Pistons Mailbag - June 26, 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.

Tony (@tmerlo19): Do you think Joe will take a chance on Muhammad? I think he has high upside, but will character issues scare him away?

Langlois: If Joe Dumars believes Muhammad can become the James Harden-like scorer scouts expected him to be when he enrolled at UCLA, I think he’d take him without hesitation. (Of course, if Muhammad had shown that, he’d be going No. 1 in this draft.) I don’t really think NBA teams are concerned about Muhammad’s character, per se. They might have some concerns about the effects of being raised by what appears an overbearing father, but I didn’t hear any overtly negative feedback from teams who’ve had the chance to talk to Muhammad. I think he’ll be judged exclusively on what teams, the Pistons included, feel he can bring to them as a player.

Michael (Canton, Mich.): Who is coach Cheeks looking at for his staff of assistants?

Langlois: No word yet, Michael, but we should know something soon. The Pistons will be leaving for Orlando’s Summer League in a week and they’ll want at least a few assistants in place by then, I’d guess. John Loyer, who was Lawrence Frank’s top assistant in charge of offense, worked under Cheeks in both Portland and Philadelphia. He will be a very strong candidate. It’s not essential the entire staff be in place by Summer League, of course. In fact, a year ago, the host Magic hadn’t yet named a head coach. They used some ex-NBA assistants, including former Pistons assistant Pat Sullivan, to coach their Summer League roster.

GM (@GPMasters): Who would you personally like to see us draft this year? Who’s the best fit in your mind?

Langlois: Tougher to answer that this year than the past three, GM, when the lottery pick was very likely to be the biggest piece added to the roster. This year, the likelihood is that it won’t be the biggest piece, so it’s tough to judge the fit when there are probably going to be a few other even more significant pieces to be added. That’s why I’ve been maintaining that the Pistons are likely to take the player they see as having the most promising NBA career, regardless of position. If they see Trey Burke as being a slick pick-and-roll operator in whatever new offense Maurice Cheeks has planned and he slips through the top seven, terrific. Anthony Bennett is another who could slip, if the dominos fall right. If they see Cody Zeller as undervalued, he’d be a very nice complement to Drummond and Monroe for the variety he’d bring. C.J. McCollum might be the best pure scorer in the draft and the Pistons need a consistent scorer from the perimeter. Michael Carter-Williams, many believe, has the ability to become a first-rate playmaker. There are many, many possibilities – which is why this draft is so hard to peg.

Ryan (Grand Rapids, Mich.): Any chance Detroit makes a move to get two lottery picks? Maybe Knight, Singler and Jerebko to Phoenix for No. 5, then draft McLemore at No. 5 and Burke at No. 8; or Stuckey and No. 56 to Dallas for Shawn Marion and No. 13, then draft Caldwell-Pope at No. 8 and Michael Carter-Williams at 13? I would love to see the Pistons address both backcourt spots.

Langlois: Never say never, Ryan, but logic argues against it. First, no guarantee McLemore makes it to No. 5, despite recent reports that make it seem more likely today than a month ago, or that Burke makes it to No. 8. Second, you have to really believe in McLemore’s ability to trade three rotation pieces to get him – one of them, Knight, a 21-year-old who’s a two-year starter with plenty of room for growth, the franchise still believes. The Pistons have a pretty solid young core in Knight, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe and they have $20 million-plus in cap space to add veterans. I’m not sure they’re going to invest the assets you suggest in trying to add two more young players.

Ku (Detroit): I’ve been a Pistons fan my whole life and really like what we have in Greg, Andre and Brandon. I’ve been seeing that many think the Pistons should go in a different direction than Brandon, but I don’t see why. My question: Is Brandon Knight untouchable? I’ve also seen that some believe Greg and Andre aren’t a good match. Is Greg untouchable also? Or does he have a chance to be traded?

Langlois: Who’s really untouchable? Lebron James, for sure. Kevin Durant, almost as certain. Pretty much anybody else can be had for the right combination of assets. I think it’s fair to say the Pistons aren’t out shopping their young players, but the type of cap space they have this off-season makes many things possible. The Pistons surely do not believe that Monroe and Drummond won’t be able to play together very successfully. But it’s really too early to draw any concrete conclusions. They’ve been in the same starting lineup only 10 times. I think a big key to their compatibility will be the mix of players surrounding them.

Josh (Berkley, Mich.): Is there a circumstance you see the Pistons trading for Rajon Rondo? Perhaps offering Stuckey, Knight and the No. 8 pick for Rondo and one of their “bad” contracts in Lee or Terry plus the No. 15 pick? Also, if the Pistons were somehow able to get the No. 13 pick from Dallas, is it a given we’d take a point guard at No. 8 and a big at No. 13?

