Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, November 29, 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.

Ryan (Hudsonville, Mich.): With Jerebko falling out of the rotation and Stuckey still struggling, is it time to make a move? How about Prince, Jerebko and Stuckey for Stoudemire and Shumpert? Gives New York a very deep bench and gives Detroit a superstar (with a bad contract) without cutting into our cap space. Detroit would still have over $20 million to get a starting shooting guard and backup small forward in the off-season.

Langlois: Stuckey’s recent strong play, aside, let’s look at the rest of your proposition. By my numbers, the Pistons would be making about a $24 million gamble on Stoudemire’s knees in guaranteed money, factoring in the partial guarantee on the final year (2013-14) of Stuckey’s contract. Given Stoudemire’s diminished productivity a year ago and the fact he hasn’t gotten on the court this season, that’s somewhere between risky and foolish. It would all depend on your faith in his ability to come back from knees which three off-seasons ago were troublesome enough that the Knicks couldn’t get his contract insured. That’s a red flag – and a big one. The Stoudemire we all remember from Phoenix would be a phenomenal fit next to Greg Monroe up front and form a dynamic 1-2-3 punch with Andre Drummond’s emerging physical and defensive presence. But it’s a leap of faith to think that player will ever return. If the money was a wash – and it mostly is for this season, but not over the terms of the contracts involved – the deal would be easier to contemplate. I think the Knicks would do that deal in a heartbeat, especially now that Carmelo Anthony is primarily playing power forward and Tyson Chandler is their defensive anchor. It won’t be easy to assimilate Stoudemire when he returns, and getting not only the bench depth, but the trade flexibility that the easily moveable (relatively speaking, at least) contracts of the three players you mention would hold major appeal to the Knicks, one would suppose.

Tomas (Stockholm, Sweden): What’s going on with Jonas Jerebko? Is he out because he didn’t deliver like he used to or because he doesn’t fit into the current team or system?

Langlois: Lawrence Frank has been clear about the situation at power forward since before training camp opened. Jason Maxiell, Charlie Villanueva and Austin Daye were all competing for minutes with Jerebko and, Frank said, the likelihood was that two of them would find themselves outside of the rotation. The line separating No. 2 from No. 3 is a thin one, but what side of it you happen to fall on spells the difference between playing and not playing. Jerebko didn’t have many games this year where he affected the outcome in ways the Pistons had come to know him to do – the infectious hustle plays of his that won the Pistons extra possessions. Part of the challenge for him is that the Pistons really don’t have a bevy of 3-point shooters or pure scorers, so if Villanueva – who can score in a greater variety of ways than anyone on the roster, arguably – can at least hold his own defensively, he has a ticket to playing time. Frank doesn’t like to make snap judgments. Jerebko was in the rotation for the first 13 games. Villanueva has played well in his three chances, averaging nearly 15 points and three made triples a game. No move is permanent, though, so there’s a likelihood – through injury or otherwise – that Jerebko is back in the mix sooner or later. In any case, he still has two years remaining on his contract and is held in high regard by both the front office and coaching staff.

Rickey (San Diego): I might not be the only one wondering about how Jonas Jerebko played his way out of the rotation. Coach Frank said in your recent True Blue Pistons blog that if you give maximum effort things usually work themselves out. I haven’t seen too many games where Jonas doesn’t go all out, even if his jumper isn’t falling. How did Charlie V supplant him?

Langlois: Trust me, Rickey, you weren’t the only Pistons Mailbag reader with a question about Jerebko’s status. He’s an enormously popular player, as well he should be. He was in a shooting slump, though, and there simply are very few players across the league whose minutes aren’t going to be affected if they are having great difficulty contributing at one end of the court. That’s what makes the Ben Wallaces so rare. Jerebko is an improved offensively player from what he was when he came to the Pistons, though, so there’s little question he’ll be back in the mix at some point. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if the next time we see him, he’s playing small forward, a spot that many think is his optimal position. This move was really less about Jerebko’s play than about the mix; the Pistons really needed a shooting presence to pair with the second unit and Villanueva provides that.

Dawn (Allendale, Mich.): I’d rather see Jonas as Tayshaun’s backup rather than Corey Maggette. I understand Corey was injured, but Jonas started the season strong I would hate to see him lose confidence. Corey seems like a great guy, but he hasn’t impressed me with his play so far.

Langlois: That’s another option for the Pistons to make use of Jerebko, Dawn, as I wrote in response to the previous question. I think Kyle Singler’s eventual home will be at small forward, but it could well be that Jerebko’s will be, also. Beyond this season, though, the crowd at power forward could be thinned out as Jason Maxiell and Austin Daye’s contracts come up. Maggette is a proven scorer over a 14-year career and his ability to get to the foul line is something Frank values, but his spot in the rotation is no more guaranteed than anyone else’s coming off the bench.

Kevin (Seattle): Can you tell me why all the talk about the Drummond-Monroe experiment focuses on Monroe going to power forward and Drummond playing center? All the reports indicate that Drummond is the more agile and athletic, so wouldn’t it make sense that he is better equipped to defend the four? Monroe is already an All-Star-caliber center, so the move would be less disruptive.

