Pistons Mailbag - August 26, 2020

The Pistons got bumped two spots in the NBA’s draft lottery and Pistons fans aren’t happy about that. That and more in this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.

Niranjan Anantharaman (@niranjanmka): Should the Pistons draft for position or best player available?

Langlois: Troy Weaver has been clear about this and, really, it’s pretty much the guiding principle of every front office. You take the best player. You take the player you think has the best chance to make the biggest impact. “Where we are, we have to continue to play the board and draft the best available,” he said last week after lottery results became known. “We’re not in position to just pick a position. We’ll look at everything. Of course, position comes into play somewhat but we have a lot of holes to fill. We aren’t quite there yet.” Of the teams picking in the lottery, Golden State is the outlier. So maybe the Warriors take a different perspective into exercising their pick at No. 2. (And one possible outcome of that perspective is trading the pick for more immediate help, though Golden State is going to have some cap constraints that will make that a more complicated equation. They have a trade exception that allows them to take back a sizable salary, roughly $17 million, but the luxury tax hit would be enormous.) The Pistons, though, need to focus on which player at seven will have a chance to be an NBA starting-caliber player and maybe even someone who can grow to be an above-average starter. In a best-case scenario, they get a true impact player, though there’s no guarantee that type of player even exists in this draft.

Support Clone (@APistonsfan): James Wiseman???

Langlois: I’d give him about a 20 percent chance to be there when the Pistons pick at seven. As I wrote earlier this week, though there are some concerns about Wiseman – the fact he played only three college games and only one of them against a significant opponent, questions about his rebounding and the general devaluation of big men in the NBA – he’s still an agile 7-footer with tremendous length and athleticism. They don’t come around that often. He was considered the odds-on No. 1 pick a year ago at this time and there really wasn’t anyone who definitively pushed him off of that status, so it’s a stretch to expect him to get past six teams in a draft with few (zero?) no-doubt hits. But if he’s there, that would be a welcome surprise, I’m sure.

Oliver (Tartu, Estonia): Greetings from Estonia! Here’s an idea to get a long-term piece for the Pistons rebuild/restoration that looks appealing to me. Have you noticed younger players who are undervalued but have characteristics Troy Weaver considers important and are realistic options for the Pistons?

Langlois: Weaver values toughness and intensity. Really, who doesn’t? The key is staying disciplined to what you value and not get tempted by the sizzle of others who exhibit the athletic flashes of high-ceiling players but don’t often see those skills translate to winning basketball. I suspect Weaver will stay very disciplined to his template. Without getting into any particular names of young players – either draft-eligible players outside the NBA or unheralded young players already on NBA rosters or, perhaps, in the G League or international leagues – keep that in mind. He wants guys who consistently put in the hard work that goes into winning basketball.

Byron (Detroit): Who can I talk to or write to in the NBA about the unfairness that’s been happening here with our Detroit Pistons? I’m utterly sick and disgusted how often we get screwed with the draft lottery. I’m sure it’s a conspiracy theory but just like many things in this world sometimes those conspiracy theories hold a ton of truth.

Langlois: No, they don’t. That’s why they’re called “conspiracy theories.” Humans want answers for things they can’t readily explain and the internet has become a place to explore – and, sadly, to promote – the most fantastical explanations, reality be damned. The odds said that the seventh pick was the one the Pistons had the best chance to get – 26.7 percent – with the sixth pick next at 19.6 percent. The Pistons had a better chance of moving down – 55.6 percent – than of staying fifth or moving up. That’s math. You can be disappointed, but if the NBA was going to rig the lottery it doesn’t make much sense that Minnesota and Charlotte got two of the top three picks.

E.Colliver (@EColliver): The Pistons should probably draft Killian Hayes. We need point guard depth. If not him, Tyrese Haliburton from Iowa State or R.J. Hampton. It’s still B.S. we got dropped to seventh but I wouldn’t expect anything less from the NBA – we are small market.

Langlois: New York, the biggest market, got jumped by the same two teams as the Pistons, Charlotte and Chicago. If the NBA was motivated to help big-market teams, it failed miserably. There’s a decent chance one of Hayes or Halliburton is there for the Pistons. If I had to place a wager on whom they wind up drafting, that’s a good parlay.

Ian (Westland, Mich.): If we draft Tyrese Halliburton, who I think should be our No. 1 pick, we shouldn’t go after Fred VanVleet in free agency. But if we can’t get Halliburton then I think we should draft Aaron Nesmith and consider VanVleet in free agency and also look at how Jordan Bone is progressing. Also, trade Derrick Rose for a lottery pick in the Emoni Bates draft.

Langlois: It’s open to debate how much impact the draft will have on the Pistons’ free-agent strategy. If they decide that they should commit the bulk of their cap space to a certain player, then I’m not sure the identity of their draft pick is going to change the equation all that much for them. Let’s start with this: The Pistons made an organizational decision – one that included owner Tom Gores – to rebuild last winter. Does committing most of your available resources to one player make the most sense at this stage of their development? The answer surely depends in large part on the identity of that player. Whether VanVleet is the guy the Pistons at this point should go all in for is a question that will require great deliberation. But if they decide he is, I don’t think whether they wind up with a point guard in the draft will then make them change course. In today’s NBA, there surely is room for more than one point guard. VanVleet himself is testimony to that; he’s expected to get big money despite the fact he plays on the same team as All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry. Dwane Casey, whose trust in VanVleet allowed him to go from undrafted free agent to prominent role player on an NBA title team, knows that as well as anyone. Troy Weaver was part of a front office that signed Dennis Schroder as a free agent when Oklahoma City had Russell Westbrook and traded for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander at a time the Thunder still had Westbrook – soon swapped for Chris Paul – and Schroder. No rookie taken seventh in this draft will fundamentally alter the decisions the Pistons make with the bulk of their cap space.

