Pistons Mailbag - May 29, 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.

Eric (Livonia, Mich.): I desperately want the Pistons to get back to the level of the ’04 team. That team started its transition by trading their best player, Grant Hill, to rebuild. Do you think Greg Monroe could get traded? He will never be a great shot-blocker or defender, in my opinion. What about trading him to Boston for Rajon Rondo? The Pistons need a floor general, and unless Chris Paul would come to Detroit, I don’t see any good options. The draft and free agency have quality power forwards available in Josh Smith, David West and Paul Millsap via free agency or Anthony Bennett and Cody Zeller in the draft.

Langlois: Grant Hill went to Orlando in a sign-and-trade deal, Eric, but he was going to Orlando one way or the other. The Magic did the Pistons and Hill a favor by agreeing to pay him more money in the sign-and-trade deal then he could have gotten as an outright free-agent signing with Ben Wallace (and Chucky Atkins) coming to the Pistons. But the old saying that “he who gets the best player wins the trade” became an old saying because of its essential truth. I don’t know what Boston’s intentions are for Rondo, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to think a Celtics rebuilding is in order and Rondo might well be available. As remarkable a player as he is, you’d have to think long and hard about trading Monroe, 22 and a future All-Star, the Pistons believe, for a point guard coming off an ACL injury. I don’t think that’s a trade the Pistons would make at this point of their development. They have a chance to build something special around Monroe and Andre Drummond and their youth means the window should stay open for many years. The cap space they take into the summer provides a chance to add a few really nice pieces without sacrificing someone so central to the future as Monroe. Also, I think another team – one that could drop Rondo into the lineup and have a chance to contend for a title – would be more willing than the Pistons to part with future assets that would appeal to Boston in the event Danny Ainge goes all in on a rebuilding.

Jordan Bellant (@jdbell20): Does the waiting on hiring a coach make you think that Brian Shaw is the front-runner?

Langlois: Not really. It stands to reason that Shaw was recommended by Phil Jackson, brought on by Tom Gores as a consultant, but there’s no way to know what conclusions Joe Dumars and Jackson came to regarding Shaw’s fit after they traded ideas. There have been conflicting reports about whether Shaw interviewed with the Pistons or not with indications coming from Indiana that the Pacers are putting a hold on interviews for their assistant coaches until after the playoffs. That sounds good, but when San Antonio has allowed Mike Budenholzer to interview for jobs, including Detroit’s, before accepting Atlanta’s job on Tuesday with his team on the verge of the NBA Finals, there’s probably more nuance to the situation than we’ve been led to believe. In other words, if the Pistons are serious about Brian Shaw, there are accommodations to be made to everyone’s benefit. To be clear, I’m not suggesting Shaw is a front-runner or in the mix, or that what Indiana is saying publicly (or quasi-publicly) doesn’t necessarily match the reality. Joe Dumars said last week that while there was no timetable, things were moving along and that more candidates than had been reported have been interviewed. Keep in mind, also, that while sometimes long-shot candidates are happy to have their names linked to certain jobs for perception’s sake, there are just as many instances when legitimate candidates very much want their association kept under wraps. That’s a long way of saying that a lot of analysis has been written and spoken about the coaching search based on only a fraction of the evidence being known.

Derrick (Detroit): What do you think the odds are of the Pistons selecting Dario Saric, the 6-foot-10 Croatian phenom? He appears to be the complete package in terms of his skill set. He handles the ball, passes, scores, shoots from deep, creates for himself, rebounds and plays defense. He could definitely compete for the starting three spot and would cause favorable matchups at his size.

Langlois: If he really does all of those things with the proficiency you imply, Derrick, he’d be the No. 1 pick in this draft. I’ve talked to people who’ve seen Saric play this season. His talent is obvious, but you have to be comfortable projecting a lot of areas of his game to believe he’s ready to play in the NBA right now. There will still be some evaluation in the next month and anything is possible, but as of what I’m hearing today I don’t see Saric as anything more than a real long shot at No. 8.

Johnny (Sterling Heights, Mich.): I’ve always agreed with your point about taking talent over positional need when it comes to the draft. That said, if it comes down to two players, who would you take between Shabazz Muhammad or C.J. McCollum? Which player will become the most effective on the offensive end and provide the better scoring presence the Pistons need?

Langlois: If you put the question to all 30 NBA general managers, Johnny, I don’t know if it would be 50-50 but I think it would be pretty close. My observation is that McCollum is a safer pick than Muhammad, while Muhammad possibly has the greater potential to be a long-term starter and consistent scorer. I think it’s probably accurate to say most general managers would be surprised if, five years from now, McCollum hadn’t proven himself to be a valuable asset and a solid piece of a good team’s rotation. I don’t know if anyone would be surprised, necessarily, if Muhammad failed to achieve that status … yet there are going to be GMs who aren’t sold on him who will also be wary of passing on him in the draft for fear of Muhammad reaching his ceiling with somebody else.

