Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, June 7, 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.

We reserve the right to edit your question for the sake of brevity or clarity.

Anthony (Bensenville, Ill.): When I see Perry Jones III, it looks like he has the body of a superstar, like a Kevin Durant body type – tall, slender, good ballhandler. But what is his playing style? Is he a slasher? Shooter? Post man? Perimeter defender?

Langlois: Welcome to the life of an NBA personnel executive, Anthony. That’s what they’re wondering right now, too – what is Perry Jones III? As I wrote when the results of the lottery were revealed on May 30, Jones is perhaps a little too gifted for his own good – able to do a little bit of everything pretty well, including perimeter skills unusual for a legitimate 6-foot-11 player, but maybe to the detriment of honing a few things that, coupled with his athleticism, could make him special. Right now, it looks about 50-50, maybe even a little better than that, that he’ll be there for the Pistons. They will have a very difficult decision to make on him if that’s the case. If Jones puts his mind do it, he could be a power forward in the mold of LaMarcus Aldridge. Others say he calls to mind Tracy McGrady. Jones seems to want to view himself more as a small forward. I haven’t seen the level of shooting and ballhandling that would enable him to excel as a small forward, but who knows? There’s a school of thought that Jones was played out of position at Baylor and will thrive in a system better tailored to his skills.

Elmer (Detroit): I’m wondering why Perry Jones III is rated more highly than Arnett Moultrie seeing they are almost identical with their skill set. Also, who would be your top three picks for the Pistons?

Langlois: Moultrie was a more consistent producer at Mississippi State, but scouts see in Jones a high-risk, high-reward player who if he hits his mark could be a star. Moultrie’s ceiling isn’t as high, though he’s an athletic 6-foot-11 with a decent face-up jumper. Of the players who could be in range for the Pistons at nine, the ones who are probably the highest rated are Jones, John Henson, Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller.

Jeffery (Flagstaff, Ariz.): If the Pistons’ pick comes down to Henson, Jones or Zeller, I would choose Zeller. Legitimate 7-footers who can rebound, block shots and score are still rare and valuable commodities. He has improved each season at North Carolina and could probably start his rookie year.

Langlois: Zeller is a legitimate candidate by all indications. As I’ve indicated before, the decision not only comes down to weighing the candidates against each other but also considering how he would fit across the spectrum – from strengths and weaknesses to mind-set – next to Greg Monroe. It’s why I suggested earlier this week that the impressions these candidates make on Joe Dumars, Lawrence Frank and other Pistons decision-makers this week at the NBA draft combine in Chicago will be a big piece of the puzzle.

Tej (Rochester Hills, Mich.): Do you think Jared Sullinger would be on the board when the Pistons make their selection? Is there a list of players who have worked out with the Pistons? And do you think Reggie Hamilton from Oakland would be a good fit for the Pistons?

Langlois: Sullinger, like Perry Jones III, is another 50-50 call. He could go as high as No. 5 to Sacramento or 6 to Portland. There’s even an outside chance he could go to Cleveland, his home-state team, at 4. One legitimate question the Pistons will have to ask themselves: Does Sullinger, who plays below the rim, make for a good fit with Greg Monroe? At the end of the day, if the Pistons think he’ll be a better NBA player than anybody else available to them, maybe that doesn’t matter as much. But it might be a tiebreaker. The Pistons, unlike some NBA teams, do not release the names of players they bring in for individual workouts – not a full list, at least, and they never announce who’s coming in beforehand. Hamilton is a long shot to be drafted, as talented as he is, another reminder of how difficult it is to grab one of the 450 NBA jobs available. But he’s such a gifted scorer that if he hones his point guard skills and proves he can hold his own defensively in the D-League or Europe, perhaps, there’s no reason to think he won’t have his chance down the road if he doesn’t stick initially.

Rich (Livonia, Mich.): Greg Monroe is only 22. He and the Pistons have plenty of time to find his long-term frontcourt partner and shouldn’t feel forced into taking a big man at No. 9. I would take Perry Jones III with the intent to play him at small forward, his natural position. I think that would be the smartest pick with the most value.

Langlois: Joe Dumars showed last year he doesn’t have tunnel vision, Rich, and the Pistons’ need for a big man was probably even more pronounced a year ago – Jason Maxiell was coming off a disappointing season, Jonas Jerebko was coming off an Achilles injury, and they had no young big man with potential like Vernon Macklin already in the fold. I think the chances are stronger this year that the Pistons will come away with a big man, but I’m allowing for the possibility that a player the Pistons really like falls a la Brandon Knight a year ago. Could that be Jones? Sure, though I’m less certain than you are about projecting him at small forward.

Chris (Havelock, N.C.): Is there any chance of drafting Austin Rivers at No. 9? I think he has tremendous upside and he wants the ball in his hands in late-game situations.

Langlois: That seems a little high for Rivers, Chris. I wouldn’t rule it out, but you’d have to really believe Rivers has a high ceiling to pick him at No. 9 in this draft given the Pistons’ current roster needs.

