Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, June 14, 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.

Randy (Holly, Mich.): What do you make of Charlie V not making the Dominican national team and John Calipari saying he thought he would slow the team down?

Langlois: Curious story, Randy. The quotes from Calipari were stilted and odd – the kind of thing that happens when reporter and subject are speaking different languages. I wonder if something else got lost in translation there. Charlie maintains he never even tried out for the team. He also Tweeted a picture of himself on a scale weighing 243 pounds, which certainly doesn’t seem out of sorts for a 6-foot-10 NBA player, does it? Charlie V’s weight prior to the 2005 draft, taken from the DraftExpress.com database, was 237. Six pounds over the course of seven years, given NBA training and natural maturation, sure doesn’t seem like inordinate weight gain. Arnie Kander told me as recently as mid-May that Charlie was staying true to the sauna/boxing training regimen the two devised for him as he was rehabbing from his early-season ankle injury and was in the best shape of his NBA career. I can’t pretend to know what Calipari intended to say, or what his motivation might have been if he really said what those stilted quotes had him saying, but I wouldn’t put much stock in the assertion that Charlie V is suddenly woefully out of shape.

Mark (Kalamazoo, Mich.): Are the Pistons in position to sign any free agents? I know we can’t sign the best and most expensive guys, but I was hoping for a decent addition via the mid-level exception, possibly someone like Chris Kaman.

Langlois: Joe Dumars won’t show his hand until the moment arrives, Mark, but the Pistons will not go into the July 1 moratorium period with cap space. I wouldn’t expect that to change, though it’s always possible – if improbable – to trade a player to a team with cap space and thus create cap space of your own. The other X factor this summer will be the potential use of the amnesty clause, but as we’ve explained previously in Mailbag, even exercising the amnesty clause on their most expensive contracts would not put the Pistons in an advantageous position. It also doesn’t shape up as a particularly star-laden or deep crop of free agents this summer, which would seem to diminish motivation for exercising the amnesty provision. My guess is the best bet for a free agent acquisition beyond a veteran’s minimum deal would be a sign-and-trade deal or, perhaps, a biannual type of deal.

J.J. (Novi, Mich.): Are the Pistons only looking for a big man in the draft or are they interested in someone like Harrison Barnes, if he were available.

Langlois: The odds are pretty good that they use the No. 9 pick on a big man, J.J., simply because that’s where the strength of the draft is in that range and it meets their roster needs. But as I wrote in the second installment of a 14-part True Blue Pistons draft series earlier this week, and as Joe Dumars proved last year when a run on big men sent Brandon Knight tumbling to No. 8, they will be open-minded enough to draft a talented wing player should one fall to them unexpectedly. I identified two players with a chance to be this year’s Knight and Barnes was one, though I suspect Barnes’ dynamic athletic testing in Chicago will erase one of the biggest question marks teams might have had with him.

Vance (Detroit): I believe that the thing that did Isiah in as far as the Dream Team is concerned is when he walked off the court after Chicago won in the 1991 Eastern Conference finals. Don’t get me wrong – at the time, I felt it was justified. In hindsight, if he’d only shown good sportsmanship he would have been selected to the Dream Team.

Langlois: Rod Thorn alluded to that in the Dream Team documentary that premiered Wednesday night on NBA TV, Vance, and it might have played a minor role. In the end, I don’t think it would have mattered much. I think it made it easier for the power brokers who had final say to go along with omitting him, but it appears it really came down to a him-or-me edict from Michael Jordan, perhaps unspoken but widely understood – or at least Jordan foremost among a core of players that also included Scottie Pippen, who couldn’t have been more brazen in his characterization of anti-Isiah sentiment. And Jordan, by the time the team was selected in 1991, was clearly as close to a must-have player as the NBA and USA Basketball needed to have on that Olympic team – not to win the gold medal, but to further the goal of spreading both the NBA’s and the sport’s global reach. Jordan was well on his way to becoming a marketing phenomenon by that point and that gave him leverage to help dictate the terms of his participation. As I wrote for True Blue Pistons earlier this week, at the time the team was selected – September 1991 – I don’t think anyone realized what a marketing opportunity the Dream Team would mean for the players, so Jordan really needed to be cajoled into signing up for summer duty. Jordan himself admitted he was lukewarm to the idea of joining the team initially. USA Basketball officials felt it a credible threat that he would walk away unless participation was on his terms, and by all indications the exclusion of Isiah Thomas was among his terms. Now, again, Jordan was smart enough to not utter those terms explicitly, but he surely had channels available to convey his wishes, via his agent or the marketing executives at Nike who also had a stake in Jordan’s participation.

