Pistons Mailbag - February 14, 2013
We reserve the right to edit your question for the sake of brevity or clarity.
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.
Dave (Ann Arbor, Mich.): It appears likely Calderon (and his salary) will be out of here come season’s end. That being said, why are we starting him and taking the ball out of Knight’s hands? For the sake of our future, wouldn’t it make more sense to let Knight continue to run the team and gain more experience in that role and then have Calderon lead the second unit? I just don’t want Knight to take a back seat at such a crucial time in his development.
Langlois: Not sure why anyone would take the stance that Calderon is “likely” to be somewhere other than Detroit next season. Calderon, from all appearances and in everything he says, is pleased so far with his experience in Detroit. He came here, remember, knowing full well that the Pistons had attempted to obtain him on more than one occasion in the past few years. And that even predates their hiring of Lawrence Frank, a coach who has made no secret of his admiration for Calderon – extolling his virtues even before the trade but especially since he became a Piston. Now, sure, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent and it’s always possible someone will be able to offer him something that has nothing to do with money, necessarily, that he’ll find more suitable – whether that’s location, one or more teammates with whom he already holds a bond, or what he deems a situation more likely to produce a title run. But the Pistons have let him know they’re interested in continuing the relationship and he’s given every indication he’s open to staying. As for the other issue, I don’t think this should retard Knight’s development in the least. It’s not like Knight isn’t going to have the ball in his hands any more. This isn’t football and you’ve just moved a quarterback to wide receiver. It’s basketball – people other than the point guard routinely have the ball in their hands and have to carry out many of the same functions. Frank’s vision with the current roster makeup is to always have two guards capable of attacking on the court. It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition for Knight. In other words, just because Calderon is starting at point guard doesn’t mean Knight won’t ever run the offense or handle the ball or confront decision-making situations. One could more easily make the case that having Calderon around will help Knight develop because (1) he can do it at a more reasonable pace than having an unusual amount of responsibility put on him as a young player and (2) merely being around Calderon has to be worth something for a young guard.
Bruno (Sao Paulo, Brazil): With Taj Gibson’s extension kicking in and Chicago being deep into the luxury tax, it’s being rumored that Carlos Boozer could be amnestied. If that happens, do you believe Joe Dumars will try to acquire him? I think Boozer and Calderon (assuming we bring him back and I hope we do) would fit extremely well with each other and would make our young players’ lives easier offensively.
Langlois: Let’s see if Boozer makes it to the trade deadline, Bruno. There are also rumors the Bulls and Toronto are discussing a trade of Boozer for Andrea Bargnani, which could result in some significant cap savings for the Bulls depending on what other pieces that trade might involve. My guess is the Bulls are going to resign themselves to paying luxury taxes at some level for the foreseeable future in order to give themselves a chance to win championships during the prime of Derrick Rose’s career. But if they’re paying big money to Rose, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, they probably aren’t going to have the wherewithal to afford another eight-figure contract in perpetuity. If Boozer gets traded, of course, he would no longer be an amnesty-eligible player. Now, let’s pretend the Bulls do amnesty Boozer. Would the Pistons be interested? I would have to think they might be, and especially so if they are successful in retaining Calderon. Those two, on paper, would form a potent pick-and-roll tandem that would be a nice complement to a frontcourt that also included Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. There would be some art to tailoring the right amnesty bid to land Boozer, though, because there would surely be other teams looking to land an impact-level (or darn close, at least) scorer on the cheap. But it’s an intriguing thought, should it come to pass on Chicago’s end.
Collin (Novi, Mich.): Andre’s injury is unfortunate, but will he now be able to spend extended time practicing free throws or does the brace prevent this? Also, when can he start conditioning work?
Langlois: Dr. Ben Paolucci, Pistons team physician, said last week that Drummond would be cleared to begin non-contact basketball conditioning drills as soon as he was asymptomatic – essentially, when the back injury no longer caused pain – and Paolucci estimated that time to be four weeks. Where free throws fit in the continuum, I’m not certain. As for now, Arnie Kander is gradually introducing low-resistance movement drills that strengthen Drummond’s core. Kander purchased a bongo drum while the Pistons were in Milwaukee over the weekend, for instance, with the intent of improving Drummond’s posture and, further, building core strength to help prevent future such injuries.
Rueben (Tulsa, Okla.): The Hornets are entertaining trade talks for Eric Gordon. Would a trade of Stuckey for Gordon work?
Langlois: Not straight up. Not right now, at least. Both the Pistons and Hornets are over the cap. If the Pistons were to trade Stuckey, given his reported salary figure of $8.5 million, as a non-taxpaying team they could take back 150 percent of Stuckey’s salary plus $100,000. That means the most they could take back in a trade that sends out Stuckey alone would be $12.85 million. Gordon’s reported salary figure is about $13.7 million. If the Pistons were to include, for instance, Slava Kravtsov’s salary, it works. If the teams were to wait until after July 1, when both would be well under the salary cap barring other moves between now and the trade deadline, then they could execute a one-for-one swap. The risk for any team that thinks about trading for Gordon is his health issues – at 23, he’s missed a whopping 154 games over the last four seasons – relative to the money he still has coming, almost $45 million over the next three years. If he could stay healthy, he’d be an ideal fit for the Pistons – the consistent 20-point scorer they (and pretty much every team outside of the handful of elites) really need. But that’s a very expensive “if.”
Tim (Macomb Twp., Mich.): Now that Andre Drummond is out with his back injury, what are the chances Big Ben comes back out of retirement during that time to fill a roster spot that’s available? It would be cool to see Ben suit up again, even if it’s only for a couple of weeks.
