Pistons Mailbag - August 7, 2013
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Rod (Nashville, Tenn.): Are we able to re-sign Slava Kravtsov if he is released by Milwaukee, as has been reported?
Langlois: The Pistons cannot re-sign Slava Kravtsov. The NBA essentially closed that avenue, Rod, shortly after the Pistons traded Antonio McDyess along with Chauncey Billups to Denver in the Allen Iverson deal in November 2008; McDyess subsequently was waived by Denver and re-signed with the Pistons after a 30-day wait. Now, players traded and waived cannot re-sign with the team that traded them for one year. It’s not absolute that Milwaukee won’t keep Kravtsov, but the Bucks have Larry Sanders at center and this summer added free agents Zaza Pachulia and Miroslav Riduljica, the latter an undrafted European 7-footer. While Sanders could conceivably play power forward, easing the center logjam, the Bucks already have John Henson and Ersan Ilyasova at that position. So there really doesn’t appear to be room for Kravtsov. I’m sure John Hammond will hold out as long as he can, hoping that a need arises for some team via a training camp injury or otherwise, but I’d be surprised if Kravtsov is with the Bucks on opening night.
Eli (Toledo, Ohio): What about trading Monroe, Stuckey and Singler for Jeff Green and Courtney Lee? This would move Smith to power forward and Green will slide in at small forward. Floor spacing issues would be solved and the Pistons add an outside shooter and another good defender. The Celtics would get a nice piece that will be ready to help when they contend again.
Langlois: I like Jeff Green, Eli, but if Greg Monroe is getting traded, the return is going to be a bigger name than his. I’ve said many times over the years that no one is really untouchable – there might conceivably be a package that would get Pat Riley to consider dealing LeBron James – but Joe Dumars is going to be exceptionally careful when entertaining offers for a 23-year-old big man who has given every indication he isn’t done growing. The Pistons have taken huge strides this off-season and Dumars has been candid in saying that the motivation was to upgrade the talent base. Once you’ve amassed enough talent to see eye to eye with title contenders, you might consider a trade that is more about fit than pure talent. Now isn’t the time to consider trading Monroe simply to address an issue – floor spacing – that hasn’t yet proven itself problematic.
Andrew (South Lyon, Mich.): Some time ago you mentioned that the Pistons were considering adding an alternate uniform. Do you have an update?
Langlois: I don’t, Andrew. But I would advise you to stay tuned.
John (Pinckney, Mich.): Whatever happened to Ben Wallace? I understand he wanted to play last year but we had no roster spot available and he wasn’t interested in playing elsewhere. Is he done playing or might we hear from him closer to when the season starts?
Langlois: I don’t have anything new for you, John. Ben Wallace was adamant throughout the 2011-12 season, coming out of the lockout, that it would be his last season. He softened that stance somewhat over the final few weeks of the season, but never definitively said he wished to play again. He’ll turn 39 next month. The Pistons figure to be in the market for a spare big man to fill the 15th roster spot, but they might not add that player until close to training camp or, conceivably, even later as they wait to see what happens with players who might be squeezed out of roster spots elsewhere. This much is clear: Ben Wallace and Joe Dumars have a clear line of communication. They’ll be frank with each other.
Juan (Las Vegas): With the signing of Brandon Jennings, is that going to put the Pistons over the cap next off-season?
Langlois: If no other moves are made between now and next July 1 to add contracts that would count against the 2014-15 cap, the Pistons would still project to have cap space, probably around $10 million. That allows for Greg Monroe’s cap hold, which is slightly more than $10 million. It’s at least likely that Monroe will get a contract that starts above that figure, given recent contracts for players of similar impact. In that case, the Pistons would be best served by using their cap space first before coming to terms with Monroe on a new contract.
Jeff (Windsor, Ontario): Chauncey Buh-Buh-Buh Billups is my favorite NBA player, hands down. I read Chauncey wants to be the starting Pistons point guard. Wouldn’t Brandon Jennings get that role? I also read that Chauncey didn’t enjoy playing shooting guard for the Clippers.
Langlois: He said at the press conference to announce his return to the Pistons that he doesn’t see himself as a shooting guard. At the time, the Pistons hadn’t yet traded Brandon Knight for Brandon Jennings. I think it’s fairly certain that Jennings will be the starter at point guard. As I’ve written, it will be easier to manage Billups’ minutes – and I don’t think it’s realistic to expect him to play more than 20 minutes a game – if he’s coming off the bench. If Maurice Cheeks determines the most effective starting lineup includes Billups – and that’s possible, given his shooting acumen and how it would complement a Josh Smith-Greg Monroe-Andre Drummond frontcourt – then my guess is it would most likely be next to Jennings. Don’t get caught up in who would be labeled the point guard and shooting guard. Either one could play off the ball: Billups for his spot-up shooting ability, Jennings for the threat he would pose getting the ball on the move instead of initiating offense himself.
T.J. (Rochester Hills, Mich.): Do you think Joe Dumars would have interest in signing Antawn Jamison or Al Harrington as a stretch four if Charlie V is traded for a backup center with an expiring contract, someone like Andris Biedrins?
