Pistons Mailbag - September 25, 2013

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.

Manoj (Noord, Aruba): Do we know who exactly is our assistant head coach and, if not, who have they approached?

Langlois: Lots of questions about this, Manoj. I spun the roulette wheel and you’re the winner! Maurice Cheeks’ staff was announced today, Manoj. It consists of Henry Bibby, John Loyer, Maz Trakh, Rasheed Wallace, Bernard Smith, Kamran Sufi as the advance scout and Raman Sposata as video coordinator. Many of them have been on the job for more than two months, going back to before Orlando Summer League play in early July. Bibby was the last to sign on. It’s a good group with an interesting mix of backgrounds – Trakh has coached at many levels and around the world, Sufi is coming off a three-year stint in China – a high-energy group that has really won over the players they’ve had the opportunity to work with this summer at the team’s practice facility.

Matthew (Chicago): With so many newcomers to the 2013-14 roster, Cheeks will be tinkering with lineups to find combinations. With Chauncey back, I’m interested in offense comparisons from KCP to Rip. The kid runs like a rabbit. Any insights into his catch-and-shoot mid-range game? Rip was the first option for long stretches of time and Chauncey was the ultimate setup man. Could it be a feasible look as a backup unit: Chauncey, KCP, Drummond, Smith and Singler?

Langlois: The book on KCP coming out of Georgia – and so far, based on what I saw in Orlando and in workouts leading to training camp, I wouldn’t quibble – is that he’s an above-average 3-point shooter and possesses the quickness and instincts to be a very good driver/finisher but doesn’t yet have a developed mid-range game. KCP does indeed run like the wind. Hamilton was more marathon man than sprinter, wearing defenders out because he never stopped moving and running them into an endless sequence of picks. As for your assertion that Cheeks will be tinkering with lineups to find the right combinations, that’s very likely to be the case. The quicker they can find a framework for first and second units and a rotation pattern, the better, of course, but there shouldn’t be much surprise or alarm if it doesn’t fall together within the first few weeks. My guess – and that’s all it is – is that Andre Drummond probably will be the first of the three big men up front to go to the bench simply because that will allow him to come back at the start of (or early into) the second quarter when he would figure to be surrounded by the type of shooting – Chauncey Billups, Gigi Datome, Charlie Villanueva among the possibilities – that worked so effectively for him a year ago.

Omar (Beirut, Lebanon): Love Mailbag and can’t wait for the season to start. My question: I remember Chauncey Billups saying in his press conference that he signed to play point guard and did not want to play shooting guard this season. Has that changed at all? A lot of people, including you, seem to project him playing the most of his minutes at shooting guard if Pope isn’t ready.

Langlois: We’ll see how it plays out, Omar. I’m sure his preference would be to play point guard on a full-time basis. Here’s what he said at his July press conference: “I know you’ve been watching the last two years, but I’ve never been a two guard. I just played it because I’m that kind of player. Can I play some off the ball? Of course, but I’m a lead guard, point guard. You’ve seen it at my best. Right now, my skill set hasn’t changed at all. I’m back healthy. I’m feeling good. But even then, I couldn’t run fast or jump high, so my skill set is still the same. I’m going to outsmart you most nights. I’m going to lead with the best of them in the league. I’m going to knock down shots. I’m going to be vocal. I’m going to be the same player I was then. Although I’m not the same age, I’m going to be the same player.” I think he’ll play off the ball some simply because that’s what the roster dictates right now. Those comments were made before the Brandon Knight-Brandon Jennings trade and that changes the outlook. Brandon Jennings is going to play more than 30 minutes a night, in all probability, and the wild card is a Jennings-Billups backcourt in which we might see Jennings play off the ball on occasion. He did it in Milwaukee at times during his time with Monta Ellis. If you design plays to get the ball to Jennings on the move, his quickness could be deployed to devastating effect.

Ken (Erin, Tenn.): Any word on whether the Pistons will extend Monroe or if they will let him become a restricted free agent next summer?

Langlois: That’s a matter for Joe Dumars and Monroe’s agent, David Falk, and while it’s unlikely either party would say much for public consumption on the matter, Falk is on record as saying he generally prefers to take players to free agency rather than sign extensions before they have that opportunity to explore their options. Monroe adamantly said on Wednesday that he’s just not talking about his contract status this season. It’s not necessarily a bad thing for the Pistons, Ken, if that’s the way it plays out – though I’m guessing they’d surely be open to locking up Monroe for the long term, as well. Waiting until after the season gives the Pistons all of 2013-14 to assess what they have with a Monroe-Andre Drummond pairing. Restricted free agents don’t often switch teams – Brandon Jennings this summer was more the exception than the rule – and especially not when the original team doesn’t want the player to get away. And I can assure you the Pistons aren’t about to let Monroe get away unless the return is highly attractive to them.

Jason (Chicago, Ill.): Can you guess what is going to be the free-throw shooting potential of the Pistons this season? Is it fair to assume we will be seeing them get to the line more often with Jennings and Stuckey attacking the rim more often (as they do well), Jennings passing the ball more often to the upgraded frontcourt and Drummond’s minutes increasing?

Langlois: They’ll be dramatically bigger and more athletic than they’ve been in a long while, Jason, and those two things together usually put the opposition in situations where they are more apt to foul. Drummond’s increased minutes should up the foul count both unintentionally and intentionally for the opposition. Until he improves his shooting percentage, the Hack-a-Dre strategy will be a weapon most coaches won’t hesitate to employ. It’s great to get to the foul line, of course, but much better if you shoot at least a league-average percentage when you get there. The only prediction I’ll make is the Pistons should shoot more free throws than the opposition this season. If they make more proportionally, they’ll be in pretty good shape.

