Pistons Mailbag - June 5, 2013
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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.
Barron (Detroit): How come the Pistons won’t interview coaches like Lionel Hollins or some others like Vinny Del Negro or Brian Shaw instead of coaches like Mo Cheeks or Nate McMillan?
Langlois: Hollins and Shaw only became free to talk about any jobs other than the ones they’ve held within the past few days, Barron. They hadn’t interviewed with anybody, never mind the Pistons, so far as anyone knows. Both men have been quickly linked to openings with high-profile playoff teams in major markets, the Nets and Clippers. Everyone knows Phil Jackson was brought in as a consultant to the Pistons on their coaching search and everyone knows Jackson was Shaw’s mentor. If it turns out that the Pistons and Shaw never were a likely union, I think we can safely assume Jackson didn’t see the fit as right for both sides. Jackson would only champion Shaw’s case if he believed Shaw was the right fit and had prioritized the Pistons. If that didn’t happen, there’s only a few logical explanations. In any case, don’t assume your names are better coaches or better fits for the Pistons. McMillan and Cheeks both draw high praise from the coaching fraternity across the league. Both have strong reputations for both developing young players – via different methods, perhaps – and finding ways to connect with all types of players. And if might not have much to do with their coaching credibility, but both earn the highest possible marks for the content of their character.
Mohamed (Canton, Mich.): I really enjoy your draft preview series looking at players the Pistons might draft. I wanted to point out a player people aren’t talking about too much, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. He seems to fit all of our needs. He can shoot, slash, defend and rebound. A great team needs an athletic wing and Caldwell-Pope could be that guy. Will he be worked out and considered at No. 8?
Langlois: I think it’s a pretty safe bet that the Pistons reach out to Caldwell-Pope to bring him to Auburn Hills for a predraft workout and interview, Mohamed. As our True Blue Pistons draft series continues, next week I’ll have a segment that profiles Caldwell-Pope, so he’s clearly one of the leading possibilities to be their pick. Two years ago, he was a more highly rated recruit than Ben McLemore and he stacks up pretty similarly in size and other measureables. While McLemore is almost universally considered the better NBA prospect today, I don’t think it would be a stunner if two years from now the pendulum had swung the other way once again. Caldwell-Pope could be this year’s Terrence Ross – the shooting guard who vaults from late lottery to mid-first round in the weeks and days leading to the draft.
Hossain (Melilla, Spain): Thomas Robinson seems like a good fit. He’s young and he’d cost less than Jason Maxiell. If the Pistons added Robinson, they no longer would need to draft Cody Zeller, and if he performs well, the Pistons could then trade Greg Monroe. I see a great trade.
Langlois: No way the Pistons would have had a chance to draft Andre Drummond last June, Hossain, if Charlotte hadn’t picked Michael Kidd-Gilchrist instead of Thomas Robinson. You could make the case Robinson has already done as much for the Pistons as one could reasonably expect. It’s stunning that Sacramento gave up on Robinson so quickly and now it looks like Houston is, as well, if reports are accurate that the Rockets are looking to move him to save the $3.5 million he’s guaranteed next season and have that much more available to pursue free agents, with Dwight Howard atop Houston’s target list. I wouldn’t expect the Pistons to trade for Robinson on draft night unless it was a deal too good to refuse, but if the Rockets aren’t looking for a No. 1 pick in return and would settle simply for moving the contract in return for nominal considerations, sure, it’s a possibility. I think it more likely that he’s worth more to another franchise that doesn’t have two young big men already in tow.
Isaac (Irvine, Calif.): I really like the idea of Tyreke Evans and Brandon Knight as our future backcourt. Is there any way you can see Joe Dumars making a deal to get Evans without giving up Knight, Monroe or Drummond? Those four guys are the perfect fit.
Langlois: Evans’ status as a restricted free agent complicates any deal for him, Isaac, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if Evans switches teams over the summer. Of course, all bets are off now that the franchise has been sold and the Kings are in the process of finding a general manager who is going to have major input into what to do with Evans. He’s a supremely gifted player who has gained a reputation for being a sometimes difficult guy to coach, though it’s anybody’s guess how much of that has to do with what’s been largely seen as a dysfunctional situation in Sacramento. He’s an interesting option for many teams looking to make a major move this summer.