Langlois: Interesting thought on using Charlie V to get a quality backup big man, T.J. I don’t know if Biedrins would interest the Pistons given how far he’s fallen out of the mix in Golden State over the last several seasons. The Pistons might well believe that Villanueva has more value to them for his 3-point threat and that they can pick up a big man the equal of Biedrins as a free agent even now on a veteran’s minimum. Even if they were to trade Villanueva under such a scenario, I’m not sure they’d specifically look for another pure stretch four. They might feel they have in-house options to fill that spot in Jonas Jerebko or Gigi Datome, who is nearly 6-foot-9 and probably can hold his own defensively against other players who fit the stretch four description.
Will (Baltimore): Do you think Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings can silence the critics?
Langlois: Critics are never silenced, and I’m not suggesting they should be, but they can be muted. Every time LeBron James has a mediocre playoff game, someone suggests he lacks … something. It’s the nature of the beast. I think Smith and Jennings are both going to come to Detroit eager to justify the faith Joe Dumars has expressed in them and to disprove their doubters. That only lasts so long, though. Beyond that, I think they’ll be energized by playing in a place where they’re going to be embraced in a way we know Detroit embraces athletes when success starts to build upon success.
Jason (Colorado Springs, Colo.): Loved your article “Something to Prove.” I see the method to Joe D’s madness in constructing a potential champion as he did back in ’02. Since on paper we have a formidable and athletic frontcourt, what do you think is a realistic outcome for the season? Is it hard to imagine the Pistons being a top-three seed by year’s end?
Langlois: I think it’s reasonable to expect the Pistons to be in the thick of the playoff chase at the low end of expectations. That means a .500 record would be the baseline I would expect. There are always at least a few dozen games that can go either way, though, so add or subtract a dozen from a break-even season and you have the rough highs and lows possible, I suppose. That description probably fits nearly half the teams in the league. If they gel swiftly and win more of those tight games than they lose, is it possible they could challenge for home-court advantage in the first round? We’ll see. They won’t put a limit on their ceiling. Among the players I’ve talked to, there is excitement not only for the additions made but also for what they’ve heard from Maurice Cheeks so far. I’ll be curious to see what the vibe is after a few weeks of training camp. The fact that players like Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings and Chauncey Billups all arrive with a pretty healthy dose of playoff experience on their resumes will raise the bar on expectations as certainly as the influx of pure talent will.
Tiba (Detroit): My frustration with passing on Trey Burke was short-lived. Brandon Jennings is just what the Pistons needed. I know coach Cheeks said he wants to run a faster offense and perimeter shooting is an issue for our frontcourt. Assuming Jennings, Smith, Monroe and Drummond all start, who starts at the two? KCP seems like the best fit but he’s just a rookie.
Langlois: You captured the shooting guard situation in a nutshell, Tiba. On paper, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the best fit. He would give the backcourt size, athleticism, defense and shooting range. It figures that the Pistons would be best served by surrounding Smith, Monroe and Drummond with two good perimeter shooters. Jennings took nearly a half-dozen triples last year and made 37 percent, a perfectly acceptable figure. I think KCP is going to be an above-average 3-point shooter, but will he prove to be that as a rookie? Hard to say. He’d make life simpler for Cheeks by coming out of the gate fast, but I doubt the coaching staff will go into training camp without a Plan B (or Plan C, or Plan D) in the event the rookie looks like, well, a rookie.
Phil (Waterford, Mich.): With the trade for Brandon Jennings and the anticipated signing of a big man to replace Slava Kravtsov, do you believe the roster will be set? Will that be the roster the Pistons take into the 2013-14 season or does Joe Dumars have something else up his sleeve to make another move?
Langlois: I can’t answer that and, at this point, I don’t think Joe Dumars would be able to give you a conclusive answer either, Phil. He did say after Tuesday’s press conference to introduce Jennings that unless something turns up out of the blue – as the Jennings proposal from Bucks GM John Hammond did – he doesn’t anticipate any other significant moves. Someone might call him tomorrow and take his breath away with an offer. But also keep in mind that players recently signed as free agents can’t be traded between now and the time the season starts, so there isn’t as much flexibility as other teams with more static rosters currently have. If I were a betting man, I’d bet on signing a big man for the 15th roster spot and no other activity until after the regular season opens.
Frank (Pasadena, Calif.): Who do you prefer our backup center to be? I think this backup center should be ready to play heavy minutes when injuries or foul trouble happen to Monroe or Drummond. I’ve looked at the free agent pool. Kyrylo Fesenko can be a direct replacement for Slava Kravtsov, while Drew Gooden, Aaron Gray and Hamed Haddadi can be adequate for the third string center.
Langlois: There’s only one roster spot left, Frank. The backup center is going to be Monroe. If you pencil Drummond in for 30 minutes a game, Monroe will play 18 at center and another 15 to 18 at power forward. If injury takes one of them out for any length of time, you’re right – the spare big man is going to have to be someone who can step into the lineup for at least 10 minutes a night. A signing could happen at any time, but my guess is that it won’t happen anytime soon. The Pistons might well wait to see if anyone not in the pool right now becomes available as rosters get sorted out closer to training camp.