Pistons Mailbag - May 28, 2014

It’s been two weeks since the Pistons named Stan Van Gundy as both coach and president of basketball operations. As fans get a glimpse of Van Gundy’s vision for the future, Pistons Mailbag heats up with questions about what to expect. On with Mailbag …

Ken (Dharamsala, India): Do you think Stan Van Gundy knows what “Pistons Basketball” is? Will we ever see a defense that takes the other team out of its rhythm, worries and vexes everything the opposing team tries to do and makes them concerned about even holding on to the ball, let alone getting off a good shot? A team that cherishes every possession and an offense that gets quality shots, especially from its half-court game? That’s what I would like to see.

Langlois: Pretty sure he’s well-versed on Pistons history, not that what contributed to their success over the years strays very far from his desires. He told me last week you can’t hope to contend for a championship without building a top-10 defense. And he also told me that, “We are going to be absolutely committed to putting a team on the floor right now – forget roster changes or anything else – that will represent the Detroit community the way they’ve been used to the Detroit Pistons representing them in their great years. That this team will go out and play extremely hard every night. We’ll fight for 48 minutes and we’ll do it together. From there, we’ll try to get better every day. … Right now, I’m concerned that we’re out there every night at 100 percent and if fans can see that and say, ‘Well, maybe there are some things I don’t like, but these guys are out there competing. I can be proud of them to be a Pistons fan.” So, yeah, I think he gets what fans want to see and what style of play they expect.

Seth (Chicago): I’m a transplanted Pistons fan and can admit to being optimistic about the hiring of Stan Van Gundy. But tell me why I should really buy in?

Langlois: The Pistons raised their own bar with the past two generations of fans by winning three championships over two eras and competing for many others, Seth. From Stan Van Gundy on down, everyone in the organization knows that they’ll be judged on their actions and their results, not on anything they say or much of what they do between now and the start of the 2014-15 season. Van Gundy is going into this bold new structure created for him by Pistons owner Tom Gores – sitting in first chairs on both the coaching and executive fronts – committed to both immediate improvement and long-term sustainability. He’s going to make moves this off-season, but he’s not going to sacrifice the future to go .500 next season, either. “The part we have to be sensitive to,” he told me last week, “if you’re a Pistons fan, you’ve already gone five years without the playoffs. Enough. They don’t want to hear about your plans building and I understand that. But that’s where we as coaches and as players on the floor, we really have to make a strong commitment to trying to be a lot better this year but at the same time, on the front office side of things, we can’t start panicking to put a playoff team on the floor and make decisions that will cost us down the road. I just saw a quote: ‘People fail because they give up what they want most to get what they want now.’ We’re in that kind of world. We want it now so we don’t think down the road. We’ve got to do both.” What Van Gundy – and, by extension, Tom Gores, the man who entrusted him with two important jobs – believes is that eliminating the tug of war between coaching staff and front office, where often the agendas collide in weighing the present vs. the future, will bring those parallel quests into balance.

Zach (Glen Allen, Va.): I have heard rumors the Cavs, Celtics and Kings are willing to trade their top-10 first-round picks. Are the Pistons willing to trade to get the pick or wait for free agency in July?

Langlois: Willing? Sure. Able to satisfy what certainly will be a steep sticker price to get a top-10 pick? Highly unlikely. The Pistons aren’t trading Andre Drummond and any trade of Greg Monroe would be a sign-and-trade that would be done with his consent. Those are the two trade pieces likeliest to get a top-10 pick in return. I could see a team looking for instant impact – Sacramento the most likely of the three you cite, in my estimation – being interested in Josh Smith if it has the cap space to accommodate a trade that wouldn’t require the Pistons to take back a similar salary. (Although the Pistons, also under the cap, could certainly take back salary in a hypothetical Smith deal, too. And the Kings probably aren’t making any trades of that magnitude before the draft without knowing what Rudy Gay plans to do. Gay holds a player option – at a whopping $19 million – for next season.) But lottery picks are highly coveted – perhaps overvalued, to a degree – because they give teams the opportunity to land players, maybe even stars, who for four or five years can outperform their contracts. One reason the Pistons will have cap space this summer is Drummond is giving them heavy minutes and production at center on a rookie-scale contract, meaning they have the ability to spread their resources out to other positions and areas of need until he’s eligible for his second contract, which will see his salary rise considerably. A team looking for more immediate help than it expects to get out of a rookie might be willing to trade away a lottery pick, but it won’t be offering any discounts on the asking price.

Ames (Grand Rapids, Mich.): Kyrie Irving is unhappy in Cleveland. I think he would be happy in Detroit next to Andre Drummond. Is that wishful thinking or are you going to tell me that’s out of the question because of our lottery pick going to the Hornets?

Langlois: It’s probably out of the question, but I don’t think the fact the Hornets wound up getting Detroit’s 2014 lottery pick factors into it very much, Ames. Kyrie Irving might well be looking for a way out of Cleveland, but the Cavs’ chances to mollify him had to be greatly enhanced by them capitalizing on their 1.7 percent chance to win the lottery and get the No. 1 pick this year. What if Joel Embiid’s back checks out and he proves to be everything scouts hope? Or what if the Cavs go with Andrew Wiggins and he quickly shows signs of becoming a superstar? I’d be stunned if the Cavs don’t ride it out with Irving at this point. If next season isn’t going well and if the return Cleveland gets for winning the No. 1 pick proves disappointing – whether they actually exercise the pick or use it to acquire a current star – then perhaps the Cavs would revisit the idea of trading Irving at next February’s trade deadline. Trading him within the division would be another impediment – and trading him without the Cavs demanding Andre Drummond in return yet another.

Hevvy (Harper Woods, Mich.): I think a trade of Monroe to Philadelphia for Thaddeus Young and the 10th pick would be good.

