Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, April 19, 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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Chris (Brighton, Mich.): Brandon Knight’s last few games, especially his outing against Cleveland, gives some insight into the type of player he can be at point guard. There are a ton of great point guards in the league right now, but not many I would automatically take over Knight. Who are the top five you would want on your team? Mine are Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook and John Wall (on potential).

Langlois: If you’re talking about impact today, you can’t pick Wall over Rajon Rondo or Tony Parker. You could make a pretty good case for a number of others you’d take ahead of Wall today, too, including Kyle Lowry, Brandon Jennings, Ty Lawson and Steve Nash. And if you were to take any young point guard based on potential, Kyrie Irving’s rookie year was awfully good. But if we’re talking a few seasons down the road, I agree with your premise – Knight could be right there with the best of them. I’ll be eager to see the leap he takes between his first and second seasons. The lockout and all that it entailed enveloped his rookie year in unusual circumstances. I think it was tough for Knight to make big leaps forward during the season, yet he’s closing with a terrific rush. He’s got real basketball smarts and a competitive streak a mile wide that, I feel strongly, will enable Knight to squeeze everything out of his impressive array of physical gifts.

Lloyd (Clinton Twp., Mich.): I find that if you have players that love to play the game and hate to lose, they can be more productive than players with more talent but less of those qualities. I see a lot of that in Brandon Knight. Is this an intangible scouts look at when considering draft picks?

Langlois: More than ever, at least in smart organizations. The Pistons walked away from their draft room the past two Junes on air in large measure because they felt they not only got the two best pure basketball players available at their draft slot but also two young men of unassailable character who also happened to be bloodthirsty competitors. You always want a locker room filled with nothing but those types, Lloyd, but the reality is there just aren’t enough of them to make it very likely. But if your best players fit that description, it makes filling out the rest of the roster a whole lot easier, because all you need at that point are talented players who show they can be willing followers.

Tiko (Detroit): I’m beginning to think Joe Dumars should draft Jared Sullinger with the eighth or ninth pick if that’s where the Pistons wind up. Best player available should take precedence over need. Sullinger might not be the best complement to Monroe but this team could use a bruiser who can rebound and score down low, plus he’s got name recognition so his trade value can be very high if he has a solid rookie year.

Langlois: Sullinger might, indeed, prove to be the best value grab available in that range, Tiko. There is a question, though, surrounding something you state as a point of fact: Can he rebound and score down low? I ran into an NBA front-office executive a few weeks ago when the Pistons were on the road who said his belief is that lottery teams will do everything in their power to have Sullinger work out for them against long, athletic players to get a gauge on his ability to score against that type of player. Another flat-out told me he won’t be able to score inside in the pros, but might find a niche as a pick-and-pop player. In addition to real concern about how well Sullinger will be able to score against NBA interior defenders, there is also a big question about how well he will be able to move his feet in defending against the pick and roll, which is now a make-or-break skill for NBA big men. As for name recognition, it will mean precious little. Adam Morrison and Hasheem Thabeet were high draft picks with high-profile names whose trade value plummeted very rapidly once they failed to prove they would come close to approaching their draft status as players.

Erges (Tirana, Albania): Let’s say the Pistons land the eighth or ninth pick and the Kentucky freshmen are in the draft. Do you buy that Perry Jones and Jared Sullinger would be available with Lillard, Zeller or Marshall being picked ahead of at least one of them, as Chad Ford suggests?

Langlois: I think even Ford would admit that the stock of certain players can change significantly through the course of individual workouts and predraft interviews. It’s never more than two or three who see their stock go up or down dramatically once the season ends, but there are examples of it happening every year. Two years ago, a month before the draft it seemed likely that Hassan Whiteside would go somewhere in the lottery. He wound up sliding into the second round. Last year Bismack Biyombo kept shooting up draft boards and eventually went seventh. Sullinger, on the one hand, is a known quantity, someone NBA scouts have been aware of since his high school days. But, as we’ve discussed, they are still uncertain how his below-the-rim heft will translate as an NBA scorer. Teams that are looking for a point guard, for instance, might be more inclined to be skeptical of Sullinger’s ability to develop into an efficient NBA post scorer and therefore look harder at Lillard or Marshall. So, yeah, that scenario is a possibility, but to say it’s a likelihood at this point is guesswork because teams are nowhere near ready to make that determination yet. My feeling on Jones is that he won’t be there for the Pistons. On talent alone, and as long as no red flags pop up between now and late June, Jones is simply too gifted not to tempt someone picking two or three spots ahead of the Pistons to grab him.

Jake (Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.): What are your thoughts on Tayshaun Prince? Do you think he will be with the Pistons again next season? What is his trade value?

Langlois: Nothing is ever etched in stone, Jake, but Tayshaun Prince is a lot more likely to be with the Pistons next season than he was a year ago at this time to be with them this season when he was headed into free agency. Joe Dumars was clear that one of the biggest reasons he wanted to re-sign Prince last December, when the lockout ended, was because as a team undergoing significant change he felt it useful to have a veteran presence around to help ease the transition. Maybe he’ll feel that the corner has been sufficiently turned now, with younger veterans like Rodney Stuckey and Greg Monroe and even Brandon Knight better prepared to assume leadership roles, but trading Prince to bolster another position would create a vacuum at small forward. Maybe, over the course of their summer evaluations, Joe Dumars and his staff in collaboration with Lawrence Frank and his coaches will decide that between Jonas Jerebko (if Frank likes what he sees of him at small forward over the season’s final handful of games), Kyle Singler (assuming the Pistons can sign him away from Europe), Austin Daye and, perhaps, a player picked up in the draft, the Pistons are adequately staffed at small forward and would listen to offers for Prince. I think he would have pretty fair trade value for a team poised to win now, though in general players with three years remaining on their contracts – as Prince will have at season’s end – have less appeal than similar players with shorter deals.

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