Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, July 5, 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.

Carter (Lansing, Mich.): Realistically, how long until we see Drummond develop and become a starter? Do you think he’ll start at any point in the upcoming season?

Langlois: Great question, Carter. I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that he’ll be coming off the bench to start the season … and by “coming off the bench,” I mean fighting to even crack the rotation. The signing of Slava Kravtsov gives the Pistons a big, strong, athletic shot-blocker – the element they believe Drummond will eventually give them in spades. I don’t know that there’s room for both in the rotation unless Drummond is so impressive that they make the decision to make Monroe a full-time power forward and let Drummond and Kravtsov split center. That’s a long shot. Joe Dumars made it clear last week that they are aware of Drummond’s age and need to be developed and that the organization is committed to patience in shepherding the process. If the Pistons pick up where they left off last season and play .500 basketball out of the gate, staying in the playoff race, I would think it unlikely that Lawrence Frank uses Drummond only if Drummond clearly earns playing time.

Adam (Traverse City, Mich.): I loved what the Pistons did in the draft. Drummond was great value at nine, they got a high-upside guy in Middleton at 39 and a ready-to-play-now guy in English at 44. English reminds me of Afflalo a bit. Do the Pistons have enough pieces to improve their offense? It seems they might still struggle to score.

Langlois: If Drummond plays, his offensive contributions will be setting hard screens, generating extra possessions with offensive rebounding and using his extreme length and athleticism to finish lob dunks. English was a 46 percent 3-point shooter and Middleton is regarded (by the Pistons, at any rate) as potentially a dynamic and versatile scorer. You’re right about the English-Afflalo comparison from the standpoint of their defensive versatility and dedication to the game. English comes to the Pistons as a better shooter than Afflalo was at the time, though he’s obviously gotten much better over his time in the NBA. Afflalo probably was more prepared to guard small forwards because of his thicker upper body, but English is a little rangier. Their offensive improvement will come as much or more from internal improvement, though – Greg Monroe continuing his evolution as a scorer, Brandon Knight becoming a better leader of the offense through experience and knowledge of league personnel, Rodney Stuckey settling in as the primary shooting guard, etc.

Donna (Southfield, Mich.): I could not be any happier with the pickup of Drummond and I also liked the other picks, too. Will the Summer League games be televised? Are either of the second-rounders bound for Europe?

Langlois: According to the NBA, NBA TV will air all five Pistons games from Orlando next week. As for Khris Middleton and Kim English, Pistons assistant general manager George David was clear last week that the plan is for both to be on the roster next season. They think one or both has a real shot at cracking the rotation.

T.J. (Rochester Hills, Mich.): Any interest in Kirk Hinrich? Hinrich can serve as a solid veteran backup to Knight and can also slide over to shooting guard. He plays good defense and is the scrappy, high-energy, tough veteran Joe Dumars seems to be adding to the young core. Hinrich also adds another shooter/scorer to the bench. Roster spots are an issue. Any interest?

Langlois: At this point, it would be a surprise if the Pistons ventured into free agency. They have 15 roster spots already locked up: Monroe, Maxiell, Prince, Stuckey, Knight, Bynum, Jerebko, Daye, Villanueva, Maggette, Kravtsov, Drummond, Middleton, English, Singler. If between now and training camp they engineer a multiplayer trade that creates a few roster openings, then it’s possible. Hinrich has been linked to the Bulls. He makes sense for them given Derrick Rose’s situation and the fact Rip Hamilton has missed big chunks of the last several seasons with leg injuries.

Mike (Broadview Heights, Ohio): If the Nets need a third team to get involved in a Dwight Howard trade, what about Kris Humphries coming to the Pistons? We could ship out Maxiell and Daye and get a draft pick or cap relief.

Langlois: The Pistons had interest in Humphries last December in the rushed free agency period following the lockout. It’s really impossible to project what Orlando is going to want in return. Keep in mind that ex-Pistons executive Scott Perry is now the assistant GM in Orlando, so he’ll certainly have a handle on Pistons players. Humphries might be one of the few players Brooklyn could offer to Orlando in a sign-and-trade component of the deal – Humphries is a free agent – that would interest the Magic, though they already have Glen Davis and restricted free agent Ryan Anderson at his spot. The more likely fallout of an Orlando-Brooklyn deal is finding a third team to take on the contracts of players like Hedo Turkoglu, Davis and Jason Richardson.