Langlois: Monroe is a restricted free agent. He can’t begin to negotiate with teams until July 1. That’s five days after the draft. The 76ers can’t let the Pistons exercise the 10th pick without knowing if they have any chance of coming to terms with Monroe on a contract and then getting the Pistons to agree to a sign-and-trade deal that would allow Monroe to get the fifth year added to his contract instead of the maximum four allowed for signing another team’s free agent. It’s not out of the question that Monroe agrees to sign with another team and then that team engages the Pistons in trade talks that end up involving a player taken in the June draft, but there are too many moving parts here – and some elements of the collective bargaining agreement to overcome – to make the type of deal you describe very likely. In theory, I suppose it’s possible a lottery team has targeted Monroe and has a strong sense of reciprocal interest. In theory, it’s further possible that team would have an idea what the Pistons might desire in the draft and take a player it believes would hold appeal if things progress to the point of negotiating a sign-and-trade transaction. There certainly have been cases before of a team drafting a player with the intention of trading him a few weeks later, but that’s almost always when a deal can be agreed to without any chance of the player influencing the outcome. In other words, a team can agree to trade a player it has under contract for a draft pick even if it can’t officially make the trade until after the July moratorium is lifted and the teams’ new salary cap positions allow for the trade to be completed. In this case, Monroe – as a restricted free agent – cannot be traded by the Pistons until he reaches agreement on terms with another team. That’s a process he controls, not the Pistons.

Chris (Auburn Hills, Mich.): What do you think about trading Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings to the Nets for Deron Williams? This gives us a true point guard that can actually operate in a half-court set and not only in transition. Also, this takes Josh Smith out of the roster, leaving us with an opening at small forward. Since we have the money, then how about Carmelo Anthony as a free agent? From there it’s just a matter of letting Stan Van Gundy play with the wet clay and shape it into a championship banner for the rafters.

Langlois: Deron Williams will turn 30 next month and he’s been significantly diminished by recurring ankle problems the past few seasons, Chris. He had surgery yesterday, in fact, on both ankles to attempt to alleviate the problem. (The Nets say he’ll be on crutches for a month or so and should be ready to go by training camp, for the record.) It’s been persistent and there’s no promise these surgeries are going to return him to his status as an elite NBA point guard. He averaged 14.3 points and 6.1 assists last year and missed 18 games. He’s also owed $63 million over the next three years, which is more than the Pistons owe Smith and Jennings combined. If teams could be assured Williams will return as good as ever, then there would still be a reasonable trade market for him. But my guess is he’s going to have to pass the eye test on the court and prove both his level of play and his durability before any team would take on that type of financial commitment. Beyond the dollars, as many of them as are involved, there’s the simple fact that paying a player $20 million or more a season greatly limits what you can do with the rest of the roster. If you’re going to pay someone that much, you need more than a “true point guard” – you need an unquestioned superstar. And the Deron Williams of today comes with some very imposing questions. As for Carmelo Anthony, I’d be skeptical of any blueprint for the Pistons that requires convincing Anthony to sign as a free agent.

Ethan (Radford, Va.): Love Mailbag! With the long list of free agents this summer, what do you think management has their eyes on? Who could we maybe expect in a Pistons jersey next season?

Langlois: I won’t get into any particular names, Ethan. But I think it’s fair to guess that Stan Van Gundy, based on what he said at the press conference about the responsibility the Pistons have to surround Andre Drummond with the right cast of players, is going to look to add players who can move the needle on the team’s 29th-place standing in 3-point accuracy. When I asked him last week if adding 3-point shooters would be his first priority, here’s what he said: “I said on day one with the people that are here in the office, the holy trinity for us is tough, smart and can shoot. Those are the guys.” He went on to say that the biggest thing they’ll be looking for in players brought into the fold is high-character guys who are highly competitive. But they’re going to focus on those qualities in shooters and hope they can get it all in one package.

Nikola (Strumica, Macedonia): Greetings from Macedonia! Since I’m from the Balkans, I’m always excited about players going to the NBA from all the ex-Yugoslavian states. So I was wondering what are the chances for the Pistons to get Bogdan Bogdanovic from Serbia? He’s a 6-foot-6 shooting guard but he has a 6-foot-11 wing span so he can probably guard small forwards and he’s a real good 3-point shooter. Since that’s what Detroit needs, would he be a good fit?

Langlois: He is no stranger to Pistons scouts, Nikola – and greetings from Michigan, as well. The Pistons know all about Bogdanovic. He definitely is someone who would be under consideration at No. 38, but right now that list probably has at least 20 realistic names on it. It will be interesting to see how Bogdanovic approaches the draft. I’m not sure what his contract status is. There have been reports that he has a modest buyout from his contract with Partizan Belgrade, and if that proves the case then he could be more attractive even to teams picking in the first round. Will he work out for teams? Will he let it be known that he’ll play in the NBA next season or use his draft status to leverage a better contract in Europe? Those are questions teams must know before spending a draft pick on him, especially when the Pistons don’t have a first-round pick this season.

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. You can also submit Pistons Mailbag questions via Twitter. Include the hashtag #pistonsmailbag and, as always, your first name, hometown and state or country. Questions submitted via Twitter will also include the questioner’s Twitter handle. We reserve the right to edit your question for the sake of brevity or clarity. Return to the Mailbag homepage.

Pistons.com editor Keith Langlois answers your questions about the Pistons and NBA. To have your question considered, submit it along with your name, email address and city/state using the form below.

You can also submit Pistons Mailbag questions via Twitter. Include the hashtag #pistonsmailbag and, as always, your first name, hometown and state or country. Questions submitted via Twitter will also include the questioner’s Twitter handle.

We reserve the right to edit your question for the sake of brevity or clarity.

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