Pistons Mailbag - April 11, 2013
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Ku (Detroit): The position the Pistons need to upgrade is small forward. In that case, what are the chances of the Pistons drafting Tim Hardaway Jr. in the second round?
Langlois: Time will tell what kind of an NBA player he becomes, Ku, but it’s fair to say that at this stage, you wouldn’t find a consensus of scouts who would agree with you that Hardaway represents an upgrade on Khris Middleton, let alone Kyle Singler. If the Pistons go forward with a frontcourt of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond with Jose Calderon at point guard, the ideal blueprint would have at least one premier scorer at shooting guard and small forward, and preferably two. I don’t know that they can rely on the draft this season to provide a definitive upgrade. But their cap space should allow them to bolster their wing positions, whether through free-agent signings or trade. One more word on Hardaway: He looks pretty slight to my eye – a similar frame to Kim English, for instance – to guard NBA small forwards. My hunch is his primary position, at least initially, will be shooting guard.
Ben (Visalia, Calif.): I really believe Victor Oladipo is a great fit for the Pistons. We have lacked a shooting guard/small forward that can get his own shot like Oladipo since I can remember. Do you believe Oladipo will be available when the Pistons draft? I would also love to see Trey Burke in a Pistons uniform. Is there any chance we can get one or both? How do you forecast Burke’s success in the NBA?
Langlois: Both are projected lottery picks, so no way they can come away with both of them barring an unforeseeable trade. As I wrote above, the lottery is May 21. We’ll have a better handle at that stage of who might be available to the Pistons. I think the results of the Chicago combine in May will be fairly important to both Burke and Oladipo. There is concern about the size of each player. If Burke – and let’s remember that although it is widely anticipated he will enter the draft, he hasn’t does so yet – measures in at a legitimate 6-foot-0 and Oladipo at a legitimate 6-foot-5, that will be very good for them. I think the hardest position to project is point guard, particularly undersized point guards. Scouts wonder if Burke has that extra gear of quickness to blow by people to somewhat alleviate concerns about his height. Burke surely oozes with intangibles. As I’ve mentioned previously, if the Pistons re-sign Calderon – and, while the draft comes before free agency, they will go into draft night intent on bringing back Calderon – then logic would seem to dictate they might prefer a second point guard with more size and defensive versatility. But we’ll see. In the end, talent trumps all.
Ken (Dharamsala, India): Do the Pistons have time to wait for a 2013 draft pick to mature? Is it time to package the first-round pick with some players and trade for an All-Star caliber perimeter player?
Langlois: Not sure how eager any team with an All-Star caliber perimeter player would be to trade him for a lottery pick in a draft when the consensus appears to be that there are no sure-fire impact players available, Ken. Now, I think there will be some pretty good players that come out of this draft, but right now, the player who eventually goes No. 1 might not be considered very highly by some teams. That makes the value of a top-10 pick less than it would be in a draft with more marquee power. Again, the Pistons have the wherewithal with their cap space to add veteran help.
Rickey (Detroit): The Wizards recently had a promotion to honor their 1978 championship team and gave away replicas of the championship ring to their fans. With the 10-year anniversary of the 2004 NBA championship coming up for the Pistons, do you think they will do something similar?
Langlois: Pretty safe bet that the 10-year anniversary of the 2004 NBA title will be recognized in meaningful and appropriate ways, Rickey. Stay tuned. Whenever those decisions are reached and are ready to be made public, you’ll find out first at Pistons.com.
Mark (Cornelius, N.C.): What are the possibilities that the Pistons draft Anthony Bennett or Otto Porter? With a projected top-five pick, the Pistons are in prime position to draft one of these two players and Bennett and Porter can fill the small forward spot that the Pistons need to upgrade. I am not sure how well Bennett would fit with Drummond and Monroe because of his more inside-driven game, but his athleticism and defensive skills appear to be top-notch. Do you think the Pistons would consider drafting either one and, if so, who would be the better fit?
Langlois: The better talent would be the better fit, Mark, and that’s a pretty tough call. If you draft for need but don’t get a player talented enough to upgrade at that spot, you’ve still got a position of need. No scout I’ve talked to yet sees Bennett as a small forward, by the way. Do I believe that would preclude the Pistons from taking him? Nope. He is a very different power forward than Greg Monroe and would give them more frontcourt flexibility, should he be the best option. We’re a long way from that determination, though.
Bill (Waterford, Mich.): There is a way to attempt foul shots that is similar to a bowling or a tossing motion – left foot forward, left hand on the side of the ball, toss with right hand. Andre could make 60 percent of his attempts using that method. It works – no kidding.
Langlois: I don’t think he or anyone around him is ready to abandon the traditional method at this point. His form isn’t broken. We saw him do pretty well in the win at Cleveland last night, for example, when Byron Scott deliberately sent him to the line seven times in three minutes and he made 8 of 14. When he takes his time and keeps the ball out of his palm and on his fingertips, he produces a decent backspin. In practice, he shoots them much better than what you see in games. That would suggest it’s more between the ears than anything else. Any form in which you believe and can repeat without variance can work. Rick Barry was a career 90 percent foul shooter using an underhanded method.
Ben (Petoskey, Mich.): The Pistons have a surplus of post players with Andre, Greg, Charlie, Jason, Slava and Jonas. Is there any chance they get rid of some of these guys so they can pick up a young post player in the draft?
Langlois: The draft comes in late June, Ben, before the July free agency period. I think it’s likelier than ever that the Pistons will take the best player regardless of position in this draft. To some extent, that’s always the case, of course. But there usually are two or three players of like ability at any given point in the draft and teams will often break the tie by giving consideration to roster needs. In their recent drafts, the Pistons’ tiebreaker was frontcourt need. (That was clearly the case in 2011, yet after a run of big men depleted the stock, the Pistons tacked left and took Brandon Knight, the best talent on the board.) I know conventional wisdom holds that because the Pistons have two young big men in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond and would like to upgrade their scoring and athleticism at the wing positions, that will shape their draft strategy. But Jason Maxiell is a free agent, Charlie Villanueva has just one year remaining and Slava Kravtsov hasn’t yet proven himself a rotation staple. So if the Pistons see a big man they value available at their selection, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they go in that direction.
Den (Calamba City, Philippines): What can you say about UNLV’s Anthony Bennett? I think with his size, athleticism, offensive and defensive skills, he is a good complement to our frontcourt of Greg and Andre.
Langlois: He’s a really intriguing player, Den. There are question marks with virtually every player in this draft, Bennett no exception. Some don’t think Bennett uses his impressive physical gifts to his full advantage, avoiding contact, but he just turned 20 a month ago. He’s a highly athletic, somewhat undersized power forward, but his skill set would add something unique to the Pistons’ frontcourt, should he be the best option at their pick. I think it’s fair to say that Bennett’s stock could rise or fall more than most of the lottery picks over the next two months depending on how he shows out in individual workouts and the impression he makes during the interview process.
Ryan (Detroit): If the Pistons get to pick anywhere from one to five, who do you think are the players that best match our needs and can contribute right away?
Langlois: The guy who ranks consistently high in the most credible player ratings and fits an obvious need for the Pistons is Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore, Ryan. Now, a word of caution. I think it’s a draft that lacks one or two or a tier of players that has separated from the field, so I can’t speak with any authority to how Joe Dumars and his inner circle appraise McLemore or other players ranked similarly – guys like Nerlens Noel, Anthony Bennett, Victor Oladpio, Cody Zeller, et al. But McLemore is reputed to be a top-notch athlete and a very good shooter with deep range at a wing position. That pretty much fits the Pistons’ needs to a T.