Pistons Mailbag - August 14, 2013
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Bo (New York): Am I crazy to think Brandon Jennings can average nine or 10 assists a game, assuming he sticks to his word and becomes the focused playmaker he was before Milwaukee and assuming 3-point shooters hit their shots? I can see a 12-point, 10-assist player with increased shooting efficiency and a more disciplined defensive effort given the influences of Chauncey Billups, Maurice Cheeks, Rasheed Wallace and Joe Dumars.
Langlois: Here’s the list of NBA players who averaged nine or more assists last season: Rajon Rondo, Chris Paul, Greivis Vasquez. That’s a lot of assists. I don’t think Joe Dumars or Maurice Cheeks will get too caught up in the numbers. They’ll judge Jennings on his efficiency. They’ll want him to take good shots and create scoring chances for his teammates and know how to walk the fine line between pushing boundaries to create scoring chances and taking care of the basketball. The Pistons are going to be a load for anyone on the boards this year with Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith – at least two of whom will be on the floor most of the time – so it will be important to create shots and limit turnovers. Get the ball on the rim and the Pistons will be dangerous.
Karthik (Farmington Hills, Mich.): When is Greg Monroe due for an extension and when will it impact the salary cap?
Langlois: Monroe is entering the fourth and last year of his rookie contract, Karthik. He will be playing under a new contract once the coming season ends. So the 2014-15 cap will have to accommodate a new salary for Monroe. He will have a “cap hold” of 250 percent of his 2013-14 salary, which means slightly more than $10 million. Unless the Pistons and Monroe agree to a new deal in advance – and it has been widely reported that Monroe’s agent, David Falk, is a proponent of taking his clients into free agency – then Monroe will count against the 2014-15 cap for about $10.2 million on next July 1, assuming the Pistons extend a qualifying offer, a safe assumption. Because it is reasonable to assume that the actual contract Monroe signs will start at a higher rate than that, given contracts signed recently by players like Roy Hibbert and JaVale McGee, the Pistons would be best served by using the cap space they are projected to have – around $10 million as it stands today – and then coming to terms with Monroe. If Monroe were to agree to a deal that, for argument’s sake, starts at $12 million a season, then the Pistons would have $2 million less to work with in free agency next summer.
Stephen (Clarkston, Mich.): The Pistons don’t seem to have much at shooting guard right now. Stuckey doesn’t seem to fit and KCP is just young. Would the Pistons be interested in trading Stuckey for Arron Afflalo? Orlando gets an expiring contract and flexibility to move Oladipo to shooting guard after this season and the Pistons get a shooting guard that potentially fits better.
Langlois: It comes down to one simple question, Stephen: Do the Pistons think they can do better with the cap space they’ll have once Stuckey’s contract expires than Afflalo? I can’t answer that question. Given the money he’s due in 2014-15, nearly $8 million, that would be the key acquisition of the off-season. Afflalo performed well in Denver when he was surrounded by a number of good players. He struggled last year in Orlando. Just my guess, but I think Orlando would be more interested in that deal than the Pistons at this point.
Daniel (London, England): I saw some comments saying Drummond is an undersized center. I’ve read he is currently around 300 pounds. Isn’t that overweight for a 6-foot-10 center?
Langlois: Official heights and weights are a mysterious thing, Daniel. Drummond measured at the Chicago draft combine in May 2012 at 6-foot-11¾ in shoes (the commonly accepted NBA standard for official heights) and 279 pounds with 7.5 percent body fat. That was before he was introduced to Arnie Kander, started eating more consciously and began lifting weights for the first time in his life. He played last season at around 295 pounds and his body fat is now in the 5 percent to 6 percent range. And he just turned 20! Andre Drummond is as big a genetic freak of nature as Ben Wallace and Dennis Rodman. If he’s an undersized center, there are approximately 29 other NBA teams that would love to sign up for one of those.
Alex (Novi, Mich.): Do the Pistons have any nationally televised games this season?
Langlois: As it stands now – keep in mind that games can and do get shifted – the Pistons are scheduled to play two games on ESPN (Nov. 15 at Sacramento and Feb. 5 at Orlando) and two others on NBA TV (Feb. 8 at Denver and March 9 at Boston).
Naseem (Hamtramck, Mich.): With the changes for the Pistons, I still don’t think they stand a chance vs. Miami. What do you think?
Langlois: Depends what you’re asking. Over 82 games, assuming everyone stays healthy, Miami is likely to win more games than anyone in the league, Naseem. In a seven-game series, Miami would be favored to beat any team in the league, the Pistons included. In the four games they play head to head over the course of a season, when there are varying advantages based on the schedule and other factors … anything goes. I sure like the way the Pistons match up with Miami now more than at any time since Pat Riley’s July 2010 coup to land all three of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James in free agency. Josh Smith gives the Pistons a fighting chance to contain James’ damage and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has the makings to be a pretty good defensive antidote for Wade. Monroe is a handful for any defender the Heat can throw at him up front and Drummond’s size and athleticism will be a load for all teams.