Jay (Flint, Mich.): Jeremy Lamb makes a lot of sense at No. 9. Otherwise, trade down for multiple picks and pick up some legit big men to develop – players like Royce White, Fab Melo and Festus Ezeli.

Langlois: I don’t know what market there will be for trading down, Jay, in a draft where the depth outweighs the star power. The most obvious one to watch will be Houston at 14 and 16. And, as I explained in a recent blog, teams in large part haven’t solidified their draft boards in ways that motivate them to move up or down. But the Rockets would have to really like one player they become convinced won’t be available at 14 to trade up to 9. And the Pistons would have to be comfortable that at least one player it likes as well as anyone available at 9 would still be there at 14 to go down. As of today, I like the odds better that the Pistons would find a fit at 14 more than Houston becoming motivated to give up the 16th pick to move up five spots from 14. As for Lamb, he’s a sleeper. Some think he’ll be in the mix at No. 4 for Cleveland if both Bradley Beal and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are gone. He also is linked to Toronto at 8. But there’s a solid chance he’ll be on the board at 9 and some believe he has the potential to be a No. 1 scorer.

Michael (Vicksburg, Mich.): I think Henson fits best and then Zeller for the direction the Pistons should go, then take a taller shooting guard in the second round. If the Pistons end up taking an athletic small forward, do you think Prince or Daye is more likely to be traded.

Langlois: The draft doesn’t always play to form, Michael, but I think if the Pistons could script it they’d like to come away with players who make them longer or more athletic – preferably, both – in both their frontcourt and on the wings. It wouldn’t surprise me if they came away from this draft with two of one and one of the other if the right players are there at 9, 39 and 44. But I don’t think any results of this draft are likely to immediately shape trade plans. They’re going to want to see their draftees in action to get a better feel for them, I’d guess.

Rick (Frederick, Md.): The mock draft on Yahoo from DraftExpress said, “The Pistons struggled last season … ranking 29th in offensive efficiency and 24th on defense.” The defensive stats did not surprise me, but the offensive one did. What is your take on the stats, especially on the offensive side? And what is the get-well plan?

Langlois: The Pistons were very poor offensively to start the season during the 4-20 stretch of their schedule. We’ve recited the ingredients for that sluggish start before: new coach, new system, almost no training camp or preseason, rookie point guard. They improved their offensive execution significantly over the course of the season, but nobody – from Lawrence Frank to his players – suggested they were anything close to a finished product. My expectation is that they’ll pick up a level above where they ended last season and keep getting better, Rick. It also didn’t help last year that some of the Pistons most unique offensive players were unavailable or well below par for big chunks of the season. Charlie Villanueva’s ankle knocked him out of the lineup for half a season and made it tough to get playing time when he was healthy enough; Austin Daye, who gave back some of the strength gains he’d made when he lost weight during his stint in Russia, had a miserable and extended shooting slump; and Ben Gordon suffered an early-season groin injury that knocked him off stride for a while. One area Frank consistently prodded the Pistons was to play at a faster tempo. The Pistons averaged a little more than 90 possessions per game last season. They’d like another half-dozen or so.

Joshua (Boston): According to some reports, the Kings are the most likely team ahead of the Pistons to deal their pick for veteran leadership. How interested would the Kings be in Tayshaun Prince? If the Pistons took one of their bad contracts, like Salmons or Garcia, for Prince, would it be enough to swap picks 5 and 9?

Langlois: I would be surprised if the Pistons would want to do that deal to move up four spots, Joshua. To move up to five, what player are we talking about? The logical guess is Andre Drummond. It’s conceivable – still not anything close to a likelihood, but a possibility I didn’t believe existed previously – that Drummond would still be available at 9. As for the Kings and Prince, they have been a rumored suitor for him for a few years – but there has never been any evidence they’ve inquired. When Prince was a free agent last off-season (briefly, given the harried pace of free agency once the lockout ended), the rumored suitors were the Clippers and Nets. And since then, Sacramento has begun to play Tyreke Evans at small forward. Also, remember that in trading up from 9 to 5, you are committing to nearly $1 million more per season for that salary slot, as well. It’s a difference you’d gladly pay if you were convinced the player you’d get at 5 was going to be that much better; in this draft, I’m not sure it’s the case.

Eric (Wyoming, Mich.): Now that New Orleans has Anthony Davis, is there any chance the Pistons could be in play for their bigs? Kaman, Okafor, Smith and Landry – one of them would look good in a Pistons uniform. I would love to see Kaman as a Piston.

Langlois: Kaman is a pending free agent, as is Landry. Given the Pistons’ cap situation, I think the best chance for something to happen there is a sign-and-trade agreement. Not sure what the fit would be, but from a salary standpoint I think the likeliest match would be for Charlie Villanueva. Villanueva could hold appeal for the Hornets as a nice fit with Davis, Okafor and Smith.

Kevin (Farmington Hills, Mich.): Are any of the bigs in this draft comparable to Kevin Love at the time he was drafted?

Langlois: There have been some who’ve compared Jared Sullinger to Love, who was carrying some excess weight on him when he came out of UCLA. I think the comparison only goes so far, but I’m not sure there’s anyone else who fits Love, either. He’s a pretty unique guy.