe sitting through the fourth quarter of Sunday’s tight game with the Lakers when Andre Drummond and Charlie Villanueva were rolling.
Derek (Huntington Beach, Calif.): A lot of people expect the Pistons to be looking at Michael Carter-Williams in the draft this year. If that’s the case, somebody has to go. The way it’s looking, I’m wondering how untouchable Knight is. Calderon being the starter is giving me a warning sign the Pistons might be thinking the same. I think either Stuckey or Knight will be gone. What are your thoughts on having a really small backcourt with Knight at the shooting guard?
Langlois: A number of teams are using players who’ve been primarily point guards or are typically point-guard sized as shooting guards these days – Jason Kidd, Devin Harris and Monta Ellis come to mind. Sure, there will be challenging matchups for Knight, but everything is a tradeoff – he’ll have a quickness edge many nights on the other end. Let’s keep in mind that both Jose Calderon and Will Bynum are coming up on free agency and Rodney Stuckey’s contract has one more year to run. I don’t think the Calderon trade has any impact on how management views Knight’s place in their future. As for Carter-Williams, he’s generally considered a lottery talent, as is Oklahoma State freshman Marcus Smart and perhaps Michigan sophomore Trey Burke. To say the Pistons are looking at them goes without saying – all teams are looking at them.
Tom (Watervliet, Mich.): Jose Calderon should be a great fit in Detroit. If Toronto wants him back and they have cap space, any chance the Pistons can keep him?
Langlois: The Pistons get 34 games to make their case, Tom. That’s a nice head start. Toronto isn’t going to have cap space after adding Rudy Gay’s big salary to their payroll. In fact, the Raptors are probably going to have work to do to avoid paying luxury taxes. That wouldn’t preclude them from attempting to sign Calderon using the mid-level exception, but assuming they retain Kyle Lowry – his contract is guaranteed for $1 million if bought out early in the summer – it’s unlikely they’d go that route. I would expect other franchises to be more serious suitors for Calderon, though. We’ll see how it plays out, but it’s fair to guess that both sides will base their decisions on how the next 2½ months unfold.
Dawn (Allendale, Mich.): I was quite unpleasantly surprised by all the negative press Tayshaun Prince was subjected to since he was traded. He seemed so unassuming, hard working and devoted to his team and teammates. I will always be a Prince fan, no matter the uniform.
Langlois: I’ll admit I didn’t see or read much for a few days there, Dawn – a little busy writing my own stuff – but I hadn’t heard that sentiment conveyed by others. As the last man standing from the Goin’ to Work era, Prince came to symbolize all it represented – both the glory years, with six straight trips to the conference finals, and the bottoming out that began after that string came to an end. I’m sure that stirred a range of emotions just as starkly different from fans who’d invested so much in the Pistons during that era. I’m also certain that history will recall Prince very fondly for his decade in a Pistons uniform. He had some of the most memorable defensive plays in Pistons history, including the iconic trailing block of Reggie Miller’s layup that set up the run to the 2004 championship.
Jay (Flint, Mich.): Can the Pistons work out some type of deal for Danny Granger and let him be the leader of this young core?
Langlois: Interesting idea, Jay. It’s not often you see a player of his caliber swapped to a team in the same division, so that might put something of a damper on your enthusiasm for this deal. But Granger fits the profile of what the Pistons figure to be chasing over the off-season – a guy who can flat-out score. It’s believed Indiana is leaning toward seeing what Granger would yield in return with the emergence of Paul George as a similar type of rangy wing scorer. That’s at least one to keep an eye on. One more hurdle to cross: Indiana probably isn’t just going to be looking to dump a salary. The Pacers are going to go into Granger trade talks expecting comparable talent in return. That won’t rule out the Pistons as a trade partner, but with their abundance of cap space looming their first choice would be to make a trade that offers the partner cap relief as the major asset.
Norman (Warren, Mich.): What value do plus/minus statistics provide either for a given game or other time frame?
