Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, March 22, 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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Byron (Detroit): Could you shed some light on Ben Gordon? I know he’s a scorer and a starting-quality player, but can he be a good player off the bench behind a Stuckey-Knight backcourt?

Langlois: He probably isn’t going to score 45 points again this season, as he did in his remarkable performance during Wednesday night’s agonizing loss to Denver in which he tied the NBA record he already shared with Latrell Sprewell for most made 3-pointers in a game without a miss at nine. But can he be a good bench player? Absolutely. And not everybody can. But Gordon thrived in that role in Chicago, winning the league’s Sixth Man award as a rookie. No one has come up with any compelling reason why Gordon hasn’t been the same player with the Pistons as he was during five amazingly consistent seasons in Chicago, but as the Pistons inch closer to forging an identity – one that looks like it will feature a complementary backcourt of Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Knight – it can’t hurt Gordon’s chances of finding a niche. If he can provide consistent and efficient production off the bench, the Pistons will be one big step closer to growing into a playoff contender.

Preston (Ortonville, Mich.): The Pistons have three draft picks, I believe, plus Kyle Singler. If they use all three and get Singler back, would we have to cut or trade guys? Who?

Langlois: It’s a pretty safe bet the Pistons will have three draft picks in June – their own two picks plus a second-rounder from Houston. The Houston pick is protected if it’s in the top 40, but Houston is very unlikely to finish with one of the league’s 10 worst records. But the Pistons should not have to have to cut anyone. Damien Wilkins, Walker Russell and Ben Wallace’s contracts all expire at season’s end. Wallace is definitive in his plans to retire. The players under contract for next season are Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Tayshaun Prince, Rodney Stuckey, Jonas Jerebko, Will Bynum, Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Austin Daye. Vernon Macklin’s one-year deal will expire, though the Pistons will still have the right to match contract offers should he get one. Jason Maxiell has the right to opt out of his contract and, given the way he’s played, I’d say the odds are probably decent that he exercises his option in order to secure a multiyear deal. Even if you count Maxiell in the fold, that’s 11. Four draft picks makes 15, but that won’t preclude the Pistons from signing players in free agency. The 15-man limit doesn’t apply until the regular season starts. It’s possible the Pistons will steer one or both of their second-rounders to Europe, though not necessarily likely, and there is no guarantee Singler plays in the NBA next season. Numbers won’t be a problem.

Anthony (Bensenville, Ill.): Anthony Davis is the consensus No. 1 pick. After him, there’s Andre Drummond, James McAdoo, Thomas Robinson, Jared Sullinger, the Zeller brothers and Perry Jones. Nobody really stands out. Who would the Pistons take if they got the No. 2 pick?

Langlois: They couldn’t answer that question today with any finality, Anthony. Robinson would be the safest bet. Drummond or Jones might have the highest ceilings, but also the greatest capacity to bust. The predraft interviews and workouts are going to be more important than usual this year because there is so much uncertainty at the top. You can throw Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Harrison Barnes and Bradley Beal into the mix, as well.

John (Toronto): If the Pistons are drafting around No. 6 and Drummond or Barnes are not available, we should trade down with a team like Utah or Portland and pick up two lottery picks to pick Lamb and Sullinger.

Langlois: There are three months remaining until the draft and the picture will start to come into focus as late June nears, John. But will there be enough of a consensus in place that any team will find it worthwhile to trade two picks in order to move up a few rungs? It all depends on how much one of those teams with multiple picks loves a particular player and believes it unlikely he would fall to them. There’s just no way to project something like that this early before the lottery order is set and we know which underclassmen will be in the draft.

Chris (Manila, Philippines): Why did the Pistons let the trade deadline pass without making a move? Also, J.J. Hickson was waived by Sacramento. Do you think the Pistons should offer him a 10-day contract to see how well he will play with Greg Monroe?

Langlois: As Joe Dumars said, Chris, the only deals available were ones he didn’t feel would help the Pistons either now or in the future. He was willing to do a deal that helped only with future salary cap, but there wasn’t one of those available to him, either. The Pistons didn’t have an abundance of trade chips that fit the profile of the most likely to be moved: veterans on short-term deals. Tayshaun Prince has three years remaining and Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon two more. They weren’t about to trade Greg Monroe or Brandon Knight unless somebody was willing to send a young star or two back. As for Hickson, there was immediate speculation he would sign with Golden State or Phoenix. And he probably would have, but Portland didn’t let him get through the waiver process, meaning they assume his current contract. Hickson being waived by the organization that acquired him less than a year ago at a high cost was shocking and leads to speculation there is more there than meets the eye.

Pablo (Mar del Plata, Argentina): What are your thoughts on Fab Melo? Do you see him getting drafted even though he’s ineligible to play? Do you think he could be a second-round pick for the Pistons?

Langlois: He’s not ineligible in the NBA, Pablo, only in the NCAA – and we don’t know how his future NCAA eligibility will be affected by the academic issue that has knocked him out of the NCAA tournament. He’d certainly be drafted; the only question is how high he can vault himself over the next three months. The question with Melo is how to project him a year or two years from now. He was a much better player as a sophomore than as a freshman, but is he good enough right now to crack an NBA rotation? Tough to say. I suspect he’ll go no later than the 20s in the draft. There are going to be others who are more sure things through the late lottery and into the late teens, but it only takes one GM somewhere in that range to believe the potential of a 7-footer is worth the risk. I doubt he gets to the Pistons in the second round.

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