Pistons Mailbag - February 28, 2013
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Donna (Southfield, Mich.): Can we get an update on Andre Drummond? Are they going to get him back into the game before the end of the season or shut him down for the duration? I really miss seeing his grace and athleticism on the floor, but understand the inclination to err on the side of caution. Also, I love Will Bynum. We do intend to re-sign him, right?
Langlois: There isn’t much new on Drummond, Donna. It’s been three weeks now since the injury was diagnosed. My interpretation of the timetable projected by Dr. Ben Paolucci, Pistons team physician, of four to six weeks was that’s when Drummond would be able to resume activity, not necessarily be in uniform to play a game. It might take another week after he’s cleared for him to feel he’s in shape to play a game. His conditioning work is limited at this point because of the need to immobilize the injured area. But he’s been doing some isometric work, I’m told, and they don’t feel it will take a great deal of time for Drummond to get up to speed. Drummond has such a unique physique and metabolism to be 19 and pack 290 pounds on his frame with 6 percent body fat. But I suspect you’re right – they will err on the side of caution. Even though a stress fracture doesn’t carry the risk that a disc injury, for instance, does to become a chronic injury, it’s still not advisable to invite a recurrence of any back injury. As for Bynum, remember that it’s not just a matter of the Pistons wanting to bring him back. He’ll have his options, too. After the draft, teams will assess their roster needs and proceed accordingly. The Pistons’ course might be complicated by the fact that both of their top two point guards will be hitting free agency. Another team with a starting point guard already in place and a clear vision to pitch to Bynum on its plans for him might be able to move fast and win his rights before the Pistons can convince him of his place in their future. Or there might be a team that will sell Bynum on a chance to win the starting job. We’ll see.
Johnny (Sterling Heights, Mich.): A lot of mock drafts have the Pistons taking Michael Carter-Williams. He is listed at 6-foot-5. Is there the potential he could play shooting guard or a smaller point forward if he gains a big more weight and strength?
Langlois: If Carter-Williams is going to be a lottery pick, it’s because teams see a rangy point guard, not a skinny, physically challenged shooting guard. If teams aren’t relatively certain he can play point guard in the NBA, then he’s just another guy. Mock drafts , especially this far before the draft, are fun to look at but essentially meaningless, Johnny. Even the best ones are just rough snap shots of the consensus opinion of the field, certainly not a window into the thinking of any particular team.
Cornelius (Concord, N.C.): Jose Calderon is a great addition, but with all of our talent we still lose the majority of our games in the fourth quarter. Why do you think that is? I don’t understand it. What’s the summer going to do that drafting and trading hasn’t already done?
Langlois: This year’s record is very similar to last year’s, Cornelius, but the statistics say the Pistons are a better team in some very important categories. As Joe Dumars told me not long ago, there are stages in a young team’s development, and the Pistons are now at that point where they have made themselves competitive in most games – the recent stretch, complicated by a shorthanded roster, notwithstanding – but are still learning how to win in the last six minutes. As for what this summer can add, the Pistons are going to have the resources – cap space – to do things they haven’t been able to do at any time since their rebuilding phase took on new life with the change in ownership to Tom Gores.
Norman (Warren, Mich.): Why doesn’t the NBA have a “one and one” free-throw scenario?
Langlois: The NBA has tinkered with the rules to award free throws over the years, though it’s remained constant now for the last 30 years when the “three to make two” for backcourt fouls once a team was over the limit was eliminated. The five-foul limit per quarter has been in effect since the 1966-67 season. I can’t address why there is no parallel in the NBA to college basketball’s “one and one” situation, but since the college game went to its “double bonus” format a generation ago there isn’t much difference between the two rules any longer. Only on the seventh, eighth and ninth non-shooting fouls of a college game does the “one and one” concept apply. The college game has followed the NBA game on rules changes for the most part, including the institution of the 3-point shot. I think it’s more likely college abolishes “one and one” altogether than it is for the NBA to adopt the concept.
Al (Wolverine Lake, Mich.): What draft picks do the Pistons have this season?
Langlois: They keep their own first-rounder if they don’t make the playoffs, which appears the likeliest course as of today. They also have their own second-rounder. They will get a second-rounder from the Clippers if it’s 56 or lower. That’s the result of the 2009 trade-deadline deal that sent Alex Acker to the Clippers in return for a heavily protected second-rounder. That deal was motivated by the Pistons’ desire to avoid paying luxury taxes that season. There seemed little likelihood the pick would be conveyed at the time of the deal, but that was before Blake Griffin and Chris Paul landed with the Clippers. Now it seems more likely to be a Pistons pick than not. At that stage of the draft, it is common for teams to select international players who either require a few more years of seasoning or have contracts that make it very difficult for them to come to the NBA immediately. It wouldn’t be a surprise – especially since the Pistons have five rookies on the team this season – if that’s how they choose to spend that pick, should it become theirs.
Cal (Provo, Utah): I have read that because the Pistons traded their No. 1 pick to Charlotte, they can’t trade any more No. 1 picks. Is that the case?
Langlois: The NBA bars teams from not having a No. 1 pick in consecutive drafts, Cal. The Pistons owe Charlotte a future No. 1 pick – with descending degrees of protection – which doesn’t prohibit them from dealing other future No. 1 picks, but does make those picks potentially less attractive because they must also come with stipulations on them. Since it looks unlikely that the Pistons will convey their No. 1 pick to Charlotte this season, that puts it in play for 2014. So if they were to trade another No. 1 pick, it would have to be with the stipulation that it would come two years after they satisfy their obligation to Charlotte – meaning a team wouldn’t be getting its pick until 2016 at the earliest. That might not be very attractive to a general manager who needs to show improvement today or risk being out of a job before somebody else exercises that pick for him. Now, if the Pistons acquire a No. 1 pick in trade, then that would give them greater flexibility to deal future No. 1 picks in other deals.