Gary (Carrollton, Texas): I’ve been looking into getting a Pistons jersey, yet on Pistons.com and NBA.com it doesn’t give any options other than Brandon Knight, Jonas Jerebko and Rodney Stuckey. Are they just trying to get rid of what’s in the warehouse while transitioning to possibly a new Pistons jersey?
Langlois: I’m told by Terry Adam, who’s in charge of Pistons merchandise, that Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe jerseys are also available here. Since it’s the off-season, a full complement of jerseys is not yet available. There could be a number of new ones by the time next season rolls around, Gary, after adding another draft pick and perhaps a few high-profile veterans with the cap space the Pistons take into free agency in July.
Reggie (@nobleway): Do you see the Pistons using the No. 8 pick as trade bait to pick up somebody like Danny Granger?
Langlois: Something like that could definitely be in play, Reggie. I don’t know about Granger, specifically. The fact he essentially missed an entire season with what medical experts might believe will become a chronic knee injury would be worrisome. But, in general, I’d have to believe the Pistons would be open to including their lottery pick in trade if it helps them achieve their objective of upgrading the roster. The Pistons have a number of young players – Monroe, Knight, Drummond and Singler for sure already in the rotation – and don’t need to inject more youth, necessarily, as much as talent or, perhaps, a particular asset, like a scorer who consistently can get his own shot. If their lottery pick can help pull in that type of talent, they’d look at it. But, remember, they also have more than $20 million in cap space coming to them in July and that – more than the No. 8 pick – is likely to fulfill their biggest off-season needs.
Francis (Manila, Philippines): As a hard-core Pistons fan since 2002, I can’t wait for us to be back in the playoff picture and be contenders again. I truly believe Brandon Knight has not reached his ceiling yet and will one day flourish at the same level as Kyrie Irving. Do you think a tandem of Knight and Trey Burke is our shot back to prominence?
Langlois: In the unlikely event Trey Burke is available with the No. 8 pick, Francis, the Pistons would no doubt have him on their short list. He was too dominant on college basketball’s biggest stage to not merit that much. So while I surely wouldn’t rule out the Pistons taking Burke, I don’t know that whoever the next coach is would be comfortable with being undersized at both backcourt positions, as the Pistons would be with Burke at point guard and Knight next to him at shooting guard. If Knight and Burke represent two-thirds of a three-guard rotation where the third guard has greater size and is capable of playing starter’s minutes, it could work. As I’ve maintained, I think the Pistons are going to take the best player regardless of position this year. If that’s Burke, then Joe Dumars still has a ton of money under the cap he can use to make the roster work. As for your contention that Knight has yet to reach his ceiling, I think you’re on the money. He’s 21, three years removed from high school, and he works as hard as anyone. There’s a ton of room for improvement with Knight.
Rickey (Toledo, Ohio): Do you think the Pistons can make a move to trade up from eighth by trading Brandon Knight to a team like New Orleans or Phoenix that could use a point guard?
Langlois: I’m not so sure either team’s management sees point guard as their most pressing need with Greivis Vasquez in New Orleans and Goran Dragic in Phoenix both having pretty good seasons. Vasquez, 26, averaged 14 points and 9 assists last year; Dragic, also 26, averaged 14.7 and 7.4. And, remember, last year the Pelicans (Pelicans!) drafted Austin Rivers with the intent of making him their point guard, and I doubt management has written off his future at that position. But if you’re talking about merely moving up a few spots while surrendering the No. 8 pick in the exchange, that’s an awfully steep price to pay for Knight. The Pistons would be very unlikely to be motivated to execute that trade, especially in a draft where the widespread feeling is there just isn’t that much of a dropoff in talent from the top of the lottery through the middle.
James (Plano, Texas): Do you think there’s a good chance the Pistons will use their first second-round pick to take Peyton Siva? Pitino had high praise for Siva and he might turn out to be the best point guard in this draft.
