Pistons Mailbag - December 27, 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.

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.): In Chad Ford’s chat this week on ESPN.com, he listed the Pistons as one of three teams seriously interested in DeMarcus Cousins. Any way we can get him and Marcus Thornton without giving up Knight, Monroe, Drummond, Singler or Stuckey? Any one of them is too much for Cousins, given his behavior issues, but any other package might be worth the gamble.

Langlois: Sacramento might be privately resigned to not getting equal value in return for Cousins, but there is almost zero chance the Pistons wouldn’t have to be willing to part with someone from the group they consider their core to land a talent of his magnitude. I don’t know that most teams consider him irretrievable. A team that believes it has a strong culture – or at least a stronger culture than Sacramento, which is dealing with the uncertainty of the franchise’s viability in its hometown and a shaky ownership situation – would be willing to gamble on Cousins’ enormous talent. Bottom line, that likely means it’s still too early to get him on the cheap. As for Ford’s assertion that the Pistons are strongly interested, I’d attach a giant asterisk to that. They were well known to be fond of Cousins coming into the 2010 draft, but they’ve since addressed their frontcourt with Monroe and Drummond. They also have Slava Kravtsov, a player they anticipate will be part of their rotation next season. It doesn’t mean they’d turn down a chance to acquire Cousins for a reasonable price, but they have far more pressing needs now.

Frank (Subic Bay, Philippines): I think coach Frank is handling Andre Drummond’s minutes just about right. He didn’t play a full season in college and I don’t think he would hold up physically as a starter, leading to injury. Frank makes players earn their court time. How come so many fans can’t agree with that?

Langlois: He’s consistently playing more than 20 minutes a game, Frank. He played a season-high 36 in Wednesday’s double-overtime loss at Atlanta. I don’t think we’ll hear too much more about Drummond not playing the minutes he deserves. His minutes have ticked up steadily since the start of the season. As he’s proven capable of handling more minutes and keeping his mental mistakes to an acceptable level, Lawrence Frank has been true to his word and given Drummond greater responsibility. There still might be some call for him to start, though, from fans who place a greater emphasis on starting status than coaches might.

Ryan (Norwalk, Ohio): Do you think eventually coach Frank will start Monroe at power forward and Drummond at center? Maxiell provides a ton of energy coming off the bench and playing 20 to 25 minutes a game. I think with that lineup Detroit would outrebound and block more shots than any team in the league. Do you think Monroe could play the four as well as he plays the five?

Langlois: And, there we go. As I said, I think once the drumbeat for Drummond to play more minutes dies down, it will be on to the next thing: When does he start? It might happen because Frank wants to play Drummond more minutes as he proves himself worthy of such a thing. It’s pretty tough – not impossible, but challenging – to stretch Drummond’s minutes too much beyond where they’re at now while he’s coming off the bench. Drummond’s future as a starter, as I’ve asserted often, isn’t just about Drummond. It’s also about Frank having a comfort level with making Greg Monroe more or less a full-time power forward and accepting the varied matchups Monroe will face as a part of that switch. It’s more about Monroe on the defensive end than anything else. The Pistons believe Monroe has the versatility to make the transition and Monroe, for his part, is completely open to the move – he downplays the differences between one spot and the other – but there might be some hesitancy in throwing him into the deep end in mid-season.

Donald (Howell, Mich.): I’ve been reading Mailbag for a long time and I don’t remember Pistons fans being so restless. Just making a wild guess, but are we showcasing a few players for a trade? We are still running the offense by committee. Are we in a position to trade for a point guard so we can let the young guys mature a bit?

Langlois: Restless fans are preferred to apathetic ones, Donald. I think the fans that are still plugged in to the Pistons have, to a large extent, acknowledged the progress that’s been made in restocking the talent base over the last three years. As discouraging as their 9-22 record might be right now, I get the sense that there’s a significant portion of the fan base that can see a future built around Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond, Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Kyle Singler, Jonas Jerebko and other young players already in the pipeline offers great promise. My sense is that the Pistons are nearing the point where the progress they’ve already made will start to be reflected by wins and losses. Hopefully, that corner is turned at some point this season. Either way, as those individual players advance in their careers and as the chemistry between them begins to harden over the course of time and more games logged, most fans can see a future that’s distinctly better than the present. It might seem like a long four seasons, but look around the NBA at other franchises that have had long periods of contention. Sometimes the landing is a lot harder than the ones the Pistons have endured. When winning becomes more the norm, restless fans will turn optimistic and apathetic fans will become intrigued anew.