Ricky (Pittsburgh, Pa.): What do you think of the Pistons trading down for Houston’s two first-round picks to pick up Terrence Ross and Meyers Leonard? That would give us our center and shooting guard of the future.

Langlois: No guarantee either would be on the board at 14 and 16, Ricky. I’ve answered similar questions about the prospect of trading down for Houston’s two picks. I think Houston would be open to the possibility in theory – the Rockets already have depth on their roster and would seem a candidate to consolidate depth for star power – but the question becomes if this is the draft to exercise such an action. It’s possible someone the Rockets would target at nine could slip to 14; at that point, they’d be giving away the 16th pick. Better to take two good players, add to the stockpile, then package assets for a return more to their liking at another time.

Chris (Brighton, Mich.): John Henson, Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger did not test well at the combine, though Henson supposedly was hurt, yet most mock drafts have the Pistons taking one of those three. I would be OK with Henson if the Pistons were able to get Ezeli or Plumlee in the second round. But I would prefer to get the best athlete in the first round – Meyers Leonard or Arnett Moultrie – and then get a Kevin Jones in the second.

Langlois: This much is certain: The player the Pistons take at No. 9 is going to come with some question marks. Virtually every player aside from Anthony Davis in this draft will. Henson’s lack of bulk, Sullinger’s subpar foot speed and Zeller’s capacity for improvement are legitimate questions. I don’t think you let the likelihood of what’s available in the second round dictate the direction of your first-round pick. It’s possible in this draft, deeper than most, that you would have the luxury in the second round of factoring in the first-round result when choosing. (Usually, you take the player you feel has the best NBA future in the second round, regardless of position. But this year, it looks like there are going to be plenty of good players, both big men and perimeter players, still on the board through the first third or first half of round two.) As for Leonard and Moutrie vs. the other three, I think they’re right in the thick of consideration. And I don’t believe Joe D and his staff will make sweeping decisions on a pecking order among them until the last 24 to 48 hours before the draft.

Lee (Wixom, Mich.): How do you feel about Meyers Leonard? Do you think he’d be a better immediate and long-term option at center for the Pistons over Henson, Zeller or Sullinger?

Langlois: Leonard catches your eye. He’s huge, yet he runs effortlessly and shows the sudden athleticism rare in 7-footers, as I write in the most recent draft profile as part of our 14-part series. Given equal playing opportunity, I would expect Zeller to have a more productive rookie season. He’s simply more rounded and savvy at this point. The question will be where the Pistons believe those players will be in three or four seasons. You probably won’t find many NBA personnel executives who think Zeller could develop into an All-Star, but you also wouldn’t find many who don’t think he’ll have a lengthy and productive career. You’d find more on both sides of that question with regard to Leonard’s future – greater risk, greater potential reward.

Marshall (Detroit): Perry Jones III has talent that stands out. Nobody else in this draft at 6-foot-11 plays like he did in college. Would this be a good reason to draft him?

Langlois: A month ago, my best guess was that Jones was going to dazzle somebody picking ahead of the Pistons and be gone by the ninth pick. If he’s dazzled anybody picking ahead of them yet – or anybody after them, for that matter – it isn’t apparent. He’s right there with Andre Drummond as the biggest enigmas in a draft with its share of them. It’s unlikely there will be a more naturally gifted player on the board at nine – because it’s unlikely there’s a more naturally gifted player in the entire draft – but Jones will come with some huge question marks.

