Pistons Mailbag - August 1, 2018

by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

With most teams having complete rosters as July turns to August, what is the likelihood of the Pistons making a trade? What’s new in Pistons uniform choices? That and more in this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.

Charles (Redford, Mich.): With the possibility of a broken relationship between Kyle Lowry and the Raptors, Reggie Jackson and who or what would it take to reunite Lowry with Dwane Casey? Would it be worth it?

Langlois: Have to know the answer to the first question to take a stab at answering the second, Charles. If the Raptors were willing to move DeMar DeRozan, it’s fair to guess they were also open to shopping Lowry. Now that they’ve actually moved DeRozan, though – and, in fact, upgraded if Kawhi Leonard is sound physically – I don’t suspect there’s much urgency to make another seismic trade. The scuttlebutt was that Toronto wasn’t garnering much interest in Lowry prior to the Leonard-DeRozan deal. The problem for the Pistons in even contemplating such a deal is Lowry’s enormous salary slot ($31.2 million this season, $33.5 next) and their cap situation. They’d have to deal out nearly dollar for dollar to avoid becoming a luxury taxpayer, which would mean shipping out $14 million in addition to Jackson’s salary. Tough to conjure a realistic trade package that satisfies both teams’ needs.

Shamim (Paterson, N.J.): LeBron James has opened a public school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio. It seems like a great idea. I want to know why former players or current players have not done something similar to what he’s done for his community.

Langlois: The easy answer is because it’s an enormous undertaking that very few have the wherewithal – and not just the financial capacity, but the time or expertise required for the management of something of this scale with anything approaching efficiency – to accommodate it. In Detroit, Jalen Rose launched the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy, a charter school. What James is doing is nothing short of transforming the future of Akron. There’s nothing he could do that would have a greater impact or be more cost effective to revitalize his hometown. It would be fantastic if more players could make a similar commitment, but the reality says aren’t more than a handful who could do something of that magnitude.

Ian (Westland, Mich.): Do players who are bought out by a team still count against their salary cap? For instance, does Dwight Howard still count against Brooklyn’s salary cap?

Langlois: Yes, indeed. Whatever the negotiated amount of the buyout is stays on the team’s cap sheet. Howard was traded to Brooklyn with $23.8 million due him for the 2018-19 season, but his buyout with the Nets was $18.9 million. Typically, players will take an amount less than the full obligation of their contract by whatever they believe they’ll be able to get (or have already negotiated to get) on the market as a free agent. Carmelo Anthony took his full contract less the amount of the veteran minimum – which he’ll presumably get from the Houston Rockets – when he negotiated his buyout from the Atlanta Hawks.

Thanos (@Richard14407640): Is there a move they can make to shed the contracts of Jon Leuer and Langston Galloway?

Langlois: I don’t sense there’s any urgency to move either player. Leuer is more likely than not to be in the rotation. In fact, he’s probably the front-runner to be the first big man off the bench behind Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin. He got paid in the summer of 2016 when virtually every team had cap space. If you were to make a list of all the contracts teams would like to have back from that summer, you’d go a long way before you got to Leuer’s. Meyers Leonard and Leuer essentially got the same four-year deals and Leonard played all of 33 games for Portland last season and, no, he didn’t have a season-ending injury as Leuer had. Timofey Mozgov, Bismack Biyombo and Ian Mahinmi all got contracts of 150 percent or more than Leuer’s. Galloway will have a harder time cracking the rotation than Leuer – he’s no better than No. 3 on the depth chart at shooting guard behind Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard – but his 3-point shooting gives him a very useful tool in today’s NBA. Both players have two years left on their contracts. The Pistons don’t have a glaring roster need or anything close to it and both Leuer and Galloway are capable of contributing. I’m not sure anyone has an unmovable contract – if Gilbert Arenas could get traded when he did, anything is possible – but Leuer and Galloway’s don’t remotely qualify as such. What they might be moved for is anyone’s guess at this point. Most teams have pretty well buttoned up their rosters. It might take a training camp injury or two to get anything moving on the trade front.

Alex (@AlexMakiUSA): Do you see any jersey changes coming for the Pistons for this coming season?

Langlois: With the switch to Nike last season, teams have four uniform categories: association (home whites for the Pistons), icon (Pistons road blues), statement (Pistons chrome) and city edition (Motor City navy). The first three remain the same from last season. Most teams will change their city edition uniforms on a yearly basis. You’ll see changes to the Pistons city edition uniforms on Nov. 1 and they’ll be worn for the first time sometime in mid-November.

John (@axemanozh): Any chance the red alternate uniforms from the mid-2000s will ever return? It remains superior to the chrome and Motor City variants that have come after it.

Langlois: See above. The city edition uniform will change this season. What color it will be is TBA. As for “ever,” it’s on a year-to-year basis.

GeezMc (@PaulMc83290271): Any word on how Luke Kennard’s knee is doing?

Langlois: They’re being cautious and keeping him out of full basketball activity until mid-August, but Kennard is active in the weight room. He’ll be full go well before training camp and should be fully engaged when players start filtering back to the practice facility around Labor Day.

James (@jamesrobinson1): In your opinion, what is the Pistons ceiling if Stanley Johnson has a breakout season – like a Jimmy Butler-level breakout season?

Langlois: Depends how you define “breakout” season. Butler came to the NBA at 22; Johnson just turned 22 two months ago. Butler became a full-time starter in his third season – he started 20 games in his second season – and became an All-Star at 25, his fourth season. Let’s say Johnson has a year equivalent to Butler’s first year as a full-time starter. He averaged 13.1 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists – he shot a little less than 40 percent overall and less than 30 percent from the 3-point arc – in 39 minutes a game. The Pistons would want the shooting percentages to be above the 40/30 thresholds, but if Johnson plays 32-plus minutes a game you can bet they’re pleased with what they’re getting from him. If Johnson emerges as that level of starter this season and the Pistons suffer no significant long-term injuries, then their ceiling is challenging in an Eastern Conference without a clearly established title contender.

Evan (@Evanish1204): Who should start at the three spot? When will the Pistons get a new GM and who do you think it will be? Should Detroit wear teal uniforms instead of the gray, blue and red? Could the Pistons actually be a top-four team in the East? Will Stanley Johnson be the player he was expected to be in 2014?

Langlois: Johnson is a 3:1 favorite over Glenn Robinson III. Ed Stefanski is the de facto GM/president of basketball operations whose title is senior adviser for now; he’s running the front office for the foreseeable future and has a three-year contract. I wouldn’t hold my breath on teal returning. Could they be a top-four team? Sure. But my guess is there are at least eight front offices that feel similarly, given the breaks. As for Johnson, the ball is in his court. The new coaching staff is very high on him and they’re confident he’s going to turn a corner.

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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