Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, May 24, 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.

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

Keeb (Riverview, Fla.): Do you think the Pistons would be more willing to take a chance on a player like Perry Jones III if he is there when they select due to the thinking of the current coaching staff as willing to teach and develop young players, which is what PJIII will need early on?

Langlois: As a GM, you’d always want to believe that your coaching staff would have the stuff to develop the young players you hand to them. I can’t speak for Joe Dumars on this, but my guess is he feels as good or better about this staff’s ability to do so than he ever has. So I don’t think that part of it will be a consideration. What will matter with Jones to a degree as large as for any player in their draft range over the last three years is what they hear when they sit down with him, likely in Chicago two weeks from now at the NBA draft combine. I think everybody is convinced of Jones’ talent level; they want to know why his production was so spotty at Baylor and how much he really cares about basketball and about winning. If he convinces teams that his inconsistency in college was due to factors beyond his control, he’ll be long gone before the Pistons pick at No. 9. If he doesn’t, the Pistons will have to make a risk-reward decision on him at nine relative to the other prospects on the board. At some point in this draft, with surer talents coming off the board and the salary slot diminishing, Jones becomes too great a talent to pass up. With a month to go before the draft, that point looks to be somewhere around where the Pistons pick. The fate of Perry Jones III is one of the most intriguing storylines of the 2012 draft.

Rick (Frederick, Md.): I’ve been a Pistons fan since the Dave DeBusschere days. Sam Amick of SI.com, who comes across as a sharp guy, rated four prospects from the upcoming draft as “jackpot” – Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bradley Beal. Do you agree and do you think the Pistons will be in a bad position if they miss out on one of the four?

Langlois: As I wrote just recently, Rick, the closest thing to a sure bet in this draft after Davis going No. 1 is that the next three picks, in some order, will be Robinson, Kidd-Gilchrist and Beal. Most NBA evaluators would agree with that. But where they become much less certain is saying with authority that those three players will be recognized in five years as having better NBA careers than the guys who will be drafted 5-6-7, or 8-9-10. Those three simply have fewer red flags or flaws that could lead to a high lottery pick becoming a bust or a journeyman. I don’t think any NBA scout would say that he would be stunned if in five years Perry Jones III or John Henson, for two examples, are better players than Robinson or Beal. What separates them at this point is that those same scouts would tell you they wouldn’t be stunned in five years if Jones or Henson hasn’t registered a lottery-level impact in the NBA, where they would be at least surprised if Robinson, Kidd-Gilchrist or Beal isn’t starting and making a difference for someone.

Simone (Perugia, Italy): Is there the possibility to sign Serge Ibaka as a free agent? I’ve read it’s possible the Thunder will not have the money to offer him a big contract.

Langlois: That’s down the road, Simone. Because both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are on major second contracts, there is legitimate speculation that Oklahoma City is staring at a tough decision when both James Harden and Serge Ibaka come up for new contracts. If both players have strong 2012-13 seasons, their market value might make it too costly to keep both of them. If it comes down to a choice, Harden might be viewed as the luxury and Ibaka as the necessity. It wouldn’t surprise me if OKC gets proactive and cuts a deal this off-season involving Harden, whose value would be very high right now because he’s still on his rookie contract. The Thunder might even deal him to a lottery team and hope a rookie – somebody like Bradley Beal, Jeremy Lamb, Terrence Ross or Austin Rivers, perhaps – can approximate Harden’s contributions off of their bench. Should OKC play it out with both Harden and Ibaka, neither could become an unrestricted free agent until after the 2013-14 season.

James (Seattle): I’m interested in your thoughts on second-rounders. There are two key players I’d love to see land with the Pistons – Scott Machado of Iona and Kyle O’Quinn of Norfolk State – and I’m wondering whether you think they’d be a good fit with the team and our roster as currently composed.

