Pistons Mailbag - August 14, 2019

by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

With the off-season gusher of player movement slowed to a trickle, Pistons Mailbag spends most of its time talking about backup center, the back end of the roster and two-way contracts in this week’s edition.

Kaan (Wollongong, Australia): How much use will the Pistons get with their two-way contract players and with Grand Rapids Drive players?

Two separate issues. The Pistons hold no NBA rights to the general pool of Drive players other than the ones on two-way contracts or those on standard contracts who are sent to the G League for game experience or returning from injury. They can sign players to Exhibit 10 contracts, which can offer a bonus of up to $50,000 and steers a player to the NBA parent’s G League affiliate, but in order to keep that player within the organization it would have to be converted to a two-way or standard contract. In other words, another NBA team could sign any player on any G League roster who is not under a standard or two-way contract. Teams are limited to 15 standard contracts and two two-way deals. You can have 20 players in training camp, meaning up to three players on Exhibit 10 contracts if your other roster spots are filled. The Pistons have 15 standard contracts as of now plus both of their two-way deals and two reported Exhibit 10 deals (Donta Hall, Todd Withers). That would leave them one more spot for the training camp roster with reports that the Pistons are near a deal with Michael Beasley on a non-guaranteed standard contract. As for how much the Pistons will use Jordan Bone or Louis King, their two-way players, this season: Bone probably is in line for some minutes, King probably a long shot. I would expect the Pistons to be cautious with Derrick Rose in back to backs – and now we know the Pistons have 13 of them, one off of the NBA high. If Rose, Reggie Jackson or Tim Frazier were to miss any time due to injury, Bone would be in line to get called up. The Pistons will have to be cautious with Bone’s time early in the season to guard against the possibility of running up against his 45-day limit with the parent team (during the G League calendar; days before the G League opens training camp in late October or after its season ends in late March/early April don’t count against the cap) should one of the other point guards suffer a mid-season injury that knocks him out for any length of time. King is farther away from being ready but also blocked by many ahead of him on the wing (Tony Snell, Luke Kennard, Bruce Brown, Khyri Thomas, Svi Mykhailiuk, Sekou Doumbouya).

Ethan (@RaddyLite): Would the Pistons have any interest in Justin Anderson, who is still unsigned? Imagine they could get him on a bargain and he would help the 3-point percentage?

He’s a .302 career 3-point shooter who takes 47 percent of his shots from the 3-point line over four NBA seasons. Also, if the reported deal for Michael Beasley comes through, as I wrote above, the Pistons would be at the 20-player camp roster limit.

Pete (@petedetroit): When will we be able to tell if Dwane Casey likes what he sees from Thon Maker as the backup center? Will which one makes the team out of Christian Wood or Michael Beasley be the primary indicator?

Even in an era that devalues traditional big man contributions, I have a tough time thinking the Pistons would go with only Maker and Markieff Morris as big men off of the bench. Andre Drummond has proven incredibly durable, but if he were to miss time for a twisted ankle or a concussion, which cost him three games at mid-season last year, would you really want to have only Maker, Morris and Blake Griffin for the two power positions? Who’d be next to fill in at power forward to allow Griffin to have to soak up minutes at center? Tony Snell? Svi Mykhailiuk? I think Casey feels strongly enough about Maker to use him as the backup center, but I’d be surprised if they go into the season with no one else on the roster who can man that position for more than selected matchups. And while I expect Morris will play minutes at center, there are going to be nights the matchups at center would make that inadvisable.

Joe (@Joe_Truck): Who is going to play the majority of backup center?

If I have to guess on August 14, I’d say Thon Maker. The other candidates are Christian Wood and Markieff Morris and of the three, Maker is more of a known quantity than Wood and better able to play against a variety of centers than Morris. That said, Wood’s production over extended periods of the last two seasons in the G League (admittedly, to be taken with a grain of salt) and in a shorter burst with New Orleans to end the season make him intriguing; and Morris quite likely will be a better option against the increasing number of stretch-five types that populate the back end of NBA rotations these days. Maker needs to be better in obvious areas – he fouls too much, he gets pushed around some, he can be turnover prone, he doesn’t shoot well enough yet – but his size and lateral mobility make him the safest bet to give the Pistons a credible defensive unit. Casey is going to default to defense in most cases. Now, maybe Wood – whose shot-blocking appears very real – has matured physically enough from his UNLV days and added enough strength to shoulder those minutes defensively as well as Maker. And if that’s the case, it appears as if Wood’s offense would then give him an edge. Flying a little blind on that comparison until we see him for multiple stretches of extended minutes, which hopefully comes in the five preseason games.

