Pistons Mailbag - January 10, 2013
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Lloyd (Clinton Twp., Mich.): I am a big fan of Rudy Gay and think he would be a perfect fit for the Pistons. Is there a reason why the Pistons are not involved in negotiations for Gay?
Langlois: Who says they’re not? Just because you’ve read about a few teams that have been engaged in talks with Memphis – so far, I’ve seen it reported that Golden State, Phoenix and Toronto have traded ideas with the Grizzlies – doesn’t mean many other teams haven’t had the same level of discourse. Think about some of the trades that popped up out of nowhere – Utah’s deal of Deron Williams to New Jersey two years ago comes to mind – and understand that some organizations do a far better job than others of keeping their business out of the rumor mill. By the way, Gay questions overwhelmed my in-box this week. Let’s take a few more …
Andrew (Farmington Hills, Mich.): There have been reports Memphis is putting Rudy Gay in the trading block. If the Pistons were interested, what would they have to offer that would make sense for both teams? I think Stuckey, Daye and a future draft pick could work.
Langlois: Now we shift to a different phase: what the Pistons would have that would satisfy Memphis’ needs. If the Grizzlies are intent on avoiding luxury taxes after this season, then the Pistons are clearly not a match. Such a deal would almost certainly require that Memphis’ trade partner have cap space right now – not projected cap space in July – and the Pistons themselves are over the cap for the 2012-13 season. One other thing that would be an obstacle to the Pistons making a deal with Memphis is the inability of the Pistons to offer a No. 1 pick to the Grizzlies since the Pistons owe Charlotte a future No. 1 pick that holds protections and therefore makes it uncertain when it will be conveyed, coupled with the collective bargaining stipulation that bars teams from entering consecutive drafts without a No. 1 pick. Gay is earning roughly $16.5 million this season (and a combined $37 million over the next two seasons), so a Pistons trade would require salaries that come relatively close to that figure. If they’re acquiring a small forward – and Memphis shedding one – you’d have to think any deal would start with Tayshaun Prince for the position he plays and the salary chunk his inclusion would represent. Beyond that, Memphis would want expiring contracts (Jason Maxiell, Austin Daye or Will Bynum would fit) or players the Pistons would not be inclined to trade.
Ryan (Grand Rapids, Mich.): Forget Rudy Gay. His numbers aren’t much better than Prince’s and he makes almost three times as much. The biggest hold seems to be a starting shooting guard who can get buckets. Any chance Detroit could trade for Mayo, Thornton, Matthews or J.R. Smith?
Langlois: Well, there is that, too. Rudy Gay is truly a breathtaking talent – the kind of player who impresses more in person than on TV, and the kind who will instantly cause a scout’s pulse to race for his sheer grace for his size and his gorgeous shooting stroke and explosive athleticism. But the production isn’t consistent with his skill set. One scout told me something earlier this season before the Pistons played at Memphis that I found interesting. He said he’d be surprised if Gay played that well against the Pistons because he generally only played at a high level in big games, then coasted in others. Gay played 39 minutes that night in a game that was tightly contested most of the way. He scored 18 points, but shot 6 of 17, had three turnovers and no assists. He really wasn’t a very big factor. Now, it was one scout’s opinion and it was one game. But if you’re trading for Gay and committing that type of cap space to him, you’d want to see him for a stretch of games to gauge that sort of thing. As for trades for the players you ticked off, the Knicks have title aspirations this year and Smith is on a cheap deal, so it makes little sense that they’d trade him at this point. Mayo has a player option for next season that he’ll almost surely not exercise, making him a free agent. Thornton and Matthews are on similar deals, but play for rebuilding teams. To the extent they’d be available, their teams would want young talent and draft picks. Not exactly the match that makes a fit for the Pistons at this point.
Muka (Sydney, Australia): DeMarcus Cousins trade rumors aside, I have grave concerns about the ability of Monroe and Drummond to play at the same time. No issues on the offensive end, but on defense Monroe would have difficulty guarding quicker power forwards. He will be especially exposed given the small-ball trend. I think the Pistons should look to move Monroe for Jeff Green.
Langlois: The Pistons are optimistic about a Drummond-Monroe tandem, Muka. Sure, there will be some challenges for Monroe on the defensive end, but he’s going to cause some matchup issues for the other guys, too. As I wrote earlier this week, when the Pistons contemplate the fit of the roster around a Drummond-Monroe core, they’ll likely be mindful of the fact that shooters and an able pick-and-roll operator will be two essential ingredients. If they can keep the floor spread, that will give Drummond room to crash the rim as the target for lob passes and Monroe room to use his expanding array of moves. Drummond’s presence defensively is going to compensate for some deficiencies elsewhere, but Monroe is a savvy enough player that he’ll likely figure it out at that end wherever he winds up playing.
Chris (Brighton, Mich.): Last year the starting five with Stuckey sharing point guard duties with Knight was more effective than Knight handling the responsibility himself this year. The unwillingness to go back to that feels like they are unwilling to risk Knight’s development in exchange for wins. Do you agree?
