Pistons Mailbag - December 11, 2013

Pistons.com editor Keith Langlois answers your questions about the Pistons and NBA. Click here to submit your questions - please include your name, email address and city/state on the form. Return to the Mailbag homepage.

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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.

Bruce (Vancouver, B.C.): Comparing Drummond’s impact and stats so far to other centers shows he’s by far the best center in the East. I don’t see any way for him to be left off the All-Star team. Also, why is nobody talking about Rodney Stuckey for Sixth Man of the Year? And to what do you attribute the difference in his play from the past few seasons?

Langlois: I saw one stat sent along by another Mailbag reader – thanks, Jae from Boston – the other day that showed Drummond led the NBA through games of Sunday in points per half-court touch, a new one for me. We’ll get an idea of what’s happening on Thursday when the first results of All-Star balloting that began on Nov. 15. Kevin Garnett has been an Eastern fan voting lock. If he is voted in to the game, that takes away a potential spot for Drummond; it’s clear the coaches wouldn’t vote Garnett to the team based on his play this season. Roy Hibbert, if he’s not voted in by fans, is a virtual cinch to be added by coaches, in part because he will very likely deserve it but also as a reward for the Pacers’ dominant record so far. But, yeah, if Andre Drummond keeps up anything approaching the pace of the past few weeks, I don’t know how you hold an All-Star game without him. He’s been a consistent force. As for Stuckey, I don’t know that anyone’s getting real heavy buzz for Sixth Man this early in the season. He would have to be in the mix. Again, though, it’s an award that skews toward winning teams. I’m sure there are several contributing factors to Stuckey’s strong start. I’d put Mo Cheeks’ faith in him first on the list, though.

Harold (Kalamazoo, Mich.): Late in the game at Miami last week, Andre Drummond was guarding LeBron. I don’t’ know if it was on a switch or by design, but he really played him well. Could this be a strategy down the road against the Heat? Or maybe just during crunch time? Andre has really shown great hands on defense and has the size and athleticism to at least slow him down, especially with as much as he likes to post up in recent years?

Langlois: It’s LeBron James, Harold. There’s not a player in the NBA equipped to hold him down consistently. So, as crazy as your idea sounds on the surface, sure, why not? Look, I don’t think the Pistons would ever come out of a timeout, at a crucial juncture in a game against the Heat, and purposely have Drummond guard James. But if he gets caught in a switch against him, it wouldn’t be the worst possible outcome. As a steady diet, you’d risk Drummond getting into very quick foul trouble. But you’re right about his great hands. He also has great feet.

Alan (Rockford, Mich.): I think KCP was an excellent draft choice and I think he will play in at least one All-Star game in his career. What do you think his ceiling is for this year?

Langlois: Long term, his ceiling is pretty high, Alan. He’s athletic, he’s got plus size for his position, he plays consistently hard and he has the tools to be a very good shooter. It’s way too soon to predict how all those things will come together, though, and his ability to turn great shooting potential into consistent shooting production will be as big as anything in how it turns out for him. It would help if he’d develop a mid-range game, too, which will come as he becomes a more confident ballhandler. How much he can improve in those areas during his rookie season is anyone’s guess.

Nick (Brisbane, Australia): Do you think with the fast start Michael Carter-Williams has had and KCP’s struggles that Joe D is starting to question his draft choice? Wouldn’t drafting Carter-Williams have allowed us to save money on the big contract being paid to Jennings and could have seen a proven wing free agent added to provide more balance?

Langlois: Too soon to many any sweeping declarations about the 2013 draft, Nick. Carter-Williams was a polarizing figure among NBA executives as they studied for the draft, and even within the same front offices there were widely varied opinions. I get that completely. He came out of Syracuse with great size and there were examples of great games. But Carter-Williams also had plenty of games against quality teams – the national semifinal against Michigan leaps to mind – where he looked very pedestrian. The one thing that’s surprised me more than anything so far is that he appears to have improved his outside shot markedly, a rare transformation for an NBA rookie. But the Pistons are very pleased with Caldwell-Pope, and not just for public consumption. In all but a few games this season, even on the nights his shot isn’t falling, he’s contributed defensively at a minimum. My hunch is that unless there was a can’t-miss point guard coming out of the 2013 draft, the Pistons would have been reluctant to enter the season with a rookie manning that position given the expectations for their season and the youth of their frontcourt. Brandon Jennings is not exactly a finished product, but he had four years of NBA starting experience and was a much safer bet to lead a team that otherwise had playoff expectations

Ken (Dharamsala, India): A youngish All-Star-caliber shooting guard who can play defense, create his own offense and make outside shots would be a nice addition about now. What tree does Joe Dumars have to shake to get one of those? They do grow on trees, I am told.

Langlois: Maybe in India, they do. If you find one, send to 6 Championship Drive. Actually, the hope is they have that player in-house, Ken, in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. But, see above, he’s not the sure thing, perhaps, that a Bradley Beal is, though his upside is considerable. The fact he’s here, though, and the Pistons are very bullish on his future, pretty much negates the likelihood that shopping for another young shooting guard is high on their to-do list.

