Pistons Mailbag - April 15, 2020

by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

After a month-long hiatus amid the coronavirus pandemic that forced the NBA to suspend its season on March 11, Pistons Mailbag makes its return with one huge caveat: The best answer to most questions these days – in sports and in life – is probably, “I don’t know. Ask me in a month.”

All things Pistons (@AllPistons): Bleacher Report predicted the Pistons to sign Harry Giles to a contract this off-season. What are your thoughts on this and how much money do you think he would command?

Langlois: The biggest question mark with Giles is the status of his knees. Giles had three ACL tears – that’s one more than most people have knees – before he got to the NBA. At one point, he was considered the No. 1 player in the high school class of 2016. He played just 300 minutes as a Duke freshman coming off of one of his knee injuries. He’s been OK in his two years with Sacramento and he’ll turn 22 this month. If the knees are stable, he’s a guy who’ll generate interest simply because NBA scouts have long memories and they know Giles was once considered a potential impact player. Even at the peak of his prospect status, Giles was a raw offensive prospect and not much has changed in that regard. But he’s long and athletic and potentially an impact defender and active rebounder and rim runner. The Pistons, who have acknowledged they’re in a rebuilding phase, should logically be interested in players who match Giles’ profile. Whether that means they have faith in Giles’ future durability is another matter. The fact Sacramento drafted Giles with the 20th pick says the Kings were sold on his potential two years ago; the fact the Kings didn’t pick up his third-year option – the reason he’ll be an unrestricted free agent – says something else. I suspect there will be plenty of teams kicking the tires on Giles. Guessing how much a free agent will command on the open market is guesswork in normal circumstances. This off-season – whenever it commences – will be anything but normal.

Delta Goose (@GooseDelta): Any shot at Christian Wood re-signing? Maybe getting too good to want to go through the rebuild? Money may be high to convince him to stay?

Langlois: Any shot? Well, sure. You’d have to give the Pistons the best odds of any team to keep Wood, but whether you’d take the Pistons over the field is up for debate. The Pistons will be one of eight teams with more than the mid-level exception to offer. In fact, only Atlanta and New York will go into the off-season with more cap space than the Pistons, who were projected to have about $35 million in space – though that was based on a salary cap total that might be adjusted downward given the circumstances of the season’s suspension. The Pistons could sign Wood for whatever they want out of their $35 million in space up to the league maximum. They could also see how the market develops for him, use their cap space on others – either by signing free agents or taking on contracts from other teams, quite likely incentivized by attached draft-pick compensation – and then sign Wood using the exception for early Bird free agents. That exception would permit the Pistons to sign Wood for 105 percent of the 2019-20 average NBA salary, which is projected to be something a shade over $10 million – which will be more than the mid-level exception. Unless one of the seven teams with cap space goes hard after Wood out of the gate, the Pistons should be in the thick of it for retaining him.

Zay (@Sekou_SZN): What do you think the Pistons draft board will look like this year?

Langlois: At the top, probably similar to that of other teams and what you’re seeing on the few mock drafts or top 100 lists that have a semblance of credibility. There is less unanimity this season, it appears, than in most – owing to the lack of a consensus elite talent or two at the top of the draft. It’s reminiscent of the 2013 draft in which Anthony Bennett wound up going No. 1 when there were more than a half-dozen players who seemed in the running at some point in the weeks leading to the draft. Michael Carter-Williams wound up as Rookie of the Year after being drafted 11th and has gone on to be a journeyman player. Bennett is out of the league. The best players from that draft turned out to be Giannis Antetokounmpo (drafted 15th), Victor Oladipo (second), C.J. McCollum (10th) and Rudy Gobert (27th). It would shock no one if the 2020 draft, seven years later, shows a similar arc. What the Pistons board looks like now, or will on draft night, whenever it happens to be, is anyone’s guess.

Bill Blasky (@bill_blasky): I would assume the Pistons are “best player available” when they draft. They have so many holes to fill, although point guard seems to be the most glaring.

Langlois: Of course. It’s the only sane way to draft and that’s especially true when a franchise has recently chosen to rebuild, as the Pistons have done and acknowledged. There are any number of reasons to adopt that philosophy. And if it was always so, it’s even more true today in an era where positions matter as little as they ever have and skill trumps all. The only possible exception I would allow is if we’re talking about centers. If you have a gifted and versatile center on your roster and one you anticipate being around for multiple seasons, then maybe – maybe – you pass on a center at your draft slot if the next best pure talent is reasonably close in overall value. And I say that simply because it’s tough to play two centers – honest-to-goodness big men without significant positional versatility – simultaneously. Two point guards? Yes. If I have vintage Chris Paul on my roster and at my draft slot vintage Derrick Rose is available, yes, I am taking Derrick Rose. I’ll always have one of them on the floor and for 15 minutes or so a game I’ll play them both at the same time and let the defense figure out how to respond. Two shooting guards? Yes, yes, yes. Especially if they can, you know, shoot.

JayO (@JayO48409302): What can the Pistons do going forward next season with regard to free agents and the draft? Can we get an actual general manager or president of basketball operations (Chauncey Billups, for example)?

Langlois: What they can do going forward is the same thing teams should do every off-season, no matter their stage of development: evaluate thoroughly and allocate resources – money, trade stock or draft choices – wisely. How that relates to the Pistons in their current state differs from teams that see themselves as within reach of title contention in that they should be willing to acquire players that perhaps don’t fit long-term plans if the sweetener that comes with them – young players or draft picks – can accelerate their rebuilding. Billups is a smart guy and has in the past expressed interest in running a front office. Is he willing to serve in an apprentice role, a la ex-teammate Tayshaun Prince in Memphis, or is he determined to hold out until someone gives him a chief executive position? So far, he’s held out for a No. 1 job and is doing A-OK for himself in TV. As for the Pistons, the focus on titles remains baffling. Ed Stefanski runs their front office and has for two years. He’s had experience for more than 20 years in front offices in New Jersey, Philadelphia, Toronto and Memphis. No matter what you call him, Stefanski functions as a traditional general manager.

Pistons.com editor Keith Langlois answers your questions about the Pistons and NBA. To have your question considered, submit it along with your name, email address and city/state using the form below.

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