Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, July 12, 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.

Godfrey (Petoskey, Mich.): Do you think Kyle Singler will be able to crack the rotation during the regular season despite the deep bench?

Langlois: Depends what the roster looks like by the end of October, Godfrey. If both Tayshaun Prince and Corey Maggette are Pistons at that point, you’d have to guess they’re going to devour the available minutes at small forward. I’d make it more likely than not that there will be some roster tinkering between now and then, but how it affects the apparent logjam at small forward remains to be seen. The relevant question at this point becomes: Did Kyle Singler show the Pistons enough in Summer League to make Joe Dumars comfortable that Singler is ready to assume NBA minutes right now if necessary? And my guess is, yes, he did.

Jeremy (Kewadin, Mich.): Now that Drummond and Singler have signed, do you expect the Pistons to compete for a playoff spot or are they still on the outside looking in?

Langlois: The first wave of free agency is just coming to an end, Jeremy, which means many teams that either lost free agents or weren’t able to sign the ones they wanted are left with roster holes. That will trigger the next phase of the off-season: trades. We expect, for instance, that Orlando will still look to deal Dwight Howard. That could trigger a wave of secondary moves, as well. So it’s meaningless to try to project the playoff field at this point. But I expect the Pistons to be a very competitive team, game in and game out, next season no matter what anybody else does. So if the question is as you put it – do I expect them to “compete” for a playoff spot – then, yes, I do.

Frank (West Bloomfield, Mich.): Why did the Pistons move their Summer League to Orlando and why is it not open to the public?

Langlois: The decision to come to Orlando was really driven by Lawrence Frank’s preferences. He took New Jersey here when he coached the Nets. Boston, where he served as an assistant coach two seasons ago, regularly participates in Orlando, as well. He prefers the setup – five games in five days, as opposed to the more elongated Las Vegas schedule – as well as the fact it’s a more convenient destination from the Eastern time zone. It’s not open to the public because it’s held in the Orlando Magic’s practice facility, which has no public seating. I think Frank likes that aspect, as well – the focus is strictly on basketball, not on entertainment.

Ryan (Ypsilanti, Mich.): It looks like Drummond is developing a jumper from about 15 feet in the clips posted of him. How much work will Drummond and the other rookies put in with the coaching staff prior to the start of training camp?

Langlois: They’re all likely to head home for the rest of July after training camp ends and reconvene in Auburn Hills in early August, Ryan. Remember, the months leading up to the draft are intense ones for these players coming off of their college seasons. They all go to training centers and spend long days preparing for the individual workouts prior to the draft, which is a draining process in itself. Then they come straight to Summer League for practices and games. They need down time before cranking it back up again. My guess is that the four rookies – Drummond, Singler, Middleton and English – will be around Auburn Hills for the better part of two months before training camp opens and they’ll be working extensively with Arnie Kander and the coaching staff. Slava Kravtsov, assuming his signing goes off as anticipated, is committed to the Ukrainian national team for another month or so, so he might not arrive in Auburn Hills until September.

Robbie (Auburn Hills, Mich.): I’m worried Andre Drummond is going to sit on the bench and not get much development. How many minutes a game do you think he will play? Also, do the Pistons have a big man coach that specializes in teaching him post moves?

Langlois: Impossible to project how many minutes Drummond will play. We don’t know if he’ll be able to crack the rotation yet. If he is able to do that, then he’ll probably be able to play 10 to 20 minutes a game unless he proves worthy of more. Yes, the Pistons have an assistant coach who works with the team’s centers and power forwards – Roy Rogers, former No. 1 pick who was hired by Lawrence Frank for his first job in the NBA in New Jersey and followed him to Boston two seasons ago when Frank served as Doc Rivers’ top aide. Charles Klask, who worked extensively with Vernon Macklin last season, also works with Rogers and the big men.

Brandon (Ubly, Mich.): With the pieces the Pistons are getting, do you think we can be serious contenders in a few years against the “Big Three” teams? I like what the Pistons are building, but I think the way teams build with diverse players like the days of the Pistons from 2002-08 are gone.

Langlois: Let’s see what effect the new CBA has on the currently popular blueprint of amassing three max-contract players, Brandon. As Miami’s three big salaries escalate, the Heat are going to be $20 million or so above the tax line and the new graduated penalties are going to make such excess excessively punitive. Let’s see how many owners have the stomach to be writing $50 million luxury tax bills every year – double that for teams that exceed the tax in three consecutive years – and swimming in red ink even with teams good enough to get to the conference finals or beyond.

Lloyd (Clinton Twp., Mich.): When a player is amnestied, is he able to make more money than he was contracted for? Rashard Lewis states that the Heat might offer him more money, but isn’t he only allowed to make the amount of the contract that was bought out?

