Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, December 8, 2011 - Page 2
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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Chris (Brighton, Mich.): The Pistons are in a position where they need guys to play at a higher level than what they have shown so far. Thatís usually a scary prospect, but I think they have several players at career crossroads. Jonas Jerebko, assuming he re-signs, by all accounts learned a lot last year by watching from the sidelines and got physically stronger. Daye should be poised to have a breakout year. Monroe can go up at least one more level and Ben Gordon should have more freedom to do his thing under Frank. I predict a surprisingly positive season.
Langlois: Simply because so many of the unique and disruptive forces at work last season Ė most stemming from the malaise forced on the franchise by an ownership in limbo, resolved by Tom Goresí purchase of the team Ė have been resolved, this season is almost certainly going to be refreshing. The dynamic of the team is changing Ė Jerebko (yes, assuming he re-signs) and Monroe are going to be prominent players and are going to start assuming leadership functions Ė and a new young core that includes lottery pick Brandon Knight will inject some needed enthusiasm and optimism into the franchise. Also donít underestimate the impact Lawrence Frank and a deep and impressive staff heís assembled will have. I think the players are going to respond very positively to the structure he surely will impose. Iíll get into this more in the near future, but I really think the one player most certain to blossom under Frank will be Rodney Stuckey Ė again, assuming the Pistons retain him as a restricted free agent.
Ryan (Perry, Mich.): I understand not being trigger happy with the amnesty clause as there are plenty of alternative routes to take first. But if no trades are made before the start of the season, we still will have a glut of guards. I think itís becoming clearer there just isnít enough time available for both Rip and Ben Gordon at shooting guard and thatís before even discussing the other guards we have. Thereís a new owner, a new coach Ė itís a needed fresh start Ė but wonít we just run into the same morale-lowering problems we had last year if the guard situation isnít addressed?
Langlois: If the season starts with Hamilton, Gordon, Rodney Stuckey, Will Bynum and Brandon Knight all on the roster, then itís unlikely that all five could possibly have spots in the rotation unless Lawrence Frank commits to major minutes at small forward for Hamilton, Stuckey or both. I donít know if thatís a realistic possibility. I also donít know Ė given the tight time frame between now and the start of the season, complicated by the fact that teams are first going to need to fill out rosters with free-agent signings as the first order of business Ė if itís very likely a trade gets done before the start of the season. But a trade could come at any time. The benefit to that is it will give Frank time to assess not only each player, but how certain combinations of players fit into his system. That should help inform Joe Dumarsí opinions as he takes his players to the marketplace to try to address roster shortcomings elsewhere. I think itís more likely than not that the Pistons make a trade of significance between the start of the season and the trade deadline.
Bruno (Sao Paulo, Brazil): There are two young players Joe D showed interest in before who would fill needs, Andris Biedrins and Al Thornton. Do you have any idea if Joe D is still interested in either of those guys or is he looking for players who would be more likely to make an immediate impact like Chris Kaman and Caron Butler?
Langlois: Joe D said before the lockout began that his first order of business was to retain his own free agents, in particular restricted free agents Rodney Stuckey and Jonas Jerebko, where he has more control of the situation. Within the past week, Lawrence Frank has reiterated the priority is to retain their own free agents and has spoken of his desire to see Tayshaun Prince return. What moves the Pistons make will be predicated on what happens first with their own free agents. If they keep those three players, in particular, then my hunch is that the focus turns toward adding another frontcourt piece, if possible. Retaining their own free agents would effectively eliminate any cap space, so the means to acquiring another frontcourt player would be the trade market. If Golden State succeeds in adding Tyson Chandler, as numerous reports indicate is their objective, then it figures that Biedrins would be available. I donít know of any verification that the Pistons have ever seriously engaged Golden State on Biedrins or would be interested in him at this point. But once the deck gets cut on Friday, I expect hands will be shown pretty quickly. Stay tuned.
Glenn (Elkhorn, Wis.): How much is too much to match for Stuckey this free-agency period?
Langlois: Thatís the great unknown with any pursuit of a restricted free agent, Glenn, and itís one that any team that prepares an offer sheet asks of itself. They donít go through the process without calculating the breaking point of the original team. I canít give you a figure for ďhow much is too much,Ē but the key for Stuckey and the Pistons will be to find a number that works for both sides. Stuckey could take the one-year qualifying offer and jump in the pool as an unrestricted free agent next summer, but players (and agents) generally prefer the security a long-term contract affords them if the annual average provides a boost in pay over the qualifying offer. In Stuckeyís case, thatís nearly $4 million. So something north of there Ė and, most likely, something north of the mid-level exception. How far north will depend on whether there is at least one suitor out there that believes Stuckey still has growth potential.
John (Macomb Twp., Mich.): I never understood previous managementís decision to discontinue the red alternate jersey. By all accounts, they were popular with fans, including me. Now that Tom Gores and Dennis Mannion are in charge, is there any chance this might be revisited?
Langlois: The revisiting began even before an ownership change, John. There is tinkering ongoing about what the next generation of alternate jerseys will look like. But the NBA requires a long sign-off period for approval. The earliest possible date an alternate jersey will be revealed will be for the 2013-14 season.
Master (Grand Rapids, Mich.): I read about New York possibly using Chauncey Billups in trade with New Orleans to get Chris Paul. I think theyíd be better served by keeping Chauncey and acquiring Rip. They played well in the playoffs until Chauncey went down. Actually, I believe Rip would transform New York or Chicago into favorites to win the title. Is either possible?
Langlois: If the Knicks are rebuffed on the Paul front Ė or if they decide to sit this round out and take their chances that heíll come to them in free agency Ė then I donít know how they would feel about Rip Hamilton. On first blush, it doesnít seem like heís a fit for Mike DíAntoniís offense, and with that offense already featuring two elite scorers (Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire) and a point guard whose value is significantly tied up in his shooting range and scoring ability, the priority at shooting guard, I would guess, is an athletic player who can defend and, as a bonus, knock down open 3-pointers. It was widely and, by all appearances, credibly reported last winter that Rip Hamilton would have been pursued by Chicago had the Pistons and Cleveland executed a trade-deadline deal for him that would have resulted in a Cleveland buyout. But the Bulls would have been getting him on a new and much more team-friendly contract than the one still in place. With Derrick Rose due for a huge contract boost and highly paid players like Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer in tow, I canít imagine what the scenario would be that involves a trade of Hamilton to the Bulls at this point.
John (Toronto): If the Pistons were to land a top-five pick in next yearís draft, who would you think best suits them: Barnes, Davis or Drummond? I feel Barnes would secure us at the three for years to come and looks NBA ready. The other two look to have great potential.
Langlois: A little early for draft questions, John, especially with so much work to do in merely building out the 30 team rosters. Weíll probably start looking at some of the more enticing college prospects later this winter, but thereís no doubt that the three you named Ė assuming they decide to enter the draft, and assuming that the new CBA allows freshmen Davis and Drummond to do so Ė will go fast. You might need to be in the top three to get any one of them Ė and the Pistons very much hope they donít find themselves in that position.
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