Langlois: Drummond’s a 7-foot shot-blocker, Kevin. Do you really want him guarding stretch fours at the 3-point line? There might be occasions, depending on the matchups and the other personnel of the opposition, where you’d have Monroe playing center defensively and assigning Drummond to the power forward. By and large, though, you want a guy who has the stuff to be an intimidating rim protector to do just that – and you can’t protect the rim if you’re standing 20 feet away from it.

Craig (Port Huron, Mich.): What does Lawrence Frank look for when he decides whether to use Monroe and Drummond together or not for any particular game?

Langlois: He hasn’t spoken to that with great specificity, Craig, but it’s clear that he picks his spots in large measure based on matchups. Just off the top of my head, I think it’s possible that we’ll see them together for more than a token appearance on Friday night in Memphis, where the Grizzlies don’t usually go small. They will occasionally play Rudy Gay at power forward, but for the most part they play with two true big men. That is an easy opportunity for Frank to use Drummond with Monroe. He’s going to be careful about throwing Monroe out to guard players who are comfortable playing on the perimeter and putting the ball on the floor because that’s not Monroe’s comfort zone at the moment. And it surely isn’t Drummond’s. Playing Drummond and Monroe together for long stretches also increases the chance that he would then have to play Jason Maxiell together with Charlie Villanueva for more than a cameo, and that’s probably something he would like to avoid in many circumstances, even though Maxiell – despite giving away several inches – battles in the post against any and all comers.

Tara (South Lyon, Mich.): I get why the Pistons initially wanted to bring Drummond along slowly, especially the idea of preserving his confidence by not having to pull back playing time. But aren’t we getting dangerously close to damaging his confidence by holding him back? There is enough of a sample size now to know Drummond is more NBA ready than everyone thought. It’s time to take off the leash.

Langlois: When Drummond gets in the game and is assignment sure defensively and makes good decisions when he gets the ball, Lawrence Frank has played him close to 20 minutes or more. On other nights, such as Monday’s when he picked up two quick fouls, his minutes are going to be scaled back a little bit. Frank is keenly aware of Drummond’s importance to the franchise, but he won’t get any heat from Joe Dumars for balancing Drummond’s playing time with the goal of trying to win games. Joe D has been as clear as he possibly could be the last few seasons when some fans and media clamored for the Pistons to try a little less hard to win games down the stretch to better their lottery odds. Yeah, the front office wants to see Drummond developed, but they want it done in the context of staying true to the cultural values they’ve worked so diligently to restore since the sale of the franchise to Tom Gores, when a sense of order was restored to the organization. That means playing time must be earned. Drummond has done a wonderful job of earning his minutes to date. And assuming he makes progress with his consistency as experience comes, there is no question his minutes will tick up steadily.

Gary (Dallas): I’m asking you to put on your GM hat for a moment to see what the values of Khris Middleton and Kim English are across the NBA. They could end up as trade pieces before we see them fully mature in Detroit. Are there any teams that are keeping an eye on them and even casually calling Joe D to see if he would consider what they have to offer for either of them?

Langlois: They’re rookie second-rounders who’ve played scant few meaningful minutes in the NBA, Gary. Their value wouldn’t have changed much from when they were picked last June, in all likelihood. All NBA teams scout Summer League games and it’s fair to guess that every NBA front office saw at least glimpses of English and Middleton during the preseason. Somebody might offer a second-round pick for them, but it would be a stretch to think anyone would offer a first. English had a strong Summer League showing and Middleton less so, though the Pistons and Middleton are confident that the ripple effects on Middleton’s body of the knee surgery he underwent late in 2011 was at the root of his performance in Orlando. He showed the Pistons much more in workouts leading to training camp and then once camp began. If English and Middleton are to be traded any time soon, then it almost certainly would be as pieces thrown into a much larger trade to balance it for purposes of the salary cap or to clear roster spots.

Johnathon (Sterling Heights, Mich.): It seems like everyone is blaming our bad start on the starting lineup and the distribution of playing time. If it were up to you, how would you allocate playing time among our current roster and who would you start in order to get the best possibility to win games?

Langlois: Let’s start with this: It’s just not as easy as fans want to make it. Frank is right when he says that the Pistons have a lot of players of relatively equal ability – different skill sets, but not widely separated by their impact on games. Their future is clearly centered on Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond. Kyle Singler is giving strong signs he deserves to be considered at the top of the next tier, where Rodney Stuckey and Jonas Jerebko have existed. The Pistons have hopes that Slava Kravtsov, Kim English and Khris Middleton will get there eventually. But in the present, things aren’t quite as focused. Jason Maxiell deserves his current role, and Tayshaun Prince remains a player who demands to be on the floor when a game is hanging in the balance. Will Bynum, Charlie Villanueva, Corey Maggette and Austin Daye all have attributes the Pistons can put to great use if they can deliver on their strengths consistently. Pistons fans accustomed to the steadiness the Goin’ to Work group provided all those years – when the starting five was etched in stone and the only real decisions were identifying the two or three players off the bench who best complemented them – might have a skewed perspective on how most NBA coaches cobble a rotation together. Elite teams led by established stars are one thing; front offices build rosters around those stars. For the other 75 percent of teams, starting lineups and rotations are often in flux.