Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, March 31, 2011

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.

We reserve the right to edit your question for the sake of brevity or clarity.

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Ben (Grosse Pointe, Mich.): The Pistons probably will be picking around seven or eight this year. Let’s say they get lucky like the Bulls did a few years ago and win the lottery. Would you be opposed to taking Kyrie Irving, who is a true point guard? I know your passion for Rodney Stuckey, but if he was really going to be great wouldn’t we have already seen it?

Langlois: I’ve been high on Irving since I saw him destroy Michigan State early in the season, Ben, before he was sidelined with a foot injury. I firmly believe that most NBA teams would take him No. 1. As long as the team that’s drafting there believes Irving is destined to be a better point guard than the one they have, it makes perfect sense to take him with the top pick in an era when great point guards seemingly have a greater effect on the game than ever. (That said, if Washington gets the No. 1 pick, Irving won’t go No. 1) But I’m not sure Irving fits the description of “true point guard” as it’s been defined for me by Mailbag readers. Consider: Upon his return in the NCAA tournament, Irving played three games spanning 72 minutes. He scored 53 points and dished out a total of six assists. That sounds an awful lot like a shoot-first point guard to me. And I don’t have a problem with that, either – let’s just be careful how we label players.

David (Sterling Heights, Mich.): What about taking a point guard like Brandon Knight with their first-round pick? He’s someone who would let Stuckey play off of the ball, which might be as big a benefit as a big man would be at this point.

Langlois: Knight probably has helped his draft status as much as any player in the NCAA tournament, David. Much like Irving, though, I’m not sure his best skill isn’t scoring as opposed to playmaking. He’s Kentucky’s leading scorer at 17.3 (he also leads in assists with a fairly modest 4.2). He appears to be a better shooter than Irving but not quite the penetrator. If the Pistons don’t draw into the top three, Knight is more than likely someone who would be on their long list. But I think the list of players they will consider for that pick, assuming it’s No. 7 or 8, is going to be pretty long this year – probably a dozen or more names on it to start the process.

Evan (Rochester Hills, Mich.): Last year when Philly ended up winning the lottery tiebreaker with the Pistons and then used that position to win the No. 2 pick in the actual lottery, the 76ers selected Evan Turner. Do you think if the Pistons had won that pick they would have taken Turner or made a move to try to get Cousins? I think we wound up getting a player with a higher ceiling in Monroe.

Langlois: Cousins still has the higher ceiling, Evan, but there is much more debate now about who is the better pick. My hunch is that more of the NBA’s 30 GMs, if they were to sit down and study it, would take Monroe over Cousins today. Monroe has answered many of the questions scouts had about his ability to overcome what they labeled suspect athleticism and he’s such a solid citizen – and, more importantly, perhaps, he has such a desire to become a great player – while Cousins has repeatedly affirmed the reasons many doubted his temperament and how it could limit his career. As for what the Pistons would have done, I’ve said before I believe they would have aggressively engaged Minnesota – which had the No. 4 pick and a poorly concealed affinity for Turner – in trade talks. The T-wolves had two other No. 1 picks. I believe the Pistons would have at least gotten one of them, maybe both, for dropping down to No. 4, where they would have, I believe, taken Cousins.

Marcus (Birmingham, Mich.): I’m positive Joe D will approach this draft like others and take the best available player. I think there are only five players who could be potential franchise players: Kyrie Irving, Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones, Derrick Williams and Enes Kanter. Am I missing any other prospects?

Langlois: Some scouts love Jonas Valanciunas. I think some teams would strongly consider taking him No. 1. I don’t know about “franchise” player, but a guy I think has a chance to make a big impact down the road is North Carolina’s John Henson. I see some Marcus Camby in him. Camby wasn’t a franchise player, but Camby in his prime was a difference maker. But I wouldn’t argue with your premise. I think it’s going to be a better draft than it’s been characterized, but it’s not dripping with potential superstars.

Roz (Ann Arbor, Mich.): I love your articles on John Salley. They are great.

Langlois: Thanks, Roz. We’ll be posting the third and final installment today. Salley’s a sportswriter’s dream – ask him one question and he’ll wax poetic for five minutes.

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