Pistons Mailbag - April 18, 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.

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.

Tani (Memphis): Could you possibly do an analysis on potential Pistons draft targets? I am sure you would do a great job and I think Pistons fans would really enjoy reading them.

We’ll have tons of draft analysis and reporting coming up shortly, Tani. We’ll have news Friday, when the NBA breaks a few ties that will determine draft order. We’ll have something when the American college field is set following the April 28 deadline for early entry, we’ll have coverage of the May 21 draft lottery and we’ll have saturated coverage coming out of the Chicago draft combine in mid-May right up until the June 27 lottery. The message that Pistons fans are thirsty for draft coverage has been strongly delivered over the past few years.

Raj (Denver): Can you clarify what draft picks the Pistons will have this season?

To be determined. The NBA will hold a draw on Friday, following the Board of Governors meeting, to break the tie between the Pistons and Washington, who both finished with 29-53 records. That means they hold a cumulative 71 possible lottery combinations out of 1,000. The tiebreaker will determine who gets 36 of those combinations and who gets 35 for purposes of drawing a top-three pick, but it will also determine two other things: which team picks 7th in the event it doesn’t draw into the top three and which team picks eighth, in addition to reversing their order in the second round. The Pistons also have a 50-50 shot at getting the second-round pick of the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies finished with identical records. The draw to determine which team will pick ahead of the other in the first round will also determine if the Pistons get that second-round pick. That’s because the pick – a product of the 2009 trade that sent Alex Acker to the Clippers to enable the Pistons to avoid luxury taxes – is protected if it’s in the top 55. The Clippers must win their tiebreaker with Memphis in order for the Pistons to get the pick, because it would mean Memphis would pick ahead of the Clippers in the second round – 55th, pushing the Clippers pick to 56th and leaving it unprotected and, thus, belonging to the Pistons. Crazy stuff.

Bruce (Dearborn, Mich.): I am not the only Pistons fan who feels this way and this should not be ignored. How can we all watch this season-ending win streak and be happy about our future? I know it’s against all morals of sports to lose games in order to solidify a draft position, but this unnecessary winning streak has put us three spots down the draft board, probably. Now we have less of a chance at landing Otto Porter, Ben McLemore, Victor Oladipo, Shabazz Muhammad or even Trey Burke. We are going to have to endure another year of disappointing basketball.

I haven’t gotten this type of sentiment nearly as much this year as the last few, when the Pistons also bypassed multiple teams in the standings with late-season wins. That could be due to the fact this draft has been roundly questioned for months and most fans have picked up on that. I suspect that just as big a factor has been the results of those drafts. The Pistons got Greg Monroe at No. 7 and he’d likely be a top-three pick today and be in the discussion to go No. 1. Brandon Knight was projected to go in the top five and fell to No. 8. He’s justified his draft standing and, the Pistons firmly believe, he’s a player who will continue to get better for many more seasons. Andre Drummond, clearly, should have been a top-three pick and, much like Monroe, would be in the discussion to go No. 1. I’ve heard from more than one NBA source this season who’s told me that in this draft, many teams would rather be picking in the back half of the lottery than at the very top, where the guaranteed money is considerable. But bottom line, you’re right, and we’ve had this debate too often in the past: It violates every ethic of competition ingrained in athletes from the time they first pull on a uniform to subvert winning, and when Pistons leadership has spoken loudly and openly about the need to restore a full commitment to winning, it would be overwhelmingly counterproductive and counterintuitive to wink and make exceptions for the season’s final handful of games.

Howard (Gladstone, Mich.): How many players are under contract for next season and who are they?

Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, Andre Drummond, Kyle Singler, Rodney Stuckey, Khris Middleton, Jonas Jerebko and Charlie Villanueva are under contract. That assumes Villanueva doesn’t exercise his option to void the contract, which he has pretty clearly indicated he won’t do. The Pistons have the option to exercise the amnesty clause on two contracts: Monroe’s and Villanueva’s. Realistically, it’s certain they won’t use it on Monroe and possible, but not necessarily likely, that they would on Villanueva. Stuckey’s contract isn’t fully guaranteed, but there’s no reasonable likelihood the Pistons would buy out the guaranteed portion and make him a free agent. Kim English and Slava Kravtsov are under contract at the team’s option. Corey Maggette, Jason Maxiell, Will Bynum and Jose Calderon will be unrestricted free agents. Calderon is the likeliest to return, though it’s not a certainty given that he intends to explore his options.

Ryan (Detroit): Do you think Kevin Martin could fit with the Pistons?

If the price is right, sure. The one thing we know about Martin is he’s a consistent scorer and there’s a lot to be said for that alone. He’s had some durability issues in his career, of course, and he turned 30 in February. Those two factors combined might drive down his price some. In a normal free agency year, Martin – a good or very good but less than great player – might not be a guy who would get an offer when the clock struck midnight as free agency opens, as many premier free agents often do. But this year could be a little more unpredictable with many teams holding significant cap space. It could be that some teams concede they won’t be in the running for the most coveted free agents and go right to the “B list.” In that case, teams that swing and miss on a higher-profile free agent – Andre Iguodala, for instance, assuming he opts out – could also miss out on Martin if he comes off the market quickly.

Darious (Ferndale, Mich.): We all think we’re Joe D and know what would get the Pistons back in the playoffs. I want to know who you would draft, sign or trade for to get us back in the playoffs.

