Pistons Mailbag - July 3, 2013
We reserve the right to edit your question for the sake of brevity or clarity.
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.
(Editor’s note: During the NBA’s moratorium period that ends on July 10, teams are unable to speak directly to the pursuit of free agents. Mailbag, quite naturally, received many inquiries over the past few days spurred by reports of the Pistons’ pursuit of several prominent free agents. We’ll get to them in next week’s Mailbag.)
Mike (Tucson, Ariz.): With the Suns trading Jared Dudley and acquiring Eric Bledsoe, they have a hole at shooting guard and a surplus at point guard, assuming they still see Kendall Marshall in their future. Wouldn’t a trade of Rodney Stuckey’s expiring deal for Goran Dragic make a ton of sense for both teams? Dragic is at $7.5 million for three more seasons, which will cost less than Calderon, not to mention he’s a true point guard who can distribute, hit from outside the arc and shoots a high percentage at the free-throw line.
Langlois: Hard to read what new Suns management is thinking, Mike. Phoenix, in the past, was one of the teams with interest in Stuckey. Acquiring Bledsoe gives the Suns two starting-quality point guards, but it’s possible Jeff Hornacek is keen on using Bledsoe and Dragic in tandem at times, making retaining both a much stronger likelihood. Also keep in mind that the Suns might be as interested in positioning for the 2014 draft as in making moves that logically improve their outlook for the 2013-14 season. In a vacuum, your suggestion is built on sound logic. We’ll see if it makes sense given the wider implications for both teams.
Jens (Cologne, Germany): How is Houston supposed to pay for all the moves they’ve made in the last 12 months? It was creative and they got James Harden, but Asik and Lin have the worst contracts in the league next year and they have to pay an extension to Parsons after next year. If they add Josh Smith and Dwight Howard they are in tax land with their starting five alone. What are your thoughts?
Langlois: Rockets owner Les Alexander has been pretty clear that he’s willing to pay a tax bill for a legitimate title contender. Asik and Lin, as various reports have it, are being made available in trade. Teams with cap space that don’t land their biggest targets would be able to absorb their salaries without sending matching contracts back to Houston. As for being in tax territory with just a starting five, see Brooklyn.
Jacob (Fenton, Mich.): Why don’t the Pistons trade Stuckey and Villanueva for Rudy Gay or Danny Granger if he is available now? They would still have the cap space to make a substantial offer to a premier free agent and they would address the need for impact players on the wing. In the event the option to trade for Rajon Rondo arises, and the Pistons pursue that path, they would be in a better position to offer an impact player as compensation.
Langlois: There are unconfirmed reports the Pistons did make an offer of Stuckey and Villanueva for Gay, Jacob. It might seem odd that the Raptors would be ready to move Gay less than six months after trading for him, but keep in mind Toronto has changed top management. It’s likely ownership understood new GM Masai Ujiri’s intentions before hiring him with regard to the roster. The fact both Stuckey and Villanueva are on expiring contracts makes them valuable trade chips that, combined with the more than $20 million the Pistons already have available in cap space, give them considerable flexibility in roster building for the season ahead. As for Granger, his desirability would hinge on the prognosis of his knee injury. Keep in mind that there were concerns in NBA front offices over his knees when Granger was coming out of college. If the medical information indicates he’s past the injury that essentially cost him all of last season, then he becomes an intriguing trade target.
Che (N’Djamena, Chad): With recent talk of the Pistons being interested in Rondo, I seriously hope this doesn’t happen. It seems they will be asking for way too much for a currently injured setup artist who has a difficult time scoring. Do you think this would likely happen and, if so, what would the price be for Rondo?
Langlois: He’s no worse than one of the league’s top 10 point guards, Che, and probably higher than that, in a golden era of point guards. He won’t come cheap. He’s either the centerpiece of a rebuilding effort in Boston or the critical trade piece for an even more aggressive rebuilding. It really will depend on what marching orders Danny Ainge gets from ownership. But if they come to the Pistons for a trade, I think it’s fair to guess that Ainge would ask for one of their two young big men, Greg Monroe or Andre Drummond. As with Granger, mentioned above, the medical report on Rondo’s knee will be critical. The initial reports, after he suffered the ACL tear, were optimistic in that it was a clean and not even a complete ligament tear, which probably means he’ll be back sooner than later.
Lemar (Ann Arbor, Mich.): Why aren’t the Pistons more active in some of these smaller free-agent deals?
Langlois: Teams build rosters from the top down, not the bottom up. When you have the amount of cap space the Pistons have, you make your major moves first, then fill out the roster with the best complementary parts left. That makes sense on at least two levels. First, you don’t want to spend your minor on role players who might not fit the role you need most after landing the centerpieces; second, you need enough money to pay for the centerpieces and don’t want to commit it elsewhere only to come up a relative pittance short of matching someone else’s offer for the most coveted players on the market. When the carousel stops on free agency every summer, there are always good players left who’ll be looking to sign for veteran’s minimum deals or not much more.
Howard (Gladstone, Mich.): Will the Summer League games be shown on TV?
Langlois: All five Pistons games in Orlando, starting on Sunday, will be shown live on NBA TV. You can also purchase a subscription to watch every game from both Orlando and Las Vegas online or via your mobile device at NBA.com.
