Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, February 2, 2012
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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Peter (Lulea, Sweden): It feels like Jerebko is seeing decreased minutes. Why? Big Ben is a legend, but now what he used to be and now he’s the starter instead of Jonas. When you look at the games the Pistons have won, you can spot a correlation between Jerebko’s minutes and the results. I would understand if Frank was giving the minutes to another young player. Wouldn’t it be smarter to give Jerebko and Monroe a lot of minutes and let them learn each other’s games?
Langlois: He’s averaging 26 minutes, Peter. That would have been right about my guess coming into the season, no matter if he was starting or coming off the bench. Some games his minutes are limited by foul trouble. Though Lawrence Frank didn’t say so specifically, my guess is his proclivity for picking up quick fouls was a factor in the decision to start Ben Wallace and bring Jerebko off the bench. At the time the move was made – right before the Houston and Minnesota games a few weeks ago – Frank pointed to the list of accomplished scorers coming up, including Luis Scola and Kevin Love, and the implication, at least, was he was worried about players of that ilk getting Jerebko in more quick foul trouble. Now Jason Maxiell has moved into the starting spot up front. I think Frank is genuinely looking to see what player works best in tandem with Monroe while also giving him enough all around with the pair he winds up bringing off the bench. You’re right that Jonas has played well in Pistons wins, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the more he plays the more the Pistons win. It might just mean that in order for the Pistons to win, they need Jonas – and others, of course – to play well.
Rob (Georgetown, Ky.): If Greg Monroe doesn’t make the All-Star team, it will be a crying shame. I know the Pistons are playing poorly and on the path for a top-three pick, but his play should be recognized. He is putting up better numbers than every East center other than Dwight Howard.
Langlois: The Pistons’ record is going to hurt him, if the past is a reliable indicator. Fans pick the starters, but coaches fill out the rosters. And history shows they reward players from winning teams. So somebody like Roy Hibbert, whose numbers (14 points, 9.8 rebounds) are pretty similar to Monroe’s, would likely get the nod before Monroe. The fact Monroe is only in his second season will factor, too. Except for the unusually precocious, it’s generally true that young players have to wait a year or two longer to make an All-Star team than merit would suggest and veterans maybe get the benefit of the doubt for a season or two on the downside of their careers. Monroe’s 21. There could be many All-Star games in his future if his career trajectory remains on its current arc.
Dennis (Shelby Township, Mich.): Since the Pistons’ season is not going well, why are we not playing Vernon Macklin more? I know the coach wants to win first, but the time is now to see how he can play.
Langlois: Lawrence Frank could not be more clear on this issue, Dennis. His belief is that to maintain integrity with the team – for them to buy in that he means what he says about play based on performance – he must put players on the floor he believes gives the Pistons the best chance to win. That’s pretty simple. And Joe Dumars would back him up 100 percent on that score. Macklin has gotten minutes lately because the Pistons haven’t been competitive in the fourth quarters until Wednesday night’s tough loss at New Jersey where they had two good chances to tie in the final seconds. The lockout did Macklin no favors. One week of training camp wasn’t much time to prove himself and having only two preseason games didn’t give Frank the luxury of experimentation. It also hurts that there are only four big men ahead of him, in one sense. If the Pistons had more adequate frontcourt depth – the injury to Charlie Villanueva is a factor there – they could perhaps afford to ship Macklin to the D-League for a week or so and let him soak up some experience there.
Ryan (Grand Rapids, Mich.): After March 1, what about a trade that sends Prince, Stuckey and Maxiell to Minnesota for Michael Beasley, Anthony Randolph, Wayne Ellington and the contracts of Martell Webster and Darko Milicic? Minnesota moves its three worst contracts and gets solid veterans. Detroit gets three young players to add to the core and would still have cap space in two years if the Pistons use the amnesty clause on Ben Gordon.
