Pistons Mailbag - July 16, 2014

by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

Pistons Mailbag took a one-week hiatus to let free agency blow through town, but we’re back! On with Mailbag …

Jay (Flint, Mich.): With all the new additions – including the signings of Butler, Augustin and Meeks, the two free agents still to be signed and the drafting of Dinwiddie – don’t the Pistons now have more than 15 players. What happens – trade or cuts?

Langlois: The roster doesn’t have to be at 15 until the regular season starts, Jay. It can be 20 until that time. So there’s plenty of time for Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Bower to whittle it down. With the reported decisions to decline team options on Josh Harrellson and Peyton Siva, the Pistons are at 16 players if you include Greg Monroe. That’s not unusual this far away from the start of the regular season. I would expect we’ll see a trade or two between now and then.

Steven (West Bloomfield, Mich.): Has Greg Monroe worked out yet for Stan Van Gundy? I ask because I heard he was peeved that Will Bynum hasn’t worked out for him despite having a guaranteed contract and a notorious work ethic. Given that Monroe hasn’t addressed his shooting or defensive footwork with the incentive of a big contract looming, it seems crazy to woo him and offer even the five-year, $60 million contract that has been rumored without seeing how he’s progressed in these areas. If he addressed just one of these issues he’d be a clear max player, but if he’s not working on these areas there’s no reason to believe he’ll get to it after he’s already been paid.

Langlois: Two points to make here. One, I don’t know where you “heard” Van Gundy was peeved at Bynum. There’s no evidence of that. At his predraft media briefing, Van Gundy was asked if he could identify the core group. He ticked off the names of Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, Josh Smith, Brandon Jennings, Kyle Singler and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, then said Jonas Jerebko was quickly moving into that group because he’d gotten to see plenty of him in the practice facility and had a more favorable impression of him based on firsthand experience. Here’s what he then said: “That gives us seven guys. I can’t speak yet to the other guys. I know Will Bynum is a good player. He’s in Chicago – nothing wrong with that. I know Will works pretty hard. I haven’t seen him. That’s all I’m saying, so it’s not a knock there.” In the retelling, that might have gotten misunderstood or misinterpreted. As for Monroe and the second point, I’m pretty certain Van Gundy didn’t need to see him work out. It would be a highly unusual request of any free agent, let alone one with the durability and productivity Monroe has entered into evidence. I don’t think Jodie Meeks, D.J. Augustin or Caron Butler worked out for the Pistons, either, nor can I recall ever hearing about a team requesting a workout before extending a contract offer to a veteran free agent – their own or someone else’s – unless it was a player who’d been out of the league and needed to prove he still was an NBA-caliber player. Let’s face it: Whether you think the idea of an individual workout for an established player is worthwhile or not, it veers so far from convention that the mere request would be off-putting to the player and his agent.

Ifham (Ann Arbor, Mich.): Is there any chance we can get Thaddeus Young for either Greg Monroe or Josh Smith? I think he would be a great fit for our team and it would solve our three-bigs problem.

Langlois: I’ve always liked Thaddeus Young, Ifham, but if you polled 30 NBA general managers I’m pretty sure he’d be the clear-cut No. 3 player on that list by consensus. Also, not sure he really solves the issue you suggest. He’s a career 32 percent 3-point shooter. While he, like Josh Smith during his Atlanta tenure, has played both small forward and power forward extensively, most people I’ve talked with about Young believe he’s more effective at power forward. In any case, I suspect that Philadelphia – which has Nerlens Noel on board now and Joel Embiid in the pipeline – believes it has its future frontcourt under control. There’s also the fact that the 76ers, from outside appearances, are focused on another high lottery pick. Not sure how else you would explain drafting two players in the top 10 – Embiid and Dario Saric – who might combine to play zero NBA games next season. That likely further reduces the appeal of Monroe and Smith for them.

Chris (Auburn Hills, Mich.): If the Pistons lose Greg Monroe, what do you think about picking up Carlos Boozer once Chicago amnesties him?

Langlois: It appears the Boozer process is ahead of any decision on Monroe, Chris. A team could claim Boozer on secondary waivers – no one will claim him on waivers, which would require them to fit Boozer’s nearly $17 million contract onto their cap, not to mention pay him that much – within the next few days. There’s no indication Monroe’s fate will be settled that soon. It will be interesting to see how much appeal Boozer, at a reduced rate, has for the teams that lost out on Pau Gasol or others in free agency. I could see Oklahoma City, San Antonio or Miami being interested in Boozer at something close to the league minimum and he might be open to that since he’ll be assured of collecting all of his $17 million in one form or another. He can still knock down mid-range jump shots with the best of them. Should he clear secondary waivers and become an unrestricted free agent and his process of landing with a new team drags on, sure, there’s no reason the Pistons wouldn’t take a look at the possibility of getting a productive veteran for a bargain price. But consider that as a team that went from under the cap to right up against it with the free-agent signings of Jodie Meeks, Caron Butler and D.J. Augustin, they aren’t going to be able to use the full mid-level exception to lure a player like Boozer should it come to that. They would have their “room” mid-level exception to use, though.

