Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, October 25, 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.

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Editor’s note: You can now submit Pistons Mailbag questions via Twitter. Include the hashtag #pistonsmailbag and, as always, your first name, hometown and state or country. Questions submitted via Twitter will also include the questioner’s Twitter handle.

Chris (Brighton, Mich.): Fans are clamoring for Drummond to start, but don’t you think he is more valuable to the team on the second unit given his style of play?

Langlois: Right now, the wiser course is to pick your spots for Drummond. Put him in the starting lineup and he’s going to be going against the most effective, most savvy post scorers in the NBA. Bring him off the bench and you have a pretty good shot at matching him up with backups, who rarely are focal points of their teams’ offensive attacks. From a practical standpoint, you also want to manage Drummond’s minutes and that’s a little easier to do when he’s not starting. If Drummond is going to be on a second unit that also includes Will Bynum, Kyle Singler and Jonas Jerebko – and possibly Kim English, as well – then, yeah, the bonus is that’s a unit that will run effectively if it can get enough stops to provide transition opportunities.

Jacob (Newark, N.J.): Why is coach Frank not playing Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe together? Why isn’t Slava Kravtsov playing more?

Langlois: As a son of New Jersey, I’m sure he’d appreciate a Jersey guy questioning his moves, Jacob. The pairing of Drummond and Monroe is clearly the future for the Pistons. I think we’ll see it fairly soon into the regular season, too, maybe not as an every-game staple but in spurts when Frank senses it appropriate. Drummond’s progress has surprised me, but it would be unrealistic to think he’s not going to have plenty of nights where he doesn’t look comfortable – Wednesday’s loss to Minnesota was such a time – or gets in quick foul trouble or finds one team or another’s schemes particularly vexing. As for Kravtsov, don’t underestimate the adjustment he’s making. He’s never played outside of Ukraine. It’s a different game for him even given his professional experience. But he, like Drummond, has rare physical tools. He’s surely one of the fastest legitimate centers in the game, he’s strong and he’s athletic. He’ll make his presence felt eventually.

Ben (Dearborn Heights, Mich.): Could you please reiterate for impatient fans the risks involved with throwing Drummond into the fire too quickly and the damage that can be done with potentially having to scale back his role if he is given too much too soon?

Langlois: I think it was a few weeks ago when I made the analogy to the decision a football coach must make on a backup quarterback. Fans of struggling teams almost always clamor for the backup QB. A coach has to make the decision to change quarterbacks very deliberately, however. Only when he becomes convinced the backup gives the team a better chance to win should he make the move. Because if he puts the backup in and things go from bad to worse, now what do you do? Go back to the starter and everyone has suffered for the jockeying. Lawrence Frank won’t elevate Drummond’s role until he’s sure the kid can handle it. Give him too much too soon, as you suggest, and it not only can hurt Drummond’s confidence and retard his progress, but it runs the risk of messing with the team chemistry Frank has so vigilantly attempted to build. Throwing young players into the fray before they’ve earned the promotion and proven themselves with veterans almost always backfires. That said, Pistons veterans have been nothing but complimentary of Drummond’s willingness to listen to teammates and coaches. They’re doing the right thing with him.

Yi-Ti (Rochester Hills, Mich.): Six games into the preseason, we still have not seen any improvements in the shooting of Austin Daye and Charlie Villanueva. How long do we have to wait until they get their shooting touch back?

Langlois: You’re right – their shooting this preseason has been profoundly lacking. I’m flabbergasted especially by Villanueva’s shooting. Whatever his other shortcomings might be, Villanueva has never gone long between making shots. Yet for the preseason, he’s an astounding 7 of 37 overall and 1 of 16 from the 3-point line. He was consistently sizzling in pickup games the team played in the few weeks before camp started, scoring as well or better than I’d ever seen him in a variety of ways. When Charlie is right, there’s still nobody on the team who can get you more points in a shorter period of time and do it from more spots on the court than that guy. It’s a head scratcher. To a lesser degree, the same with Daye. Both players came in to camp in the best shape of their Pistons tenure – that’s from Arnie Kander, not from me. The way the roster set up, I didn’t think it was likely that there would be room in the rotation for both, but I thought the rare size-shooting combination each possesses would force an opening for one or the other. As of now, that looks like it won’t be the case, at least to start the season.

Byron (Detroit): Looking at the makeup of our team, would upcoming free agents James Harden, Josh Smith or O.J. Mayo be somebody the Pistons would be interested in signing?

Langlois: Answered a similar question last week, Byron, so I won’t rehash all of it. I think Harden’s scoring would be an ideal addition, but I also doubt he gets out of Oklahoma City. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Thunder tie him up to an extension next week before the season starts. Like Harden, Smith is talented enough that he’d have every team with cap space interested. But if Andre Drummond develops, I would think it unlikely the Pistons would invest the level of resources necessary to land Smith, another athletic shot-blocking type, when the greater need would be a scorer. As a matter of fact, with Drummond and Slava Kravtsov as two above-the-rim athletes up front, my guess is the next addition to the Pistons’ frontcourt would be more of a skilled big man. Bottom line, I still see it more likely the Pistons’ cap space will be utilized via the trade route than free agency.