Langlois: Iona and Norfolk State don’t get much TV exposure, James, so what I know of those players is largely what I’ve read and what I’ve been told by talent evaluators in off-hand conversations as I go around the league. O’Quinn obviously had a huge game as Norfolk upset Missouri in the NCAA tournament and I saw that. With their picks at 39 and 44, that seems about the range for those two players, who by some accounts have helped themselves at events like the Portsmouth Invitational and last weekend’s camp run by the New Jersey Nets. Machado might have a shot at creeping into the first round, given the lack of depth at point guard in this draft. O’Quinn has measured well and put in good work at Portsmouth. He was among a group of players I mentioned on Twitter weeks ago as one to keep in mind with the second-round picks. If the Pistons grab a point guard in this draft, I would expect it to be one who offers them more size behind Brandon Knight than Will Bynum provides. While Machado is bigger than Bynum, at under 6-foot-2 in shoes is he bigger by enough? Lawrence Frank is going to want perimeter players who rank as plus defenders. Not sure Machado will draw high marks for his defensive potential. That’s one of the issues they’ll discuss in their war room in the weeks leading to the draft. Similarly, with O’Quinn, the question might come down to how he compares with Vernon Macklin, who is putting in an impressive off-season so far. If the front office looks at O’Quinn as similar in skill set and ceiling to Macklin, then maybe they look in another direction. But if they see him as someone more likely to develop into an NBA rotation player, then he would be squarely in consideration at 39 or 44.

Ryan (Grand Rapids, Mich.): What do you think of Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace (I hate to include him) in a deal for Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Austin Daye and Jason Maxiell? Gasol, Monroe, Prince, Stuckey and Knight make a pretty solid starting lineup. With Jerebko, Bynum, Metta and a high draft pick coming off the bench, the Pistons could make a run at home court in the first round next year.

Langlois: Dealing Gasol is the likeliest way for the Lakers to remake themselves quickly to try to prop open their championship window for however many elite years Kobe Bryant has left, Ryan. I’m sure the Lakers would smoke out at least a handful of credible offers once they make a decision on Gasol. The Lakers badly need depth; they were every bit as much a three-man team as Miami and their three weren’t as good. So while the speculation on what a Gasol trade would net the Lakers will focus on deals involving a similar All-Star-caliber talent – to Philadelphia for Andre Iguodala is a popular theory – the Lakers might decide to go for a multiplayer haul, as you suggest. If you look at what qualities they’ll want in players, my guess would be athleticism; if you accept that Oklahoma City is the likeliest future roadblock in the West, you have to match up with the Thunder’s athleticism. So while your proposed deal addresses the Lakers’ depth issues, it probably comes up short of helping them get more athletic. But maybe they’ve got an auxiliary move or two up their sleeve in free agency – though as a tax-paying team, the Lakers have to delve carefully into that market – or trade to augment the net from a Gasol trade. What the Lakers decide to do will be one of the major items that shapes the NBA’s off-season.

John (Farmington, Mich.): With the Lakers possibly making changes, Andrew Bynum might be available. I think he would be the perfect fit next to Monroe. Any chance we could get him with a package centered around the No. 9 pick plus filler without giving up Monroe, Knight or Stuckey? And would the Pistons be interested in trading the No. 9 pick for him? I don’t see any big men like him at nine in this draft and it might be the best chance to get that rim protector we covet.

Langlois: If Bynum changes uniforms this summer, then my guess is Dwight Howard is the reason. The No. 9 pick isn’t coming close to landing a player of Bynum’s profile – an elite 7-footer who is 24 years old. Substitute Pau Gasol for Bynum and you might have the basis for a conversation, but only if it included a package of players that helps the Lakers now. At that point, it doesn’t make sense for the Pistons. For where the Pistons are at in their cycle, adding a player much nearer to the end of his career than the start only makes sense if it puts you in the discussion for immediate title contention.

Adam (Tampa): The Clippers say they want a stretch four to open things up a bit. Do you think they would be interested in Charlie V and Austin Daye for Mo Williams? Williams has said he is not going to opt out, so he would have only one more year of salary. We could then use the amnesty on Ben Gordon and be out from under huge contracts. Any chance this could come true?