Brandon (Westland, Mich.): Do the Pistons have any interest in Rashard Lewis? I think he would be a perfect fit for what SVG is trying to do and he and Van Gundy have history and he is still a good shooter.

Langlois: Too late, Brandon. Word came on Tuesday that Lewis has agreed to terms with Dallas. Makes sense. He can back up Dirk Nowitzki and fill the same type of role. I’m sure Lewis was seriously considered by Van Gundy. He spoke highly of what his acquisition meant to the Orlando teams he coached.

Anes (Grand Rapids, Mich.): With the Greg Monroe situation unfolding awkwardly, I started to think about the future when we have to make a move on Andre Drummond. I know he is young and full of potential, which will attract the big markets for his services. The kid enjoys the limelight and has fans that he built up as a social media star. How concerning is it that he could chase a bigger market down the line?

Langlois: Barring any injury that alters Drummond’s long-term outlook, I think the entire NBA expects that the Pistons are going to offer Drummond the five-year maximum deal that will kick in for the 2016-17 season. No other team could offer him that. (If the Pistons were to have offered Monroe the same deal, they would have been prevented from offering it to Drummond. The 2011 bargaining agreement limited teams to one five-year maximum extension of a rookie contract. That’s why Minnesota is now faced with the likelihood of having to trade Kevin Love before losing him as a free agent next summer. They chose to save the five-year max extension for Ricky Rubio.) The Pistons almost certainly won’t have to worry about Drummond leaving as a free agent for another eight years. That gives Stan Van Gundy all the time he needs to put the team he wants around Drummond. The remarkable thing about that is he’ll still only be 28 at the time and could very well still command another maximum contract for the longest term allowed under whatever the bargaining agreement permits at the time.

Pat (@PatRiordan16): Is Luigi Datome going to be a factor this season?

Langlois: We’ll see. The Pistons have reportedly come to a contract agreement with Cartier Martin, another small forward who specializes in shooting the 3-pointer. They have Kyle Singler and Caron Butler now to play small forward. That position got pretty crowded in a hurry. Datome – assuming there’s no trade in store – will need to open some eyes in training camp. Last season would have been an adjustment for him in the best of circumstances, but coming to camp with a foot injury and then pulling a hamstring that cost him all of the preseason really set Datome back.

Michael (Vicksburg, Mich.): I look at this team and I still see a top-eight pick coming next season even with Meeks and an improved KCP. I see a glaring need at small forward. Who are the top prospects for 2015?

Langlois: A little early for 2015 draft stuff, Michael, but DraftExpress.com lists four small forwards as lottery caliber right now, three of them incoming college freshmen. Arizona-bound Stanley Jefferson apparently impressed Brandon Jennings during the Los Angeles Drew League play over the summer. Duke-bound Justice Winslow and Kansas-bound Kelly Oubre are also highly regarded. Arizona sophomore Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who probably will play power forward for the Wildcats, is the other highly rated small forward for the 2015 draft. Whether all four prove lottery worthy by the time June rolls around remains to be seen. It’s also likely somebody not on that list emerges in the way players like Nik Stauskas and Elfrid Payton made quantum leaps year over year. One such player, I believe, is Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker, although it’s possible he might project as a power forward when all is said and done.

David (Lawrenceburg, Ky.): Dinwiddie’s contract will not be a normal second-round deal, one assumes. What do you think it might look like?

Langlois: I don’t think there will be much variance from what players drafted in the late 30s typically get, David. In other words, I don’t think Dinwiddie’s injury is going to be much of a factor in contract talks. The Pistons recently took Tony Mitchell 37th and Khris Middleton 39th. Both got two guaranteed years for the rookie minimum. Dinwiddie was selected 38th.

T (@tinokaplan): How does a starting lineup of Jennings, Smith, Butler, Meeks and Monroe look next season?

Langlois: Until the Monroe contract situation is resolved, it’s too soon to speculate about the starting lineup. I would expect real competition between Meeks and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at shooting guard and Kyle Singler and Butler at small forward. You’ve left Andre Drummond out of your starting lineup, of course. I wonder if Van Gundy is envisioning using Drummond surrounded by shooters – Meeks, D.J. Augustin and Butler, for instance – and if that might lead to the decision to bring him off the bench with a second unit that would look something like the one that experienced success two seasons ago and included Will Bynum’s pick-and-roll acumen with shooting from Charlie Villanueva and Austin Daye. That will be one of the most fascinating aspects of the preseason.

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