Erges (Tirana, Albania): Every year there’s a guy that slips on draft night. Pistons fans should know best. This year, I’m betting it’s going to be Thomas Robinson. I have Davis, MKG, Beal, Drummond, Barnes and Waiters as the first six. I’ve counted out Toronto since they have Ed Davis and Amir Johnson. So it’s only the Warriors. With no more Nellie ball, who do you see them picking?

Langlois: Robinson has a much better chance of being the No. 2 pick than slipping to No. 9, Erges. I can’t see him dropping past Sacramento at five. I know a lot of mock drafts have Drummond going to the Kings, but I don’t see that organization, given its current needs and tenuous situation in Sacramento, rolling the dice on a classic boom-or-bust prospect like Drummond. And I think the Warriors are going with a perimeter player, most likely.

Marcos (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil): I noticed from the draft combine measurements that John Henson is 6 pounds lighter than Anthony Davis. Moreover, their other measurements were similar. Can you tell me why Davis is the consensus No. 1 pick while the word on Henson is that he’s not strong enough to play power forward?

Langlois: Legitimate question, Marcos. Scouts are more confident in Davis’ ability to be an impact defender both on and off the ball than Henson, who evokes questions about his ability to defend his man without getting bullied or winding up in quick foul trouble. We won’t know until those guys get to the NBA and go around the league a time or two. Many times, the one or two things we obsess about with regard to individual prospects seem laughable in hindsight. (Two years ago, we wondered about Greg Monroe’s motor and athleticism.) I think Henson is going to figure it out and be a productive player sooner rather than later, much as Monroe went from barely cracking the rotation very early in his rookie year to playing a major role by the midway point of that season. The ACC isn’t the NBA, but Henson played defense well enough to be the two-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year there and proved himself an impact rebounder and shot-blocker. The fact he did that while consistently avoiding foul trouble tells me he knows how to play defense without letting offensive players get into his body.

Boaz (Tel Aviv, Israel): I’m not crazy about the No. 9 pick. I’d much rather see the Pistons try to move up to No. 2 for Thomas Robinson, who I think would be amazing for them, or to try to trade down to Boston’s picks at 21 and 22 and get two from the group of Fab Melo, Drew Gordon, Kyle O’Quinn, Andrew Nicholson, Jae Crowder, Draymond Green and Scott Machado. What do you think are the chances of that happening?

Langlois: It wouldn’t surprise me much if the Pistons were able to get two players from your group – or two they like as well or better – with their picks at 39 and 44. It’s conceivable that Gordon, O’Quinn, Crowder and Machado are all available to them at 39. I don’t think the Pistons would trade 9 for 21 and 22 without a sweetener attached. As for trading up, I don’t think they have the ammo for what it would take. I’m also not sure they have the motivation to do so. There is a school of thought that after Anthony Davis, you can throw a net over a group of 10 to 15 players. You’d have to be targeting a very specific need and have a great affinity for one particular player to be motivated to move up in such a manner in this draft.

Arturo (Detroit): I know the Pistons should draft a big to pair with Greg Monroe, but if Jeremy Lamb falls to them do you think the Pistons will draft him?

Langlois: No one would be surprised if Lamb is a top-10 pick, Arturo, so it’s not an outlandish thought. Lamb has his supporters who feel he’s the most gifted natural scorer in this draft class and could be a guy who someday tops 20 points a game. Those guys don’t grow on trees. The Pistons are pretty comfortable with their backcourt, but if there is sentiment in their draft room that Lamb is clearly the best player on the board at nine, then I have no doubt they’d take him and not look back.

Dave (Lenox, Mich.): I think we’ll be disappointed if we keep our pick at nine and don’t take Henson. The guy has good character, has played on the big stage and has the right skills to complement Monroe – shot-blocking, rebounding and athleticism. His only knock is weight, at 220, which is the same as Davis and Perry Jones III.

Langlois: There’s a lot to like about Henson, Dave. He’s been really productive in his sophomore and junior years on a loaded college roster, he’s intelligent and well-spoken, and he has a skill set the Pistons likely covet. He’s working out for teams ahead of the Pistons, including Sacramento and Portland, and there’s a chance he’ll be gone before they pick. For the record, Henson weighed 216 in Chicago, Davis 222 and Jones 234.