Let’s start with this: It’s presumptuous (at best) of anyone to think they can watch a smattering of games on TV and have anywhere near the breadth of knowledge that an NBA personnel department collectively holds. Joe D alone has seen all of the potential lottery picks in person, in some cases multiple times, and has every game tape available to him. And everyone in his front office can say the same. Trust me, by the time the draft rolls around, he’ll have pored over every inch of those tapes. It’s the same for scouting NBA personnel, and in addition to the visual evidence available to them via in-person scouting and videotape study, they also have access to contacts in the business – peers who’ve had personal experience with free agent or trade targets, players who’ve played with them, etc. That said, everybody, me included, forms opinions on players with every viewing. In a perfect world, the Pistons would add a player or players at the wing positions that gives them above-average athleticism and shooting range at those spots. Among the college players I’ve seen, I’m not sure anyone better fits that description than Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore. It might take drawing the No. 1 overall pick to land him, though, and the Pistons are going to have a 3.6 or 3.5 percent chance of doing so.

Tim (Grand Rapids, Mich.): What are your thoughts on the Pistons pursuing a possible trade involving Knight, Stuckey and Jerebko for another top-10 pick to get Trey Burke and Victor Oladpio? I think a starting five of Burke, Oladipo, Singler (or Middleton), Monroe and Drummond far exceeds our potential with the existing team plus one top-10 pick. I think if you gave that team two to three years to develop, they would be contending in the East.

My first reaction: Brandon Knight is 5 months older than Oladipo and 11 months other than Burke. How about we give him two to three years to develop? Knight went No. 8 in the 2011 draft, which wasn’t considered great but generally got better reviews than this one, and it was considered a surprise that Knight slid to eighth in that draft. Now you want to combine him with Stuckey and Jerebko – two other players who’ve proven worthy of at least being in NBA rotations, and possibly much more than that – for one top-10 pick in a so-so draft? If Knight were in this draft, coming off of his junior year at Kentucky, I have to believe he would be considered a lock top-10 pick in this draft.

Steven (Fraser, Mich.): Do not draft Victor Oladipo! The Pistons need an offensive force who can take over games and the only people in the draft who can do that are Trey Burke, Shabazz Muhammad, Anthony Bennett and Ben McLemore. Take Muhammad because he is the best pure scorer who is getting better at passing the ball.

You could make a case that Oladipo – and I get Mailbag letters every week now encouraging the Pistons to draft Oladpio (or Trey Burke, or Shabazz Muhammad, or Anthony Bennett – or to avoid all of those players) has more room to grow offensively than Muhammad has room to grow in all other areas besides scoring, Steven. It’s a debate all teams picking in the top 10 are going to have, though – comparing all of those players against each other, projecting who will have the greatest chance to become an NBA impact player and factoring in roster fit.

Eric (Ann Arbor, Mich.): Please tell me what you know about the intriguing Giannis Adetokunbo? I read that he won’t get past the Celtics in the middle of the first round. Danny Ainge recently traveled to see him and likened him to a “young Scottie Pippen.” In a relatively weak draft class, this is quite exciting. Do you think the Pistons will consider him?

There is enough uncertainty surrounding him that I seriously doubt any lottery team takes him, Eric. It remains to be seen if he goes in the first round. If he gets down to the Pistons’ second-round pick, sure, he’d be a consideration. Right now, he can’t leave Greece, I’ve been told, because of passport issues. If that isn’t resolved before the draft and teams can only see him by traveling to Greece, it could further push down his draft status. Then again, in mid-April 2011, Bismack Biyombo was only starting to push his way on NBA radar screens, and he wound up being picked seventh.

Muka (Sydney, Australia): The Pistons are 4-26 against Western Conference teams. The Bucks, the eighth seed, are about .500. How do we turn this around next year?

I wouldn’t dismiss the 4-26 record against the West out of hand, but I wouldn’t dwell on it, either. The Pistons can’t worry about building a team to compete in the opposite conference. Believe me, I’ve asked my share of questions to Lawrence Frank recently about this. Just last week, I asked him if he had any explanation for why East playoff teams like Chicago (11-19) and Brooklyn (13-17) also struggled disproportionately to their overall record against the West, while some East lottery teams like Washington (14-16) and Orlando (10-20) did much better against the West than they did against the East. “You have to look at it game by game, opponent by opponent,” he said. “How a team was playing, what was your roster like, what was their roster like. So many different variables that comes into a season that it’s hard to make a generalization without going into specifics.” The Pistons have to be better than 4-26 against the West next season to compete for a playoff spot. It’s inconceivable that they won’t be significantly better than that.

Jason (Grand Rapids, Mich.): I know it’s a small sample size, but since Andre Drummond returned his blocked shots per game have gone down despite playing more minutes. Is there a reason for this? Are teams realizing he’s a good shot-blocker and not challenging him as much or is there tentativeness on his part due to his back injury?

Your first point is valid, Jason: 10 games is a small sample size, particularly when we’re dealing with something that happens with the relative infrequency of the blocked shot. The leader, Larry Sanders, blocks fewer than three shots per game. Could there be other reasons? Sure. Maybe he’s adjusting to playing extended minutes. Maybe it has something to do with playing far more of his minutes against better players as a starter. I don’t think there’s been tentativeness on his part, though. And I do think his presence has acted as a deterrent to penetration since his return.