Pistons Mailbag - August 5, 2020

by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

The draft – who fits the Pistons, who’d be their pick if they win the lottery, whether they should trade out of the lottery – tops the docket for this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.

Jamara (@jamara23732): Depending on where the Pistons draft, who will be a perfect fit for them to draft?

I don’t know about perfect, but the most important outcome from this draft is winding up with a valuable asset – someone who can become part of the foundation, a player who will have a long and productive NBA career. In any given draft, you might have a few Hall of Famers and a few others who make multiple All-Star game appearances. Ideally, the Pistons wind up with one from that rarefied stratum. Then there’s the next tier, players good enough to be in the top half of players at their position in the league. But think about what that means. A top-15 player at his position roughly translates to a top-75 player in the league. That puts him comfortably inside the top 20 percent of players in the NBA – the 450 (480 with full 15-man rosters and every team using both of its two-way slots) best players in the world. And if you think that setting a goal of landing a top-15 player at his position in the draft isn’t ambitious enough, think about it that way. Landing a top-75 player is a great outcome.

J Roze (@Det2UP): Who would the Pistons likely take with the first overall pick and who would likely be the choice if they fall back to the eighth pick?

This isn’t one of those years where the identity of the No. 1 pick would be the same no matter which team wins the lottery. There is nothing approaching a consensus regarding which player is the top prospect in this draft. Georgia’s Anthony Edwards might win by a very slight margin if all 30 front offices were polled. Might. But I suspect there would be more than five players who’d get at least one vote and that makes this a very unpredictable draft. When the identity of the top pick is so unclear, it makes it even tougher to predict what happens after that. The curve for this draft isn’t so much a bell as a slightly domed roof. In other words, there isn’t nearly as much differentiation in talent from the top through the middle. So who would the Pistons take with the first pick? Troy Weaver made it clear he emphasizes quality of character at the top of the draft. I think the Pistons are going to wind up taking the player they think is the likeliest to put in the work to maximize potential. I took a shot at identifying who that player might be last month and named Tyrese Halliburton, Isaac Okoro and Onyeka Okongwu as three who fit the bill based on media accounts of scouts’ impressions of top prospects. That doesn’t mean others don’t necessarily measure up or that Weaver and his inner circle with the Pistons see it similarly, but it’s a starting point. As for who’d be the pick at eight … well, in this draft, it could be the same guy as if the Pistons were picking first.

John (@69_batman19): Do you think the Pistons should trade their first-round pick since there is no clear franchise player out there?

If the return is beneficial, sure. But for a rebuilding team, as the Pistons chose to become at the February trade deadline by dealing Andre Drummond rather than pay him $29 million next season, it would be an unusual course to deal a lottery pick unless the return was even more beneficial for their future. What might that be? Multiple future first-round picks? Well, sure, but what’s the likelihood of teams giving up future picks in drafts that likely will be more highly regarded for a pick in a draft that’s widely believed to be mediocre in quality? Slim to non-existent. It would take a unique circumstance of one team feeling exceptional confidence in a rookie’s immediate impact and no other means of obtaining a similar player. Maybe in this most unusual year, where teams are going to scramble to adjust to a cap that likely will be significantly less than what teams had planned to have, that will happen. But it’s unlikely. Teams don’t usually trade lottery picks, especially teams about to start a rebuilding process.

Punthony Davis (@Life_of_Pun): James Wiseman is the franchise player if they get the first overall pick. Dude was a monster and was done wrong by the NCAA.

If Troy Weaver feels the same about Wiseman, then, yeah, he should be the pick. While there is some skepticism about Wiseman and not much to go on other than his AAU videotape, he certainly has his supporters and pretty clearly ranks as a top-five talent. Whether he goes in the top five is another matter given the relative devaluing of big men in today’s NBA.

Nice the 15th (@NiceNowLoading): When we signing J Cole?

He’s 35. The only 35-year-old I’m investing in is LeBron James.

Ken (Dharamsala, India): Bruce Brown has steadily progressed his first two years and has obviously pumped some iron. He’s a gritty guy who played good-to-great defense and his shooting has steadily improved. It needed to. You’ve got to love these blue-collar, scrappy kids that play way over their draft ranking. What is his training agenda this off-season? Would I find him with the gym rats at the Pistons Performance Center?

Brown arrived with an NBA-ready body. He tested as one of the strongest players in his draft class with 17 repetitions at 185 pounds in the bench press, second only to Yante Maten’s 18. Brown underwent surgery to repair thumb ligaments this spring, but it didn’t slow him down much. He was one of the players who returned to Detroit ahead of the PPC being reopened once COVID-19 restrictions were relaxed and even said that while he’d been home in Massachusetts – after the March 11 suspension of the season but before his thumb surgery – he found a gym that allowed him to get his workouts in. I would bet that Brown would be about last on Dwane Casey’s list of players he’d wonder about staying ready during this most unusual of NBA off-seasons.

Joyce (Tampa): I want the Detroit G League team to be called the Detroit Generals.

I think one of the first things the marketing whizzes in charge of picking team nicknames look for these days is the ability to sell merchandise. Generals might be a little too, uh, general to spur such sales, but what do I know? At any rate, you can submit your suggestion as part of the naming contest here.

Paul (Phoenix): Is Jordan Bone basically gone? He put up some good numbers in the G League, but it seems like he’s not going to get any playing time. I keep seeing LaMelo Ball’s name for the top five in the draft, but I’m trying to figure out how he got such status. I wasn’t impressed in the few games I saw him play.

Bone showed promise in the G League this year, validating the belief Pistons scouts had that he had more to offer on the offensive end than he was able to show in a structured Tennessee offense that funneled the ball to fellow NBA rookies Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield. Bone’s forte is speed and quickness and that should benefit him more in the NBA, where the floor is spaced to a much greater degree than in college basketball. That said, the makeup of the Pistons front office has changed since last June when the Pistons traded back into the second round to select Bone. Both Malik Rose and Pat Garrity have left and Troy Weaver is now in as general manager. Bone had signed a two-way contract that will have expired by the time free agency opens, presumably, even as the NBA adjusts the calendar. He would be a restricted free agent at that time.

Ronan (Ottawa, Canada): What do you think about Thon Maker’s future with the Pistons? I think his talents could be put more to use as a small forward. Could this be a change the Pistons could make?

I don’t see Maker having a future at small forward. Yes, he has some perimeter skills, but I hold to the adage that you are what you can guard. Maker has good feet for a 7-footer but he’s not going to be able to guard the type of athletes that play small forward for the vast majority of teams. Maker’s best bet is to become a better 3-point shooter, add as much strength as he can and be versatile enough to guard in the post and opposing big men who play along the 3-point arc.

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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