Pistons Mailbag - August 28, 2019
The lowdown on Pistons uniforms for 2019-20 gets us rolling in this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag, which includes chatter about Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin, an off-season evaluation and which young players are ready to contribute.
Tim (@TimViravouth): Will we get more alternative jerseys this year?
Sanela (@Suhnella): Why won’t they give us teal throwback jerseys?
Blake (@BlakeStackpoole): When will the Pistons announce their new jerseys?
Langlois: You can tell it’s the dog days when the hot topic isn’t the starting lineup or the draft or playoff seeding but, instead, the uniform choices the Pistons roll out for the season ahead. Here’s the scoop, straight from the desk of Jason George, vice president and creative director: The Association (white), Icon (blue) and Statement (gray) editions are unchanged from last season. The City Edition uniforms will be unveiled on Nov. 20, the earliest allowed by the NBA, and can be worn for the first time on Nov. 29. As for throwbacks – any resuscitation of the teals would fall under the throwback banner – they can only be worn in an anniversary year for the franchise. Eligible seasons in the near future would be 2021-22 (for the Fort Wayne Pistons) or 2027-28, which would be the 70th anniversary of the move to Detroit. Interesting that there now seems to be a groundswell of support for bringing back the teal – or the “dreaded” teal, as they were known for many years – when they were roundly panned when in use.
Charles (Redford Twp., Mich.): Last year Blake Griffin credited his improvement to a full summer of work with no injury to rehab. With this summer rehabbing a knee injury, do you look for him to regress? Arnie Kander was able to accurately predict that Reggie Jackson would take a year and a half to fully recover from an ankle sprain. At what point in this or next season should we expect a 100 percent Blake Griffin?
Langlois: It wasn’t a full year and a half for Jackson, who suffered a Grade 3 ankle sprain in late December 2017 and started to hit his stride about 13 months later in early 2019. We’ll learn more about the specifics of Griffin’s injury and recovery in training camp, but what we’ve heard from Ed Stefanski so far is that Griffin’s off-season schedule wasn’t disrupted by the minor procedure to his left knee that he underwent within 48 hours of the conclusion of last season. He had surgery before the end of April. He played more than 2,600 minutes last season, so he wouldn’t have been into his off-season routine for several weeks after that in any case. Based on what Stefanski said around the draft and assuming there were no setbacks or new injuries incurred, then there should be no worries on that front.
Jordan (@MaestroMatip): What would you grade our off-season out of 10, keeping in mind our cap room?
Langlois: Hard to see how they could have done any better, really. The Pistons went into the off-season with two critical needs and two more that were nearly as urgent. They first needed to find a starting-quality small forward and a capable backup point guard to replace Ish Smith. The key move was taking advantage of Milwaukee’s even more dire cap straits to land Tony Snell for Jon Leuer with the major added bonus of picking up the No. 30 pick in the draft. Plugging the hole at small forward without having to use either the mid-level or biannual exception made possible the other key moves. The Pistons got Derrick Rose with less than the full MLE and used a veteran’s minimum slot for a No. 3 point guard, Tim Frazier, who’s had ample starting experience. Frazier’s a guy who can be a perfectly serviceable No. 2 point guard in the event of injury to someone ahead of him on the depth chart. The other needs were for backups for Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond so the Pistons wouldn’t have to lean on Thon Maker to be the primary guy at both spots. They benefitted, as patient teams often do, by letting the market play out and landing Markieff Morris with part of the biannual. Morris might prove to be the guy who plays the majority of backup minutes at both power spots, giving Dwane Casey flexibility in the frontcourt while also allowing the Pistons to be more proactive with getting Griffin nights off this season. By holding a roster spot open, they also were able to add Christian Wood – an intriguing player with size plus scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking in his arsenal – when he unexpectedly hit the waiver wire after an eye-opening turn to finish the season with New Orleans. The jury will be out on draft night until we see how the Euro teens, Sekou Doumbouya and Deividas Sirvydis, turn out in a few years, but hard to argue with the value relative to Doumbouya’s projected draft slot. The bounty from dealing the No. 30 pick for four future seconds enabled the Pistons to move up to get Sirvydis and move back into the second round to grab Jordan Bone, a player the Pistons evaluated as a first-round talent. The proof will be in the pudding, but for execution of a plan the Pistons get full marks for their off-season.
J.R. Swish (@swish_jose): If the season doesn’t go well, do you see Blake Griffin or Andre Drummond or both being traded at the deadline or next off-season?
