Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, July 26, 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.

George (Grand Haven, Mich.): In your blog “Options, Options,” I noticed there wasn’t a mention of Jonas Jerebko. I think he is going to be a very valuable piece who could present matchup problems at both the three and the four. He brings a lot of energy that could rub off on the rookies.

Langlois: Definitely should have mentioned him George, but the fact he wasn’t mentioned was really more about the point of the story being that the additions of Corey Maggette and five rookies, including at least a few who give every indication of being ready to help now, will give the Pistons greater flexibility to match up. I only made mention of Brandon Knight in passing, for example, to make a larger point about how the addition of Kim English could affect the backcourt rotation. I fully expect Jonas to be a mainstay of Lawrence Frank’s rotation. He’s a fixture and he’s earned that distinction, both short term and long term.

Westen (Sterling Heights, Mich.): I’m a big fan of Pistons Mailbag and one of the things I find most interesting every week is how so many people from different countries write in. Any idea how the Pistons manage to have fans in places like England and India without any real big-time star power?

Langlois: It’s a testament to the globalization of the NBA, a trend that started even before the 1992 Dream Team captured the world’s imagination and greatly accelerated the league’s reach. It’s a rare week when I don’t receive Pistons Mailbag entries from at least five continents, Westen, and it’s not unusual to get entries from six. I’ll be curious to see how the addition of Slava Kravtsov affects our traffic from eastern Europe. All of that said, you’ll be interested to know that this week I appear to have a ton of inquiries from Sterling Heights. I usually don’t even notice where the questions are coming from until I have already selected the questions to address based on their relevance and the level to which they reflect the topics on the minds of a cross-section of Pistons fans.

Randolph (Detroit): Why can’t the Pistons use the amnesty clause to get rid of some of the small forwards on the team that have not progressed? We need to find players capable of coming in and playing with Drummond, Monroe and Knight for years.

Langlois: The amnesty window for this year has closed, Randolph. It will open again next July for a one-week period. We detailed in last week’s Mailbag why there was little incentive for the Pistons to exercise the provision this year. Next July, there will be only two Pistons who even meet eligibility requirements for the amnesty clause: Greg Monroe and Charlie Villanueva. I think it’s safe to assume Monroe will not be amnestied. Whether the Pistons decide to use the amnesty clause on Charlie V will depend on the circumstances at that time. He certainly has the chance to play himself into their plans in the 2012-13 season, for one thing. When next season ends and the draft is completed, Joe Dumars and his support staff, including ownership, will complete their off-season plan of attack. If they conclude that creating additional cap space would yield opportunities likely to be realized, then employing the amnesty clause might make a lot of sense. But it’s certainly nothing they’ve concluded at this point.

Ted (Sterling Heights, Mich.): I believe I read somewhere the Pistons have a decision to make if Ben Wallace chooses to return because they already have 15 on the roster without him. I only count 14. What am I missing?

Langlois: Greg Monroe, Jonas Jerebko, Jason Maxiell, Charlie Villanueva, Andre Drummond, Slava Kravtsov, Tayshaun Prince, Corey Maggette, Austin Daye, Kyle Singler, Rodney Stuckey, Brandon Knight, Will Bynum and Kim English all have signed contracts for next season. Khris Middleton has not yet officially signed, but Pistons management made it clear in the wake of the draft and again following the conclusion of Summer League that it was their intention to have Middleton on the roster for the 2012-13 season. I have no reason to believe there has been a change of plans on either side. Of course, until a contract is signed, there is always a chance it won’t be. Even if Middleton does not sign – again, no reason to believe that will happen – the greater need for the Pistons would appear to be a fifth guard rather than a seventh big man. But there is still plenty of time for roster adjustments via the trade market – three months until rosters need to be trimmed to 15 in time for the late-October season opener. There’s at least as much of a chance that the Pistons will make a trade or two to tweak the roster than there is that those 15 names I’ve listed will be the team that breaks training camp.

Johnathon (Sterling Heights, Mich.): It seems there is a logjam at small forward, power forward and even center. If Ben comes back, it could mean no one will get adequate minutes. We lost our future first-round pick. Are there any trade possibilities for us to get a future first-rounder?

Langlois: Logjams have a way of sorting themselves out, Johnathon. That could happen before the season even starts, as I mentioned above. But if it doesn’t, Lawrence Frank will have a whole month from the start of training camp to the start of the season to figure it out this year, unlike last season when training camp lasted a week and there were two preseason games crammed into four days. He’ll whittle the rotation down to a workable group. No matter who’s on the opening night roster, I think we can pencil Greg Monroe in for 30-plus minutes in those frontcourt positions. Tayshaun Prince is going to get the bulk of minutes at small forward. It would be an upset if Jason Maxiell and Jonas Jerebko aren’t a part of the frontcourt rotation, but there will be opportunities for others – Andre Drummond, Charlie Villaneuva, Austin Daye, Slava Kravtsov – to show they should get consideration for minutes at either center or power forward, and for Kyle Singler and Corey Maggette to push for time when Prince sits. If there is a trade that nets the Pistons a first-rounder, I would expect it more likely to come closer to the trade deadline than prior to the season, but it’s a possibility that it could come at any time. There are still teams looking to plug roster holes. If they fail to find any fits in what’s left of free agency, they will scan opposition rosters and see the same thing you see: The Pistons suddenly have plenty of depth up front.