Matt (Onekama, Mich.): Joe Dumars has said he’ll probably fill the final roster spot with a backup big man. Is it looking like a free agent? I have an alternative idea. Send Rodney Stuckey to Miami in exchange for Joel Anthony, Shane Battier and their 2014 No. 1 pick. Miami gets an expiring contract while getting a solid guard to spell Wade and won’t have to pay the second year of Anthony’s contract. We get our backup center, a steady veteran hand in Battier and a draft pick in one of the best drafts in a while.
Langlois: Anthony makes nearly $4 million each of the next two seasons, Matt, assuming he picks up a player option for 2014-15, which is all but assured. That’s a lot for a roster spot that probably is going to be in street clothes for the Pistons barring injury to Monroe or Drummond. I doubt the Heat can afford to part ways with Battier now that they’ve amnestied Mike Miller. I’m sure they’d be willing to deal Anthony since they also have both Chris Anderson and Greg Oden. Stuckey could be a dynamic player for them, of course, but the Heat model is to surround their big three with shooters, not slashers who’ll take possessions away from James or Wade. Stuckey’s greatest value would be if Wade were to miss significant time with injury, which is increasingly possible as he ages. But it’s probably a luxury the Heat can’t afford. They have to be very selective with the complementary players they choose. Also, not sure how attractive a No. 1 pick from Miami really is. It’s practically certain to be 28th, 29th or 30th – guaranteed money for what is essentially a second-round pick. Yes, the 2014 draft looks special, but only because of the first half-dozen or so players, all of whom probably would have been the No. 1 pick in the recent draft. I don’t think anyone is suggesting it’s markedly better at 28 than recent drafts.
Andrew (Farmington Hills, Mich.): Joe Dumars stated recently that he was still interested in picking up a big man. Who is still available?
Langlois: There are still players out there who would be very qualified to fill the role the Pistons envisioned for Slava Kravtsov before his salary was needed to complete the Brandon Jennings-Brandon Knight trade. Cole Aldrich, Kyrylo Fesenko, Hamed Haddadi and Jason Collins all fit that profile. If the Pistons wanted a player with a little more positional versatility, they could go for someone like Drew Gooden. There still might be a few teams that will be kicking loose a big man due to other roster needs as we get closer to training camp, which is why I think the Pistons will take their time with this move.
T.J. (Shelby Twp., Mich.): What do you think of adding Cole Aldrich to fill out the roster? Cole’s been unable to find his niche as of yet but is still fairly young, has size, plays hard with a good motor and is a solid interior defender, rebounder and shot-blocker who finishes well around the basket, is a solid character guy and should be reasonably priced. Seems to me that the fit is solid if Joe D isn’t looking at the trade route. Aldrich showed well in his stint with Sacramento last season.
Langlois: Aldrich did have a pretty good run with Sacramento, though it was a small sample size at 15 games, T.J. He’s a pretty obvious name out there, so I think it’s safe to assume the Pistons have kicked the tires on him and might, indeed, have him on their priority list. Just as I’ve said the Pistons likely will take their time to make sure they don’t box themselves in before a better option might present itself, it very well could be that a player like Aldrich – young and with perceived upside, at least, coming off the best stretch of his three-year career – is also weighing his options. I think what will matter most to him is his role, not necessarily the dollar signs on his contract. If he can land in a spot where he has a legitimate chance to push for playing time, then the money might be there for him in his next contract. The big man the Pistons sign might go long stretches without seeing any playing time, but he’ll also be just one injury away from a fairly significant role. So it’s an interesting situation from both perspectives.
Ben (Lansing, Mich.): In your July 31 Mailbag, you gave a few indications that you think KCP’s rookie season might follow a developmental trajectory like Middleton’s. I have been hoping they give him minutes right away. What do you see as the holes in his game that aren’t yet ready for NBA minutes?
Langlois: Let’s start with this: Caldwell-Pope was drafted eighth, Middleton 39th. They’re starting from different places. What I meant to imply there was I think KCP could look as different at the end of his rookie season compared to the start as Middleton did, which was a dramatic leap. As I wrote last week, the Pistons will be organizationally cognizant of the need to win games early and often this year and could very well be open – as is a growing trend across the NBA – to playing two point guards together if that gives them greater advantages. I’ve also contended that, on paper, Caldwell-Pope makes it easy for the Pistons if he’s ready for major minutes early, because his size, athleticism and shooting range – if he beats the rookie odds and shows he can knock down 3-pointers early in his first season – provide attributes that make sense in a lineup that also figures to include Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. I love the kid’s potential based on what I saw in Orlando, but it’s best to keep in mind that he’s 20 and only in the second half of his sophomore season did he emerge as a serious first-round draft candidate – and not until he began the postseason tour of NBA teams did he seem to emerge as a lottery candidate. So there’s the element of the unknown with KCP that argues against banking on him cracking the rotation coming out of training camp. Nice bonus if he does, though.