Pistons Mailbag - Monday, February 6, 2012

by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

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.

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Greg (Waterford, Mich.): Two wins over the weekend. Should I be happy about the progress or disappointed because it means the odds of getting the No. 1 pick went down big time?

Langlois: Got a lot of this type of question the last two years, Greg, as the Pistons faded out of playoff contention in those seasons and as they won some games late that lessened their shot at a top-three pick. In a perfect world, you get what you deserve. The Pistons took Greg Monroe seventh. There’s a strong argument to be made that he’s been the best player taken in the 2010 draft, so it would be hard to make the case that all those wins the Pistons recorded in the last few weeks that season hurt them. However Brandon Knight winds up being ranked among 2011 draftees, it’s fair to say that the Pistons as an organization could not be more enthused about his future. A 6-20 start makes it likely the Pistons are going to wind up in the lottery this year, and in a strong draft their chances of coming up with a third pillar of the future is pretty good. So I’d say it’s OK to watch this team and feel good about their successes without fretting that wins now come at a future cost.

Rafer (Saginaw, Mich.): Two impressive wins over the weekend. Do you think Walker Russell is going to stick around after next week?

Langlois: A big date coming for him, Rafer, as non-guaranteed contracts – the kind he signed when the Pistons added him from the D-League a little more than two weeks ago – must be picked up or declined on Friday. Russell’s made his case. With injury concerns remaining with Ben Gordon and Will Bynum, his odds certainly look good. There’s no reason to think Gordon and Bynum won’t be back soon, but even at full strength the Pistons aren’t overloaded with guards this season. Russell would be the No. 5 guard if everyone was available. But until everybody is back – and the Pistons go into this week with Brandon Knight being fitted for a mask after suffering a broken nose, in addition to Gordon and Bynum’s injuries – he’s the No. 3, or perhaps even the No. 2 guard. Given the injury situation and the fact the Pistons, even with Russell, still have an open roster spot, if I had to bet I think he sticks.

Clark (Santa Cruz, Calif.): If Kyle Singler comes to Detroit next season, how large of an impact do you think he could have? I’ve read nothing but good things about him in Spain.

Langlois: We won’t know for sure until he gets here, Clark, but the fact he’s producing in Spain as a first-year player is tremendously encouraging. Pistons management thought after drafting him in the second round last year that he was as big a home run, given where they drafted him, as Brandon Knight was in the first round at No. 8. The Pistons expected both players to be taken higher. They had Singler graded as a first-round pick. And they believed he could come in and contend for a spot in the rotation even before seeing how he’s been able to make his mark in Spain. You never know how players will make the transition from college basketball to the NBA or from Europe to the NBA, but the fact Singler has produced in both college and Europe sends off pretty clear signals that his chances are better than most. The flip side of Singler’s productivity in Europe is that will have market value in Europe far above what a typical second-round pick would have. The Pistons would retain his NBA rights should Singler decide to sign to play in Europe again next season. I suspect that decision won’t come until sometime over the summer. If the Pistons can get Singler to come to Summer League with them, perhaps both sides would have a better sense of what it would take to come to a contract agreement.

Zach (Kalamazoo, Mich.): It’s disappointing Kyle Singler hasn’t been traded yet. I feel his rights could have fetched us Chris Kaman. We don’t need another small forward and it’s pretty clear he’s indifferent about playing for us, anyway. Why can’t we trade Gordon and Singler for J.J. Hickson.

Langlois: New Orleans brought Kaman back to the team over the weekend, Zach, and from all indications the reason it did so after telling him to stay home while management worked out a trade for him is because the asking price was beyond anyone’s breaking point. So it’s not remotely within the realm of reason that the draft rights to a second-round draft choice who at the earliest wouldn’t be available until next season would have been enough to land Kaman – never mind the trade wouldn’t have come close to meeting cap requirements. The NBA, owners of the Hornets, will put similar parameters on a Kaman deal as it did for Chris Paul – young players and draft picks coming back. Your other proposal would be possible under cap rules because Sacramento is well below the salary cap and could absorb Gordon’s contract. Gordon would have to get back healthy and producing at a pretty high level to have the cash-strapped Kings – keep in mind their reality at the moment, where they’re trying to convince the public they can’t compete economically without a new arena – interested in a trade of that magnitude.

Shadd (Detroit): I’m a longtime Pistons fan, even through this difficult season, but I still am very optimistic about the next few seasons. Assuming the Pistons use the amnesty on Ben Gordon and possibly not renew Maxiell’s contract, how would our cap situation look? Could we make a splash in the free-agent market? And if you were the GM, who would you pick in the next draft if we weren’t in the top three.

Langlois: If the Pistons were to amnesty Gordon – and I don’t think that’s a likely scenario at this point, but it’s a decision they won’t really seriously ponder until it’s time to make it – the Pistons would be under the cap next summer, but unless they make other moves it’s not going to be by a whopping amount. Not enough, certainly, to become a bidder for the top free agents. When you count the cap holds, including potentially one for a lottery pick, they’ll have cap commitments of more than $50 million even without counting Gordon’s deal. They can’t “not renew” Maxiell’s contract. The one remaining year on Maxiell’s deal is at his option. More than likely, he will exercise that option. As for the draft, by all accounts Anthony Davis will be the No. 1 pick. Two and three are wide open right now. Harrison Barnes and Andre Drummond are probably considered the next most likely – all of this assuming those players actually enter the draft, which isn’t a given. Beyond them, a few players I like are Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of Kentucky, John Henson of North Carolina and Thomas Robinson of Kansas.

Mario (Lansing, Mich.): Great win against the Bucks. I’m not one to compare players, but Jennings and Knight have a very similar game, don’t you think? I also would like to say how great an experience I had at The Palace. I’ve been attending basketball games for years there and it has remained a world-class arena with almost no signs of age and a great staff.

Langlois: Thanks, Mario. The Palace has always made the fan experience – safety, courtesy, cleanliness, service – a priority of the highest order. As for Jennings and Knight, there are definitely some similarities in their quickness and shooting range. It’s going to be fun to watch Knight develop and see his game evolve. As tough as it is for Pistons fans to see the losses mount this season, many of them are conveying to me the sense that they believe the future is bright.

Jake (Wyandotte, Mich.): Would Boston, with both Allen and Garnett coming off the books, be willing to absorb Tayshaun Prince’s contract in the off-season in exchange for its 2012 first-round pick? The assumption is they’d re-sign both Allen and Garnett and make one final push with Prince in the mix. I like Kendall Marshall, a true floor general, with a mid- to late first-rounder.

Langlois: That’s a decision Danny Ainge won’t make until as close to the March 15 trade deadline as possible, Jake. If he doesn’t think the Celtics are in position to contend this season, never mind next year, it’s more likely that he looks to trade Allen and Garnett than add another veteran to go with them. If Ainge were to make a deal for veteran help, it would be with this year in mind. And he might be leery about adding veterans with multiple remaining years because he knows the day is coming when he’s going to have to retool. In fact, there is a school of thought that Ainge is looking to clear enough cap space to attract two max free agents this summer – the assumption being he’ll make the appeal to Dwight Howard and Deron Williams – which means he’d be looking to avoid just such a deal. One other thing: Though Prince is a better player than Mickael Pietrus, if the Celtics are going to add veterans at the deadline it would more likely be a big man. About all they would have to offer the Pistons in return (other than the draft choice you suggest) to make the deal workable under cap rules would be Jermaine O’Neal, who is on an expiring deal, but they really can’t afford to part with a big man, even one whose injury history is as spotty as O’Neal’s.

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