Pistons Mailbag - February 10, 2021

Derrick Rose trade chatter, predictably, was the hot topic in this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.

Adam (St. Petersburg, Fla.): Did the Pistons err by not trading Derrick Rose last season when he would have brought more in return?

Langlois: While I’ve seen it claimed that the Pistons passed on offers of first-round picks for Rose at the February 2020 trade deadline, I’ve never seen any evidence such an offer existed. I’ve never seen it said Team A offered a first-round pick, only that the Pistons passed on the opportunity to get a first-rounder for Rose. I am skeptical – extremely skeptical – that is the case. It was reported the Pistons weren’t actively shopping Rose and that’s likely true. He chose the Pistons in free agency, built in large part on his trust in and relationship with longtime agent and current Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem. The Pistons truly valued Rose’s presence for his pure love for basketball and how that, coming from such an eminently respected veteran, served as a beacon of professionalism to the young players stocking their roster. They ultimately wanted to do right by him – and they did. But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have been open to trading him to a contender last season in return for a first-round pick. I think they would have consulted with Rose before executing the deal, but I don’t think there’s any evidence such an offer ever came. So, long way around, but, no, I don’t think they erred in not trading him last season because there is no credible evidence a first-rounder was on the table.

Tom (Totowa, N.J.): How is trading Derrick Rose to the Knicks going to help the Pistons? I can see where it helps Rose to reunite with Tom Thibodeau.

Langlois: They get two lottery tickets – one for a player who was, in fact, a recent lottery pick. Dennis Smith Jr. is 23 and less than four years removed from being the No. 9 pick in the 2017 draft. The Pistons also get a second-round pick that could be in the 35-40 range where every year there seems a player or two who becomes a very solid NBA pro. So that’s the easy answer – hit on Smith, catch a break with the draft pick and you could have two assets next season and beyond in exchange for a little more than a half-season of Derrick Rose.

Langlois: By all indications, yes. Rose spoke of his understanding of the direction the Pistons had chosen – trying to develop their young players for the future – in training camp and early in the season. I think it’s likely that as the record became what it is, the Pistons being competitive in virtually every game but losing more often than winning, a mutual understanding grew organically that Rose deserved a chance to play for a postseason berth at this stage of his career and the Pistons were more than willing to accommodate that given their reality. Here’s what Dwane Casey said Tuesday: “He said he looked at (the Knicks) as far as being in a playoff position – closer than we are right now. His conversations with me were great. We had some great conversations the last few days. He did an excellent job of mentoring young guys and I read today he’s starting to mentor the New York Knicks. That’s who Derrick is. It’s real. That’s what I respect about him. We had a great mutual understanding of where he was, where we are and what he wanted to do for himself and his family. Troy (Weaver) did a good job of accommodating him and getting an asset back for him and having Dennis in our program.”

Kennith Jay (@kennith_jay): Will Delon Wright be the main ballhandler and does Dwane Casey trust him in this role?

Langlois: Wright’s been the starting point guard since Killian Hayes was injured in the season’s seventh game and I don’t see that changing in the immediate future. There is no clarity as to when Hayes will return, but it will be another month or so before the eight-week mark when he’ll be re-evaluated so it’s going to be a while before we see him on the court again. Dennis Smith Jr. will have an opportunity in the interim to assert himself. Casey trusts Wright through and through. You’d have to believe Casey’s input was a big factor in the trade that brought Wright to the Pistons based on their experience together in Toronto. He wanted Wright in the starting lineup next to Hayes for his ability to slide into any role asked of him, playing off the ball and letting Hayes have as much rope as he was prepared to take in running the team while serving as an outlet valve for him when things started moving a little too fast for the 19-year-old. For his size, ability to play both ends and both backcourt spots and professional demeanor, Wright is a pretty ideal piece for Casey in this transition period for the Pistons.

Hoss Bagley (@Mazzaroddyy): Are the Pistons shopping Wayne Ellington? Or will he stick around for veteran leadership?

Langlois: I don’t think they have to “shop” Ellington. Any team looking for a proven veteran shooter who would present zero issues in trade from a salary-cap standpoint would have Ellington on a very short list of prospective targets. Ellington’s reputation as an easy locker-room fit, his ability to get off 3-pointers at a high volume and make them above the league average rate will hold appeal. It’s a matter of roster needs beyond that. Contenders that need an extra shooter or experience some perimeter injuries would naturally have interest in Ellington. The trade deadline is still seven weeks away, so there’s no urgency.

Peter (Jackson, Mich.): Before the season ended last year, Svi Mykhailiuk was playing better than anyone not named Christian Wood. This year he has struggled shooting and Coach seems to have lost confidence in him. Can you give Pistons fans any insight into the dynamic between Casey and Svi? Because it doesn’t seem good.

