Pistons Mailbag - December 6, 2012
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William (Flint, Mich.): Do you think Andre Drummond will be inserted into the starting lineup come January if the Pistons are struggling?
Langlois: If Lawrence Frank thinks moving Drummond into the starting lineup would help make the Pistons a better team and improve their chances of winning games, sure. But Frank has made it clear that while Drummond’s development is critical to the future of the organization, it’s not a process that can or should supercede the larger organizational goals of re-establishing a winning culture based on hard work, team defense and sharing the ball on offense. Drummond can develop at his own pace while Frank focuses on the larger goal of winning games and putting the franchise in the best position to achieve those aims. As he made clear when he talked about Drummond prior to Wednesday’s game, those aren’t mutually exclusive objectives. It is possible, he said, to do both – develop players and win games. In fact, he said it was how it should be. “It’s both,” he said. “You can both develop players and try to win – that’s the name of the game.”
Darrell (Detroit): During Greg Monroe’s rookie season, his production was quite lacking during the first half of the season. But once he was thrown in as a starter during the second half, he became a double-double threat every night. Andre Drummond would probably also be a double-double machine as a starter. Why not sink or swim with Andre as they did with Greg as a rookie?
Langlois: Monroe was more advanced fundamentally and from a skills standpoint when he came to the Pistons after two full seasons at Georgetown than Drummond was after one disjointed year at UConn, Darrell. And, let’s not forget, Drummond found a more significant role early than Monroe did. The way you characterize Monroe’s rookie season isn’t entirely accurate. He wasn’t “thrown in” as a starter until his play off the bench demanded a broader role. Drummond has certainly had a number of nights where he’s helped the Pistons win and made them a better team when he’s on the floor. Frank gave him a season-high 31 minutes in Wednesday’s game with Golden State. He’s also had a few nights where he’s looked a little overwhelmed at times. It would be a disservice not just to Drummond but to his teammates to expand his role until those sequences diminish in duration and frequency. The Pistons love everything about Drummond and believe he could become a great player one day. They don’t want to retard that process by giving him too much, too soon.
Johnathon (Sterling Heights, Mich.): It’s obvious we have a very bright future with all of our good young players. Next year we will have enough money to pursue one or two good players, but I’m concerned if we sign free agents we won’t be able to provide contracts for our young players in the future. What if a few years from now we lose Kyle Singler or Andre Drummond because another team can offer them more money? Our low attendance won’t allow us to keep all of our players we really want. Does this seem like a possibility to you?
Langlois: Attendance will follow winning, Johnathon. As Lawrence Frank has said often, Detroit fans always support winning teams. Under Tom Gores, money has been invested aggressively in all areas where it can be spent to improve the product: the largest coaching and support staff the franchise has ever had, improved training facilities for players, vast improvements to the physical plant at The Palace toward both player and fan comfort. Against all of that, it’s not at all likely that ownership wouldn’t invest with even greater zeal when the time is appropriate in the on-court product. They fully realize the most important component to a successful franchise is identifying and retaining the right mix of players. Joe Dumars hired Ken Catanella to provide expertise on managing the salary cap with an eye toward planning for the day when Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight, among others, will be exiting their rookie deals. The Pistons will have cap space this summer. I fully expect them to make wise and aggressive use of it. And when the day comes to lock up their young talent long term, I fully expect an ownership group that in its core businesses has always put a premium on value as a relative concept – looking beyond a dollar amount to the value for the dollar – to apply the same principles to basketball. In short, they’re not going to let valuable players escape for no tangible return.
Carvil (Wyandotte, Mich.): I’ve heard a lot of comments from fans that Kravtsov is not NBA material. Since he hasn’t played, how are some fans coming to that conclusion? How has he looked in practice? Is he a rookie caught up in the numbers game with Monroe, Drummond, Jerebko and Villanueva ahead of him?
Langlois: The people who see Kravtsov every day – Pistons coaches and front office personnel – have the only opinions that really matter on Kravtsov, Carvil. I have no idea what any fan who makes such a claim would base it on, nor have I heard or read any such sentiment. Kravtsov easily passes the eye test. When I saw him play during pickup games at the team’s practice facility in the two weeks leading to training camp, I saw a guy who came as advertised: very athletic and a strong defender who makes eye-catching plays above the rim. Pistons practices are not open to media, so I can’t address how he’s looked in them with any authority, but I can tell you that behind the scenes there is no reason to suspect the Pistons are in any way disappointed with what they’ve seen. The speed of the game and the cultural adjustment – greater for Kravtsov coming from Ukraine, I believe, than for players who’ve spent time in some of Europe’s more Westernized nations and leagues – mean Kravtsov’s integration could take a little longer. But next season – when the frontcourt could experience some attrition – will be his real shot at cementing a spot in the rotation. Barring any other major additions, I expect that to be the case.
Zak (Hamtramck, Mich.): The Timberwolves have been shopping Derrick Williams for a while now. What about a trade for Williams involving Corey Maggette’s expiring contract? Maybe throw in a few second-round picks, as well.