Boaz (Tel Aviv, Israel): I wonder what you think about Dennis Schroder of Germany. He seems to have as complete a point guard game as anyone in this draft, including on the defensive end, along with elite lateral quickness and a great wing span. I know he’s only played against German league competition, but with what he’s showing so far, at just 19, I hope they’re at least considering him at eight, or lower if they can trade for another lower lottery pick.

Langlois: The Pistons were well represented at the Nike Hoop Summit in April at which Schroder – and that’s how his name was spelled at that game, though I’ve seen “Schroeder” most places – blew up, Boaz. I haven’t talked to anyone about him who hasn’t evoked the Rajon Rondo comparison – a long, loose-limbed point guard with speed on speed – though whoever takes him will have to take a leap of faith to some degree because there just isn’t much of a resume on Schroder. As part of my True Blue Pistons draft preview series, I’ll be writing one story on long shots to be considered by the Pistons with the No. 8 pick. I’ll probably include Schroder in that group. I think he’s got a really intriguing upside to him, but it might be easier to draft him in the middle of the first round than the middle of the lottery, for reasons I addressed in Tuesday’s True Blue Pistons blog.

Chris (Manila, Philippines): Do you think the Clippers would consider trading Eric Bledsoe for our No. 8 pick plus Stuckey, English and Middleton and our second-rounders? He’s very athletic and a good defender.

Langlois: If the Pistons could come out of the draft with a guard they think can be as good as Bledsoe – and it’s not unreasonable to think that guys like C.J. McCollum or Michael Carter-Williams (or Dennis Schroder, perhaps, as mentioned above) could be that level of player – then it’s excessive to add Stuckey plus other players to the No. 8 pick. And I don’t know that the Clippers are going to be looking for quantity if they dangle Bledsoe on the trade market. They’re a pretty deep team already. I like Bledsoe well enough, but there might be a little mythologizing of him going on, too.

Ben (Petoskey, Mich.): Do you think English and Middleton will be able to get into the rotation next year?

Langlois: Too many variables to know at this point, Ben. I think it’s fair to say the front office goes into the off-season hoping to not have to rely on those two 2012 second-round picks but open to them forcing their way into the rotation. Middleton, of course, ended the season as Kyle Singler’s backup at small forward and showed out very well. But it stands to reason that Joe Dumars is going to target perimeter positions with his cap space this summer and that means looking to upgrade at small forward and in the backcourt. If the Pistons grab a starting-quality small forward in free agency or via trade, then it’s possible that Middleton would have to compete with Singler for backup minutes at that position. The situation at guard with regard to English is even cloudier. It starts with what happens with Jose Calderon. If the Pistons re-sign him as a free agent, then Brandon Knight probably stays at shooting guard. Will Joe D also be able to bring in a quality shooting guard to add to the backcourt mix? Stay tuned.

Scott (Midland, Mich.): Shouldn’t we have a coach in place before the draft? It seems like Joe Dumars expects these coaches to coach players that might not fit into the coach’s scheme of things. Let the new coaching staff have some input!

Langlois: I’d expect the new coach to be in place before June 27, Scott, but the fact is that the process of draft evaluation will be well evolved even if they hire someone within the next 10 days or so, which is certainly possible. There might be a few coaches with considerable input on the draft, but for the most part even coaches who are entrenched and want to be involved in predraft workouts are just another voice in the room. On draft night, the man on top of the organizational flow chart – and the one who’ll be held responsible for draft mistakes – holds the only opinion that matters. Joe Dumars is always going to listen more closely to George David and the staff that makes the scouting of amateur players a year-round obligation, not to NBA coaches whose exposure to prospects is almost exclusively limited to the rather limiting glimpses of predraft workouts. Trust me, NBA coaches are way too focused on their teams and their competition to delve into college personnel in any meaningful way.

Blake (Denver): If the Pistons were to draft Shabazz Muhammad, would it be likely that he’d be placed at shooting guard or small forward? I don’t like the idea of a 6-foot-6 small forward.

Langlois: I’ll be profiling Muhammad in our draft preview series later this week, Blake. At the Chicago predraft camp, he said he prefers shooting guard. I think the majority of NBA scouts doubt his ability to guard effectively at that position and believe he’ll probably land at small forward, though of course that will be determined by him, in part, and by the roster of the team that drafts him, as well. There isn’t a huge difference between the two positions offensively in most systems. It’ll be at the defensive end where the determination is made for him.

