Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, March 8
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Lloyd (Clinton Twp., Mich.): The Pistons had a great win against the Lakers, but the disappointing thing is there was not much contribution from Knight or Monroe. This was mostly the work of the veterans and a great coaching job by Lawrence Frank. What do you think of the Pistons making a deal for John Wall and JaVale McGee in Washington? Seems they are a better fit with the coach’s defensive mind-set.
Langlois: Would I trade Monroe and Knight for Wall and McGee? No, I would not. And I think Wall could be an All-Star for a decade and fully realize how big a disruptive force McGee could be. I just like the chances of Monroe and Knight to wring every ounce of potential out of themselves better than I like the package I’d get in return. Monroe struggled to get the ball in the basket, but he did give the Pistons 15 rebounds in 26 minutes. That’s a pretty healthy contribution. Knight had two or three nice moves to the basket but couldn’t get the runners and floaters he shoots so well to fall and misfired on both of this 3-point attempts. But he had the ball in his hands a lot in his 25 minutes and committed just one turnover, so at least he didn’t allow his scoring struggles to throw him completely off his game. I wouldn’t make too much of their lack of scoring in a one-game sample – especially when it was a game that produced a win over one of the NBA’s elite teams.
Marcus (Kalamazoo, Mich.): Tyrus Thomas and Andray Blatche are two players whose on-court performance hasn’t matched their physical ability. They’ve each shown promise and both recently signed fairly large contracts. Any chance we swap Charlie V or Ben Gordon in hopes that a change of scenery would do good for everyone involved?
Langlois: It’s fair to say that Villanueva and Gordon haven’t produced to the level of their contracts, Marcus, for a variety of reasons. Injuries, for one. A team with a couple of proven interior post players that lacks a big man with a shooting touch would naturally be interested in Villanueva. A team looking for backcourt scoring punch – probably one with adequate size and defensive ability already at that position – would have interest in Gordon. If the Pistons were looking for a specific need, the fit would be pretty close to what you suggest, I imagine – teams looking to move players who’ve also underperformed their contracts. It’s no secret Washington would move Blatche and it would be hard to imagine Charlotte wouldn’t be interested in moving Thomas. There are red flags that come with both players, of course, but for as much as Joe Dumars is dead serious about the emphasis on restoring a Pistons culture that produced the three NBA titles he’s been a part of, he also understands no locker room has ever consisted of 12 or 15 Boy Scouts. There are examples in every team sport of strong organizations absorbing players with checkered pasts and thriving. But Gordon and Villanueva’s deals both have two years to run, while Thomas and Blatche have deals that last three more years. That would influence the balance of the specific deals you propose.
Ash (Wayne, Mich.): You said a big man that can hit 3-pointers would be nice, but I feel like that’s the problem with Charlie Villanueva. He’s a big man and should be getting offensive boards, but instead spends much of his time out on the arc. A big man should focus on scoring in the post.
Langlois: He’s spent most of his time in the training room this season, Ash. The Pistons would love to get him back in uniform and then worry about where he can help them most, from the 3-point line or in the post. There’s not much question that he’s the one player on the roster who can do both pretty well. And that alone makes Villanueva an important piece. He’ll never be a physical presence. He’s not put together to be that. That’s OK. There are a lot of guys in the league who get paid well and earn their paychecks by filling a niche. One of the most significant developments in NBA basketball over the past decade has been the evolution of the stretch four, a power forward who is comfortable shooting to the 3-point arc. It not only creates matchup problems but space for drive-and-kick penetrators like Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight. The Pistons potentially have two such players in Charlie V and Austin Daye. With Daye in a slump, the opening is there for Villanueva to reclaim a berth in the rotation. Villanueva’s edge is that he can score effectively out of the post, too, and while not a defensive stopper, is better equipped physically to guard post power forwards. Yeah, the Pistons would love a high-level classic power forward to pair with Greg Monroe. But those types are increasingly rare. And if you don’t have one, then you’d better have a guy who fits the Charlie V profile, the modern stretch four. Ask the best defensive coaches around the league. They’ll tell you the problems someone who does that job efficiently creates. Bottom line: It’s not wise to pigeon-hole players in this era of the NBA. Just because Charlie Villanueva’s head is 6-foot-10 inches off the ground, it doesn’t mean he has to be anchored to the paint.
Dawn (Allendale, Mich.): Joining the fray of trade talk, I vote for getting Chris Kaman (now or later), not only a talented big man but someone who actually wants to come home. On the other side, I vote for trading Charlie V. Percent chances of either happening?
Langlois: Kaman is a logical one to put on the short list of players to keep an eye on for the Pistons. I’d say it’s more likely to be in free agency over the summer than now in trade. But it’s more likely than not that Kaman does get traded by next week’s deadline. Kaman, in fact, is about as certain to be traded by the deadline as anyone. So the big question for the Pistons is one we probably won’t be able to accurately assess until closer to the end of the season. And that is whether the team that acquires Kaman is landing him just for a playoff run or hopes to sign him to a new contract. Kaman, of course, will have something to say about that. Much will depend on his experience for the rest of the season with his new team, assuming he’s dealt, and how intent the new team is on retaining him. They’ll have his Bird rights, after all, and home-team advantage.
Rod (Tampa): Before the season, I thought Tayshaun Prince would no longer be a Piston and I hoped Austin and Jonas would share small forward with Jonas also getting minutes at power forward and Austin at shooting guard. Do you think Jonas has a future as a power forward? He does seem to get outmuscled by big power forwards. Is he quick enough to play small forward? He’s one of my favorite Pistons as I love his hustle, but he seems like a little bit of a tweener.
Langlois: At a minimum, the Pistons know Jerebko can be a very valuable player off the bench at either forward spot. With the makeup of the roster as it stands now, they need him at power forward. That could change by next season, though, if they get a big guy in the draft and maybe add a solid veteran free agent, as well. The rest is up to Jonas. Missing all of last season probably means he still has plenty of room to grow. Remember, he not only missed the entire season but wasn’t cleared to play basketball throughout the off-season and, because of the lockout, did not have access to the coaching staff for individual drill instruction, either. He had a really good summer in 2010 and I thought he was primed for a big second season. It might be next summer before he really gets back to that level.
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