RedeemedSeven21st (@TheRealLaTroy93): Where does Beasley fit in the rotation?

First he has to make the team. Given the obvious need for another big man and 14 guaranteed deals, either the Pistons go short up front or they create another roster spot by some means. If the rest of the roster would accommodate Beasley sticking, you could see him as a second-unit scorer. If the Pistons view Markieff Morris as a true combo center-power forward, then there could indeed be room for both Morris and Beasley in a rotation. Beasley has his flaws, but he’s always been a player who can carry an offense for a quarter here and there when he’s right and there aren’t a ton of players who can live up to that burden. He didn’t have a good season with the Lakers, but that might have been as much the dysfunction of their roster and the disharmony of their season as any indication that Beasley, still just 30, has begun an irreversible decline. I think something else has to happen to give the Pistons more certainty in their frontcourt for Beasley to stick, but there’s still more than two months until opening-night rosters are set.

Adam (St. Petersburg, Fla.): What stands out to you or concerns you about the schedule now that it’s out?

Every team has a few things they’d like to change. I’m sure Dwane Casey isn’t thrilled that not only do the Pistons take an unusually long road trip – Mike Abdenour said a few years back when they took an identical 11-night trip that he didn’t recall a longer one in his decades with the team – but look at the first five opponents: San Antonio, Utah, the Clippers, Golden State and the Lakers. It says something that the Warriors probably will be the weakest team of the bunch – Klay Thompson is very unlikely to be back from his ACL tear – and yet still a very formidable opponent. Having to finish the season with five of the last six on the road – including a most unusual four-game road trip that starts in Minneapolis and ends in Dallas – is also less than ideal. The fact the Pistons for the second straight season will be a net minus-3 in rest/tired games – the difference between how many times you have the rest advantage in back to backs as opposed to the disadvantage – is a bigger issue and one that might get pointed out to the NBA. It’s perhaps something of a break that of the four Eastern Conference teams the Pistons play just three times instead of four, three (Boston, Philadelphia, Orlando) were 2019 playoff teams and a fourth (Miami) just missed. Playing a home game in Mexico City (Dec. 12 vs. Dallas) likely negates whatever edge the Pistons get from that scheduling quirk, though.

Parker (@WiremanParker): Are the rumors of a possible DeMar Derozan trade true?

I don’t know it ever even rose to the level of “rumor.” There was speculation from NBA watchers that the Spurs might seek to trade DeRozan a year ahead of his free agency earlier in the summer, but there is no solid evidence that option was ever really pursued by Spurs management. The latest report, this week, says Popovich likes the team he’ll take into training camp and the Spurs will seek to sign DeRozan to a maximum contract extension. That report came from a credible source and indicated the thinking was coming from within the Spurs organization, so I’d put that a whole lot farther down the credibility meter than pure speculation that trading DeRozan would be a sensible option and thus the Spurs are going to do that.

The Inc (Rochester, Mich.): What are the Pistons goals for this season? Last season it was to make the playoffs.

The team Dwane Casey inherited had gone to the playoffs once (2016) since 2009, so he put it out there before training camp opened that making the playoffs would be a goal. I suspect he’ll say something similar this season, like coaches of at least half of NBA teams will. It doesn’t mean that they’ll fire up a victory cigar and unlace their shoes once a playoff berth is clinched and be resigned to whatever might happen after that. If you were to make Casey a deal before camp opens this season that you’d guarantee a playoff berth but also a first-round ouster, I’m pretty sure he’d turn that deal down. They’re going to want more than a playoff appearance this season, but to say today that anything short of the second round is a failure is meaningless. There are too many things outside a coach’s control – and the experiences of the Pistons in 2016 and ’17 stand as examples – to agree to that narrative before the season begins.

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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