Zak (Hamtramck, Mich.): Would it be a good trade if we sent the No. 8 pick to Brooklyn for MarShon Brooks?

Langlois: You’d either have to be really high on Brooks’ untapped potential or really down on the quality of this draft to consider that trade, Zak. Brooks hasn’t really proven that he does one or two things well enough at this point to be considered a roster upgrade for what the Pistons already have. He’s a below-average 3-point shooter and doesn’t get to the foul line very much, though the sample size isn’t conclusive. And I’m not writing off the possibility that Brooks might indeed turn out to be a better NBA player than the No. 8 pick in this draft, only that the No. 8 pick is more valuable right now than a guy who has yet to prove he belongs in the rotation of a solid team. If the Pistons were to auction the No. 8 pick, I’d expect the winning bid to be a player with more of a track record than Brooks.

Scott (Scottsdale, Ariz.): If by chance we’re not able to get whichever player we’re targeting in the draft at No. 8, what do you think of the idea of trading the pick to Oklahoma City for picks 12 and 29?

Langlois: A late first-round pick for the right to move up four picks at the point of the draft seems like a reasonable deal for both sides, Scott. But that’s as far as it goes until draft night. It’s probably too early for the Pistons to even know if that’s a deal they would be interested in considering. As we inch closer to the draft and they start putting their final board together, they’ll see where the breaks fall – where they believe the quality of the draft begins to break down. If they think there’s a group of seven or eight players that they’d be comfortable with, but that group will be off the board by the 12th pick, then it might not be a move that interests them. But let’s say that they see a group of six players at the top of the draft that they know will be off the board by No. 8, but then another group of 10 players from 7 to 16 that they like similarly. In that case, they’d be comfortable dropping down four spots, knowing they’d get somebody they believe will help improve the roster, and pick up an extra first-rounder for their trouble.

Karthik (Gurgaon, India): Is Anthony Bennett a small forward or a power forward? Will he drop to eighth? Are we interested, especially if he is a small forward?

Langlois: The NBA has mirrored the NFL to a degree in that traditional lineup molds have been largely dismissed. Just as a football team might go with two backs and three wide receivers on one play, no backs with two tight ends and three wide receivers on the next and one back and four wide receivers on a third play, NBA coaches are just looking for five players who can mesh offensively and cover all the bases – some outside shooting, enough rebounding and ballhandling to put a reasonable offense together, all the while being mindful of a group’s ability to defend. On an individual basis, the thing that determines position more than anything today is the ability to defend that position. So Bennett – who is a powerful, explosive athlete with a surprisingly deft shooting touch and range that he’ll likely expand even beyond his comfort at the college 3-point line already – will play small forward if he proves he can defend Paul Pierce, Luol Deng, Rudy Gay and the East’s other top small forwards. (I purposely excluded LeBron James. I don’t think anyone’s position should be determined by their ability, or inability, to guard the world’s best player.) Nobody I’ve talked to about Bennett sees him as anything but a power forward coming in to the NBA, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be able to play more than one position eventually. He isn’t likely to drop to No. 8, I don’t suspect, unless teams find something more in his medical background (shoulder surgery, asthma, potential back issue).

Rickey (Detroit): A trade rumor going around says the Pistons will take on Shawn Marion’s $9 million contract and receive the No. 13 pick in 2013 plus a 2014 No. 2 pick. As a result, we solve our small forward problems for a year, get two additional picks and have cap space next year when better players are slated to be on the table. Is this trade on the table?

Langlois: I know there’s a school of thought that Dallas is eager to trade out of the No. 13 pick to save itself the $1.6 million cap hold. Dumping Marion’s $9.3 million for 2013-14 on top of it would clear some serious cap space for the Mavs, putting them more than $20 million under. There have been rumblings since last summer that Dallas would make a run at Dwight Howard. They’d need a move of that sort in order to have the ammunition to do so. So it’s not a crazy idea, I suppose. Would the Pistons be interested? Possibly. It would still give them a decent amount of cap space, though you’d have to remember that they’d be absorbing not just Marion’s deal but the rookie cap hold, which combined with the hold for the No. 8 pick would eat up about $13 million of their space for this summer. Marion, though 35, is still a solid player, though I think he’s probably losing the ability to guard extensively on the perimeter at this point. I’d say Detroit’s interest would depend on what other moves the front office believes is realistic. Will they have enough of a sense of that on draft night, which is a week before free agency even opens? Only Joe Dumars could answer that – and he surely wouldn’t answer it publicly.