Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, February 23, 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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Ken (Dharamsala, India): The new and improved Pistons might be playing themselves out of the lottery. They need another quality big guy with a high pick. What would it take to move up in the draft? Their first-round pick and who or what? This next draft might just vault the Pistons into the upper third of the NBA.

Langlois: The cost for moving up might vary slightly from season to season, depending on the perceived strength of the draft, but if there’s a big guy generally considered to be an instant-impact type, chances are the cost of moving up is going to be prohibitive. The depth of the 2012 draft figures to be big men, as it’s been the past two years, but how deep in big men it really is will depend on how many young college players declare for the draft. There probably will be a few that decide to stay in college for, among other reasons, the likelihood that the 2013 draft won’t be quite as thick with big men. It’s a big leap to go from bottom third to upper third in one season, Ken, but it’s not unreasonable to believe the 2012 draft on top of the last two drafts that yielded Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight will set up the Pistons for upper-third contention soon and for a long time.

Jose (Rugby, England): With Tayshaun Prince still playing 35 minutes a game and Austin Daye not playing, I can’t see any prospect for Daye’s future. What do you think?

Langlois: Larry Brown, Flip Saunders, Michael Curry, John Kuester and now Lawrence Frank all have come to regard Prince as something of a security blanket, Jose. Five successive coaches have found in Prince the same measure of trust. That speaks to his understated competence across the board and at both ends of the court. No question, Daye is having a disappointing season. And he’s having it in the worst possible season – a lockout-affected season in which there really is limited practice time to work out the kinks and make an impression on the coaching staff. That said, Daye still has the final 32 games of the season, post-All-Star break, to at least turn things around if not take the hoped-for next step in his progression. I don’t think a disappointing season necessarily seals his fate, either in Detroit or as an NBA player, though. The reality is that Daye was always going to take a little longer to develop than a typical NBA player because of his body type and the fact he was a late bloomer even as a high-level college prospect.

Mel (St. Augustine, Fla.): When a player is asked to restructure his contract, is it primarily to stretch it out over a longer period at the same pay or is it an actual cut?

Langlois: Contract restructuring is pretty much a non-entity in the NBA, Mel. You hear about it in the NFL because the typical NFL contract is non-guaranteed except for signing bonuses. So the incentive for a player to restructure in the NFL is generally to either get some guaranteed money up front in the restructuring or to avoid being cut. In that case, it becomes a matter of weighing what you believe your value would be on the open market vs. what the club is offering in terms of a restructuring. The other reality of the NFL is the presence of a hard cap, so restructuring is often done merely to shift the accounting of money from one year into the future. There is almost no NBA equivalent to that. In rare cases of teams under the cap in the present knowing they will face cap consequences in the future, they’ll redo a player’s deal or extend him but front-load the contract to use space available under the cap now. Oklahoma City did that a few years ago with Nick Collison, artificially reducing his cap hit in future seasons at a time the franchise had players like Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook and James Harden still on rookie deals. An NBA player with a guaranteed contract almost never leaves a significant amount of money on the table. Even in buyouts, players would almost never agree to a buyout figure less than the full value of their contract plus what they feel certain they can command in a new contract from another team.

Kendell (Baton Rouge, La.): Since a center is the Pistons’ most glaring need, why not trade their 2012 first-round pick for DeMarcus Cousins? I know he is a little rough around the edges, but he is exactly what we need to pair with Greg Monroe. It looks like that pick is losing value.

Langlois: Still get this question or ones similarly involving Cousins a lot, Kendell, so I’ll give a brief answer: What leads anyone to believe Cousins is reasonably available? Kings ownership fired Paul Westphal within a week of him suspending Cousins in December. There could not be a clearer signal that Cousins holds an equity stake in Sacramento’s future. Now, if the team that winds up with the No. 1 pick in this draft offers it to the Kings and management believes Anthony Davis is a more certain future franchise cornerstone, then I’d give that a chance of happening. But the Kings can read the NBA standings. They see that the Pistons had won seven of nine before losing at Cleveland and Toronto leading into the All-Star break. I don’t know that the Pistons would part unconditionally with this year’s No. 1 pick, but it’s very unlikely Kings management would agree to such a swap at this point, before the lottery is held, without knowing where that pick would fall – or if, indeed, the Pistons wind up in the lottery at all.

Mack (Shelby Twp., Mich.): I’m upset about how they allowed the clock to be mishandled in the last seconds of the Cleveland game. With 5.2 seconds left, the clock started ticking while Jamison was still out of bounds. The ball was inbounded to Gibson with 3.6 seconds left and he was fouled with 3.0 seconds left, but the clock didn’t stop until 1.3 remained. The clock was then reset to 2.4. It should have been reset to 4.6. What is that all about?

Langlois: There is generally a pool reporter assigned to ask NBA officials questions on rules interpretations following the game in the postseason, but not during the regular season, Mack. In extraordinary circumstances, the league issues an explanation or an admittance of error. I wouldn’t hold my breath in his instance, but I noticed the same thing and thought the in-game review was unusually brief. I have no idea how they arrived at 2.4. I got a few other questions on calls – the Kryie Irving non-travel call where he lost control of the ball in mid-air, caught it, landed and the play continued with Cleveland scoring; and also a play earlier where a Cavs player appeared to be out of bounds. Those kinds of calls are forgotten on nights teams don’t let 17-point leads dwindle; when they do, they sting for days.

Lee (Detroit): I love to see the Pistons run. If they continue to do that and play the type of pit-bull defense they’ve been playing, that would be great. Joe D should draft Draymond Green of Michigan State. Do you think he’ll be a first- or a second-round pick? Also, what about Thomas Robinson from Kansas?

Langlois: Robinson will be a top-10 pick, at least, perhaps a top-five pick. I think NBA scouts are going to be spending a ton of time between now and June looking at every game tape of Green’s season. He’s very hard for them to categorize. He really has no NBA position. He’s maybe 6-foot-5 and he isn’t a sleek athlete, but he’s ridiculously productive in a very competitive Big Ten conference – by almost any objective measure, the Big Ten MVP this season even though Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger is a slam-dunk lottery pick. Among popular NBA draft websites, the two most credible, ESPN.com’s Chad Ford and Draftexpress.com’s Jonathan Givony, show just how divergent opinions of Green really are. Ford has Green at No. 37, a high second-round possibility; Givony has him at No. 98, which means he wouldn’t be drafted even if there were a third round. I think somebody will fall in love with Green’s productivity without really being sure how he’ll fit on his roster. That could be in the bottom third of the first round or it could be at any point in the second round.

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