Peter (Al Kohbar, Saudi Arabia): I’m originally from Michigan and have followed the Pistons for 35 years. I’m extremely excited about all the signings and draft picks this year, but the one I don’t think has gotten enough press is for Josh Harrellson. I love Rasheed Wallace for the way he played and feel he will help Harrellson. Why are we not hearing more about Josh Harrellson?

Langlois: Perhaps the mail is a little slow to Al Kohbar these days, Peter, but I wrote three stories about Harrellson after he signed that you can read here, here and here. I don’t know how exactly it will play out in a frontcourt where most of the minutes at center and power forward are going to be dedicated to Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Harrellson factor his way into the mix. He can shoot it and he’ll compete and that’s a pretty good combination.

Tara (South Lyon, Mich.): It seems like Chauncey and Stuckey could form a very formidable backcourt, interchanging roles as matchups dictate. Can you see Jennings and KCP starting and Chauncey and Stuckey backing up as one scenario?

Langlois: My money would still be on a Jennings-Stuckey starting backcourt, but I wouldn’t rule out anything at this point, Tara. As I wrote on Monday, Caldwell-Pope’s readiness would allow the Pistons the luxury of using Chauncey Billups judiciously so as not to risk injury to a 37-year-old (it’s his birthday today, in fact) who’s had his share of nicks and bruises the past two years. I don’t think we’ll see much of Peyton Siva this year barring injury, but any combination among Jennings, Billups, Stuckey, Caldwell-Pope and Will Bynum is conceivable for stretches.

Chris (Brighton, Mich.): I’ve been watching highlights of Tony Mitchell. He definitely has the athleticism to contribute in this league. Have you heard any comments from team officials about him moving up the depth charts? I just think he brings something completely different than Charlie Villanueva and Jonas Jerebko at power forward.

Langlois: No question he’s a different player than those two guys, Chris. But he can’t move up the depth chart before training camp opens and it’s going to be tough for him to see the floor much as a rookie given the current roster configuration. We know Greg Monroe will start at power forward and we assume Josh Smith is going to play a lot of minutes at that spot, too. That leaves the leftovers for Jerebko and Villanueva. The Pistons have their fair share of frontcourt athleticism now with Smith and Andre Drummond. But there’s no question that the front office likes Mitchell and the coaching staff that worked with him during Summer League and so far at the practice facility also thinks well of him, as both Joe Dumars and George David asserted to me when I wrote the Pistons by position series that we posted last week on Pistons.com.

Reid (Swartz Creek, Mich.): There is a realistic concern the lineup with Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond might not work, though overall I agree with your premise that we should wait to see how it goes. I, like many, feel Greg Monroe could be the odd man out but I also feel he is more valuable than Nicolas Batum. The name I can’t turn away from is Harrison Barnes now that he is more likely to come off the bench and Andrew Bogut is in the last year of his deal. There is talk Golden State would like to move David Lee’s contract. Could the Pistons trade Monroe, Stuckey (replacing the role of Jarrett Jack) and either Jerebko or Singler for Lee and Barnes? Monroe would fit very well there. You probably don’t want to discuss more “trade Monroe” scenarios but in your opinion if it appears to not work out do you believe that would be the type of return we would need for Monroe?

Langlois: Both teams, I’m pretty sure, are curious to see what they have. It’s not inconceivable they’d do a deal like that during the season, but it’s wildly speculative to talk about it now because it would take both teams seeing the need for a major disruption during seasons in which they expect to enjoy success. I’m on record as saying it would take a salivating offer, were I seated in the GM’s chair, for me to consider moving a 23-year-old like Monroe, given his makeup and his already accomplished resume. I think he’s going to continue to get better for the next several years and be an All-Star-level producer for a decade. I very much like Harrison Barnes – even more after seeing him at the USA Basketball minicamp in Las Vegas in July. I’m not sure I like him well enough to make him the centerpiece in a Monroe trade, but it’s certainly not an outlandish proposal, Reid. You’re at least in the ballpark. But I think it’s a much easier deal to accept on the other end. He’d be phenomenal with Golden State, given his passing ability and the shooting they could put around him. You know who else would be phenomenal in Golden State? Andre Drummond. The Warriors could have had him with the No. 7 pick in 2012 when they took Barnes instead. And as much as I like Barnes, can you imagine the Warriors with Steph Curry, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson around him? Yowza.

Scott (Novi, Mich.): Have the Pistons revealed their big board for the recently completed 2013 draft? I am curious to see where their three picks were located on it.

Langlois: Not the type of thing they’re prone to freely reveal, Scott. They’ll drop a few hints here and there. They were pretty open that they considered Andre Drummond a top-two talent coming out of the 2012 draft. They clearly were surprised and ecstatic that Greg Monroe fell to seventh in 2010. They had Kyle Singler rated in the 20s – a first-rounder, in other words – in 2011. They had their fingers crossed that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope would last until the No. 8 pick this year and ran a subterfuge operation to conceal their interest in him for fear that Minnesota, picking one spot behind them, would try to leap ahead of them to land him first. And they said that last year, they believed Tony Mitchell – who chose not to enter the draft, returned to North Texas and had a dropoff – was a late lottery pick. It’s not unusual at all for teams to say they got a player they never expected to get because 30 teams evaluate talent and nobody comes up with the same group of 30 they believe should be first-round picks. But the Pistons have had a very good track record in the draft the past six years with few misses and some really big hits, Monroe and Drummond most notably.