Langlois: Depends largely on the reasons things don’t “go well.” Too much speculation involved to give a meaningful response. But for whatever reason – injury, underperforming, chemistry – things fail to meet expectations, well-run organizations assess and respond accordingly. The idea that any response when things go south will produce a positive result is ill-founded. You can always make things worse. And getting rid of your best players is a risky proposition.
Conor (@ffsConor): Will Luke Kennard get some well-deserved starts this season?
Langlois: Longer explanation to be found here. Shorter explanation: I expect Kennard to be among the top five in minutes played per game this season, which is a more meaningful standard than games started, but whether he’ll start or not remains to be seen. It might still make more sense to bring him off the bench for two reasons: Overlapping his minutes with Blake Griffin’s means fewer opportunities to put the ball in Kennard’s hands to let him serve as a secondary playmaker, making him more or less a spot-up shooter. He can thrive in that role, but he might be more needed with the second unit to create offense. The other factor is Bruce Brown’s defense might serve the team best as a starter.
Jim (Dearborn, Mich.): When a team ends its game on the road at 10 or 10:30 p.m., how long do they have until they have to catch their flight?
Langlois: Rule of thumb when a team is leaving for their next destination – either back home or another road stop – postgame is the best-case scenario is four hours after tipoff for takeoff. That assumes that the game takes about 2:20 to 2:30 to play, the team buses leave for the airport about 45 minutes after the final buzzer and there are no weather or mechanical issues to delay departure. So if the Pistons, for example, are playing a 7 p.m. game in Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago or Cleveland – division rivals and all flights of 45 minutes or less – and the night unfolds routinely, they’ve got a shot to be back on the ground at home less than five hours after tipoff.
Rod AKA BB (@bbdigit): Do you think Derrick Rose will help to create shots or are we going to continue to see Blake Griffin isos with a short clock?
Langlois: Yes and yes. Rose averaged 23.7 points per 36 minutes last season, not far off of Griffin’s 25.3 – both top 25 in the NBA. Rose’s great gift has always been his ability to create offense for himself. If he’s not the MVP-level player he was before the knee injuries, last year showed he’s close enough to matter. As long as Rose has had a productive off-season – and by all accounts, that’s the case – and doesn’t suffer any serious injuries, it’s a given that he’s going to play 20-plus minutes a night and have the ball in his hands a ton. When he’s on the floor with Griffin, I would anticipate that the offense will still tilt more toward Griffin than to Rose. But the presence of Rose should ease the burden on Griffin to be an every-possession fulcrum of the offense. That will be further buttressed by more of what we saw from Reggie Jackson in the second half of last season as he put the effects of his December 2017 ankle injury behind him. The Pistons rode Griffin hard last season. It would do him well – and, thus, serve the team well – to be more selective this season. He’s still going to shoulder a heavy load and be their primary offensive force, but even an incremental lessening of his workload should benefit him and them.
PistonsThoughts (@PistonsThoughts): Which young guy do you see taking the biggest step this year?
Langlois: The likely answer is Sekou Doumbouya simply because he’s starting the farthest away from the floor for what an NBA player has to provide in order to contribute. If we had a little better idea of Doumbouya’s baseline, we could change “likely” to “easy.” I’m guessing – because we saw almost nothing of Doumbouya even in Summer League, when a leg injury kept him out for all but the final game when he made a few cameos – that he’s got a lot of learning to do to be ready to get thrown into the fray. And that’s not even taking into consideration the fact that he’s the youngest player drafted since the NBA changed eligibility rules after the 2005 draft or that he’ll be living on his own in a country where the native tongue is still a challenge for him. It’s tough to overstate the magnitude of change Doumbouya faces ahead of him. And because of that, even if he makes astounding progress it’s still possible we won’t see the evidence of it because it won’t be enough for him to win minutes from veterans like Tony Snell and Markieff Morris ahead of him. To a lesser degree but in that same vein, Khyri Thomas and Svi Mykhailiuk could make big strides but still find a path to playing time blocked by veterans ahead of them. So Bruce Brown could be the answer that fits best. He’s already got a foothold in the rotation based almost solely on his defensive versatility and toughness but has vast room for improvement on offense. He showed in Summer League that he’s comfortable with the ball in his hands. If he can get his 3-point shooting up to 33 percent – still below league average, but a good leap over his rookie figure of 25.8 percent – and be more efficient in finishing drives to take advantage of his explosive first step, he’ll be tougher to take off the floor.