Pistons Mailbag - February 5, 2014

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.

Chad (@CDillree): What is the probability that the Pistons can get a first-round draft choice this year?

Langlois: If you’re talking about a lottery pick, very low – unless the Pistons were to make Andre Drummond or Greg Monroe available, which likely isn’t happening. A contender looking for a proven bench scorer would most likely be very interested in acquiring Rodney Stuckey for a variety of reasons. No. 1, he’s proven he can play that role very well. He can defend either backcourt spot and a good number of small forwards. He can play point guard in addition to being a primary scoring option. And his expiring contract means there will be no impact on a team’s salary cap beyond this season. So, yeah, I’d think that would be worth a No. 1 pick to a team that feels it’s one more versatile scoring option away from making a legitimate playoff run. That likely means a team picking somewhere from 20 on down. Now, maybe there’s not a team in that range that would list what Stuckey offers as its foremost need. And I’m not suggesting the Pistons – who are in the thick of a playoff chase themselves – would find the value in a 20-30 pick enticing enough to deal away a player who has been as vital to their success as Stuckey has been. But he’s the likeliest trade chip, if the Pistons were to make acquiring a No. 1 pick their priority, to yield that return.

Sean (@sean_corp): Would the Pistons explore trading Stuckey for a lesser player who fits better with team needs, as in a 3-point shooter?

Langlois: Sure. The days when most trades were pure talent-for-talent swaps are a distant memory, Sean. That pretty much happens only when a trade involves two teams of approximately equal standing and that doesn’t define most trades any more. It’s usually a team looking to unload contracts for a shot at starting anew trading with a team intent on improving its depth and talent and willing to take on risk and commitment. So the caliber of player someone like Rodney Stuckey would bring in return would vary based on the trade partner and the direction Joe Dumars would want to take the Pistons based on trading a player of his stature. But, in a vacuum, would the Pistons trade Stuckey for a shooter who would surely be judged as the lesser player by consensus opinion? Hmmm. Tough call. You can’t separate a player from his contract, so if this lesser player’s deal lasts beyond this season, then it becomes not only a consideration of how much his skill (shooting, presumably) will help relative to what shedding Stuckey’s contributions would cost, but also a consideration of how the loss of cap flexibility would affect the ability to improve the team otherwise this off-season. So, explore? Absolutely. That’s a big part of a general manager’s job – to know the trade value of his players around the league. Beyond that, it’s a very tough call.

Ryan (Pocatello, Idaho): I’ve seen rumors from Chris Broussard that Detroit is looking to trade Josh Smith. What is the story?

Langlois: I saw the report. I’m glad you used the word “rumors” instead of ESPN’s Broussard reporting it as fact. It was couched in the weakest possible language: “… there’s strong opinion around the league that the Pistons would trade him if they could.” What that tells me is no one in the Pistons organization said that to him and no executive from another team told him the Pistons were actively looking to trade Smith, or Broussard surely would have worded the story differently. My best guess is that he’s talked to someone – maybe one executive, maybe multiple – and they were extrapolating based on the size of the contract Smith received last summer and the fact the Pistons, by their own admission, haven’t met their expectations. The reality is that if the Pistons were to trade Smith, given those two factors, they would be selling low. And I’d be surprised if they had already come to the conclusion that such an avenue is warranted this soon into the process.

Ian (Westland, Mich.): I think the Pistons should look at Terrence Williams. He plays well when given an opportunity and is versatile. I think he’s a lock-down defender and plays a position of need as a backup two or three.

Langlois: He’s not a mystery to them. They looked at him hard going into the 2009 draft, when Williams was drafted 11th, one spot after Milwaukee took Brandon Jennings. They invited him to training camp last season. Lawrence Frank, who coached Williams in New Jersey, was convinced that point guard was Williams’ best position. He is a very good athlete who can do a lot of things, as you indicated. When you’re a role player – and Williams has given no indication he should be considered more than that – teams usually prefer you have one or two things you do really well. Not sure what that is for Williams. I wouldn’t say Williams’ versatility hurts him, but in a roundabout way maybe it does. He’s in the D-League if anyone is interested. The Pistons have 15 roster spots guaranteed, so there is almost no chance they’d be the team to make a move for Williams before this season ends.

Faris (Ceresco, Mich.): How come we don’t run a Josh Smith-Andre Drummond pick and roll like how Josh Smith did it with Al Horford in Atlanta? Smith looks a little less athletic than he has in the past to me. I’ve noticed how when he comes down most times after a rebound he’s grabbing his back a lot. Is something wrong with his back?

