Pistons Mailbag - July 17, 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.
Master (Grand Rapids, Mich.): I’m excited about Chauncey’s off-court leadership. Every team he has gone to since leaving has made significant strides from the previous year. Could Pistons fans be overlooking Chauncey’s intangibles, especially considering what we learned when he left?
Langlois: I think Pistons fans had a very healthy appreciation for everything Chauncey Billups represented, as evidenced by the fact they continued to lament his absence for the past five seasons and reacted so enthusiastically to his return. As Joe Dumars made clear on Tuesday, they didn’t bring him back just for a feel-good story; they wanted him back for his ability to play and his known qualities away from the court in team-building activities.
Richard (Las Vegas): I’m a pro basketball fan since 1955 (I hated George Mikan) and a Pistons lover, but I found our team the past few years becoming unwatchable. I love watching pros play like pros. It seems to me the Pistons are rapidly becoming a savvy pro team again, especially with Mo, Rasheed, Chauncey and all that asphalt and YMCA they have absorbed. I can’t wait to see them put it all together for Joe D and Tom Gores.
Langlois: I know there’s no question in there, Richard, but I posted your Mailbag submission out of respect for the longevity of your NBA/Pistons devotion and also because you accurately reflected the sentiments of many fans who expressed their enthusiasm for the off-season moves, including the return of Chauncey Billups, the addition of Josh Smith, the drafting of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the intriguing signing of Italian shooting ace Gigi Datome. Anticipation for the season is clearly building based on the anecdotal evidence of Pistons Mailbag’s inbox and my Twitter interactions.
Buk (Bangkok, Thailand): Let’s say Rondo comes back in December and looks fully recovered. Do you think Joe Dumars would offer Drummond, Stuckey and Villanueva for Rondo? I know everyone loves Drummond, but realistically he won’t play more than 25 minutes a night. We could build around Smith, Monroe and Rondo, which is a pretty good trio. I’d go for it.
Langlois: Rondo is about ready to join Pistons Mailbag FAQ. I suspect this one will simmer until Boston either trades him or makes a strong public declaration that he’s not available. The sense I got from NBA executives in Orlando during Summer League was that Celtics GM Danny Ainge eventually is likely to move Rondo, but he won’t do it now while Rondo is recovering from knee surgery. (By the way, Rondo is targeting the season opener and that appears realistic; if not, it shouldn’t be anything like Derrick Rose’s recovery. At the time of the injury, it was discovered Rondo’s wasn’t a complete tear and it was expected his rehabilitation would move along swiftly.) The expectation is that Ainge wants Rondo back and playing at a high level to maximize his trade value. He might hang on to him right up until the February trade deadline to drive up the bidding. I do not expect Andre Drummond to be involved in trade talks. He’s 19, on his rookie conract and everyone agrees he has a chance to be a dominant player. That’s a precious commodity.
Leo (Rome, Italy): I’m a fan of Acea Roma and I’m very happy that Luigi Datome has joined the Detroit Pistons. It is a dream come true. He played for Roma for five years at a very high level and helped a lot as they went to the finals, losing to Siena. Do you know what his jersey number will be and is it possible to buy the jersey?
Langlois: I’m told that home replica jerseys are available for Pistons newcomers Josh Smith and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as well as numbered T-shirts available as presale items on PistonsLR.com. They should be available in Pistons Locker Room stores any day, as well. No jerseys or T-shirts for Datome or Peyton Siva are yet available, but personalized Swingman jerseys with those players’ names and numbers – and Datome will wear No. 13 – are available. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on ordering a personalized Swingman jersey. I’m sure that Chauncey Billups No. 1 and Andre Drummond No. 0 jerseys and T-shirts will be available in stores and online very soon, as well.
Lemar (Ann Arbor, Mich.): Can you shed any light on the rumors we are still coveting an elite point guard such as Rajon Rondo or Brandon Jennings?
Langlois: Joe Dumars addressed them to the extent he could following Tuesday’s press conference for Chauncey Billups. He said he and Ainge have talked but he emphatically denied that Brandon Knight’s name ever came up. See above for a likely explanation: Ainge naturally wants the highest possible yield for Rondo and that isn’t likely to happen until he shows he’s over the ACL tear. I don’t think Jennings is an “elite” point guard. He’s a promising young one at 23. So is Brandon Knight, 21.
Clinton (East Lansing, Mich.): I think the starting lineup should be Knight, Billups, Singler, Smith and Monroe. Have Drummond still get his 30 minutes but allow for Smith to minimize his time at small forward. Bynum, Stuckey, KCP, Jerebko and Drummond make a really good second unit. Thoughts?
