Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, March 1
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James (Hazel Park, Mich.): What do you think would be possible trades for the Pistons and do you think they have a chance of landing a star during free agency?
Langlois: It’s tough to tell what the trade climate is going to be like this season, James, simply because it is anything but a typical season so history isn’t much of a guide. In the West, for instance, there were eight teams grouped from fifth to 12th in the standings coming out of the All-Star break bunched within three games of each other in the loss column. Will all those teams be buyers instead of sellers? If so, there will be a premium on the few veteran players that figure to be available to bolster the rotations of playoff contenders. Will Joe Dumars be looking to buy or sell? It’s unlikely he’d do anything to put the Pistons in better position this year if he thought it would come at the expense of future expectations, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be looking to move players, necessarily. There are two huge free agents who could hit the market this year if they opt out, Deron Williams and Dwight Howard. Those dominos will fall first. Everything else comes next. Among the interesting names to keep in mind: Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Ian Mahinmi, Kris Humprhies, Chris Kaman and Spencer Hawes. Teams looking for big men will be in touch. The draft comes first. Even if the Pistons are fortunate enough to land a big man in the draft they feel will be ready to help right away, it’s likely they’ll be looking to add another solid vet in free agency.
Lemar (Ann Arbor, Mich.): What kind of package would it take to get LaMarcus Aldridge out of Portland, who doesn’t appear to have a title-contending lineup?
Langlois: No idea what they’re thinking, but if I were running the Blazers he’d be the one guy I’m keeping. He’s 26, an All-Star and averaging 22 and 8. Good luck finding one like him if you decide to trade him. The only way I could imagine Portland trading Aldridge is if ownership comes out and says it wants a total rebuild. With Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas on their last legs and Greg Oden very possibly done for good now, Aldridge is really all they’ve got up front. And in the unlikely event Portland chooses to rebuild and deal Aldridge, then the first teams in line for him would figure to be teams in position to win now.
Jack (Kitchener, Ontario): With the upcoming trade deadline, should we expect activity from the Pistons? I feel it should be in their best interest to acquire at least one more first-round pick for this draft along with young talent, of course?
Langlois: It’s going to be an interesting two weeks to the March 15 trade deadline, Jack, just to see how things unfold this year, a very unusual year. I’m sure the Pistons would love to have another No. 1 pick in their pocket, but there’s no logical way they’d get one without sacrificing a player they view as integral to their future. Would a team give up a No. 1 pick for a veteran player? Maybe. But would they have the cap space to do so without sending another player back? Unlikely. Would they have a player they’re not using to ship back to the Pistons that Joe D values? Again, it’s unlikely that a contender would have a player making that type of money but can’t use that would be attractive to the Pistons. Not impossible, but unlikely. A contending team taking a player without sending one back is the likely partner in a trade scenario, and in most cases accepting another big contract would put that team over the tax line or even deeper into tax territory. A Pistons trade is possible, but a blockbuster is a long shot.
Steve (Albion, Mich.): On any given night, the Pistons have shown they can compete. Their playoff odds are slim, and I know from a professional standpoint you never give up on the thought of winning. But as a fan, would it be smart to just concentrate on where the Pistons end up in the draft? It is hard to root for them to lose or not care if they do.
Langlois: The way the lottery is structured, it’s sort of silly to root for your team to lose, Steve. Even the team that finishes with the worst record – that’s more than likely going to be Charlotte, now 4-29 after getting crushed at The Palace last night – has only a 25 percent chance at landing the No. 1 pick and history has not been kind to the teams that go into the lottery with the best chance at winning it. The Pistons finished the past two seasons on relative high notes to push them farther down the lottery chain, yet wound up getting two players they didn’t think would possibly fall to them. I don’t know what the long-term effect of prolonged losing might be on young players like Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight – I’ve talked to both of them extensively about this subject, and they both scoff at the notions that their confidence will be diminished or they’ll become complacent – but I do know that at some point, success begets success. Winning helps pick up morale, it helps the perception of a franchise, and perception can help build momentum. I think it’s a good enough draft that the Pistons are going to get a player who will help significantly no matter where they wind up picking. In other words: It’s OK to root for the Pistons to win and OK to feel good about signs of progress.
Doug (Oxford, Mich.): We’ve all conceded the Pistons are not a contender this season. There seems to be a brewing controversy among fans whether we should be tanking to gain as many lottery balls as possible or trying to win as many games as possible to build a winning culture. I think it’s more important for current players to learn how to win on this level and it’s more fun watching young players like Stuckey, Monroe, Jerebko and Knight competing than putting up numbers in 25-point embarrassments. The Pistons need more talent, though, and the draft is the easiest way to fix that problem. What are your thoughts?
Langlois: There might be a controversy brewing among fans, but it’s really a moot point, Doug: Joe Dumars has made it clear over the past two seasons that his marching orders to John Kuester were to prepare for every game no differently than he would if a playoff berth were within reach. Lawrence Frank made it just as clear recently that the concept of “tanking” was anathema to him. It’s not going to happen. A devil’s advocate would say that starting the 2008-09 season 3-29 didn’t do much to hold back Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City and it was instrumental in allowing the Thunder to draft No. 3 in 2009 and pick up James Harden. I’m sure there were OKC fans pulling their hair out over the second half of that season, though, when their winning lessened their chances to get the No. 1 pick, which would have meant adding home-state hero Blake Griffin to the mix. My response would be that when a team is ready to take a step forward, no matter how small it might seem, you’re ultimately going to pay a price for that by deliberately retarding its progress.
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