Pistons Mailbag - Monday, February 27, 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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Andrzei (Gdansk, Poland): The rumors are that Portland will decide between Armon Johnson or Greg Oden to waive. If they waive Oden, do you think it is possible for the Pistons to take a gamble on him for a minimum-wage signing? I still believe in Arnie Kander’s ability to prepare injury-prone players to play in the league.

Langlois: Oden has now had three microfracture surgeries, two on one knee. The first step is for Oden to figure out if he still wants to play. Then to find out if his knees are on board. If his heart and his knees are set on trying it again, someone will give him a shot. It would be difficult to imagine any team, at this point, offering more than a minimum-wage deal – perhaps one with modest incentives based on availability – and I would expect the Pistons, like many teams, to at least be open to talking to him and reviewing his medical records. But that’s a long way down the road. No question, Arnie Kander’s presence and reputation around the league is a factor in such cases.


Mike (Toledo, Ohio): I’m guessing the Pistons will end up in the top 10 in the draft. With all the players who may or may not enter this year’s draft and the unclear draft pick the Pistons might have, which player do you think the Pistons will draft?

Langlois: Depends where they wind up drafting and who winds up declaring, Mike. Power forwards, centers and a few decent wing athletes make up what figures to be the top 10 or the whole of the lottery this year. It’s likely the Pistons wind up taking a big man – but that’s what we figured last year, too. I could see the Pistons taking somebody like Harrison Barnes or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist if they think those small forwards have a better NBA future than what’s left of the big men when it gets to their pick. Assuming they don’t wind up in the lottery and landing the No. 1 pick – where Anthony Davis is almost certainly a unanimous No. 1 pick – then the next tier of big men includes Anthony Drummond, Thomas Robinson, Jared Sullinger John Henson, Perry Jones, Cody and Tyler Zeller and Myers Leonard. No guarantee that all of those underclassmen declare, though. I’m a big fan of Robinson and Henson, but I defer completely to the scouts who’ve seen all of those players multiple times each. There is a general sense emerging – in part because players like Drummond and Jones have been disappointing, and even Sullinger doesn’t seem to be the same force he was a year ago – that the draft isn’t quite as thick with future NBA impact players as once believed. We’ll see. I still think if the Pistons wind up drafting around where they have the past two years that there’s a very good chance they will come away with a player they feel will be worthy of joining Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight as pillars of their future.


Brandon (Beverly Hills, Mich.): The more I see of Carolina’s John Henson, the more I feel he’s a perfect complement to Greg Monroe. He’s the second-best shot-blocker of the lottery prospects behind Anthony Davis and though still raw offensively shows a nice shot form, athleticism and a huge wing span. His slight frame is overstated as he’s added 37 pounds of muscle since starting school. He should be available in the 6-10 range where the Pistons should be picking.

Langlois: I know Henson was painfully thin coming out of a Texas high school three years ago, but he sure doesn’t look 37 pounds heavier today. His frame, particularly the potential to add strength in his base, would be my overriding concern with Henson, but I’m a fan, as I’ve said. I think he’s got some tools to work with offensively, too; I’ve seen him score with both hands and not just under the basket. My guess is Henson will have a chance to improve his draft position in May and June as teams find flaws in other prospects and focus on all the things Henson can give them. From a character standpoint, it appears Henson will draw high marks. I wouldn’t be as confident that he’ll be available to the Pistons if they wind up picking in the 7-8 range where they’ve landed the last two years as current draft projections would indicate.


Nathanial (East Lansing, Mich.): What do you think of John Henson and how well do you think a Henson-Monroe pairing would work?

Langlois: Not sure why all the Henson questions this week, but … I figured Henson would be a part of the 2011 draft and thought at the time he’d be a very nice complement to Monroe. My initial guess is Monroe would be the one to guard the other team’s low-post presence which, in many cases, would free Henson to serve as a weak-side shot-blocker. Offensively, they might be able to mix it up – high post, low post – based on the most favorable matchups.


Richard (Las Vegas): I was afraid Lawrence Frank would lose this team early, but observing them in timeouts it seems they regard him as a serious basketball man. Brandon Knight is chained lightning. I was wrong about them – they are not so nice anymore, and better for it. N’est ce pa?

Langlois: Yeah, I sense a growing competitive edge. The Pistons had the stuffing knocked out of them the past few years, so even players who individually had a history of fierce competitiveness got beaten down a little and, collectively, there was little doubt they didn’t have the fight that teams with great chemistry develop. Frank came in drumming into them from the first day of training camp a sense of brotherhood – symbolically, at least, reflected in the way they sprint to help a fallen teammate to his feet – and we’re seeing that develop strikingly. The young players have a fighting spirit to them that has been embraced by the veterans with deep roots here in a way that has helped bridge whatever generation gap might have developed and reminding those vets of the special bond they formed early in their run.


Joseph (Flagstaff, Ariz.): I keep hearing and reading about the Pistons needing a center so Greg Monroe can play his natural position of power forward. I don’t see it. The NBA has changed since the ’80s and ’90s. Monroe is a center in the modern NBA and giving him heavy minutes against quality power forwards, who are now super athletic and often have mid-range shooting ability, would hurt him. Do you agree?

Langlois: I agree that Monroe is well-suited to playing center in today’s NBA. I also think he could play power forward if the Pistons were to land another big man who was perhaps a little less versatile and better suited to center. Monroe could have played center in any era the NBA has ever known. That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have struggled to guard the greats; even the other greats struggled to guard the best. In general, I think there are more power forwards than centers in today’s game who would present Monroe with a difficult defensive challenge. There are more one-in, four-out teams than the two and three formula that was the norm for many years. Monroe is comfortable facing the basket offensively. Defensively, I don’t know that it would be in the team’s interest to have him guard the stretch fours that populate the league today – guys like Ryan Anderson, Antawn Jamison or Ersan Ilyasova, to name three from the Eastern Conference.


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