Pistons Mailbag - December 20, 2012
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Roger (Hibbing, Minn.): I saw the stat you had in your blog on Wednesday’s game at Toronto about the Pistons now being 0-17 when they’re behind going into the fourth quarter. What does that stat tell you?
Langlois: It’s a pretty extreme number, to be sure, but it underscores the value of experience, confidence and continuity to winning NBA basketball games. The Pistons simply have very few players, Tayshaun Prince aside, who’ve experienced NBA team success. To the extent they have a go-to offensive player, it’s likely Greg Monroe, and while he has obvious promise and All-Star potential, it’s a lot to put on a third-year, back-to-the-basket player. They have a second-year point guard, Brandon Knight, who came to them with just one year of college basketball under his belt. It’s agonizing now, of course, but there is real value to them in being in so many close games. They didn’t have a shot to win some of those 17 games in which they trailed after three quarters, of course, but they’ve been in position to win a fair number of them with five or six minutes to go. As long as they don’t allow the failures to snuff out their competitive fires, they’ll keep learning until they start to win a few … and once they win a few, it probably won’t be long before they start winning their fair share. That’s the progression as teams advance from lottery franchises to playoff contenders and beyond.
Anders (Bath, England): When do you think Slava Kravtsov will be getting some playing time, whether it be in the D-League or not? Why didn’t he get assigned along with English and Middleton?
Langlois: Let’s start with the possibility of Kravtsov playing in the D-League. The Pistons haven’t said definitively if they will send him to Fort Wayne at some point this season or not. They haven’t closed the door to that possibility, either. They view Kravtsov as in a different class than a typical rookie given the amount of pro experience he has in his native Ukraine. There is a practical limit to the number of players a D-League team can absorb at any particular time, of course, and while Middleton and English were there for the two weekend games, Indiana rookie big man Miles Plumlee was also there. (Plumlee was recalled before English and Middleton played their third and final game, for this stint, in Fort Wayne.) That certainly would have been known to the Pistons. Even if they had been inclined to send Kravtsov down along with English and Middleton – and it would seem unlikely any NBA team would voluntarily short itself of three players simultaneously – they wouldn’t have wanted him to go down and have to split time with Plumlee as well as Fort Wayne’s regular rotation players. As for when Kravtsov might see minutes with the Pistons, it’s impossible to say. As long as Greg Monroe is the starting center, it’s not likely Kravtsov will be in the rotation. Andre Drummond is going to take all available minutes behind Monroe, in addition to what he can get in the instances Lawrence Frank chooses to play them in tandem. Down the road, when Monroe spends more and more time at power forward, there will be room for both Drummond and Kravtsov in the rotation.
Marcus (Las Vegas): With media reporting Kevin Love is unhappy in Minnesota, as well as the Timberwolves looking to trade Williams, do you think a trade built around Monroe, Maggette and Jerebko or other pieces is being considered? If Drummond starts at center, it seems like Love would be a great fit next to him.
Langlois: There is zero indication that the Timberwolves are looking to move Love. It might come to that before he can hit free agency, but that’s more than two years off. GM David Kahn put a lot of resources into making the playoffs this season, including signing Andrei Kirilenko as a free agent. His goal, I’m sure, is to do enough between now and the expiration of Love’s contract to convince him that he would be hard-pressed to find a better landing spot with greater championship potential. The speculation on Love is that the Lakers will be poised to make a hard run at him – the expiration of his deal dovetails with the Lakers likely to have cap space – so it would be enormously risky for any team that would convince the Timberwolves to trade him, at a cost that would be tremendously high, to take him on if they believe he has one eye on the West Coast, where he grew up, attended college and owns an off-season home.
Alfred (Ishpeming, Mich.): Drummond is averaging 12.7 points, 12.5 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per 36 minutes. Do you think the organization understands the fans’ frustration about not starting Drummond and giving him more playing time? The Pistons are a plus-22 with him on the floor, better both offensively and defensively than they are with him on the bench.
Langlois: Couldn’t the countering argument be that those statistics merely show that the Pistons are using a player that almost everybody in the NBA didn’t believe was ready to make an immediate impact in exactly the right way? Drummond’s minutes are steadily ticking up, Alfred. He averaged 17 minutes in the first 19 games, but 21 so far in December. Think about that – basically, Frank is letting him run two minutes longer per appearance in each half. I think it’s logical to assume that those minutes will continue to tick upward as long as Drummond shows he is capable of handling an incrementally larger role as he develops and matures. I think it’s tough for fans to look at a player of Drummond’s physical stature and remember that he’s barely 19 and has as limited a resume as just about any player who’s come to the NBA since the league barred players from making the jump straight from high school. But that’s the reality. The Pistons aren’t exactly bringing Drummond along slowly – next to Rodney Stuckey, he’s the guy off their bench used most consistently – but you’d have a hard time dissuading me that a little caution isn’t the best course to take with a player of his background.
Ryan (Grand Rapids, Mich.): New plan: Trade Jerebko and Maggette to Utah for Al Jefferson, then re-sign him for three years at $10 million per season. Sign O.J. Mayo for $12 million a year over four years. Draft Isaiah Austin and Leo Westermann in the second round. Drummond, Jefferson and Monroe would be an amazing frontcourt with Austin as your fourth big man. Knight, Mayo and Stuckey would make for a very versatile backcourt with English as your fourth option. Small forward would be held down by Singler, Prince and Middleton. I think that could be a top-four team in the East.