Langlois: Doesn’t work, Zak. Both teams are over the salary cap, so the new CBA says the Timberwolves could only take back 150 percent plus $100,000 of Williams’ $4.8 million deal. Maggette makes nearly $11 million. I don’t know how the Pistons regard Williams as a prospect. It’s fair to say that the No. 2 choice of the 2011 draft has failed to live up to his draft status, but also fair to guess that there are teams that would still part with something of value to give him a shot. Is he a fit for the Pistons? If you view him as a power forward, which most NBA teams did coming into the ’11 draft – and created one minor red flag for some teams when Williams staunchly declared himself a small forward – then I’m not sure the Pistons would be eager to give up much to get him. Even if you concede that Jason Maxiell, Austin Daye and even Charlie Villanueva could conceivably not return, the Pistons still have four big men – Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, Jonas Jerebko and Slava Kravtsov – they hope to build around. If they’re going to pump resources into other positions, it probably would be on the wings. Also, don’t be so cavalier throwing second-round picks away. The Pistons have plucked the likes of Jerebko and Kyle Singler from recent second rounds, and they have reasonable optimism that Khris Middleton and Kim English can become valuable working parts someday soon, as well.
Jason (Philadelphia): With his energy and shot-making ability, do you think it’s possible for Singler to stay at the two and play a role similar to what Rip did when he was in his prime? Or does that just not fit with the current team’s offensive scheme and personnel?
Langlois: It’s surely possible that Singler winds up playing shooting guard, though where he plays is really going to come down to who else Lawrence Frank decides is the best fit next to Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and, eventually, Andre Drummond. They know Singler will fit in no matter where they play him. In a perfect world, I think his future is still at small forward. I don’t think the comparison to Hamilton really goes beyond the fact that both players are excellent at movement off the ball. The Pistons really built their offense around Hamilton in the heyday of the Goin’ to Work Pistons. I don’t see that happening with Singler, necessarily. Though his role will no doubt be expanded as he grows into himself as an NBA player, Singler’s great skill is finding ways to affect scoring chances for his team without having plays called for him.
Keeb (Riverview, Fla.): With the Pistons lately having a tough time scoring in the second halves of games – 33 against Memphis, 29 against Dallas and 33 against Cleveland – should coach Frank think about expanding his rotation for fresher legs?
Langlois: That’s not a huge sample size. Go back one more game and they put up 62 against Phoenix. They scored 59 in Wednesday’s second half after a sluggish 38-point first half. At any rate, I don’t think Frank would buy the assertion that tired legs were at the root of the diminished scoring output in selected second halves. He’s talked about taking care of the basketball and sharpening execution. I think that’s where he’d point the finger. The rotation is at nine currently. I think that’s a number he finds comfortable, as do most coaches. Get much beyond that and you risk throwing some players out of rhythm with curtailed minutes.
Ben (Dearborn Heights, Mich.): What’s the prospect of getting LaMarcus Aldridge from Portland? I read on NBA.com recently that it might be smart for Portland to trade him before his value’s gone.
Langlois: Don’t see the Pistons as the fit, in that case. If Portland is trading Aldridge, it’s basically an admission that they’re in full rebuilding mode. They drafted a point guard (Damian Lillard) and a 7-footer (Meyers Leonard) in the June lottery, where the Pistons have Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond as their counterparts. That really leaves only one logical candidate: Greg Monroe. Would that be a trade either party would take on? The Pistons love Monroe. Aldridge is the more accomplished player at this moment, of course, and you could make the case that his deadly mid-range shooting would ideally complement Drummond someday. But the Pistons are in their own rebuilding phase and love the idea of the 22-year-old Monroe growing up with Drummond and Knight. There’s also the obvious cap considerations. The Pistons would have to throw in a salary equal to Corey Maggette’s to make it a dollar-for-dollar match.
Brandon (San Antonio): I’ve come to the conclusion that Knight is not a point guard. He is best suited to shooting guard, which is what he played in college. He does not have good enough ballhandling to get in the lane constantly and when he does he will create a bad turnover or take a bad shot. Why not start Stuckey at the point and allow Knight to play off the ball?
Langlois: Knight certainly was the point guard at Kentucky, where the wings included Doron Lamb and Darius Miller. Knight’s ballhandling isn’t an issue. It’s fair to say that sometimes he puts too much faith in his ability to dribble through tight spaces and that he sometimes tries to squeeze a pass where it has little chance to fit, which is all part of the learning process. As Lawrence Frank so aptly put it last week when the Pistons were preparing to play Memphis, think about how long it took for Mike Conley to come around after playing just one season of college basketball. Conley was all but written off as a bust by most. He struggled mightily every time he played the Pistons his first two or three years in the NBA. Now, Frank said, he’s a sure top-10 point guard. Knight just turned 21 and just passed the point of what would have been the end of his rookie year had they played an 82-game season a year ago. How about we let it play out just a little longer? It wasn’t that long ago Pistons fans were flooding my in box screaming that Stuckey wasn’t a point guard. Now a number of them want him back at that spot more frequently.
Joe (Grand Rapids, Mich.): I do appreciate Lawrence Frank compared to other coaches, but it seems his rotation is predetermined. I love the way Charlie V can score, but he sometimes forgets about his bench when we have a matchup issue. In the Dallas game, for example, we needed somebody to stop O.J. Mayo. We have an energetic, defensive firecracker on the bench. Why not go to Jonas Jerebko in that situation?
Langlois: Frank tells his players that playing time is earned, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s going to run all 13 active players into each game at the first sign of a mistake from a player on the floor. Right now, his rotation extends four deep into his bench and Jerebko, after being the backup to Jason Maxiell to begin the season, isn’t a part of it. I’m not sure a 6-foot-10 combo forward was going to be the next man up against a shooting guard like Mayo, in any case. Mayo scored three points in the first half. He scored 24 in the second, doing most of his work in transition because the Pistons were missing so many close-range shots – the type that lead to transition chances. But Jerebko certainly hasn’t been written off. I wouldn’t be surprised if his turn comes around again, perhaps soon.