Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, March 29, 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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Dawn (Allendale, Mich.): I liked your baseball analogy in the recap of last night’s win at Cleveland. I might be alone in this, but even as the losses have mounted I have really enjoyed this season and seeing growth from game to game. A few steps backward occasionally, but for the most part moving forward. Not unlike the Tigers from 2003-06. If so, 2013 is a season to look forward to.
Langlois: I saw something in them in Monday’s win at Washington, Dawn, which was by all objective measures an ugly game for most of a night in which almost nothing seemed to go their way and yet they found a way to win anyway. Then in Cleveland, to lose Rodney Stuckey in the first quarter after already being without Ben Gordon and to win that, as well, says a lot about the mental resolve Lawrence Frank has managed to instill. That’s as important as anything else that will come out of a season in which the Pistons saw Greg Monroe take a step forward, Brandon Knight give strong indications he’ll be a building block of Monroe’s stature and Rodney Stuckey blossom into a worthy All-Star candidate in the near future. Which leads us to …
Joel (Marquette, Mich.): Who has a better chance of making the All-Star team next year, Greg Monroe or Rodney Stuckey?
Langlois: Tough question, especially because we don’t know where a number of quality players might be playing next season, including All-Star staples like Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard (does Orlando trade him this summer to avoid a repeat of this year’s drama?) and Deron Williams. If Stuckey continues to play at the level he’s played at the past two months, though, his numbers will have him in the discussion if – and this is a big if – the Pistons are playing .500 or better basketball when the coaches do their voting. It’s proven every year that coaches reward players from winning teams. Among big men, Monroe will have to emerge as one of the top handful from among the field that could include Tyson Chandler, Amare Stoudemire, Garnett, Andrea Bargnani, Brook Lopez, Nene, Chris Bosh, Al Horford, Josh Smith, Howard, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Roy Hibbert. Among guards, Stuckey will have to distinguish himself from a group likely to include Rajon Rondo, Williams, Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson, Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving, Brandon Jennings, Monte Ellis and DeMar DeRozan.
David (Saginaw, Mich.): I’ve heard Greg Monroe compared to Tim Duncan in the past. I’ll say if he turns out somewhere nearly as good as Duncan, it will be something special. The guy is so efficient around the rim and seems to get better as he gets older. The Pistons have something special and I can’t wait to get the big fella some help this off-season.
Langlois: In demeanor and in his potential to develop a rounded offensive game, the parallels are there, David. It would be unfair to both parties to take it any farther than that at this point. Duncan belongs in any discussion for the greatest player of his time in the NBA, right there with Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant among players who arrived in the NBA prior to 2000. Duncan is a no-brainer unanimous Hall of Famer the first time he’s eligible. Monroe has the potential to average double-doubles for the foreseeable future, which is very good. But there’s a big gap between those two classes. The first step for Monroe will be to make it difficult for NBA coaches to keep him off of their All-Star ballots.
Jason (Kalamazoo, Mich.): Joe Dumars recently said you can’t give up on someone like Austin Daye, so what would you say is the reason he gave up on Arron Afflalo, who is playing beautifully in Denver?
Langlois: The deal with Denver was made in the week after the Pistons signed Ben Gordon in free agency. At the time, remember, the Pistons had Rodney Stuckey, Rip Hamilton and Gordon as guards, blocking all reasonable paths to playing time for Afflalo. The trade with Denver essentially was made to create more cap space so the Pistons could add to their frontcourt. They wound up signing Chris Wilcox. Afflalo has exceeded Denver’s expectations and that was reflected by the contract he signed as a restricted free agent in December. The Pistons admired Afflalo’s work ethic and believed he had a long career as a solid NBA player ahead of him, but with Gordon’s signing – and they were getting Gordon just as he figured to be heading into his prime years – they didn’t see a role for him.
Clark (Santa Cruz, Calif.): I read Scott Howard-Cooper’s article on NBA.com that said Portland is going to dangle its draft picks because it isn’t yet willing to completely rebuild with all rookies. Do you think the Pistons have anything they would be interested in for one of their first-rounders outside of Monroe or Knight?
Langlois: Don’t see it, Clark. Portland is going to have two lottery picks, including one it got from New Jersey in the Gerald Wallace trade that is going to be roughly as attractive, perhaps more, than the Pistons’ own pick. If you want to take Monroe and Knight off the table, then the only player who would generate that type of interest, perhaps, is Rodney Stuckey. There were unconfirmed reports once the lockout ended that Portland was interested in presenting Stuckey with an offer sheet. Stuckey, still in the early stages of what should be his prime years, would fit the profile of what a team that is more interested in taking the sure thing over the boom-or-bust quality of lottery picks would want, which makes it possible – but not likely.
David (Lawrenceburg, Ky.): Just like last year at this point, the Pistons are 18-32, yet you are a fount of optimism. Yes, the Pistons will get another high draft pick, but other teams get picks, too, and other teams spend money and other teams are located near the beach. What do you say?
Langlois: I would say that all 18-32 records are not created equally. The Pistons didn’t start 4-20 last season, as they did this season – and as they did largely because of complicating circumstances that many predicted for first-year coaches coming out of a lockout – nor did they exhibit clear signs of progress over the course of last season, as this team has. Last year’s Pistons, at this time, had a rapidly improving Greg Monroe, but they did not have Brandon Knight, nor did they have the Rodney Stuckey who appears to have turned the corner under Lawrence Frank, as Joe Dumars predicted he would as he assessed the impact of Frank’s evenhandedness and structure on Stuckey. The Pistons are likely to get another top-10 pick, and the track record of Dumars and his staff with first-round picks strongly suggests they’ll add another building block of Monroe-Knight quality. While the Pistons don’t figure to have significant cap space this summer, their cap situation is good and projecting to improve. That’s what I say.
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