Lee (Wixom, Mich.): As of right now, the Pistons have the rights to more players than they have roster spots available. Who do you believe will actually be on the 15-man roster in the coming season?

Langlois: Big trades or trades of any other magnitude can come up on a moment’s notice, Lee. The Jerry Stackhouse-Rip Hamilton deal happened less than a month before training camp was about to open 10 years ago. I simply can’t give you any credible prediction as to what the roster will look like heading into this year’s camp. But I’d be surprised if it didn’t include Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey and Andre Drummond, at a minimum. If you look at a depth chart, small forward is crowded: Tayshaun Prince, Corey Maggette, Austin Daye, Kyle Singler and Khris Middleton. If any trade is made, you would expect somebody from that group to be involved. Maggette’s expiring contract and the Pistons’ admission that cap flexibility next off-season made him especially attractive means it’s unlikely to be him.

Ken (Dharamsala, India): It looks like the Pistons are committed to something like a four-year plan to reach Finals caliber. This plan would have had to say goodbye to Gordon, who would have been too old in four years while Drummond grows up. James, Bosh and Wade join the geriatric set as the Pistons break through and beat them in the 2016 conference finals. Is that what is going on, Keith? Tell me it isn’t so. I’m an American – I want instant gratification.

Langlois: And here I thought you relocated to India for the transcendental meditation. I’m pretty sure there’s not an official four-year plan, Ken, but a plan that ensures that as the Pistons rebuild, success is sustainable. When those conference finals you reference take place, Greg Monroe will be 25, Brandon Knight 24 and Andre Drummond 22. It will be really interesting to see where the Pistons are as a franchise by that point.

Eric (Grand Rapids, Mich.): You said a player’s draft eligibility ends at 22 so Ukrainian center Slava Kravtsov was a free agent who could sign with any NBA team. But Bernard James was 27 when he was drafted last week. Can you explain?

Langlois: International players have to be 19 during the year of the draft in order to apply for entry. In the year in which an international player turns 22, he is automatically eligible for the draft. For Kravtsov, that was the 2009 draft. He wasn’t picked. After that, he’s free to sign with any NBA team. James could have applied for early entry when he left high school before the 2005 CBA changed the rule to require that American players be one year removed from their high school senior class’ graduation. But he didn’t do that, entering the Air Force. Once he enrolled in a Florida junior college, he had four years of college eligibility. At that point, he needed to apply for early entry to be eligible to be drafted. Once his amateur eligibility expired following the end of Florida State’s 2011-12 season, James became automatically eligible for the draft. If he had gone undrafted, he – like Kravtsov – would have been free to sign with any NBA team.

Jeff (Windsor, Ontario): Now that our roster is getting younger and younger, I’m assuming there is no possible hope of ever bringing Chauncey Billups back to Detroit?

Langlois: Never say never, but it’s unlikely at the moment, at least. Billups is determined to play again after suffering a torn Achilles last January. I’d be a little surprised if he was ready to play until at least a month or so into next season, but he’s determined to keep playing. If he signs a two-year deal, it’s certainly possible that a veteran like Billups would be a prime candidate to be moved at the trade deadline in the year his contract expires if his team is fading from playoff contention, although he’s been linked to teams like the Lakers (before the Steve Nash deal, at least) and Heat so far – teams that figure to be in the playoffs in the next few years.

Richard (Las Vegas): It appears the Pistons are stockpiling a reservoir of talent. Who do you think will emerge as go-to guys?

Langlois: I would expect that to evolve this season. When Rodney Stuckey was playing at an All-Star level for a few months last season between injuries, Lawrence Frank put the ball in his hands a lot in those moments. Brandon Knight has the makeup to be comfortable being that guy. Greg Monroe makes great decisions and so does Tayshaun Prince. When healthy, Corey Maggette’s attacking style results in him collecting a lot of fouls. We’ll see.