Shikhar (Troy, Mich.): Why did the Pistons select Kentavious Caldwell-Pope over the national consensus college Player of the Year, Trey Burke? I just don’t get it. Please explain to me and the whole state what was going through Joe Dumars’ and Tom Gores’ minds when they made this pick?
Langlois: I’m going to guess that the vast majority of people flabbergasted at bypassing Burke in favor of Caldwell-Pope didn’t see a minute of a Georgia game last season. Burke was an amazing college player who could very well have a long, productive NBA career and prove he was every bit worthy of being the No. 9 pick – or even higher. But I don’t have to guess what was in Joe D’s mind when he made the pick. He explained it pretty clearly the night of the draft. The Pistons wanted to add size, athleticism and perimeter shooting on the wings; Caldwell-Pope offered all three. Simple as that. They knew Minnesota was hoping he’d make it to them at No. 9, so it’s not as if the pick was considered a reach for need over value. By almost every credible account, Caldwell-Pope and Burke were considered fairly equal talents.
Darrell (Detroit): I’d like to applaud Joe D for selecting Caldwell-Pope. I’m sure Burke will be a good player, but he and Knight would have been a very undersized backcourt and I can’t think of any recent team that won a championship with two undersized guard.
Langlois: The prospect of being undersized at both backcourt positions had the Pistons drafted Burke and paired him with Knight likely was a consideration for Joe Dumars and the front office. But I wouldn’t take that too far, either. If the Pistons thought Burke was destined to have the better NBA career than Caldwell-Pope, and if they believed Burke was going to be immediately capable of being a top-10 level NBA point guard, then I think they’d have grabbed him and sorted out the rest of the roster. The strong impression I got, both from what the Pistons said following the draft and what I’ve learned from other sources, is that they truly believed Caldwell-Pope has a strong chance to emerge as a high-quality NBA shooting guard once he adjusts to the level of play.
Jim (Rapid City, Mich.): Can an assistant coach be given a technical foul for yelling, "Ball don’t lie!?"
Langlois: Tim Duncan was once given a technical foul for smiling.
Jeff (Denver): We’ve seen the Pistons linked to prominent wing free agents. But are there any plans to acquire another reliable frontcourt player to support Monroe and Drummond? Jerebko, Villanueva, Kravtsov and Mitchell are there, but I think it is essential to acquire a quality supporting big man.
Langlois: They’re pretty flexible there already, Jeff, given Monroe’s history at center and Drummond’s promise at that position. Kravtsov is less of a known quantity, but he’s at least a serviceable No. 3 center. At power forward, I’m sure the front office is open to an upgrade, but with Monroe likely playing roughly half the game at that spot, I don’t know that management would be uncomfortable going to training camp counting on some combination of Jerebko, Villanueva and Mitchell to give them the other half of a game. The focus in free agency and trade will be upgrading the perimeter. Also keep in mind that with many teams now playing chunks of games with unconventionally small lineups, the right free agent or trade target acquired to play small forward might, in fact, wind up finishing games at power forward when the opposition goes small to get its best players on the court. All of that said, once Joe D makes his major moves, assuming there are still a few roster spots open, I wouldn’t be surprised if he looks to acquire a veteran who’ll give him a little more frontcourt flexibility.
Chris (Brighton, Mich.): I think Tony Mitchell could end up being the best draft choice and I really like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. I understand him falling – he needs to mature – but with his size, skills and athleticism, how did he fall out of the 20s?
Langlois: One of the consensus opinions that emerged as this draft was being assessed in the weeks leading up to it was that after the first dozen or so players, there was a wide middle class to the draft that started late in the lottery and extended to nearly the middle of the second round offering fairly equal value. That’s a really wide range and an unusual phenomenon. What it takes to send a player that teams generally viewed as a late-lottery talent a year earlier to the 37th pick is him losing a number of tiebreakers among teams picking ahead of the Pistons. I wouldn’t be surprised, if such a fact could ever reliably be unearthed, to learn that a handful of teams picking ahead of the Pistons had Mitchell on their very short list but picked someone else for any number of reasons, including roster fit. Nobody taken at 37 in any draft is ever a sure thing, and Mitchell has more volatility than others taken in the 30s, but his ceiling is unusually high for a second-rounder. It will be interesting to see him in Summer League next week and monitoring the work he puts in between now and training camp in October.
Michael (Ferndale, Mich.): With the Pistons having five rookies last year and three draft picks this year, why are they not participating in both Orlando and Las Vegas summer leagues? I remember reading something about Lawrence Frank liking the Orlando setting better, but with eight players looking to show their skills or trying to work on their game, I think it makes a lot more sense to play more games.
Langlois: The only NBA team participating in both leagues is Miami. I don’t know Miami’s logic, but it might be that the Heat – who have very few young players on their roster – are merely using summer league as an audition for its last few roster spots on minimum-wage deals. The Pistons will be sure to get long glimpses of their three draft picks in Orlando next week. I’d anticipate Khris Middleton to play substantial minutes, too, though perhaps not quite as many as Caldwell-Pope, Mitchell and Siva. After Orlando wraps up, the rookies will probably take a little bit of a breather and then log plenty of time in August and September at the practice facility, where they’ll be under the direction of Arnie Kander, who will surely have unique and meaningful insights on training methods to draw out the best of them, and Maurice Cheeks’ coaching staff, where they’ll work on individual skills. Games serve a useful purpose, Michael, but so do those other areas. There’s room for both.