Trust Troy (@RedAlternates): Any indications the front office is looking for a way to trade back?

Langlois: Nothing in what Troy Weaver has said, not that I’d expect Weaver to tip his hand one way or the other. He did say, “I always felt like this draft was about 14 or 15 deep. I felt like you could probably get the same quality player between three and 13.” If that’s the case, maybe if there’s somebody picking a few spots behind the Pistons that wants to get ahead of New York or Washington – the two teams picking after Detroit – and offers something of value to trade back to 10 or 11 or 12. That would still be within the range where Weaver thinks he can get a quality prospect.

Lachlan Everett (@LachieEverett): Is it worth trading up? Can Blake Griffin be moved in this draft?

Langlois: How much are you willing to give up to move up a few spots? Again, I go back to what Weaver said last week about the draft being 14 or 15 deep and feeling like he could get the same type of talent at 13 as at three. Unless he could trade into the top two, would the cost of moving up really be appealing? Doesn’t seem like it. Griffin is very unlikely to be traded before teams that would be interested can see how he’s recovered from the knee injury that undermined his 2019-20 season. The draft comes before that’s possible.

BigBowlcutBrand (@ksteph5): How would you feel about trading Blake Griffin, Langston Galloway, Derrick Rose and the seventh pick for Ben Simmons, Al Horford and a 2020 first-round pick?

Langlois: It’s hardly the biggest threat to such a trade, but the fact Langston Galloway is a pending free agent means he can’t be part of any deal. I suspect you’re reacting to Philadelphia’s disappointment at being swept coupled with speculation that the 76ers could be motivated to move one or the other of Simmons and Joel Embiid. (For what it’s worth, 76ers GM Elton Brand denied after the playoff ouster that he would trade either player.) But the health status of Griffin would make your proposal a likely non-starter for the Philadelphia front office. The 76ers would want a return that makes the team immediately formidable. That would require the 2018-19 version of Griffin and there’s just no way to know that’s who he is at this point. Griffin expressed full confidence recently and that’s encouraging, but other teams aren’t going to commit $77 million – the amount left over two years on Griffin’s contract – based on a player’s optimism.

Johnny B (@JBushara92): As a fan I find the messaging coming out hard to decipher. They indicate they want a “competitive” team, but the moves indicate a “rebuild/restore.” The roster next year could easily bottom out at a bottom-four team. How likely is it that the Pistons take on a huge contract in exchange for multiple assets. I’m looking at Gary Harris, Harrison Barnes, Buddy Hield, Al Horford, Gordon Hayward and Nicolas Batum. Also in using the $19 million in expiring contracts of Derrick Rose and Tony Snell to take on additional dollars and term in exchange for future assets. If Killian Hayes and Tyrese Haliburton are gone at seven, would you suggest trading the seventh pick for 14, 26 and 30?

Langlois: Boston holds those three first-round picks. If you take Weaver literally, chances are he thinks there’s a pretty good player at 14 but not so much after that and, thus, no reason to expect significant help from picks 26 and 30. Those are iffy picks in a good draft and no one is touting this draft as particularly deep. If Weaver is willing to deal the seventh pick, I think he’d want a top-15 pick for sure but maybe the second piece would be either a solid young player or a future draft pick with limited protection. My hunch is 14, 26 and 30 wouldn’t entice Weaver to give up seven. As for the likelihood of the Pistons taking on a huge contract in exchange for multiple assets, I’d put the odds pretty high – 50-50 or better. The right offer has to come along and they won’t be the only franchise fishing for that opportunity, but it’s a logical course for them to follow. Your observation is fair that rebuilding and fielding a competitive team might seem at odds with each other, but I interpret it to mean that the Pistons aren’t content to go into next season and multiple seasons beyond that intentionally trying to lose as many games as possible. Dwane Casey isn’t going to coach that way. Weaver isn’t going to pass on acquiring players he values as long-term pieces for the Pistons just because he fears they might make the team incrementally better and worsen lottery odds. They’re not going to be dealing future draft picks for middling veterans, but they’re also not going to focus zealously on lottery positioning at the expense of all else – including organizational integrity and a poisoning of the culture Casey has worked so hard to establish.

Walking Wet Floor Sign (@_WODKIDZ): Is this going to be another rebuilding year or with everyone healthy should I expect another low playoff seed?

Langlois: I don’t think the Pistons have the expectation of a playoff berth for 2020-21, but they aren’t going to actively run away from the possibility. That’s in keeping with my answer to the previous question.

Jack Straayer (@JackStraayer): Can we please trade for Jamal Murray?

Langlois: If you’re Denver, the two pieces you hang on to above all others are Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. The circle of players that would move Denver to consider trading Jamal Murray is very small.

Bob (Albany, Oregon): Do the Pistons have a second-round pick this year?

Langlois: They do not. The pick was traded in 2015 to Phoenix for Marcus Morris and Reggie Bullock, a tremendous deal for the Pistons. It now belongs to Sacramento. If you had to choose a year to not have a second-round pick, this is probably the year.