Langlois: I wouldn’t expect the Pistons to do anything with their available roster spot until after the Feb. 21 trade deadline, Tim, just in case an attractive deal comes along that involves taking back an extra player, just as the deal that allowed them to get Jose Calderon required trading away two players. If we get to Feb. 22 and the Pistons are still under the 15-man roster limit, I’d say that has a chance to be a consideration.
Michael (Dana Point, Calif.): I notice that Andre Drummond has a yearning to be more than a dunker/blocker. What does he need to do to finesse his shot-creating ability? Does he have the resources to reach out to other retired great centers for their help? Can he put in a call to Hakeem Olajuwon like some other centers have done?
Langlois: I talked to Roy Rogers, Lawrence Frank’s assistant coach who works with the team’s big men, at length last month about his off-season plans for Drummond. Working on developing even one consistent go-to move for Drummond is something they began last summer and it will be one of the major focal points of the off-season ahead. But Rogers said it might be a while yet – like several seasons – before Drummond is comfortable enough to routinely take hook shots during games. It takes thousands of repetitions in his experience, he told me, to get to that point. I’ve been deluged with suggestions for Pistons big men to seek the counsel of Olajuwon over the years, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with such arrangements. But there’s really no mystery to what Drummond needs to do. I think Olajuwon would be called in to help a player who already has a repertoire of moves refine them. Drummond needs to develop the foundations of a low-post game first.
Namer (Novi, Mich.): Regarding this free agency class, two guys that have really caught me eye are J.J. Hickson and O.J. Mayo. What are the chances Joe D would make a move to sign one or both? We need a true shooting guard and Mayo could be that guy and Hickson would be a great upgrade to Jason Maxiell.
Langlois: It will be interesting to see what the market dictates for both of those players, Namer. Hickson was waived by a lottery team, Sacramento, less than a year ago. When he’s gotten minutes, he’s always put up impressive rebounding numbers. Teams obviously see something else going on there. Maybe he’s rehabbed his reputation by averaging a double-double for Portland. We’ll see. Mayo surely has improved his value with a solid season going for Dallas. Teams aren’t handing out eight-figure contracts with quite the abandon they did four, five or six seasons ago, but we’ll see if Mayo can get a long-term deal that cracks that barrier annually. The Pistons have shaped their salary structure for the opening this summer provides for more than a year now. They will have a well-conceived plan in place before July 1 arrives, but it’s fair to say that plan isn’t in cement as of now. There’s still player evaluation to do, but more than that, the situation will remain fluid at least up until next Thursday’s trade deadline, at which point the picture begins to come into focus.
Molly (Plymouth, Mich.): I’ve been doing research on free agents and I think we are most likely to get Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson and Brandon Jennings. Do you think there’s a good chance we get them?
Langlois: They wouldn’t be at the top of my guess list, Molly. If the Pistons are successful in convincing Jose Calderon to stay, they won’t be in the market for another high-profile point guard even if those were to lose Will Bynum to free agency. With Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond up front, they also won’t be likely to invest in the frontcourt at the level a Millsap or Jefferson signing would require. If they lose Jason Maxiell in free agency, then the Pistons possibly would be looking for a similar solid veteran type to add to the frontcourt mix. It really depends on how the Pistons view what they already have in Charlie Villanueva, Jonas Jerebko and Slava Kravtsov, plus Monroe and Drummond. It still seems the likeliest course for the Pistons is to invest the bulk of their cap space in small forward and shooting guard options – likely for proven scorers.
Ryan (Grand Rapids, Mich.): Calderon’s value probably will never be higher and point guard doesn’t seem to be a big need in the future so is there any chance Dumars flips him for a small forward or shooting guard? Granger for Calderon works for cap purposes and would fill a huge need for Detroit.
Langlois: Granger is the type of scorer (see above answer) that would seem an ideal fit in the middle of their lineup, Ryan, though Joe Dumars and Lawrence Frank have made no secret of their regard for Calderon. My guess is Indiana has a loftier return in mind for Granger than an expiring contract, though I think Calderon would help the Pacers – a terrific defensive team but not a very consistent offensive team – as much as he’s helped the Pistons.
Joe (Detroit): Yes or no: Have the Pistons given up on Brandon Knight as a point guard?
Langlois: No. What they’ve done is add a proven, high-caliber playmaker. Knight, obviously, will play more off the ball when paired with Calderon, where he gets to take advantage of his ability to spot up and shoot 3-pointers while removing much of the onus of running the half-court offense from his shoulders. He’s 21. There’s no reason to think he won’t get plenty of opportunities as a point guard in the seasons ahead.
Steven (West Bloomfield, Mich.): Any chance Dumars actually trades someone like Jason Maxiell or Will Bynum to a playoff team for future assets? I anticipate you’d say Max’s absence would leave them thin up front, but depth can’t be a priority when another trip to the lottery is a foregone conclusion.
Langlois: He traded Tayshaun Prince, Steven, a player with a more prominent role than Maxiell or Bynum. There’s certainly no reason to believe he’s not open to trading veteran players. On the other hand, he’s not going to deal those players – both on expiring contracts – unless the return is something of value. Yes, with Andre Drummond out, Maxiell’s minutes are needed more than ever, but I don’t think Dumars would sacrifice any deal that provides a future asset just to get him through the next few weeks when the playoffs, as you point out, have become a long shot. I wonder if the standings are going to argue against much trade activity this year. The East playoff field is pretty much set with Milwaukee, in the No. 8 spot, holding a six-game edge at the All-Star break over the field. The West isn’t much different, with the Lakers the only team out of the field with a reasonable chance to make a push. I suppose playoff teams could be looking to fortify their rosters to better the odds of advancement, but in any case it might well be a buyer’s market.