John (Birmingham, Mich.): With the Knicks’ season a four-alarm dumpster fire, how about we package Greg Monroe and the expiring contracts of Stuckey and Villanueva to New York for Carmelo Anthony? New York gets $17 million of cap space and a promising big in Monroe. I know Carmelo has a player option for next year, but he gets most of this season and presumably the playoffs to see how things go here. He gets all the defensive help he could need with Andre and Josh and a much better chance to get to the playoffs. Even if he bolts, we still get his cap relief.

Langlois: Let’s start with this: There is zero indication the Knicks are looking to move Anthony. They’re focused on appeasing him and enticing him to stay with promises of pursuing other free agents at their first opportunity, following the 2014-15 season, according to credible reports. But even if the Knicks were open to trading him, it’s a risky move, John, for the reason you stated: If Carmelo leaves in free agency, you’ve traded Greg Monroe for cap space. The odds the Pistons would get equal return in that exchange aren’t great. For a comparable, consider what the Pistons surrendered the last time they traded for a big-ticket free-agent-to-be, Rasheed Wallace. The cost was a cast of journeymen players and two first-rounders, neither of them premium picks. Joe Dumars was willing to part with the first-rounders at the time because he had a very nice, young core in place with the Chauncey Billups-Rip Hamilton backcourt to go with Ben Wallace and Tayshaun Prince up front. Rasheed Wallace offered the perfect skill set to slot with that group. Anthony’s scoring ability – he’s still, at minimum, one of the five best in the game at getting his own points – would fit just as nicely with the team the Pistons would have left after parting with Monroe. But the landscape in the NBA has changed in the last 10 years. I think the Pistons would have to be comfortable making that trade for the cap space, because I don’t know that the odds on retaining Anthony in free agency would be any better than 50-50. And, yeesh, I’m not sure I could trade a 23-year-old as productive as Monroe for cap space.

Steve (St. Clair Shores, Mich.): Brandon Jennings looks better than Brandon Knight, Andre Drummond looks good and Rodney Stuckey looks into it. Do you think we can win 50 games this year?

Langlois: That would require a 40-19 record for the rest of the season, Steve. A pretty tall order but not out of the question at this point, provided the injuries to Bynum and Stuckey don’t linger. They can’t do anything but tread water with the backcourt as depleted as it’s been, though getting Billups back last night surely helps. Basically, any team that gets hot in the East can pile up a lot of wins in a hurry.

Andrzej (Gdansk, Poland): As the playoffs appear a real possibility, I have some questions with respect to the standings. I know division winners have some advantages, but can you explain: (a) why Boston is ranked No. 4 when it is leading the Atlantic Division instead of No. 3 as one of the three division leaders; (b) if Boston wins the Atlantic and gets the No. 4 seed but has a worse winning percentage than the team with the No. 5 seed, who gets home-court advantage; and (c) if Boston wins the Atlantic but its overall winning percentage is only ninth-best in the Eastern Conference, do the Celtics make the playoffs?

Langlois: Division winners are guaranteed a top-four seed, Andrzej, so if the Celtics (or anyone else) wins the Atlantic with a sub-.500 record, that team is in the playoffs as the No. 4 seed. But home-court advantage would go to the lower seed with a better winning percentage. So the only real advantage to getting a No. 4 seed, as opposed to, for example, the No. 7 seed if the Atlantic winner’s record is worse than six other Eastern teams, would be playing a hypothetically lesser team – the fifth seed as opposed to the second seed that would host the seventh seed.

Gerald (Chicago): Sign Darius Morris, a University of Michigan guy with long-term point guard potential that Maurice Cheeks can develop.

Langlois: They’d have to cut someone, Gerald. And if the Pistons were going to cut someone, it probably wouldn’t be to add a point guard, where they already have five players – Brandon Jennings, Will Bynum, Chauncey Billups, Peyton Siva and Rodney Stuckey – capable of handling the position. I thought Morris would have found his niche by this point, too, but if a team as committed to a rebuilding project as Philadelphia doesn’t believe in his future, it’s not a great sign for Morris.

Tara (South Lyon, Mich.): I just read an article on ESPN talking about how statistic driven Philadelphia has become in not only personnel decisions but also scheming. Mo Cheeks seems to come down on the side of “feel” rather than stats for making decisions. But in the televised open practice, I heard him reciting stats to a player to encourage certain decision making. Where would you say the Pistons come down on the matter and is Cheeks playing possum or is he anti-stats?

Langlois: Cheeks isn’t anti-stats, but he’s not going to all of a sudden throw away a lifetime of living and breathing the game based on abstractions, either. He’s said he’ll use them if they make sense to him. He looks at turnovers, which is hardly an advanced stat but the one number he probably tracks more than any. The Pistons have one of the best numbers guys in the business in their front office, Ken Catanella, who came to them from the NBA league office, where one of his major initiatives was helping the league gets its new stats collection and dissemination system implemented. The Pistons, as most teams do, keep the ways they use stats – and the types of stats they use – a closely guarded secret. But, make no mistake, the front office studies the numbers carefully.