Langlois: I see what you’re doing there and it makes some sense, Ryan, because I have to believe Minnesota would be intrigued by that package. The T-wolves just signed Kevin Love to a contract extension for the annual maximum that gives him the right to opt out after his third year. That means Minnesota management is going to be looking for moves just like the one you propose – a trade of some young players who might still have some cachet because of their lottery pedigree even though they’ve yet to produce at levels consistent with their draft status. In return, the T-wolves would get three veterans who would certainly help produce more wins now. Would Pistons management consider such a deal? Maybe. I didn’t run all the contract numbers to see what the year-to-year ramifications would be, but ultimately their interest would really come down to how much untapped potential they believe Beasley and Randolph have. The fact Randolph hasn’t been able to keep a rotation spot with two franchises and he’s now in his fourth year makes you wonder. I know as well as anyone how high his ceiling is – after his rookie year, he looked like a budding star in NBA Summer League – but I think the odds he’s ever going to be significantly more than he is now are probably diminishing rapidly. As for Beasley, we’ve talked about him in this space before. He’s also in his fourth year. The debate that raged throughout the 2007-08 college season whether he or Derrick Rose should be the No. 1 pick seems like a long time ago. I guess I’m skeptical that either Randolph or Beasley is going to have the light bulb turn on for them all of a sudden. Whatever Pistons fans feel Rodney Stuckey’s future is, it’s hard to deny that his present is worth more to the Pistons right now than Beasley or Randolph. And Prince is a known commodity who still possesses the same intangible qualities of which Joe Dumars spoke in explaining his decision to pursue his retention.
Ken (Dharamsala, India): On the Pistons’ need for a third guard, which was a topic in the most recent Pistons Mailbag, I think we all look back to the Bad Boys era with the “Microwave” coming off the bench as a template to fill. Polled NBA coaches picked it as one of the top 10 NBA teams ever. Pat Riley said the Pistons were so deep that their sixth through 10th players would have made another playoff team. Do you think it’s possible to build that kind of depth and quality in today’s NBA?
Langlois: Highly doubtful for a variety of reasons, Ken. The 1988-89 champions, the best team in franchise history by most reasonable evaluations, won the title in a 25-team league but really a 23-team league – Miami and Charlotte had just come aboard as expansion franchises. Teams, by and large, are much more efficiently managed today, too. The NBA was only then emerging from a relatively small-time operation where the money wasn’t nearly what it is today. The makeup of ownership was much different then. Many owners of that era were holdovers from the early days of the NBA who’d bought their teams for relatively little money and ran them as diversions, not as big business. Toward that end, and because they weren’t investing millions of dollars in virtually every player on the roster as happens today, every personnel decision wasn’t painstakingly researched and reached. A lot of teams were run like good ol’ boys clubs, so the handful of teams with shrewd management – and once Bill Davidson hired Jack McCloskey to run the Pistons, they were among that handful – could really take advantage of poorly managed teams. So the Pistons were able to get Vinnie Johnson and James Edwards in lopsided deals, draft Dennis Rodman in the second round, get Joe Dumars 18th after Dallas took two 7-footers with little to offer, and on and on. Those moves would be few and far between today. But the biggest reason it would be next to impossible to assemble – and, more challenging still – to maintain for any length of time a team with enough depth to forge a second unit of Johnson, Edwards, Rodman and John Salley is the salary cap. Teams have to make tough choices that weren’t necessary in the Bad Boys era. The only mitigating factor in all of this is that the global expansion of the game has deepened the talent pool, at least theoretically, and the vagaries of evaluating international talent still allows for more nimble front offices to find undervalued talent.
Kira (Hamtramck, Mich.): Would Phoenix be willing to trade Marcin Gortat for Rodney Stuckey? I think the trade would benefit both teams.
Langlois: Doubt it, Kira, and it has little to do with Stuckey and everything to do with Gortat. He’s averaging 15 and 10, about the same numbers Greg Monroe is averaging for the Pistons. He’ll be 28 this month, so he still has several good years ahead of him, and his contract is team friendly with two more years to run at about $15 million. A far more likely target if you’re looking for a Phoenix big man is Robin Lopez. His numbers are underwhelming this season – about five points and three rebounds a game – but I don’t doubt Lopez would have pretty fair market value if the Suns actively shopped him. They almost dealt him last year to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green, but the Thunder found a more attractive option in sending Green to Boston for Kendrick Perkins. Lopez might not attract a player of quite that quality this time around, but it wouldn’t be too far amiss.
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