Langlois: If I’m Joe Dumars, that’s a very tough sell to ownership for not a great deal of tangible reward. The Pistons would essentially be paying $21 million next season to a No. 3 guard – Gordon’s salary (minus whatever claim a team might put in on him that would relieve the Pistons of that much of their burden, but for comparison sake, Chauncey Billups was claimed for $2 million last year) plus the $8.5 million coming to Williams. Yes, it would get them to a position of being under the cap in the summer of 2013 where they are now projected to be there in 2014. But there could be other ways for them to get there in 2013, if they deem that a priority, without being nearly as expensive. As much as people want to speculate about using the amnesty clause on Gordon or Charlie Villaneuva, it’s a long shot because there just isn’t that much payoff in jettisoning players who are within reasonable range of becoming trade assets. I say that because both players have just two years remaining, which means that by next February’s trade deadline they essentially become trade assets (immediate scoring punch added for the remainder of next season, then becoming expiring deals). Using the amnesty provision makes sense only if it (a) enables a team to escape luxury tax payments, not applicable to the Pistons or (b) gets a team far enough below the salary cap to become significant players in free agency, also not applicable to the Pistons this summer. Using it this year just to use it also takes it out of play for next summer when it might be more likely to benefit the Pistons.

Calvin (Potterville, Mich.): I am a little disappointed about people like Steven, who said in last week’s Mailbag that the Pistons have no chance to make the playoffs. I see a very good, young roster. There are plenty of players on the roster any coach would like to have, a lottery pick coming and a good coach that I hope will be around for many years. A full off-season and Summer League and I’m excited about next year.

Langlois: I don’t want to understate the benefits of making the playoffs next season for the Pistons – I think soaking up that postseason experience, even as a No. 8 seed that gets swept in the first round, pays dividends for a developing (as opposed to a mature) team the next time it makes the playoffs – but I also don’t want to frame next season’s progress solely as a matter of making the playoffs or not. The goal is to compete for championships, which means sometimes you don’t do everything possible to make short-term incremental gains if it limits your ability to make more significant improvement over the longer term. I think the Pistons can contend for a playoff berth next season without doing anything to imperil – in fact, while taking steps to enhance – their future beyond next season. So I share your anticipation for next season, Calvin, with making the playoffs only one element of that anticipation.

Mike (Detroit): Do the Pistons have interest in Eli Holman from Detroit Mercy? I’ve heard he’s considered a pro talent. It would be nice to see someone from U of D in Pistons red, white and blue again.

Langlois: Can’t speak specifically to the Pistons’ level of interest in Holman, but it’s fair to say they have a complete dossier on him that the proximity of the school to the team allows. The Pistons can catch a lot of college prospects by scouting a dozen or so U of D games every season (as they would with Michigan, Michigan State, Oakland and other schools within a short drive) and come to grow very familiar with Titans players, Holman among them. As I said in reference to Kyle O’Quinn earlier, the question is how second-round prospects might compare to their own Vernon Macklin. If Holman goes undrafted, a possibility, he might be a logical candidate to be a Summer League roster consideration depending on who else the Pistons acquire in the draft.

Simon (Leopold, Australia): The more I look at mock drafts, the more I think Detroit should trade down and pick up Leonard or Zeller and try to pick up Kaman in free agency until one of them is ready to provide a big body and veteran presence. I would hate to see an undersized center or power forward brought in.

Langlois: You trade down for two reasons, Simon. Either you think there’s nobody at your draft spot who is likely to help you, or you’ve identified a number of players who can help you commensurate with the number of draft spots you’re falling. (To wit, if you’re sitting at nine and you trade down to 15, you better be sure that you’re going to be comfortable with the players who’ll be available six spots down the road.) On the surface, this looks like a draft with benefit to trading down. At No. 9, I think there’s a reasonable chance that six or seven big men who are projected as lottery picks by some will be available to the Pistons, so trading down five or six spots would then make sense. But we can say with reasonable assuredness that not all six or seven of those big men are going to have productive NBA careers. So it’s the job of Joe D and his staff to pick out the one or two who’ll make it big. And then trading down becomes a riskier proposition.