Langlois: Lewis wasn’t amnestied. His contract was only partially guaranteed in the final season – about $14 million of the $24 million. Lewis gets his $14 million, which made it a little easier for him, I’m sure, to agree to a veteran’s minimum deal with Miami that will pay him another $1.3 million or so. New Orleans paid Lewis the guaranteed portion and chose not to exercise their option to pick up the full value of the contract, making Lewis a free agent not subject to the waiver process, as amnestied players are. Chauncey Billups had a similar contract, but the Knicks exercised the option on him to guarantee the full amount before the lockout started in 2011. Then, when the amnesty provision was included in the new collective bargaining agreement, the Knicks chose to amnesty Billups to create the cap space to allow them to acquire Tyson Chandler. In the amnesty process, a player will be paid the full value of his contract. It’s simply a matter of which team winds up paying what amount. Let’s say a player is due to earn $10 million. Teams with cap space are allowed to submit bids on the player. The highest bidder among teams with cap space wins his rights, assuming anyone bids. Let’s say Team A bids $2 million and Team B bids $3 million. Team B wins the player’s rights, pays the player $3 million, and the original team must make up the remaining $7 million. If nobody makes a bid, then the player can sign with any team – assuming no team makes a full waiver bid, which would mean the bidding team would then be required to pay the full amount of the contract – and the original team would be responsible for paying off the terms of the contract it had agreed to.

Chris (Brighton, Mich.): Should anything be made of the lack of media attention so far for Khris Middleton?

Langlois: Your question came in after one Summer League game, Chris. Middleton didn’t have a very memorable game. That puts him on a long list of good NBA players who didn’t produce fireworks in their first Summer League game, Greg Monroe a shining recent example. Middleton hasn’t made the same early impression as Kim English, the other second-rounder, but that’s hardly surprising. English is three years older and Middleton is about eight months removed from surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus. I think the Pistons would have been surprised if Middleton had gotten off to a better start than English. English, for what it’s worth, told me the other day he thinks that without the knee injury Middleton would have been a top-20 pick.

Ryan (Grand Rapids, Mich.): It seems like Detroit needs to create some roster flexibility by moving Daye, Villanueva and Prince or Maggette. Any way Joe Dumars can cut the first two and sign-and-trade one of the others for O.J. Mayo?

Langlois: Both Daye and Villanueva have guaranteed contracts. “Cutting” either saves no money, either in real terms or for cap purposes. They are both eligible for the amnesty provision, of course, but there is no indication the Pistons plan to use it this summer, which would remove their contracts from the books even though the players would still be fully paid. Memphis would have to be open to a sign-and-trade deal for Prince or Maggette, and since the Grizzlies (a) declined Mayo’s option mostly for financial reasons and (b) already have a player in Rudy Gay making big dollars at small forward, I would not be inclined to think that’s a deal that would interest Memphis.

Lucious (Indianapolis): All this talk about the young guys and our two new leaders (Knight and Monroe) and it seems like we are forgetting about Rodney Stuckey. This guy can be really good in the right system and the Pistons are getting there.

Langlois: I don’t think anybody’s forgetting about Stuckey, Lucious. It’s just that Greg Monroe took part in Summer League practices, Brandon Knight is on the team and so are the young draft choices. So of course the preponderance of media coverage is about them. Joe Dumars, Lawrence Frank and their staffs hold Stuckey in high regard. Stuckey, for his part, has been the most frequent visitor to the team’s practice facility this off-season and has worked as hard as anyone on the team. He’s been the ring leader in pulling everyone else in and is pulling strings to make sure most players are going to be in Auburn Hills for a month before training camp opens. Right now, he’s in Sweden being chaperoned around by Jonas Jerebko, a trip the two had been talking about for a few years.

Ben (Lansing, Mich.): I’m confused as to why Austin Daye would play power forward, where his greatest asset (length) gets swallowed up by his lack of strength relative to other bigs. At shooting guard, his length shines on both sides and masks his perimeter weakness, lateral quickness. Your thoughts?

Langlois: Austin Daye is an unconventional player no matter what position he lines up at, Ben. He’s going to have advantages and disadvantages at either spot. At the end of the day, no matter where you stick him – power forward, small forward, shooting guard – he’s got to knock down the open shots his unique skill set is always going to allow him to create. He didn’t knock those shots down last season. I understand your concern about his lack of strength relative to power forwards in general, but the concern isn’t as pronounced when you’re talking about Daye coming off the bench. There aren’t a lot of backup power forwards that are focal points of their team’s offense, so it’s not like Daye is going to be asked to defend much in the low post. The real concern would be getting pushed around under the boards and giving up second-chance opportunities. The tradeoff is Daye taking those defenders away from their comfort zone and knocking down 3-pointers. But he has to be something close to a 40 percent 3-point shooter for the tradeoff to pay off for the Pistons. He’s certainly capable of doing that.