Perry (Farmington Hills, Mich.): I would just like to point out that Slava Kravtsov has set a couple of NBA records that might never be broken. First, the least amount of playing time to score his first career point: zero. Second, the highest ratio ever for points per minute played: infinity. Actually, technically one point in zero seconds is undefined, or one point per the smallest unit of time on an NBA clock.

Langlois: Yes, as I noted on Twitter when Kravtsov scored on a free throw after coming into the game for the injured Rodney Stuckey, he at the very minimum tied a record that could never be broken by scoring before officially logging a second of playing time. Of course, he went on to play six minutes in that game and scored another basket, so he now has definable points per game and points per 48 minutes averages. But that first one, no, it can never be broken.

Doug (Riverview, Mich.): Why are the Pistons utilizing a zone defense so much? It’s painful to watch the other team have wide-open shots and offensive rebounds galore. I understand switching things up out of a timeout once in a while, but to use for extended minutes is just like waving the white flag.

Langlois: I don’t think the Pistons have come close to “extensive” use of the zone this season, Doug. Last week’s loss at Toronto probably involved the most zone defense they’ve played this season and the instance where it was used for the most consecutive possessions. It came in the fourth quarter after Toronto had shot 60 percent through three quarters and made an inordinate number of perimeter jump shots against Detroit’s man-to-man defense. The zone succeeded to the extent that Toronto’s shooting cooled off markedly against the zone, but – you’re right – the Pistons didn’t finish off a number of possessions by securing the defensive rebound. It crippled their comeback chances in that game. When the Pistons are playing Austin Daye and Charlie Villanueva together with Andre Drummond, the zone can be both a very effective way of exploiting the extraordinary length that unit provides while also sheltering Daye and Villanueva from potentially unfavorable matchups with stronger or more athletic forwards. So while I don’t think Frank will consistently lean on the zone, it would be foolish to abandon it or to use it only as a change-of-pace in isolated circumstances.

Anthony (Grand Blanc, Mich.): Joe D must find the right pieces that will allow the starters to play the style the bench can play. What do you think?

Langlois: Even one change to a playing group can fundamentally alter the style of the group, Anthony. When Charlie Villanueva replaced Jonas Jerebko on the second unit, his ability to shoot from beyond the 3-point line substantially changed the look of the bench for the Pistons. Austin Daye for Corey Maggette kicked it up another degree in that it adds another 3-point shooter. And when Will Bynum – who has been in the rotation for the last two games – joins Rodney Stuckey, then the Pistons have two aggressive attackers with two shooters to provide them driving space on top of Andre Drummond’s ability to clean up their misses and convert at the rim. As long as Daye and Villanueva are holding their own defensively and on the boards, as they did against Washington and Atlanta, that unit has tantalizing potential. Rather than trying to replicate it with the starters, Joe D’s task is really to keep incrementally improving the talent level of the roster and looking for traits that complement those of the young players he considers at the center of the team’s future. Right now, my guess is the Pistons would like to upgrade their athleticism on the wings if possible.

Cameron (Las Vegas): I know the draft is a long way off, but what do you believe the Pistons will be looking for this year and can you think of any players who would fit their desires/needs?

Langlois: I think you have to start by looking at the players who might not be back. Jason Maxiell is a starter on an expiring contract. Austin Daye, currently in the rotation, is in his last year. Ditto Will Bynum, who is on the bubble for being in or out of the rotation – though you’d have to believe that his 31-point performance and central role in the comeback from 22 down to force overtime at Atlanta means he’s back in for now. Corey Maggette is another who is in the final season and has talked about this possibly being his last season. With Slava Kravtsov already in the pipeline and Andre Drummond providing a second above-the-rim big man, my guess is the Pistons would be looking at adding a skilled big man to complement what they have up front, a point guard and players with size and athleticism on the wings in some order. The draft experts say it’s not a great year to land a top-three pick – there is no Anthony Davis type at the top – but not a bad year to be in the lottery. If the Pistons land in the lottery, they keep the first-round pick in 2013 that eventually they owe to Charlotte in the Ben Gordon-Maggette deal. I think the player they pick will fit one of the three categories I’ve spelled out: skilled big man, point guard, wing athlete. It’s fair to say there are lengthy lists of candidates under consideration across the board at this point.