Langlois: Well, that’s a new one. I’ve heard from many restless fans over the past few years that the Pistons were too focused on winning at the expense of developing their young players. When Knight’s in the game with Kyle Singler, of course Knight will be the one initiating the offense most often. But Lawrence Frank isn’t asking him to run basketball’s equivalent of the no-huddle offense on his own, exactly. The Pistons often will play through Greg Monroe at the elbows or get the ball to Tayshaun Prince on the right block and generate offense from there. When Stuckey replaces Singler, usually around the four-minute mark of the first and third quarters, the ball is often in his hands with Knight spotting up at the 3-point line. When Knight plays with Will Bynum, ditto. That’s one reason Knight’s assist numbers aren’t as lofty as many point guards – in point of fact, Knight doesn’t have the ball in his hands to the same degree as many point guards do. But to get to your premise, no, I don’t agree that Lawrence Frank is endangering wins by focusing on developing Brandon Knight as a point guard.
Bo (New York City): I am not giving up on Knight, but I see an underutilized point guard who would be dynamic as a Piston: Eric Bledsoe. With Bledsoe and Drummond, we’d have arguably the most athletic center and point guard in the league. Any chance on Bledsoe becoming a Piston?
Langlois: Slim chance the Clippers could be motivated to trade Bledsoe. Why would they? They have a solid shot to be the No. 1 seed throughout the playoffs and Bledsoe has real value to that quest. The caveat here is that management might look at the future and decide it can’t afford to retain Bledsoe, so better to trade him. But there’s no urgency to do it at this time. It could just as easily be accomplished at season’s end. So unless the Clippers get back something that can help to at least the same degree as Bledsoe win this year’s title, it would be difficult to grasp the trade from their perspective.
J.J. (Houston): With Singler struggling so much for the past six weeks, why isn’t Austin Daye getting more playing time?
Langlois: Daye has absorbed almost every available backup minute behind Tayshaun Prince for the past several weeks, J.J., while Singler, for the most part, is playing in the backcourt. Singler is one of those guys whose value just isn’t going to be reflected by his individual statistics, for the most part. His greatest skill is figuring out what his team needs from him from game to game, or even possession to possession. That said, let’s keep in mind that he’s an NBA rookie, for all of his college and international playing experience, and he faces an adjustment as do all rookies. So he’s going to have his share of ups and downs. The fact Lawrence Frank hasn’t altered his role indicates the coaching staff still sees the value in having Singler in the mix. As Frank has often said, Singler is an easy guy for teammates to play with. There’s value in that. At any rate, should Frank ever decide to replace Singler in the rotation, I’m not sure Daye would be greatly affected. Yes, he’s lately played a few spot minutes at shooting guard when Stuckey comes back out of the game while Prince is on the floor, usually around the midway point of the second and fourth quarters. But reducing Singler’s role could also be a way to get more of Will Bynum running the offense with the second unit and allowing Brandon Knight to set up at the 3-point line.
Roger (Tyler, Texas): Could we offer Sacramento enough to pry away Tyreke Evans without having to give up Knight, Daye, Monroe or Drummond? I wouldn’t want to trade Singler or Jerebko, either. Is that possible?
Langlois: Evans’ trade value might not be at its peak, but you’ve got to give up something to get a player of his ability. I have zero idea what Sacramento might want in return, but let’s keep this is mind, as well. It’s now been widely reported that Sacramento ownership, the Maloof brothers, is well down the path toward selling the team to a Seattle-based group. That likely complicates any transactions the Kings might entertain. That makes speculation about what the Kings might or might not be inclined to consider even murkier – impossible, really.
Edd (Waldport, Oregon): Do you know if Kim English has spent any time at point guard in practice after he played there in an emergency at Fort Wayne?
Langlois: Until the last two days, the Pistons have had precious little time for fully engaged practices since English returned from the D-League, Edd. But I’d be surprised if the Pistons or English envision point guard in his future. It’s great that he could fill that role in a pinch, but I think if English spends any appreciable time in the NBA at a position other than shooting guard, it would more likely be at small forward. The Pistons didn’t draft him as a player they expected to put the ball on the floor much. They loved his spot-up shooting ability, his defensive motor and intent, and his high character … but I never heard any mention of his ability to play point guard.
Osai (Grand Rapids, Mich.): I think a trade for Rondo can boost this team to a sure playoff team. Rondo would be worth a first-round pick or two to start talks. I think it’s far-fetched that Boston trades him. What do you think?
Langlois: Boston’s allegiance to Rondo, from an outsider’s perspective, seems a mile wide and an inch deep. It’s been widely acknowledged in the past that they’ve talked about dealing him. Now, of course, he’s become the team’s most valuable player. But if Celtics management concludes the team isn’t a title threat – and it’s hard to see them as that right now – then maybe you dangle Rondo and see how quick the fix could be. Boston would want a ton, you’d have to believe, and with the Pistons handcuffed in their ability to include first-round picks in trade talks they wouldn’t likely be a major player. Not that the Pistons are looking to deal Andre Drummond, of course, but I’d be curious to see what the Celtics think of the rookie now. There was a report after the draft, when the Celtics took 7-footer Fab Melo, that they were not enamored with Drummond going into the draft.