Simon (Melbourne, Australia): I know we have 15 players under contract and therefore no room for a free agent. But if we send someone to the D-League, under NBA rules does that mean we have a roster spot open to sign someone?

Langlois: No. If the Pistons want to keep Vernon Macklin, for instance, he has to occupy one of their 15 roster spots, whether they keep him in Detroit or send him to Fort Wayne. If no NBA team offers Macklin a contract and he chooses to play in the D-League next season, as opposed to signing a professional contract with a FIBA-sponsored league, then the Pistons (or any NBA team) could sign him at any time if they were willing to commit a roster spot to him.

Rickey (Detroit): It’s possible the Pistons have their big three core of Monroe, Knight and Drummond. With that being said, shouldn’t the Pistons be careful of going on a spending spree in the next couple of years so we can avoid those “poison pill” contracts?

Langlois: Trust me, the front office has looked at their cap situation from every conceivable angle since the moment the lockout ended and the new CBA was put in place. Don’t forget, they hired Ken Catanella as their cap expert in the immediate aftermath of the lockout’s conclusion. Catanella came to the Pistons from the league office, where he was the NBA’s go-to guy on cap ramifications as the negotiations were unfolding. He was the leader of the team that would analyze proposals coming from the players’ side as to their effects on the salary cap. No team has a more thorough understanding of the implications and nuances of the new CBA relative to salary cap issues than the Pistons. Even the way they’ve structured deals since the lockout ended were put in place with future cap flexibility in mind. When it’s all said and done, teams still have to make determinations about which players are desirable fits and make a financial commitment to them – be it a free-agent signing or a trade that takes advantage of cap space – but the Pistons will make those decisions on the strength of a wealth of information and analysis.

Jay (Flint, Mich.): A change-of-scenery trade: Andray Blatche for Charlie V. Blatche has an extra year on his contract, so maybe Joe D can squeeze out a draft pick, too.

Langlois: Don’t see it happening, Jay. The makeup of the roster has changed in the past few weeks with the drafting of Andre Drummond and the apparent imminent signing of another athletic 7-foot shot-blocker, Slava Kravtsov. Blatche would be a very expensive supplement, never mind the personal red flags, including conditioning issues that led Washington to tell him to stay away from the team last season. Besides, it’s looking likely that Washington uses the amnesty provision to free themselves from Blatche’s contract. I’ll be curious to see, assuming the amnesty happens, if Blatche has to earn his way back into the league by getting in shape or if someone will sign him anyway.

John (Hexham, England): Following the blog about Daye and Charlie V possibly fighting for the same roster spot as a stretch four – and with Monroe, Drummond, Jerebko and Maxiell also on the roster – does that mean there is no place next season for Vernon Macklin? I thought he showed well in the D-League last season and that the team had high hopes for him?

Langlois: All true about Macklin, John. As of today, the Pistons have 15 roster spots committed for next season. But there are still 3½ months to go before the roster must be down to 15 players – plenty of time for this to sort itself out. The Pistons have no roster spot available at the moment not only for Macklin, but also for Ben Wallace, should he want to return. But in this game of musical chairs, you can have as many seats and players as you want in July. The music doesn’t stop until the eve of the NBA regular season when there will be just 15 chairs available.

Bryce (Vancouver, Canada): Any reason we didn’t hear more about Slava Kravtsov prior to the news of the Pistons having an agreement in place? From what we know, he is 7 feet tall, 260 pounds, 24 years old and looks to be an above-the-rim athlete who can rebound, block shots and intimidate opponents. So why hasn’t there been more hype? Young players with size, athleticism and toughness don’t grow on trees.

Langlois: Great question, Bryce. I’ve asked it myself. The best answer I can give you is that while Kravtsov has been on the radar of NBA teams for at least three years, playing in the Eurocamp event that is akin to the NBA draft combine, he took some major strides this season and not everybody was aware of his progress. He plays in the Ukrainian league, which isn’t one of the must-see stops for NBA personnel evaluators as are the leagues in Spain, Italy and Turkey, to name a few, and his team wasn’t involved in the high-level Euroleague play, either. It’s not easy to get to Ukraine, either – not in the sense that you can swing by for a day to catch a player as part of an itinerary that includes stops in those must-see leagues. So I would wager that not more than a handful of teams had any eyeballs at all on Kravtsov last season. Pistons assistant general manager George David spent several weeks in Europe last season and it was well-known that he spent considerable time in Spain following Kyle Singler. But he also carved out several days to see Kravtsov and, obviously, he liked what he saw.


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