Langlois: If you’re Danny Ainge, you could make a strong case either way regarding Rondo – to rebuild around him, at 27, or to trade him and essentially start from scratch. Only Ainge can really best address that central issue because he’d have the best insight as to whether Rondo would be the right guy to make the centerpiece of your franchise. There are plenty of questions about that; many feel it was the strong presence of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce that helped shape Rondo and wonder how he’ll respond to being the alpha male. I don’t think anything is a given with this draft. I am fairly certain the Pistons aren’t going into Thursday night targeting any position for the No. 8 pick. With the likely exception of center – not just because Andre Drummond plays there, but also because Greg Monroe can and has spent the vast majority of his career there – I think they’re committed to taking the best player at any position. Remember, the free agent/trade market is the likeliest means of adding difference makers this off-season for the Pistons. I suspect they’ll target positions via those means. Now, I’ll say this. I think the Pistons would probably prefer to come away with two of the following three pieces from their first two picks: a point guard, a wing shooter and a complementary big man to Monroe and Drummond. So if they wind up with a point guard at No. 8, for instance, then you can probably rule out a point guard at No. 37, where there should be a handful of good ones still on the board.

Tim (Salt Lake City): In a press conference, Joe Dumars said he has been working the phones for trades. Is this all smoke and mirrors or is it actually a possibility to bring in a big name via trade?

Langlois: The fact he’s been involved in exchanging ideas with his peers around the league isn’t smoke and mirrors. That doesn’t guarantee anything comes out of it, but the activity level is pretty much guaranteed when you have the type of cap space the Pistons will have this off-season. The dynamic is a little different than it’s ever been, Tim, and I have no idea what the effect of that will be. We’ve never seen the types of luxury taxes that are about to be in effect. There are about seven teams with significant cap space and that many again with the ability to create it if they follow certain steps, in many cases unlikely, and about an equal number facing tax implications. I would imagine that has driven up the level of meaningful trade talk league-wide, but perhaps it diminishes the likelihood of any particular team being involved in a deal simply because of the quantity of trade candidates. We’ll see.

Sam (Kalamazoo, Mich.): I can’t remember where I heard a rumor about the Pistons drafting Zeller and moving Monroe, but it doesn’t seem like a half-bad gamble considering the strength of next year’s draft. Do you think the Pistons would consider packaging Monroe and what could they get in return?

Langlois: I think Zeller is a legitimate candidate to be the pick at No. 8, Sam. In fact, I’d rank him right with C.J. McCollum, Michael Carter-Williams, Shabazz Muhammad and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as the likeliest draft targets if none of the projected top seven (Noel, McLemore, Porter, Bennett, Oladipo, Len, Burke) slip. Trading Monroe, I can pretty much guarantee, will not factor into the decision. I think it’s considerably worse than a half-bad gamble to trade a 22-year-old big man on the verge of All-Star appearances unless there is a whopping return in store. Zeller makes sense for reasons I outlined in our True Blue Pistons draft preview installment on him. There are 96 minutes per game to go around between power forward and center, which readily accommodates having three quality big men. I don’t think the Pistons would feel comfortable going into next season with Andre Drummond, who’ll turn 20 in August, and Zeller, a rookie who turns 21 in training camp, as their top two up front unless they were certain of landing another true interior player – and I’m not considering Jonas Jerebko or Charlie Villanueva, both capable of playing power forward but not really full-time interior players, in that mix – in free agency or via trade. As for the strength of next year’s draft, keep in mind the Pistons only keep the pick if it’s in the top eight; otherwise, it goes to Charlotte.

Maurice (Detroit): I’m a die-hard Pistons fan. If Trey Burke is there at No. 8, they should take him. If he’s not there, they should take McCollum or Carter-Williams.

Langlois: I speculated on the likelihood of one from among the top seven falling to the Pistons earlier this week, Maurice, and I think Burke is as likely as anyone from that group to fall. And as I wrote, he’d present the Pistons with something of a dilemma. The Pistons tried Brandon Knight at shooting guard over the last few months of last season. It remains to be seen where he lines up under Maurice Cheeks, but drafting Burke probably means he stays at that spot. While Knight is going to face some matchup issues due to size at shooting guard, it might compound problems for the Pistons if they drafted a smaller point guard like Burke. Carter-Williams, at 6-foot-6, might give the Pistons the flexibility of playing him at point guard but guarding some shooting guards. Those are the types of considerations you undertake when splitting hairs, but if Joe Dumars and his cabinet see in Burke a dynamic playmaker and charismatic leader, I think that trumps all other concerns; you draft someone you think can be an impact player and then sort out the roster later. No question, the three players you name will have had their games dissected and debated ad nauseum by the Pistons over the past few months.