Langlois: If the Pistons don’t take a point guard with their lottery pick or with their pick at No. 37 early in the second round, Siva would be a consideration at No. 56, I think. But 37 seems too high for him. He came into the week ranked No. 52 on DraftExpress.com and No. 74 on ESPN.com. If the Pistons take a point guard with their first second-round pick, the candidates are more likely to be Isaiah Canaan, Pierre Jackson, Lorenzo Brown, Nate Wolters, Erick Gren, Phil Pressey, Myck Kabongo or Ray McCallum Jr. than Siva, it seems. The strength of the draft, in fact, around where the Pistons will be making their first second-round pick, will be at point guard. I don’t believe the Pistons would let that dictate their thinking at No. 8, where they could have their pick between Michael Carter-Williams and C.J. McCollum assuming Trey Burke is already gone, but if they go for a wing or a big man at No. 8, they might be inclined to grab one of those many point guards at No. 37.
James (Bridgeport, W.V.): Joe D has made hay in the draft the last three years by grabbing guys on the slide. It looks like the same thing will happen this year with Shabazz Muhammad. Last I checked, we don’t have an elite scorer and one looks to be falling right into our laps. This looks like a no-brainer.
Langlois: I think the odds are pretty high (80-20, or likely better) that Muhammad is there for the Pistons at No. 8, James, but this won’t be anywhere near the “no-brainer” that Drummond, Knight and Monroe were before him. The sense I got from talking to a handful of scouts at the NBA draft combine last month was that nobody really has a high degree of confidence that Muhammad will be that elite NBA scorer you see in him. I think Muhammad will be strongly considered – that’s why I included him in my series of draft profiles on potential lottery picks at No. 8 – but my best guess would be for two or three or four other players as more likely to be the choice.
Brian (East Lansing, Mich.): What are your thoughts on the Pistons potentially moving down and receiving more picks? Say a trade with Atlanta, trading No. 8 and possibly additional compensation, for 17 and 18, which they could use to select Shane Larkin and Gorgui Dieng, both of whom I think will be good NBA players.
Langlois: Had a lot of suggestions over the past month or so to trade down, Brian. Atlanta could be focused on cap space – they’ll go into the summer as one of the very few NBA teams with more cap space than the Pistons and will be able to sign two players to max deals, with some giving them an outside shot at Dwight Howard and Chris Paul – and, if so, trading up might not appeal to the Hawks due to the higher salary slot associated with the No. 8 pick. The Pistons would have to be pretty unenthusiastic about the talent available at No. 8 to make that trade, or else believe that the talent available will be comparable 10 spots lower. The history of the draft would argue against the latter likelihood. The Pistons made a similar move in 1995, though, when Doug Collins shipped the No. 8 pick to Portland for the 18th and 19th picks. That turned out to be a good deal for the Pistons, who saw the pick they vacated spent on Shawn Respert and then took Theo Ratliff and Randolph Childress. Childress never left a mark, but Ratliff went on to have a far better NBA career than Respert did. The only player taken between their picks that they might have taken instead was Kurt Thomas. The Pistons used Ratliff as the key piece to get Jerry Stackhouse from Philadelphia, got several good seasons from him, then flipped Stackhouse for Rip Hamilton, who was the leading scorer for the 2004 NBA champions. So, all in all, heck of a trade.
Jeff (Lawrence, Kan.): I get drafting talent over position, but teams are more than an accumulation of talent. The parts have to work together. With the way the Pistons are developing – two big men bludgeoning teams a la Memphis and Indiana – it seems two things become priorities: players, preferably point guards, proficient in getting the bigs the ball and dead-eye shooters to space the floor. I get frustrated with combo guards who satisfy neither of those roles. Who’s the shooter if Carter-Williams becomes the distributor or who becomes the distributor if C.J. McCollum is a scoring point guard? (Please say Ray McCallum in round two. The prospect of announcers having to negotiate a McCollum-McCallum backcourt thrills me a little too much.)
