Pistons Mailbag - Monday, May 16, 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.

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Linda (West Bloomfield, Mich.): In the last Mailbag, in response to a question of whether the Pistons could possibly draft Biyombo and Benson with picks at 7 and 33, you said, “Would the Pistons spend two picks – in areas where you would have reasonable hope for both players to challenge for immediate playing time – on their frontcourt? That’s the great unknown. As I’ve previously written, I think the uncertainty at small forward, where both Prince and McGrady are headed to free agency, makes it likely that they spend one of those first two picks at that position.” By that logic, they shouldn’t draft another small forward since they already have Daye and Jerebko who are set to play big minutes at that position.

Langlois: Just a hunch, Linda, but if the Pistons go big at No. 7 and feel comfortable that player will be an immediate challenger for a spot among the top four big men – and I’d be surprised if they would take someone at that spot they didn’t feel that way about – then I think if it’s a coin flip on talent between another big man or a wing player who could factor into the mix at small forward, the wing would be more likely. There are a lot of unknowns, though, and the draft is just the first part of the off-season retooling. In the frontcourt, the Pistons know they’ll have Greg Monroe starting at one of the two power positions and Charlie Villanueva either starting at power forward or coming off the bench. Jerebko was likely to win the starting job at power forward last season and for now, at least, I think they’re looking at him at power forward again, knowing he can also play small forward. They don’t know whether Ben Wallace will be back – though based on his daily presence in the gym, my best guess is we’ll see him one more season – and can’t know whether Chris Wilcox will return as a free agent. If they were to get a player they feel very strongly about – say, Enes Kanter, who most consider the top big man in the draft, ready to contribute, and, by most indications, a nice complement to Monroe – then perhaps they would start to view Jerebko as more of a small forward and that would somewhat ease their concerns about further addressing that position. There are those in the organization who feel Austin Daye is on the cusp of a breakthrough next season. Bottom line in all of this: I do think that what the Pistons get at No. 7 will affect what they do at No. 33. And that means it’s less likely – not open and shut, just less likely – that if they go big at seven, they’ll also go big at 33.

Eshai (Detroit): Why is Jan Vesely even being mentioned as a potential pick for the Pistons? From everything I’ve read, he is seen as the next Andrei Kirilenko, which is the exact comparison Jerebko drew.

Langlois: There are similarities between Vesely and Jerebko, Eshai. But they’re not carbon copies, either. The similarities are that they are high-energy players who have some traits rare for 6-foot-10 or 6-foot-11 players. I don’t know that Vesely has Jerebko’s inherent toughness and ultra competitiveness. What Vesely has that makes him unique, besides being even longer than Jerebko, is a quick-twitch explosiveness. People who’ve seen Vesely more than in highlight tapes say he’ll stun with how quickly he gets from outside the paint to the rim. (Thus the comparisons to Kirilenko, or at least the Kirilenko of four or five years ago.) Vesely has a ways to go on his skills, ballhandling and shooting among them. But he’s played at the highest level of the Euroleague, where Jerebko’s experience was at small forward, and the consensus on Vesely is that his explosiveness and length will allow him to guard all variety of power forwards. Jerebko, for instance, would have a tougher time matching up against a Kevin Garnett or a Chris Bosh, perhaps, than Vesely might.

Russell (Phoenix): Everyone assumes Biyombo as the lottery pick for the Pistons. Is there a way the Pistons could pick up Chris Singleton from Florida State as well? Everything I read about him indicates he is ready defensively to be a force on the wing and the boards. No way is he there at 33. How can the Pistons pick up another mid-first pick?

Langlois: You’re right, Russell – no way Singleton slides out of the 20s. He has a shot to sneak into the lottery because he’s the poster boy for the player who can rocket up the board in predraft workouts due to his scintillating athleticism. Singleton is the kind of player that scares most GMs – you’re afraid to pass on him because he’s got off-the-charts measurables, but you’re afraid to take him, too, because the production in college just didn’t match the potential. At some point in any draft, though, you roll the dice because the upside outweighs the risk of busting. Where that point will be in this draft, I’m not sure. I don’t know what the Pistons could offer to entice somebody with a late teens pick, for instance, into making a deal. But I’m also not sure a boom-bust type is the kind of guy you make that type of deal for, either.

Leon (Chula Vista, Calif.): With rumors that the Lakers are getting Howard surfacing and all these other teams making big moves, why aren’t the Pistons? Any possible trades that could happen to get fans interested again?

Langlois: It’s no surprise that people are speculating about what the Lakers will do next, Leon. Kobe Bryant isn’t getting any younger, so the possibility they’ll feel the urge to do something dramatic to try to win titles now is strong. The speculation that Howard is their target makes sense – not necessarily the chances of it coming to fruition, just the fact that the speculation exists – on a million levels. Why? Because Orlando lost the last once-a-generation center, Shaquille O’Neal, to the Lakers, so they’re naturally gripped by the fear of a repeat in Orlando. Because the Lakers are the Lakers and they’re going to be first (or second) in line whenever a superstar appears available. Because the Lakers have the ammunition to make a terrific offer for Howard that starts with Andrew Bynum. Any team not named the Lakers or Knicks would be recklessly endangering the franchise’s future by gutting the roster and allocating an outsized proportion of resources to the pursuit of Howard with the likelihood that he will choose to opt out of his contract after the 2011-12 season and leave as a free agent. What will revive the Pistons’ fan base is winning. And that’s more likely to be achieved through a series of less dramatic moves then an all-or-nothing swing for the fences on a player who would have the power to send the franchise reeling by leaving in free agency shortly after arriving.

Calvin (Potterville, Mich.): If we stay at No. 7 in the lottery, we should trade Ben Gordon and the No. 7 pick to move up and take Kyrie Irving and at 33 take the best available big man.

Langlois: If you’re proposing trading Gordon without taking back a similar contract, Calvin, then Sacramento has cap space and Cleveland has a trade exception (from the LeBron James sign and trade) to accommodate such a transaction. So you’d need one of those two teams to draw the No. 1 pick (or No. 2, in the event Washington would get the No. 1 pick; the Wizards would be unlikely to take Irving after picking John Wall a year ago). I can’t see Sacramento having interest in such a trade, foremost because the Kings seem most unlikely to add to their payroll in such a way given their reported money woes. The Cavs could certainly use Gordon’s scoring and would be a more realistic option. The Cavs, keep in mind, already hold the Los Angeles Clippers’ pick – currently slotted No. 8 in the lottery, one spot behind the Pistons. So they could come out of the lottery with Kyrie Irving or Derrick Williams (if form holds and they land a top-two pick) plus a young big man, perhaps Jonas Valanciunas or Bismack Biyombo. Would they be better off with Ben Gordon, Valanciunas or Biyombo and another player if they made the trade and got both 7 and 8? My hunch is Dan Gilbert will find it more palatable to sell to a disillusioned fan base the promise of a young superstar in Irving or Williams rather than Ben Gordon – coming off two disappointing seasons – and two relatively unheralded rookies taken in the middle of a lottery being characterized as watered down. Now, Gilbert’s basketball people might have other ideas. They could make a strong case that Gordon, under different circumstances, is far more likely to revert to the player he was for five years in Chicago, and that his scoring would change the entire complexion of Cleveland’s roster and form a dynamic backcourt combination with Davis. But from a pure buzz factor, a franchise looking for a “face” to replace James will be sorely tempted to land one of the two consensus stars available in this draft.

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