Langlois: Like all statistical measurements, the broader the sample the more meaningful the result, Norman. In one-game bites, I’d view plus/minus with skepticism. Over the course of a season, I suppose if any one player who logs significant minutes has a plus/minus that’s out of whack with what could be expected relative to the team’s point differential, it would likely carry some weight. I haven’t polled a significant number of coaches to gauge their opinions on plus/minus, but it’s not a statistic that comes up often in discussions. To the extent that PER would be influenced by a plus/minus rating, I suppose it factors into how coaches view players – at least those coaches who believe PER a credible measurement of a player’s value.
Darrell (Detroit): Aside from most fans wanting Drummond to start, wouldn’t it make sense for Maxiell to come off the bench to replace Monroe so there would always be a low-post presence in the game? This should benefit Maxiell as he can finally be the first option on offense when he is in the game and benefit from Charlie Villanueva’s 3-point shot for the kickout when the shot is not there. Drummond and Charlie don’t appear to be a good match since there is no real low-post threat.
Langlois: The second unit trio of Will Bynum, Villanueva and Drummond have developed a synergy, Darrell, that results from the abilities of (1) Bynum to get into the paint with his sense of when and how to deliver lob dunks to Drummond; (2) Drummond to catch what he gets his hands on, soar above the crowd and dunk; and (3) Villanueva to create the space Bynum and Drummond need to pull off those plays with the constant threat of the 3-point shot that pulls one of the interior defenders away from the paint. If and when Drummond can develop a back-to-the-basket game, so much the better. For now, the thing that has been relatively easy to figure out with Drummond is that he’s most effective when he has a pick-and-roll point guard and some shooting around him. Bynum and Villanueva provide that.
Justin (Monroe, Mich.): What do you think of the Pistons trading Jason Maxiell to the Timberwolves for Derrick Williams? The T-wolves look like they have given up on him and Maxiell would make a more suitable backup PF for them. Williams could use a change of scenery and the Pistons could take a chance to see if Williams can turn into the scoring wing many thought he would become.
Langlois: As the No. 2 pick in 2011, Williams won’t come cheap if his option is picked up for next season – a hit of $5 million. It would be a far easier decision to “take a chance” on him if he’d been picked a half-dozen spots lower and his salary slot was commensurately less. I’m not sure what Minnesota’s interest in acquiring Maxiell would be unless the T-wolves were looking to clear cap space by adding an expiring contract or were prepared to pay Maxiell a healthy enough figure to keep him from looking around as a free agent. It’s not like the Timberwolves have a shot to make a playoff run in the West this season. If there is trade interest in Maxiell, it’s likely to come from a playoff team looking to bolster its roster with another rock-steady frontcourt veteran.
Omar (Beirut, Lebanon): Quick question: Stuckey for Redick. Any chance of that happening? Redick will be a free agent by the end of the season, so Orlando probably will be on the lookout to get something in exchange for him. The Pistons could benefit because they would be better off paying their money to a guard with a consistent outside shot who can space the floor for our bigs.
Langlois: Redick is among the likeliest of players to be traded, according to those with their ear to the ground on these sorts of things, Omar. No question, he’s one of the elite 3-point shooters in the game. I don’t know if the Pistons would be open to trading Stuckey, whose contract situation for next season (only about half of it guaranteed, according to multiple reports) might make him a pretty valuable trade chip, in exchange for a player free to leave at season’s end. But every team would love to have a weapon like Redick. It all depends on what the cost is. Coming off a career year, he’s probably looking for a significant boost from his current salary.
Zach (Goshen, Ind.): Olajuwon didn’t win a championship until he had Sam Cassell and David Robinson didn’t win until he had Avery Johnson. I think Calderon has similar facilitating experience and will bring out the best in Monroe. My only question is will Singler be able to guard LeBron effectively?
Langlois: He’s the MVP, Zach, and as unique a player in his own way as Magic Johnson was a generation ago. Singler has a combination of length, strength, quickness, savvy and competitive grit that gives him a fighting chance to control the damage as well as most, but I don’t know that anyone regularly guards LeBron “effectively.”