Langlois: I haven’t noticed Smith grabbing at his back, Faris, and I’ve not heard him or anyone with the team breathe a word about a back issue for him. He doesn’t look any less athletic to me than he did for his last few years with Atlanta. As players who come to the NBA with high-end athleticism mature, I think it’s fair to say they look for ways to not have to rely so exclusively on their athleticism. Players who jump dozens of times a game put a pounding on their bodies – back and knees, primarily – and the smart ones look for ways to expand their game. Very early in my time covering NBA games, a scout presented Sidney Moncrief as the shining example of that evolution. Moncrief came to the NBA before Michael Jordan, but he played the type of game a young Jordan played – constantly attacking the rim. Over time, Moncrief became a deadly jump shooter. Jordan transitioned his game to become a magnificent post player instead of relying so heavily on slashing to the rim. Dwyane Wade has certainly attempted to do that as injuries have taken their toll on him. But Smith still flashes his high-end athleticism often enough to let you know it’s still there. I think of a play from last week’s win over Philadelphia when he soared over Greg Monroe, positioned for an offensive rebound, to dunk on a put-back. As for a Smith-Drummond pick and roll, the dynamic would be a lot different than a Smith-Horford pick and roll; Horford is a very good mid-range jump shooter.

Terell (Southfield, Mich.): Is it possible to trade for Carmelo Anthony?

Langlois: Possible? Sure. Advisable? Probably not. First, the Knicks would command a king’s ransom. If the trade package didn’t include Andre Drummond, they might not want to go any further, and that’s a non-starter for the Pistons. Keep in mind Anthony is widely expected to opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer with widespread speculation that both the Lakers and Bulls will pursue him. The Pistons can’t afford to give up a franchise cornerstone for what would amount to cap space in a few months.

Richard (Redford, Mich.): What is the benefit of making the playoffs as a seventh or eight seed? That means we would face Miami or Indiana and get demolished. Based on our current situation – top-eight protected pick and lack of team chemistry – I’d rather try to get a top pick and continue to build for our future.

Langlois: I’ve addressed my position on tanking, and stated how the concept is one Joe Dumars has never fathomed, often enough that we won’t get into that aspect of your question. But I’ll take on the value of making the playoffs to encounter a heavily favored opponent. First, I don’t think at a professional level that there’s any such thing as a sure thing in the postseason. Postseason basketball is all about matchups and the Pistons match up pretty well with Indiana and Miami. They’re one of the few teams that isn’t physically overmatched by Indiana’s size up front. Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe have both had big games in the past few years against Miami and both put up big numbers against the Heat in defeat on Monday night, even with Drummond limited to just four first-half minutes by foul trouble. Beating them four out of seven? Obviously a tall order. But the Pistons have valid reasons for optimism that someday soon – whether it’s this season or beyond – a team built around Monroe and Drummond will be in position to challenge title contenders. And when that day comes, I’d feel better about their chances if they had some playoff experience under their belt. If nothing else, making the playoffs as a seventh or eighth seed this season will mean that next season, should they make the playoffs, it won’t be a foreign experience for them.

Christos (@Cpappas36): Do you think it’s more likely the Pistons stand pat at the trade deadline or make a deal?

Langlois: I don’t know that I could say they’re more likely to make a trade than not, but how about this: I think they’re more likely to make a trade this year than in many other seasons at the deadline for a few logical reasons. No. 1, the Pistons simply have more assets to trade than they’ve had in a while, more players of value on contracts in line with their production. No. 2, the mere fact that they haven’t had as successful a season as they’d hoped to have means other teams will look at the Pistons as a team perhaps more open to making some changes. Whether No. 2 is true or not, only Joe Dumars really knows. It’s possible that at this team’s best moments – the road wins at Miami and Indiana, for example – he’s seen its potential and might believe it only needs more time and some fine-tuning. Or he might believe that one addition – not necessarily a star, but a player with a skill that complements the core group – is essential and do what it takes to make such a deal happen.

TheRealElda (@Elda0722): I have to believe the Pistons will make a move before the trade deadline. I was thinking Evan Turner for Charlie V. Your thoughts?

Langlois: The Pistons, as I’ve written, figure to have about $10 million in cap space going into free agency in July, even after accounting for Greg Monroe’s cap hold. If they trade for Turner and make him a qualifying offer, that would effectively eat up all of their cap space. Turner’s cap hold alone will be more than $13 million. He was the No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft, which accounts for his high numbers, and while Turner is a solid player, those numbers make him a tough call. Which explains why there is so much speculation around the league that Philadelphia is looking to trade Turner to get something for him without having to make that much of an investment in him. The Pistons would have to really covet Turner to do that deal. In effect, they would have to believe Turner is as good or better than anything else they would be able to accomplish with their projected summer cap space.