Pistons Mailbag - November 27, 2013
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JohnnyB (@JBPistonsfan): Stuckey’s had an amazing year. Do you think it’s best to cash in before the trade deadline or not because of how he’s playing?
Langlois: Depends on too many variables to speculate right now, Johnny. Fair to say Joe Dumars would listen to offers, as he would for virtually everybody. But trades don’t usually start cooking until Dec. 15 – that’s when players signed as free agents last season are generally first eligible to be dealt, a huge percentage of the league population. And unless seasons start as total disasters, most GMs aren’t looking to shake up rosters this soon into the regular season, anyway. The Pistons had cap space to burn last summer, used it on a few high-profile players and made no effort to conceal the organizational goal of making the playoffs this season. A 6-8 start in an Eastern Conference where sputtering is the norm has in no way dampened their expectations. So the Pistons are very unlikely to be dealing players instrumental in achieving that end, unless they’re presented with a trade that in their view enhances their present (while not risking damage to their future). I don’t see Stuckey as a likely trade candidate while he’s filling such a critical role, and playing consistently well, for the Pistons at present. As I wrote after Sunday’s win at Brooklyn, the Pistons might be sorting through a number of questions, but one thing they seem to have settled on is Stuckey as the anchor and offensive go-to guy of the second unit. And as I wrote just Tuesday, the return of Will Bynum and re-emergence of Charlie Villanueva gives the Pistons a second unit with an identity for the first time this season – and one with a chance to really make them a significantly better team.
Brad (@Brad_Monastiere): With Stuckey playing so well off the bench, do you foresee him keeping that role regardless of injuries, etc.?
Langlois: It seems apparent that Cheeks would prefer to keep Stuckey as sixth man, Brad. One thing we can say for sure about Stuckey that makes him a little atypical is that it truly doesn’t matter to him if he starts or comes off the bench. It’s a huge deal for some players to be a starter, no matter how many minutes they might play or how big their role might be as a reserve. There could be a situation where Cheeks feels he has no choice but to start him, though, if Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s shooting woes linger or begin to affect other areas of his game – his outing vs. the Bucks on Monday was a positive step for him in that it at least showed he has rare confidence for a rookie struggling with his shot – and if Chauncey Billups suffers other lingering injuries once he returns from his bout with left knee tendinitis. I doubt he would seriously consider starting a backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Will Bynum given the size disadvantages it would present the Pistons.
Mike (North Royalton, Ohio): I propose a three-way trade with Houston and San Antonio. We ship out Villanueva, Monroe, Singler, Bynum and Stuckey and get Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Chandler Parsons and we’ll even take the poison-pill contract of Omer Asik. The Spurs get Monroe and Bynum, Houston receives Stuckey, Singler and Villanueva for cap relief. Is that doable?
Langlois: I’m baffled that anyone thinks the Spurs, coasting along with a 13-1 record and constructed around their aging big three to give themselves one more realistic fling at a championship, would be interested in a move that drastic. I addressed a similar Monroe-Leonard proposal last week. To complicate it further by bringing in a third team? It’s the stuff of fantasy.
Jeff (Windsor, Ontario): Are Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings happy with the decisions they’ve made to come to Detroit? I know it’s still early in the season, but I know both of them didn’t sign with Detroit to have a losing record.
Langlois: They’re 14 games into multi-year deals, Jeff. They might have expected better than a 6-8 record out of the gates, but it probably isn’t too far out of line given the four-game Western road trip and the early run of title contenders that packed the schedule. They both have praised Maurice Cheeks lavishly as a player’s coach who understands the game from their perspective, and though Cheeks saw fit to punish Smith for missing practice last week when he didn’t return from Atlanta with the team to visit with his ailing father on a day players anticipated there would be no practice, Smith’s actions and words since that incident haven’t been those of an unhappy camper. I think it would be more remarkable at this point, given human nature, if they were to display discontent. Both players came to Detroit knowing they have something to prove to doubters. They also know they’re under something of a microscope. The last thing they’d want is to be seen as the source of unrest or dysfunction so soon after coming to terms with the franchise that gave them a chance to prove their doubters wrong.
Francis (Manila, Philippines): I’ve been a Pistons fan since Rip Hamilton came in exchange for Jerry Stackhouse. He moved to Chicago, but I remained a solid Pistons fan despite the recent painful years. Any news regarding where he might be playing now?
Langlois: If you have any news, Francis, I’m all ears. It’s been radio silence on the Hamilton front, unless I’ve missed something. He didn’t look like he had a lot of life left on the few occasions I saw him play last season, though I’m sure he’s in good shape and still knows how to get off and make mid-range jump shots. Hamilton is enormously prideful, so my hunch is the idea of accepting a veteran’s minimum contract might be hard to swallow. Last year, we saw the same scenario play out with Kenyon Martin, who didn’t sign with the Knicks until late in the regular season – and for the minimum. Hamilton might be employing a similar strategy, waiting until a contender with a critical need for a bench wing scorer comes calling. By sitting out, he’s at least preserving a body that has been increasingly prone to nagging injuries for the last several seasons.
Scott (Novi, Mich.): I have high hopes for KCP, but his shooting percentage isn’t what I expected after his last year in college. How do other top-notch shooting guards in the game today compare in shooting percentage during the first part of their rookie seasons?