Shane (Traverse City, Mich.): Can you please tell me why Nerlens Noel is in play for the No. 1 pick? He’s a 206-pound “center” with absolutely no offensive game. He is very athletic, but who knows how athletic because he’s coming off a torn ACL. Rim protection is valuable, but how much better is he really than, say, Gorgui Dieng? To me, he’s Andre Drummond but weighs about 70 pounds less. His upside can’t be that enticing, can it?

Langlois: It underscores how well the Pistons did in 2012 to get Drummond at No. 9, Shane. There is little doubt that if Drummond were in this draft, he’d be the No. 1 prospect – and he’s still younger than most of the players who’ll go in the lottery this year. Noel reportedly played at around 225 pounds at Kentucky but lost weight after undergoing knee surgery. It’s reasonable to assume he’ll be around 230 when he hits the court sometime next winter, but that’s still about 65 pounds less than Drummond. I don’t think you have to weigh 260 or more to be able to hold your ground, but playing at 230 will complicate Noel’s learning curve. There is no question he’s a very gifted shot-blocker who runs very well and will get points in ways similar to Drummond – being active on the glass, running the floor and finishing lob dunks. As for Noel and Dieng, keep in mind Noel is more than four years younger than Dieng. Had Noel finished four years of eligibility at Kentucky, he’d still come to the NBA at a younger age than Dieng is today.

Jacob (Livonia, Mich.): It seems the Pistons are after a point guard in this draft. I have been keeping up with it but still don’t know who I’d choose if all three point guard are on the board at No. 8. Burke, Carter-Williams and McCollum all have upside and downside. If all three are on the board, who would the Pistons choose?

Langlois: A great unknown, Jacob. As I write this, I don’t know for sure that they’ve made that decision yet. They usually sit down sometime about 24 hours before the draft and make those types of final decisions, after all of the information and evaluation is at hand. They play three distinctly different games. You can make the case that Carter-Williams’ style fits best with the Monroe-Drummond-Knight core in that a playmaker would draw out the best in the two big men and his size would allow the Pistons to play the somewhat undersized Knight at shooting guard. But style takes a back seat to talent, so if the Pistons see Burke or McCollum as more likely to become the better players in a vacuum, it’s tough at that point to take someone simply because the fit is better.

Chris (Saline, Mich.): If the Pistons acquire an additional first-rounder this year, would that pick automatically go to Charlotte? Also, if we acquire an additional second-rounder next year, would the Pistons get to decide which pick to send to Charlotte, assuming our pick is outside the top eight?

Langlois: No, an additional pick this season wouldn’t automatically go to Charlotte. The Pistons could, on the other hand, acquire an additional pick to satisfy their obligation to Charlotte if the Bobcats agreed to such compensation. That’s unlikely, though, given what teams believe about the strength of next year’s draft vis a vis this year’s. If the Pistons were to add a first-rounder for next season, they would still owe Charlotte their pick if it didn’t meet the top-eight protection parameters stipulated. Any amendments to to terms of the trade would have to be agreed to mutually.

Jeff (Columbus, Ohio): Has Joe D worked out Carter-Williams? I really want that dude. He’s a freak – way bigger than C.J. McCollum.

Langlois: Carter-Williams and McCollum worked out simultaneously for the Pistons last week – at least if their Twitter accounts are reliable.

Lemar (Ann Arbor, Mich.): More and more mock drafts have us linked to Trey Burke. If this happens (and I wouldn’t be mad if it did), what do you think the organization’s thoughts on Calderon, Knight and Bynum will be moving forward?

Langlois: Makes it more certain that Knight stays at shooting guard and eliminates the possibility of bringing back both Calderon and Bynum, which might not be in the cards regardless. Burke and Bynum would make for two undersized point guards. Tough to say if the Pistons would be comfortable with that as a two-deep. Mo Cheeks might have some input on that score.

Reid (Swartz Creek, Mich.): With the rise of small forwards playing power forward, I feel Anthony Bennett should be the pick. From all accounts, he has the athleticism to do so, discounting reports that he’s added 20 pounds, and he has the strength and length to guard power forwards. What do you think is the likelihood that he’s one of the top seven to fall?

Langlois: Check my mock draft coming later today, Reid. Also, check my Monday True Blue Pistons blog on the likelihood of someone from the top seven falling. Most teams, if not all, see Bennett as primarily a power forward. That’s where his athleticism and 3-point shooting would make him unique. Move him to small forward and those advantages diminish, though perhaps his size and strength would then give him matchup edges if he can guard that far from the rim.