Langlois: There’s no “dynamic” between Casey and Mykhailiuk at the root of it. Casey has praised Mykhailiuk’s growth on defense and in other areas of his game often starting with the September team camp the Pistons held as one of the eight non-Orlando bubble teams. Mykhailiuk’s 3-point shot just hasn’t fallen with the same level of consistency it did a year ago. And while it’s undeniable that Mykhailiuk is a better all-around player than when he arrived from the Lakers two years ago, it remains true that his standout quality is his 3-point shot. When he’s making that at a 32 percent clip, it’s tough to get the extended minutes that might help him break out of the slump. I think he’s probably pressing a little bit, probably taking the shot a little too quickly at times to shoot himself out of it. He hit his first three shots against the Lakers the other night and then finished 3 of 8. Getting Mykhailiuk’s shot right seems like one of the more attainable short-range goals for the Pistons. Without Derrick Rose’s scoring on the second unit – and Rose’s presence rightly dominating that unit’s offensive identity – maybe Mykhailiuk will be able to find his footing.

Yeah Buddy (@Meeeshigan): Will Blake Griffin finish the season in a Pistons uniform?

Langlois: I’ve felt the answer to that is yes all along. I don’t see anything yet to make me think otherwise. The most logical way for it to have gone differently was for Griffin to play at or near an All-Star level where taking him and his considerable salary on would have been palatable to a contender. But he’s not yet been able to get back to that level, understandable given the two knee surgeries since April 2019. It takes time to come back from injuries like that. What the next several weeks might hold could change the outlook for him. But based on the facts in evidence, it would be difficult to imagine another team taking on the rest of Griffin’s 2020-21 salary while committing to the nearly $40 million owed him in 2021-22. Especially given the impact of the pandemic on business and, consequently, the salary cap, it’s tough to accommodate that contract.

Matt Heroux (@Matty_SF): What is the plan for our three 2021 picks? I can’t see us adding three more rookies to this roster next year. Could a second-rounder and Wayne Ellington net us a late first?

Langlois: The draft is a long way off and the start of the 2021-22 season even farther away. If it comes to a numbers crunch, there are always ways to use the draft picks in a manner that wouldn’t create an overflow of rookies. The Charlotte pick the Pistons got from the Knicks in the Derrick Rose trade is likely to be more favorable than the Toronto pick they picked up from Brooklyn in the Bruce Brown trade, so maybe the Toronto pick is used on a player to stash in Europe or a player they’ll sign to a two-way contract as they did with Saben Lee in November’s draft. The problem with speculating about the type of trade you specify – a player and a second for a late first – is that late first-round picks, logically, belong to title contenders. And a ton of current title contenders either don’t have a first-round pick to trade – not just in this draft, in any draft – or are limited in the picks they have to offer. So, sure, it’s possible. I just don’t think it’s very realistic. The pool of teams that are going to hold late first-round picks this year includes a large number of them with zero or limited first-rounders to offer.

Michael (Windsor, Ontario): Has Killian Hayes started his rehabilitation and, if so, how is it going?

Langlois: He’s been undergoing rehabilitation for weeks now, but the Pistons announced in January that they would give an update on Hayes in eight weeks. I don’t think the eight weeks was selected randomly. Hayes was examined by Pistons team doctors and by specialists in New York and Cleveland and after that a determination was made to go down the path of physical therapy. I’m sure they have certain benchmarks in mind for him at that eight-week mark to gauge progress. So I wouldn’t anticipate any further updates until that time.

Charles (Redford Twp., Mich.): I’ve noticed the last few games that Jerami Grant is forcing bad shots. Do you think he’s just worried about getting his numbers or just feeling the pressure of being the No. 1 option? Hopefully the latter and he’ll settle back into letting the game come to him.

Langlois: He’s shooting 45 percent overall and 39 percent from the 3-point line and those numbers really haven’t moved much. (In fact, he’s a career 46 percent shooter, 35 percent from three, so even as his role has expanded and his shot attempts have gone up dramatically, he’s stayed efficient.) He was 11 of 27 in the Lakers game, but consider the circumstances: going against LeBron James, playing 47 minutes on a back to back and playing without Blake Griffin or Derrick Rose to share the load of being the primary option. Grant has said he’s certainly noticed the difference this season now that he’s the focus of opposition scouting reports – difference in the way teams are defending him and difference in the physical toll on him. He’s still expected to take the most challenging defensive assignment in addition to having to shoulder a vastly larger share of generating scoring chances for his team. He guarded James Harden in Tuesday’s win over Brooklyn, for instance, and Harden was held to four 3-point attempts. I think it’s remarkable how he’s handled this transition, doubled his scoring average and doing it without seeing his turnover rate spike. In fact, while Grant’s usage rate has gone from 18 to 26, his turnover rate has actually decreased from 8.0 to 6.7.