Langlois: Well, I’ll confess I wasn’t ambitious enough to research the first 14 games of the careers of Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen, Dwyane Wade or James Harden, Scott. But I have maintained since the Pistons drafted Caldwell-Pope that it’s risky business to expect all but the most rarefied rookie to provide consistent 3-point shooting in the NBA. The difference in the speed of the game, the size and quickness of defenders and the greater 3-point distance in the NBA require a major adjustment. Caldwell-Pope has a great release. Once he refines the mechanics that lead to the moment of that release and gets a better feel for game pace and shot selection, there’s little reason to believe he won’t take advantage of his gifts as a shooter. The fact it took him time to become a dominant player in the SEC – it was midway through his sophomore season last winter when he stamped himself as a first-round draft candidate – suggests it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that it also will take him some time to adjust to a higher level.
Max (@MaxPSoleSource): I’ll be the 100th person to ask: Why no Datome? Still injured or finding his way?
Langlois: He’s not injured, Max. It’s really this simple: Datome’s one great, shining skill is his 3-point shot. And right now, he’s made 4 in 17 tries. Maurice Cheeks knows it’s something of a Catch-22 – a guy needs playing time to get into a rhythm, but he can’t afford to give Datome that time while the team is already struggling defensively. The Pistons have been playing Datome almost exclusively at power forward out of necessity. Cheeks trusts Kyle Singler implicitly and is playing him virtual starter’s minutes off the bench, so Singler and Josh Smith are gobbling up all of the available minute at small forward. (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has even gotten some spot minutes there against teams that go small.) But at power forward, Datome is vulnerable to being overpowered on the defensive end. The Pistons saw that at Atlanta last week when he gave up baskets to Paul Millsap and Mike Scott. Cheeks is willing to live with the tradeoff if Datome is stretching the opposition defense, but so far his shot just isn’t falling consistently. Cheeks will continue to look for ways to get him in the lineup, though, because he’s seen Datome’s stunning shooting ability on display in practices and drills. Datome’s NBA debut came under adverse conditions. First because he arrived fresh off a grueling stretch for his Italian national team in EuroBasket competition, then because he missed a big chunk of training camp and preseason with hamstring and foot injuries. And even though he’s 25 and a veteran of international play, he’s admitted the NBA is a big adjustment for him. We’ll see what happens. Right now it looks like Charlie Villanueva has won the backup power forward job. Singler is dealing with an eye issue – an allergic reaction to his contact lenses – that limited him to two minutes in Monday’s win over Milwaukee. If that issue lingers, it’s possible Datome could see minutes at his natural position of small forward.
Dalton (@DPotocki): Who is the Pistons’ 3-point threat off the bench? One person or by committee? Or whoever steps up first?
Langlois: As of today, Charlie Villanueva. When Chauncey Billups comes back, he’ll likely have a role and will always be a 3-point threat. Kyle Singler is a rotation fixture and, though he’s struggled this season, projects to be at least a competent 3-point shooter. The real wild card is Gigi Datome. See above. I think whatever they get from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope from the arc as a rookie is gravy, but he surely has the potential to develop into a good one.
Ethan (Radford, Va.): With three excellent rebounding big men making up part of the starting five, what’s going on with the rebounding? I expected this team to rank in the top five and I just checked and we’re ranked 20th. Think that’ll improve?
Langlois: The real story is their defense, Ethan. The Pistons rank 29th in defensive field-goal percentage, so their opponents make a greater number of shots relative to attempts than all but one other team in the league. Simply put, that means there are fewer rebounds available for them to grab than most. Their defensive rebounding percentage, a measurement of how many rebounds they grab relative to rebounds available, is a much more acceptable 11th in the league. The Pistons so far have grabbed exactly 75 percent of rebounds available on their defensive end. They’re No. 3 in the league, behind Toronto and Chicago, in offensive rebounding percentage.
David (Saginaw, Mich.): Can you swap a pick for cash? Could the Pistons send a lottery team something like $7 million for a pick or does it not work that way? I didn’t know if you could use cap space for that or just send money.
Langlois: Teams can send up to $3 million to buy draft picks. It’s happened before. But nobody’s going to sell a lottery pick – especially not in the 2014 draft – for $3 million. Perhaps teams worried about paying luxury taxes might sell off a pick in the late 20s, as the Phoenix Suns have done in the past. It doesn’t cost a team any of its cap space to buy a draft pick, except for the guaranteed and slotted salary that all first-round picks command.
Samson (Detroit): Great two wins for the team in Brooklyn and against Milwaukee. I really like how the team is playing and the rotation with KCP starting is perfect. My question is what is Peyton Siva’s role and why wasn’t he given any minutes against Milwaukee with the team up by 30?
Langlois: Siva was inactive for that game – only 13 from the roster, whether it’s at 13, 14 or 15, can be active on any given night. Cheeks has four veteran guards – Chauncey Billups, Will Bynum, Brandon Jennings and Rodney Stuckey – who are very likely to be in the rotation when all are healthy. And Cheeks has said he doesn’t see room for five in the rotation. So Caldwell-Pope’s role will be determined, I supposed, when Billups is ready to play. With Rodney Stuckey very likely to play 30 or more minutes a night, Cheeks is really looking for someone to play about 15 minutes. That would be a workload Billups could reasonably shoulder, even as a starter. But Cheeks also likes KCP’s defense, so we’ll see how it works out. I think Siva will be limited to a specialist’s role even on nights he’ll be active when all guards are healthy. The Pistons like him, but they never anticipated he’d be a rotation fixture as a rookie.