T.J. (Rochester Hills, Mich.): I’m wondering about the situation with Utah. The Jazz are paying Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap quite a bit this season, though both are due to be free agents after the season. They have very high draft choices invested in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter and also just traded for Marvin Williams, who can play power forward. Do you think there is any way to pry Millsap from the Jazz?

Langlois: Well, you raised the point: He’ll be a free agent next summer. How much would it be prudent to give up without assurances he would stick around beyond 2012-13? If the Pistons were to target Millsap, hypothetically, they have the wherewithal to go after him in free agency with the cap room they figure to have, or have the ability to create, next July. I think it’s unlikely that all four of those players stay in Utah beyond next season, but I don’t know that the Jazz will feel any particular urgency to move any of them at this point. Nearer the trade deadline, depending on how their season unfolds and how Favors and especially Kanter have progressed, they might be sellers.

Andrzej (Gdansk, Poland): With 13 players allowed to be active next season, whom do you think will be the two players who are inactive most of the season?

Langlois: If the roster stays as it is, the way you attack that question is to rule out the players who figure to be part of the rotation. It’s virtually certain that Rodney Stuckey, Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe, Tayshaun Prince and Jonas Jerebko are safely in it. Jason Maxiell, the incumbent starter at power forward, is another one assuming he picks up in training camp where he left off. If Corey Maggette is healthy, hard to see him not making an impact. Beyond that, nothing is really certain, though Kim English has a gaping opportunity to slide in behind Stuckey as the backup shooting guard. That’s eight. That would leave room for one, at least, of Andre Drummond and Slava Kravtsov as the backup center. Charlie Villanueva or Austin Daye has an opening to push for minutes at power forward due to their deep shooting ability and Daye could also challenge English for minutes behind Stuckey. Kyle Singler certainly appears ready to be at least a backup small forward. Will Bynum is no worse than the No. 4 guard and I don’t think you’d go into many games with only three true guards on the active list, but it’s always possible Frank feels Maggette and Daye’s ability to swing to shooting guard give him enough flexibility to do so. Khris Middleton doesn’t appear quite as ready to contribute as fellow rookies English and Singler based on Summer League, but he’ll have a chance to change that equation in training camp.

Larry (Gray Court, S. Carolina): You mentioned in the last Mailbag that the Pistons could have as much as $20 million or so in cap space and could engineer a favorable two-team trade or serve as a third-team facilitator for teams that need their cap space to complete a trade. What benefit might that have for the Pistons? It seems most teams in that position just take on bad contracts and give up draft picks.

Langlois: No way teams would both take on bad contracts and yield draft picks for serving as a facilitator, Larry – not if they have any feel for negotiating, at least. Look at the rumors that have involved Cleveland with regard to various Dwight Howard trade scenarios, for example. In the rumored deal that would have sent Howard to Brooklyn, Cleveland would have received a first-round pick for the courtesy of parking the contracts of Kris Humphries and Quentin Richardson on their cap space for next season. In the rumored deal that would have made Howard a Laker, the Cavs would have wound up with Andrew Bynum for their ability to facilitate a deal the Lakers and Orlando could not otherwise execute.

Josh (Boston): Why were the Celtics able to play in both Orlando and Las Vegas summer leagues? Wouldn’t this have been a good idea for the Pistons’ young players, as well?

Langlois: Boston is the only one of 30 NBA teams that chose to play in both leagues, Josh. I’m not sure what the Celtics’ reasoning for doing both was. I find it curious. It was an intense nine days the Pistons spent in Orlando. The traveling party arrived on a Thursday, practiced that night, twice on Friday and Saturday, once on Sunday and then played five games in five days with a few game-day shootarounds thrown in for good measure. Consider that the Orlando Pro Summer League arrival was just one week after the draft and for the drafted rookies – Andre Drummond, Kim English and Khris Middleton – there had been virtually no letup since the end of their college seasons, when they began the hectic process of preparing for the draft with all the travel, individual workouts and NBA draft combine participation that involved. As we were heading back home that Friday night in Orlando, one Pistons assistant, looking wrung out himself, happened to see a few Boston players at the airport and asked me, “How’d you like to be heading to Vegas for another 10 days now?” I think the Pistons got everything they wanted out of Orlando and felt the players they’d pushed hard would benefit more from some down time. The young players all planned to be back in Auburn Hills by early August and they’ll be under the direction of both Arnie Kander in the weight room and coaches on the court for much of the ensuing two months before training camp opens.