Langlois: I think pros like George Blaha and Mark Champion would probably go with “C.J.” and “Ray” to avoid any confusion, Jeff, but I appreciate your point. That would give columnists and headline writers some material, wouldn’t it? McBackcourt? Mac Attack? As to your larger point, I think you’re right in your vision – the Pistons are going to want players who can spread the floor for their two young big men. But you can’t wait for ideal prospects – the next Steve Nash at point guard, Ray Allen at shooting guard and Paul Pierce at small forward, say – and pass on good basketball players while reaching for players who fit a profile but whose talents wouldn’t allow them to crack the rotation. The draft – unless your team is at a point where it has a very specific need to fill in order to field a legitimate title contender – must be first and foremost about acquiring talent. Once you have enough talent, you can take it to the marketplace to address specific needs.
Jens (Cologne, Germany): In my opinion, C.J. McCollum is the obvious choice at No. 8 now that Oladipo is climbing toward the top of most draft boards, though if Bennett or Carter-Williams are there, they are intriguing, as well. What I don’t understand is why the presence of Brandon Knight is stated as a reason not to pick McCollum, yet the presence of Drummond and Monroe is rarely mentioned when Cody Zeller is discussed. I think McCollum (Joe Dumars?), Knight (Isiah Thomas?) and Stuckey (Microwave?) would make a formidable backcourt.
Langlois: I think you’d lose a lot of Bad Boys fans by comparing McCollum and Knight to Hall of Famers and Stuckey to the best sixth man in Pistons history, Jens, but if your contention is that those three could form a versatile and compatible backcourt, I’d agree that it would contain a lot of elements and give a coach plenty of matchup options. I don’t believe I’ve ever made the case that having Knight would diminish McCollum’s appeal, but since Knight is the backcourt piece likeliest to be in a Pistons uniform for the long haul and given that you would hope the No. 8 pick could yield a player talented enough to eventually be an NBA starter, then it’s reasonable to wonder how a Knight-McCollum backcourt would mesh. If the Pistons were to draft Zeller in the first round, the dynamics are a little different. No, he wouldn’t very likely be a starter, but it’s not hard to envision a three-man frontcourt rotation of Monroe, Drummond and Zeller with enough minutes to maximize what all three have to offer.
John (Pinckney, Mich.): I keep hearing people say we should trade up or down in this draft. Is that even allowed if we still owe a No. 1 pick to Charlotte?
Langlois: NBA teams can’t trade No. 1 draft picks in consecutive years, John. Since the Pistons might have to send their 2014 No. 1 pick to Charlotte (it’s protected only if it’s a top-eight pick), they can’t trade out of the 2013 first round. But they could trade up or down while retaining a first-round pick and they could also exercise the pick and then subsequently trade the rights to that player after the draft.
J.J. (Houston): Wouldn’t Michael Carter-Williams be a great fit for the Pistons? He’s a big, athletic, pass-first point guard that could set Brandon Knight up for some easy threes, dump the ball down to Monroe and get Drummond some easy lob dunks.
Langlois: On paper, he’s ideal, J.J., and it’s why I fully expect him to be strongly considered by the Pistons, and why I profiled him as a candidate to be the pick at No. 8 even though some mock drafts have him going at the back end of the lottery. Carter-Williams strikes me as a high-ceiling, low-floor type of guy. In five years, he could be an All-Star or just hanging on – or anywhere in between. If the Pistons don’t think there’s anyone who’s a surer bet at No. 8, though, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they took him even if they agree that there’s a chance Carter-Williams might not prove himself as an NBA starting-caliber point guard. There are times to shorten up and try to dump a single into right field, and there are times to swing for the fences. The Pistons are at a point, thanks to the success of the past three drafts, where they could go in either direction this time. If they take Carter-Williams and he hits his ceiling, then … wow. If they miss, while a setback, it wouldn’t be devastating given their young talent base and their cap situation.
Aaron (Carson City, Nev.): Whether or not we can get the 13th pick from Dallas, what are your thoughts on going after Tony Snell? I think I like the thought of him coming to Detroit.
Langlois: He’d be a candidate if he’s on the board at 37, Aaron. I don’t think anyone pegs him as a lottery candidate, if that was your intention to link him to the 13th pick. It makes sense the Pistons would be looking for athletes and shooters on the wing. They’ll have to decide if he passes muster in those categories, but he’s a guy who figures to go in the first half of the second round.