Pistons Mailbag - April 22, 2020
Every day that goes by gets us one day closer to the NBA’s return, whenever that might be. In the meantime, Pistons fans have some questions about the draft, Sekou Doumbouya and Bruce Brown in this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.
Dishon (Westland, Mich.): If the Pistons get a top-four pick, what are the chances of drafting LaMelo Ball if he declares for the draft?
Langlois: It’s not a year where there is a consensus top one or two players with a big dropoff to the next tier, though Ball is pretty consistently considered among the top three or four. Whether that means the Pistons see him that way is anyone’s guess. I can guarantee you that a year ago, there was near unanimity that Zion Williamson and Ja Morant were the top two players. Ed Stefanski told me recently that the Pistons did have one of their international scouts see Ball play last fall before suffering a foot injury that ended his season in Australia after playing in just 12 games. They were a fairly impressive 12 games other than poor shooting percentages, though: Ball averaged 17 points, 7.5 rebounds and 6.8 assists as an 18-year-old playing against men on the other side of the world. At 6-foot-7, he’s got tremendous size at point guard. The biggest question with Ball is his perimeter shot. Put aside the fact the Pistons need help at point guard – Derrick Rose is their only point guard under contract for next season and it’s the last year of his deal – and that Dwane Casey loves playing multiple point guards. The Pistons will draft the player they feel has the brightest NBA future. But given the value at that position, it figures that the Pistons would lean point guard if all else is equal. So to your question, Ball makes as much or more sense for the Pistons than anyone – if, indeed, they see in Ball a future NBA difference maker.
James Vos (@JamesVos): How many games will Sekou start next season?
Langlois: If Blake Griffin stays healthy, it could be a scant few. I think Doumbouya has enough positional versatility so that he could defend small forwards comfortably down the road, but for now I think he’s best suited to guard power forwards. And the Pistons have another season with Tony Snell, a player Dwane Casey has confidence in defensively. Snell and Griffin are most likely to be the starting forwards. Doumbouya will have the opportunity to get plenty of minutes at either spot behind them if he’s up to it. This was going to be a big summer developmentally for Doumbouya – both in skills work and strength and conditioning. You can bet that whenever the all-clear comes to resume workouts, the Pistons will ramp up quickly with Doumbouya and their other young players. And when the off-season arrives, they’ll have an aggressive program for him.
Adam (St. Petersburg, Fla.): If the Pistons stay where they are in the draft, fifth, what do you think is their likeliest outcome on draft night?
Langlois: LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman are about as close as you’ll get to a consensus top three this year, though if you give me even odds I’d bet that at least one of them will be available with the No. 4 pick. But for the sake of argument, let’s say those three are gone by the time the No. 5 pick rolls around. Logic would point you in the direction of point guard given (a) that’s the deepest position at the top of the draft with four of the top 10 and seven of the top 15 prospects in ESPN.com’s current top 100 rankings listed at point guard, (b) it’s an acute position of need for the Pistons, (c) Dwane Casey loves to play multiple point guards and (d) the NBA tilts to point guards now given the premium on penetration and playmaking to create the kinds of shots, layups and 3-pointers, that all offenses attempt to create. Given that the Pistons drafted two European teenagers last year, I think you’d have to look at the two French point guards, Killian Hayes and Theo Maledon, with Hayes generally rated higher. Cole Anthony is another generally rated in that range. But there are plenty of other intriguing guards and beauty will be firmly in the eye of the beholder in this draft. Some might fall in love with Tyrese Maxey or Kira Lewis or Devin Dotson, though it might be a stretch for any of them to go in the top five (or six or seven if the Pistons get jumped by teams in the lottery). If the Pistons aren’t sold on any of the point guards that high in the draft, then I could see them filling that position with free-agent veterans on short-term deals. It will be imperative to get a player they see as a long-term building block, no matter the position. Deni Avdija of Israel is a playmaking wing with great size who also figures to be attractive and might prove to be the best player available if he’s there at five (or six or seven).
Philip (Negaunee, Mich.): The NFL draft is going on as scheduled this week. What are the odds the NBA draft goes on as scheduled on June 25?
Langlois: Big difference: The NFL season was finished back in early February and the draft order was long ago determined. Nothing is certain given the vast uncertainty of worldwide conditions amid the coronavirus pandemic, but it seems certain that the NBA draft won’t be held until some time after the conclusion of the NBA season – and no one knows when that might be. Adam Silver has said the NBA would make no determinations until May 1, but we’re just a little more than a week away from that date and, given that there’s still no unanimity of opinion on when it might be safe to eat at a restaurant again – never mind OK for the travel and congregation that an NBA game would demand, even one held without fans – I don’t anticipate Silver making any sweeping declarations on May 1. The logical assumption is that the draft will come a week or so after the conclusion of the NBA Finals – if the NBA determines it can resume the season in any capacity. If the NBA were to make the determination that the season cannot proceed – a decision that will be put off as long as possible – then the draft could be staged at any point.
Al (Wolverine Lake, Mich.): Did the Bruce Brown as point guard experiment die?
Langlois: Like the NBA season, it was suspended. Like the NBA season, to be determined if it will be picked up again. Before Derrick Rose injured his ankle in the March 1 loss at Sacramento, Dwane Casey said he wanted Brown to spend the rest of the season off the ball in order to allow him to focus more on that role. He didn’t explicitly say so, but I suspect he was saying that playing point guard had become enough of a mental and physical burden for Brown that it was affecting his ability to be an impact player in the areas where Brown’s true value lies – being an elite perimeter defender and lending an aura of toughness to his team. There’s value in Brown having the ability to play point guard and there are carryover traits that Brown developed while playing point guard that will make him a better shooting guard because of it. My guess is that the Pistons will have Derrick Rose and two other no-doubt point guards on the roster to start next season with Brown available in a pinch. But Casey wants at least two and preferably three guys on the floor who can put the ball on the floor with enough authority that the defense is forced to respond to them. Luke Kennard isn’t a point guard but he can make plays off the dribble. Svi Mykhailiuk was making great strides in that department – he had four or more assists in five of his last six games before the suspension of the season – as he got more experience. So I think Brown’s time as a point guard will be limited going forward, but it was still beneficial for his (and the Pistons’) future to have had the experience.