Langlois: Only in unique circumstances do teams play true “second units” that consist of five bench players. Most coaches stagger substitutions so there are usually two or three starters on the floor. The Pistons are going to have a lot of new parts, so it might take Maurice Cheeks a while to figure out the most effective units. For instance, maybe he’ll find that someone like Kyle Singler or Jonas Jerebko at small forward – more of an all-around, effort player, to overgeneralize – will fit better when Greg Monroe is at center with Andre Drummond on the bench, and maybe a shooter like Luigi Datome will work better when Monroe is out and Drummond and Josh Smith are the center-power forward combination. The Pistons were clear that they brought Billups back to play point guard – and Billups made his preference on that score known, too. Joe Dumars and his staff have added enough new pieces – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tony Mitchell, Peyton Siva (if they can find a roster spot for him), Smith, Datome – that Cheeks is going to be able to cobble together a lineup for whatever he wants to present: size, athleticism, shooting, defense or any combination of those qualities. It’ll take some experimentation to see how it all shakes out.
Jake (Plymouth, Mich.): What do you think Josh Smith and Chauncey Billups will bring to the Pistons? Any more signings or trades that are coming?
Langlois: Smith is going to play heavy minutes – he’ll either lead the team in minutes played or be very close to whoever does – and he’ll add what you’d expect of an athletically gifted, versatile 6-foot-9 forward. He’s really good defensively around the rim or out on the wing and he’ll help the Pistons get some easy baskets every night for the things he does that help fuel transition basketball. Adding that level of talent will help internally to raise expectations, as will the addition of Chauncey Billups, who comes with the aura that only a player with his league-wide respect fosters. Billups, aside from the very real impact of his leadership and ability to crystallize chemistry in the locker room, will also help the Pistons win close games with his shot- and decision-making skills. Stay tuned on more personnel moves. Joe Dumars has said there’s more he’d like to do, though he said Tuesday that he’d be OK with taking the roster as it stands now into the season. We might have to wait for teams to react to some level of failure to meet their own expectations in free agency before moving on to serious trade talks, but there’s still more than two months to go until training camp.
Ken (Dharamsala, India): Drummond has yet to put in one solid year as a starter. Given this unknown, isn’t it a little premature to trade Monroe for a guard, proven or otherwise? Tom Gores has deep pockets. Do you think he might go over the cap to get a proven ballhandling guard?
Langlois: Trading Monroe is risky, Drummond’s presence or readiness to handle starter’s minutes aside. He just turned 23, he’s come a long way already and the Pistons see firm evidence that he will continue to evolve and improve. Trust me, they are no hurry to trade him. Joe D stopped short of calling anyone untouchable last week, but he said “you probably have a pretty good idea of the few guys” who are all but unavailable. If there is more than one guy who falls into that category, it’s certain that Monroe is among them. As for Gores’ willingness to go over the cap (or into the luxury tax), that’s pretty much irrelevant at this point. The Pistons went into the NBA fiscal year under the salary cap. They are limited as to what they could do now. Once they’ve spent up to the cap – and after the signings of Smith, Datome, Bynum and Billups, they’re close to it – then they have a newly created exception at the disposal of teams with cap space, commonly called the “room exception.” For the 2013-14 season, the first-year maximum salary is $2.65 million. But with the roster full, there is little likelihood they would use it at this time. Perhaps if a trade is made that sends multiple players out and creates a roster opening, they would. But also keep in mind that the Pistons are roughly projected to have about $15 million in cap space next summer, even factoring in the expected significant raise for Greg Monroe, and anything they commit now to the 2014-15 payroll eats into their ability to add another player of Josh Smith’s impact to the roster next summer.
Eric (Livonia, Mich.): Do you think the Lakers would consider trading Kobe Bryant? The Lakers are looking to be big players next year in free agency and if they trade Kobe they could get a high draft pick in a great draft. A lineup of Knight-Bryant-Smith-Monroe-Drummond could compete with the Heat and the Nets.
Langlois: Not sure whom you’re proposing the Pistons send to the Lakers. But they’d have to dump a lot of contracts to come close enough to Bryant’s enormous $30 million 2013-14 cap figure to make it work. Kobe’s contract won’t preclude the Lakers from being players in free agency; it’s expiring. That’s precisely why analysts are talking about the Lakers going after the likes of LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony next summer. Also, the Pistons owe Charlotte a No. 1 pick that would prohibit them from enticing the Lakers with anything relative to the 2014 draft, and a lineup that puts Bryant – assuming he’s healthy after a torn Achilles late in the season, which is a big assumption for someone who’ll be 35 next month – with Smith, Monroe and Drummond doesn’t sound like one that would be delivering a lottery pick to anyone.
Butch (St. Augustine, Fla.): I thought KCP was the right choice for our first pick. After watching Summer League, I am even more impressed. He reminded me some of Dwyane Wade. What was your opinion of him?