David (Guelph, Ontario): This summer’s free-agent crop doesn’t look too appealing to throw out large contracts. I think Joe D should make a trade that takes back a bad contract plus a mid-lottery pick. Assuming their stock doesn’t skyrocket, I think both Victor Oladipo and Otto Porter would make Dumars, Lawrence Frank and Pistons fans very happy. Both play hard at both ends and can definitely help the team’s perimeter shooting. Is that too far out of range to hope for?
Langlois: Anything’s possible, David. You have to be careful taking back bad contracts, though, that clog up your cap. The Pistons traded away a No. 1 pick a year ago essentially to unload a contract that was limiting their cap flexibility. To take back a bad contract just to get a mid-lottery pick … well, the Pistons would have to really, really like that player. And given they might well have their own mid-lottery pick, I don’t see that as a realistic scenario. My strong hunch is the Pistons would much prefer to allocate the assets they’ll have this off-season to proven talents, not additional rookies. If they can add a proven veteran scorer, for instance, it would take the pressure off of Greg Monroe to be the No. 1 scorer and have a ripple effect down the line that allows their other players to do what they do best.
Clinton (East Lansing, Mich.): I don’t believe in tanking, but Jason Maxiell isn’t playing well yet continues to start and get minutes. What does Lawrence Frank see in him?
Langlois: Frank has spoken frequently of the dirty work Maxiell does – things that really don’t show up in conventional statistics and perhaps not very accurately in the crush of advanced statistics. Take a look at the decisive third quarter of Wednesday night’s win at Washington for a prime example. How do you put a value on the psychological impact – on both teammates and the opposition – that an intimidating physical presence provides? To your point that Maxiell isn’t playing well, it is accurate to say his production has fallen off since a terrific first six weeks or so of the season. But Maxiell’s value will never be fully reflected by points and rebounds numbers. Now, would he still be starting if Frank had a clearly better alternative? Perhaps not. But unless Andre Drummond gets back quickly and resumes playing at a high level, it’s not clear what Frank would do. Charlie Villanueva would be an option if he was shooting more effectively. Jonas Jerebko could play his way into contention for a starting job, but it’s fair to say Jerebko didn’t have a great first month of the season before losing his spot in the rotation. He’s had a few encouraging outings lately, though, and could easily be in line for an expanded role if he can establish consistency.
Tony (Wichita, Kan.): I have been really impressed with Khris Middleton. Not only can he shoot, but he has the ability to create his own shot from mid-range and draw fouls. Small forwards with that skill set do not grow on trees. How good can he be?
Langlois: No question, that’s his NBA skill, Tony. Middleton can be really creative with his ability to get off quality shots. He puts the ball on the floor for two or three dribbles to find or create open spaces and he’s got a really good mid-range touch, though he certainly has 3-point range. As for how good he can become, that’s to be determined. He’s an average athlete at a position loaded with superb athletes, so defense will be a matter of Middleton’s smarts, study habits and basketball IQ. The Pistons became intrigued by Middleton early in his Texas A&M career and George David, assistant GM, saw him at a summer camp where he showed off his offensive array against quality competition. They saw him as a first-round talent who was available with the 39th pick last June because his junior year was affected by (1) a knee injury that required cartilage cleanup surgery in December 2011 and (2) a coaching change after his sophomore season that required a pretty big adjustment for all players. The hit rate for players taken in the mid second-round is spotty, but the Pistons like Middleton’s chances to have a solid NBA career.
Will (Kingston, Pa.): Why is Corey Maggette not in the rotation? It seems he still has some gas left in the tank. With his uncanny ability to get to the foul line, I would think it would be a no-brainer, especially with Drummond being sidelined. I don’t think Slava has shown anything more promising aside from size.
Langlois: Drummond’s availability is almost completely unrelated to Maggette’s status, Will. When you say “aside from size,” it strikes an “other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?” tone. Maggette can’t come close to giving the Pistons what Drummond does as a rim protector and defensive presence, but Kravtsov can. There’s no dark reasons why Maggette isn’t playing. He was always a player who relied on his superior physical skills – a rare combination of quickness and strength with the ability to put the ball on the floor – to power his way to the basket and force contact. He was open when he was traded to the Pistons last June that this was very possibly his last season, understanding that the skills that enabled a remarkably productive and lengthy career had begun to erode, coupled with some fairly serious physical ailments incurred in recent seasons. Lawrence Frank gave Maggette a fair audition once he recovered from the preseason calf injury, but ultimately saw fit to go with Austin Daye behind Tayshaun Prince and Rodney Stuckey behind Kyle Singler at shooting guard, then with Stuckey as the primary backup to Singler at small forward once the Tayshaun Prince-Jose Calderon trade was made.
Jens (Cologne, Germany): In one of the last Mailbags, I saw that you said every position could be “possible” to consider in the draft. The draft board seems to be full of centers where the Pistons most likely would pick. The best picks, I believe, would be Oladipo, Bennett or Porter. Can you really see Joe D drafting another big like Len or Zeller?
Langlois: If “possible” is the threshold, then, yes, I can see that as a plausible scenario. Even if it doesn’t make the most sense for the roster as it stands on draft night, understand that there are still many months to go until opening night and many moves possible for a team that will have loads of cap space. If the front office really believes that a 7-footer at their spot will have a long and productive NBA career, and the perimeter players available at that spot, they believe, are destined by be journeymen, then the choice would be obvious. If the 7-footer they take in the lottery is good enough to crack their top-three interior rotation next season, he would have immense trade value, at worst, and be a franchise building block perhaps. It would also give the front office great flexibility in considering other trade possibilities.