Ryan (Grand Rapids, Mich.): Do the Pistons have a team option on Austin Daye this off-season? Also, do you think the Grizzlies would be interested in a sign-and-trade of Mayo for Prince or Toronto in a trade of Prince for DeRozan?

Langlois: Since Daye is still on his rookie contract, yes, the Pistons had to exercise their fourth-year option. That was done before the lockout started in June 2011. Tough to say about Mayo and DeRozan scenarios. Mayo was made an unrestricted free agent by Memphis and one can presume it was in large measure because of concerns with venturing toward tax territory. Not sure the Grizzlies are really interested in taking back a similar obligation. Toronto seems reasonably pleased with DeRozan. Given the age difference, I doubt they’d be motivated to do that deal even though the Raptors have expressed interest in Prince in the past and, unless they plan on moving DeRozan to small forward with the drafting of Terrence Ross, there is still a rather large hole at small forward on their roster.

Keeb (Riverview, Fla.): With the signing of the draft picks, Singler and Kravtsov the roster is at 15. Joe D usually likes to keep an open roster spot going into the season. Are there any plans to move a player or two in trade or to ask one to play overseas? Just wondering if the Pistons intend on going into the season with all 15 roster spots occupied?

Langlois: It wouldn’t be much of a surprise if Joe D moved a player for a future draft pick, Keeb, and as we’ve discussed there is a surplus at small forward right now. That’s the most logical place to start. But I wouldn’t expect that to happen until the dust settles from the draft and the first waves of free agency. There are some teams with only five or six players under contract right now. They need to settle the cores of their teams first before filling in any roster holes. That won’t happen for at least a few more weeks.

Ben (Middletown, Conn.): What kind of cap space will the Pistons have next summer with Corey Maggette’s expiring deal? Will using the amnesty provision on Charlie Villanueva this off-season or next have any difference on our cap space for the 2013 off-season?

Langlois: The Pistons could be more than $20 million under the cap, depending on where the cap is set, going into the 2013-14 season. Their cap space for that off-season would not be affected by the timing of the amnesty for any of their contracts eligible for the provision. The Pistons will have Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, Jonas Jerebko, Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond under contract for certain. Slava Kravtsov’s contract agreement was reported as “multiyear,” as well. Kyle Singler, given the success he had in Spain, might have had sufficient leverage to negotiate more than a one-year guarantee. Some second-round rookies can negotiate multiyear deals, so we’ll see what happens with the contracts of Khris Middleton and Kim English.

Clyde (Farmington Hills, Mich.): Drummond sounds a lot like Big Ben: good defense, undeveloped offense, poor foul shooting. He will be only 22 years old four years from now. How about retaining Big Ben as a coach to get him off on the right foot?

Langlois: Still a chance Wallace returns as a player, Clyde, although there isn’t a roster spot currently available. I think the Pistons feel very comfortable with the environment they’ve created. From the front office to Lawrence Frank and a very hands-on, teaching staff of assistant coaches to earnest young players like Rodney Stuckey – who’s put in as much work this off-season as anyone – Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Jonas Jerebko, Drummond will be surrounded by help and positive role models. Wallace, of course, would only strengthen the environment. He has denied any interest in coaching, though, insisting that he would like to pursue a law degree once his playing days are finished.

John (Pinckney, Mich.): What’s the deal with the rookies using the numbers worn by Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton and Antonio McDyess? Shouldn’t they shelve Chauncey and Rip’s numbers for future retirement?

Langlois: Until a number is retired, it’s available. If a player requests a number, there’s no compelling reason to not let them wear their preferred number if it’s available. Granting No. 1 to Drummond or No. 32 to Middleton won’t have any bearing on the decision to retire the numbers of Billups or Hamilton eventually. It’s really more of a jersey retirement than a number retirement. It’s a pretty safe bet Ben Wallace’s No. 3 will eventually be retired and Rodney Stuckey will still get to wear it. Greg Monroe is wearing the No. 10 retired for Dennis Rodman. I would expect Drummond to continue to wear No. 1 even if the Pistons honor Billups by hoisting his jersey to The Palace rafters at some point during Drummond’s career.


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