Langlois: I think comparing him to Wade is a stretch. Wade was very skilled with the ball and had an advanced ability to score off the dribble from the moment he got to the NBA. Caldwell-Pope has some size on him, about 2 or 3 inches, and the first thing I noticed in practices before games began was his ability to get his hands on a lot of balls defensively. Then his athleticism stood out – he gets to the basket in a hurry and gets off his feet with suddenness. He acknowledged that he needs to improve his ballhandling and as he does that, he’ll get that much better using his explosiveness to get into the paint. I’ll be curious to see how big a leap he can take over the course of the summer. It might take a little time for his shot to show up, but he’s got a track record as a shooter – no reason to think it won’t start falling once he acclimates to the speed of the NBA game and the need to get shots off quickly when space presents itself. As I wrote when Summer League ended, I’m certain Joe Dumars, Maurice Cheeks and their staffs left Orlando feeling pretty good about their draft picks and the value they got at No. 8 with Caldwell-Pope. I don’t yet know if he has the ceiling of an Eric Gordon, but I think Gordon came to the NBA something like KCP – no real evidence of a mid-range game yet, but 3-point shooting and the ability to get to the basket. Gordon became better at both things – distance shooting and finishing at the rim – after a few years in the NBA. If KCP hits his mark, he could be a hybrid between Jimmy Butler, for his size and ability to defend, and a healthy Gordon. That would make him a really great addition.
Fadi (Ain el Delb, Lebanon): Who do you compare Gigi’s game most to in the NBA?
Langlois: I’d be throwing darts at that one without having seen him play except for a few highlight clips. For what it’s worth, he mentioned Shane Battier as someone he would emulate for his ability to shoot 3-pointers and be a good defender and all-around smart player. The book on Datome is great shooter, tough and good athlete. That sounds like Battier. He won’t win any track and field gold medals, but anyone who doubts Battier’s athleticism is caught up in reducing athleticism to running fast and jumping high. I’m sure Battier’s hand-eye and foot-eye coordination would register very high among his peers.
T.J. (Rochester Hills, Mich.): If Stuckey’s on the move, is there a plan to acquire a shooting guard who can give KCP time to gain his footing? Someone like Arron Afflalo, Marcus Thornton or Courtney Lee? Is there a plan to add another big? Also, with the last assistant coaching spot, could that be a former head coach type like Lionel Hollins? That seems to be the trend with McMillan going to Indiana, Frank to Brooklyn and even Cheeks with Brooks?
Langlois: Good questions, but the answer is the same in each case: wait and see. If the front office sees the need to bring in someone like Afflalo, Thornton or Lee, why not just keep Stuckey, whose contract expires and wouldn’t hinder their ability to make other moves next off-season if KCP proves himself capable of starting, or at least playing a significant role, by that time? There probably is a need for a fourth big man to play up front if you pencil Greg Monroe in for the 33 minutes a game he got last season, guess that Andre Drummond will play about 30 and figure Josh Smith will play half of his minutes (let’s say 18) at power forward. That’s 81 of the 96 minutes available at power forward/center. As long as Jonas Jerebko and Charlie Villanueva are on the roster, I think the front office feels they have sufficient depth, with Slava Kravtsov also a possibility to soak up minutes at center and, perhaps, Gigi Datome or Kyle Singler factoring as small-ball power forwards when other teams downsize. The expectation is that Cheeks will add another assistant to sit on the bench alongside John Loyer and Maz Trakh with Rasheed Wallace and Bernard Smith behind the bench. I don’t know if Hollins thinks serving as an assistant is best for his market value at this point. He might want to sit out and cherry pick an attractive opening should one present itself either during the season or next off-season.
Matt (Onekama, Mich.): I was pleasantly surprised by Peyton Siva in Summer League, not only because of his stats but also the leadership you could see he provided. But I’m also aware of the roster situation. I was wondering if Siva could play in Europe for a year and if the Pistons could retain his rights as they did with Kyle Singler of it that was a special provision because of the lockout that year.
Langlois: You’re right, Matt, Siva was impressive in Summer League, especially his ability to protect the basketball given the chaotic pace of play in that setting caused by (a) the unfamiliarity of players with each other, given they only get a few days to practice and learn a new system and (b) the defensive intensity also present in Summer League due to the vast majority of players there who need to catch the eye of either NBA or international league executives looking to fill their rosters. Yes, it’s likely the Pistons will extend a tender to Siva by the Sept. 6 deadline. They might have created a roster spot for him by then. If not, he could sign to play internationally. Perhaps he could even get an “out” in an international contract that would allow him to return to the NBA should the Pistons open a roster spot during the season.