Langlois: It will be interesting to see what type of bids Utah gets for Jefferson as the trade deadline nears, Ryan. I think it’s a widely held assumption around the league that the Jazz will look to move at least one of Jefferson and Paul Millsap, given the presence of high lottery picks Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors on the roster. Utah will have cap space galore after the season – perhaps $40 million – so the appeal of Maggette is limited for the Jazz. I don’t know that they would have significant interest in your deal, though it really all revolves around how highly Utah values Jerebko. No way to know that. As I’ve maintained all along, my hunch is that whatever cap space the Pistons clear – and it could be anywhere from $17 million to $25 million, based on what we know now – will be more likely used to facilitate trades than to be spent on free agents. Tough to gauge what the market will bear for those two players. Mayo is playing well. I’d have scoffed at those numbers for him before the season, but it’s not out of the question today, keeping in mind that it only takes one team to see an ideal fit and make that level of commitment.
Darrell (Detroit): In my opinion, the Pistons would win more if Stuckey were reinserted as a starter and Drummond, as well. Those are the five best players on the team and most teams start their five best players. Drummond should be getting at least 30 minutes a game to improve the team’s chances of winning.
Langlois: The assertion that most teams start their five best players would come as news to Messrs. Popovich, Ginobili, Auerbach and Havlicek, among scores of others down through the years. It’s not at all uncommon for an inferior player to start over a better one for any number of reasons. That said, I don’t think Lawrence Frank is bringing Drummond off the bench for any reason other than he believes starting Jason Maxiell against starting-caliber NBA power forwards is the best course for the team.
Pablo (Mar del Plata, Argentina): How has Jonas fallen behind Austin and Charlie V in the rotation? I know Charlie has added scoring punch in a few games, but I can’t understand how Daye plays and Jerebko doesn’t, since Lawrence Frank is so big on effort and hustle.
Langlois: Lawrence Frank said the other day that it was a close call, but he decided to give Daye a shot that he hasn’t had this season. If you read my True Blue Pistons blog on Daye’s return to the rotation, you saw Frank’s praise for the way Daye handled things when he spent the first third of the season out of the rotation. Daye has a unique skill set. After his second season, the Pistons were hopeful he was on the verge of putting it all together – then the lockout and his subsequent signing in Russia intervened, which seemed to set him back. Daye’s on an expiring contract. It would be nice to get at least one last honest shot at assessing his ability before he hits free agency, though this was clearly a case of Frank believing Daye deserved this chance based on observation of him through practices and workouts.
Alexis (Manila, Philippines): I noticed Brandon Knight has been taken off the ball sometimes in favor of Rodney Stuckey. Is Stuckey the go-to player on this team or does coach Frank just prefer vets?
Langlois: One of the pluses of the Knight-Stuckey backcourt tandem is they can be used in ways that play to their strengths based on individual matchups. Lawrence Frank said the other day that no matter who the point guard is, you don’t want to put the ball in his hands for every possession. It’s a draining chore. If you can spread it around a little, so much the better – but it requires having more than one player you trust to withstand the stress that goes along with the responsibility. When Stuckey has the ball in his hands, it allows Knight to spot up for 3-point shooting, where he’s been draining shots at better than 40 percent throughout the season.
Johan (Trolhattan, Sweden); Why is coach Frank only playing eight to nine players? And why isn’t he playing Jonas Jerebko? We Swedes are getting mighty concerned about Jonas not getting any minutes.
Langlois: Frank has consistently played nine players since the early season, when his rotation stretched to 10. There will be the occasional half when he uses only three players off the bench, but he’s been pretty consistent with four bench players since the season’s first few weeks. That rotation is in line with most. A few coaches will sprinkle a 10th or perhaps even an 11th player into the mix, but you can’t make those last few spots consistent roles. There simply aren’t that many minutes to go around. As for Jerebko, there’s no mystery here. Frank has talked since training camp about having four power forwards with the reality being that only two could play. There’s nothing beyond that. The Pistons still view Jerebko as being a staple of their future, though. You never know how the opening for playing time will occur, but it would be no surprise if he’s back in the mix at any point.
Jeff (St. Ignace, Mich.): Could the Pistons trade a first-round pick to get a go-to scorer that they lack?
Langlois: Go-to scorers are a rare breed, Jeff. If there’s one to be had on the trade market, it usually comes with special circumstances. Maybe that means a poisonous contract or a locker-room distraction. Sometimes, players who underperform in one market flourish in another, but teams are more reluctant than ever to dump players with a rare skill set. They’re more likely to change coaches. As for what the Pistons could fetch by dangling a No. 1 pick, keep in mind that they owe a first-rounder to Charlotte via the Corey Maggette-Ben Gordon trade. That pick won’t be conveyed this season if the Pistons are in the lottery, so unless they acquire another No. 1 pick somehow, they can’t trade a No. 1 pick unless it’s one that projects two years after the pick they owe the Bobcats, given the NBA rule that bars teams from entering consecutive drafts without a No. 1 pick.