Willie (Williamsville, N.Y.): The Maggette-for-Gordon trade started to look a lot better to me when I got a good look at Kim English in Summer League and after doing my research on him. I thought we had a great backup to Stuckey at the two with Maggette to back up Prince. So far in preseason, it looks like Maggette will back up Stuckey and Jerebko will back up Prince. Why is English being overlooked?

Langlois: Don’t think it’s nearly that cut and dried, Willie. English is right on the cusp of the rotation, at least for as long as Maggette remains sidelined with a calf injury. In fact, English did play in the first half of Wednesday’s game at Winnipeg, which was an indication of his status – one of 10 who played before halftime. Maggette was getting a look at shooting guard, in part, I believe, because the staff is impressed with Kyle Singler’s NBA readiness at small forward behind Prince. But they’re high on English, too. They love his makeup, the way he defends and his apparent ability to knock down NBA 3-pointers. When English and Singler are on the floor at the same time, the running game takes on a new dimension, too – both players are relentless runners.

Tom (Watervliet, Mich.): It’s now going on in hockey but it has happened in basketball and football, too. When negotiating their contract, how do players and management decide how to divide total revenues? Do players get their salaries plus a separate share of total revenue and do all players on the roster get the same amount?

Langlois: Not 100 percent sure I understand your question, Tom, but if you are asking if players get one paycheck for their salary and another that includes ancillary income from other revenue streams, no. In the NBA, they decide what makes up BRI – basketball-related income, which includes money from television rights, ticket sales and merchandising among a long list of other items. Then they negotiate what percentage of BRI the two sides will get. That all goes into the total revenue pie to be divvied up by the 450 players (assuming each team fields a full roster of 15) and determines what the league sets as the salary cap and tax line. Each player, though, negotiates his salary independently. A percentage of each player’s salary is withheld until the fiscal year concludes, at which time the league determines its total revenue for the year. If the sum of player salaries has not exceeded the negotiated percentage of BRI due the players, then they receive the full amount of pay held in escrow.

Ryan (Grand Rapids, Mich.): Since OKC is struggling with the luxury tax, is there a trade we can do to get him? How about Harden and Perkins’ bad contract for Stuckey, Maxiell and a future No. 1 pick? Cap space will do the Pistons no good. We need to make moves and Harden is the exact player we need.

Langlois: That’s not an unreasonable trade from either side’s perspective, Ryan. OKC is likely looking at having to use the amnesty provision on Perkins next summer, so this deal would save them some money. I agree that Harden’s pure scoring ability, and especially his 3-point shooting acumen, would be a very nice roster fit with Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. But Stuckey gives them a dimension they need, too – attacking the basket – and unless Harden were acquired via a sign-and-trade, it would simply be too risky. To ship away Stuckey, not to mention a future No. 1, on the hope that Harden stays as a free agent would be an unnecessary gamble given the possibilities cap space presents. It’s a serious exaggeration to say their cap space will do them no good. Whether it be put to use to pursue free agents or to facilitate trades, the presence of potentially $25 million in cap space is formidable for any franchise.

Syd (@SydGotTheJuice): How are minutes looking for the Pistons’ frontcourt this season?

Langlois: To be determined. Going into the final preseason game, it sure looks like the top four big men – the ones virtually assured of playing every night – are going to be Greg Monroe, Jason Maxiell, Jonas Jerebko and Andre Drummond. Monroe is the rock of that group, Syd, and certain to play more than 30 minutes per night, probably close to 35. Maxiell and Jerebko are going to split the 48 minutes available at power forward most nights, I think, at least early in the season. What could change that? How quickly Andre Drummond develops. If Drummond shows that he can handle more than the minutes Monroe doesn’t play – let’s call it 15 minutes a night, seven to eight per half – then we could eventually see some minutes where Drummond and Monroe share the floor and some of those minutes eat into the time available for the cast of power forwards. Jerebko, of course, could easily swing to small forward in that case and take minutes there. On the outside looking in, perhaps, at least for now: Charlie Villanueva, Austin Daye and Slava Kravtsov. That’s the most impressive depth the Pistons have had up front since the Wallace-Wallace-McDyess days.

Pete (Negaunee, Mich.): What position do you think the Pistons will be looking at in next year’s draft?

Langlois: It’s not quite as clear cut as it’s been in the past three drafts, when it was widely assumed the Pistons were going to draft a big man. That proved the case in both 2010 and ’12 when they took Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. They were convinced a big man would be their net in 2011, too, until an unexpected run (Kanter-Thompson-Valanciunas-Vesely-Biyombo) left them to pluck Brandon Knight with the eighth pick. This year, I think they have greater latitude. But if you look at the expiring contracts of Will Bynum and Jason Maxiell, two players who appear solidly in Lawrence Frank’s rotation to start the season, then I think you’ll have your first real clue. I think they’ll be looking for either a point guard, and probably more of a playmaker who will allow them to play Brandon Knight off of the ball some to take advantage of his 3-point ability, or a big man for depth. It’s not projected to be a great draft, of course, and if the Pistons make the playoffs, then they won’t keep their No. 1 pick. It would go to Charlotte in the Corey Maggette-Ben Gordon deal. (And good luck to the Negaunee Miners, Pete – beat Izzo’s Iron Mountain Mountaineers!)