Pistons Mailbag - January 13, 2021

by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

Frank Jackson, Saben Lee, the trade deadline and what an expansion draft might look like are all on the menu for the latest edition of Pistons Mailbag.

Branson Wagner (Cudderisback41): Frank Jackson seems to be not afraid. What’s the chance he moves into the regular second point guard spot and do you think he runs the potential of hindering Saben Lee’s progress?

Frank Jackson’s athletic traits have always been intriguing. He blew up as a recruit after his junior year of high school in Utah – he’d been committed to BYU, a home-state school – and wound up becoming a five-star recruit who spent a year at Duke. He’s 6-foot-3 with a 6-foot-7½ wingspan, a 42-inch vertical and superb speed and quickness. But the Pistons see him as more of a combo guard and what that really means is they’re going to build their depth chart at point guard as if Jackson isn’t on it. That doesn’t mean he isn’t capable of playing point guard – he did it Sunday when the Pistons were without Killian Hayes and Derrick Rose – or won’t ever do it. But Dwane Casey said this week of Jackson and Lee, “They can be very complementary. Nothing against Saben, but Frank’s got a little more experience in the NBA. That’s one reason we used him against Utah. They could complement each other easily because Saben is a true point guard where Frank’s more of a two-one.” Jackson was part of the 2017 draft, missed what should have been his rookie season with a foot injury and then spent the past two seasons in New Orleans, caught between a front-office turnover and a roster upheaval that resulted from the Anthony Davis trade and the flood of draft picks it entailed. But he’s still just 22 and might be a guy who’s ready to take off with the right opportunity.

1 Point Play (@1pointplay): Any chance both Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose end the season as Pistons?

Sure. I don’t think that would be an upset – or much of one, at least. I think the expectation all along is that Griffin would be here. Rose was and remains the likelier to be a trade candidate simply because he’s on a contract that is both expiring and easily moved. The Pistons value him for his leadership – the respect Rose engenders from young players who were in elementary or junior high school when he won his MVP award 10 years ago is overwhelming – and for his ability to carry an offense, but the closer it gets to the end of the season the reality is they’re going to be that much closer to facing life without him as his contract is up. If he’s in good health at the trade deadline, Rose is going to generate interest. Whether it’s enough of a lure for the Pistons to trade him will come down to how much value there is in the return and how they feel his void could be filled in the interim.

Sekou/Stewart/Bey SZN (@motownmagic): The NBA announces an expansion team. Name the six players you would protect. Mine are Killian Hayes, Josh Jackson, Jerami Grant, Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey and Sekou Doumbouya.

Svi Mykhailiuk would be tough to keep off but I can’t argue much with your list. The rules of the expansion draft would matter and six is a mighty short protected list. Mykahiliuk will be a restricted free agent if the Pistons don’t come to an extension agreement before free agency opens sometime next off-season. Saben Lee, Frank Jackson and Deividas Sirvydis are the other young players on the roster who would be in consideration. Seven of those names are new to the roster this year and how they develop over the course of the season would inform the decision-making when it would come time to submit the protected list. Seattle has to be the expansion city, right?

Craig G (@CraigG_nice): Any more trades on the horizon?

I wouldn’t hold my breath. Of the 17 players under contract – 15 standard, two two-way – Troy Weaver brought 13 of them to Detroit in the span of a few weeks starting with the Nov. 16 lifting of the trade embargo. The only holdovers are Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Svi Mykhailiuk and Sekou Doumbouya. This is his roster now. So I don’t think he feels any urgency to move on from anyone else. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t have his radar up for deals that make sense and move the needle on talent level. I suppose if there comes a time when it becomes clear that rookie Killian Hayes’ hip injury will sideline him for most, or all, of the 2020-21 season that they might look to add another point guard and deal from their depth on the wing, but between Rose, Delon Wright, Lee and Frank Jackson in a pinch the Pistons have enough candidates to cobble together 48 minutes. If Weaver thinks there’s some possibility that Rose would be moved at the trade deadline, though, then maybe he’d want to have a little more in the stable ahead of that date. Also, keep this in mind: Until Feb. 6, more than a quarter of NBA players can’t be traded by virtue of the fact they were signed as free agents in November. That date usually comes in mid-December, but the league calendar is obviously altered this year. So Feb. 6 is the magic date when barriers to trading newly signed free agents will be lifted.

Jared (Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.): Any update on Deividas Sirvydis? Should Pistons fans be excited about what he’ll eventually bring to this team? I don’t expect him to get much playing time this year, but any chance he gets any minutes as the season progresses?

All we’ve seen of him has been in pregame warmups and, at home games, after the games when he comes out to get shooting in. And I’ll say this: His shooting stroke is about as pure as anybody’s. It comes off his hand effortlessly with great arc and, more often than not, goes in and goes in without hitting the rim. There’s no mystery as to why the Pistons and other teams were intrigued by Sirvydis when he was drafted as a 19-year-old. At his size (6-foot-8), the offensive potential is pretty intoxicating. And he has clearly added good weight since we saw him in July 2019 at Summer League. He, more than any other Pistons young player, would have benefited from a normal G League season. I would expect next season, when the Pistons have their Motor City Cruise affiliate playing in Detroit, that Sirvydis will be a prime candidate for G League seasoning. “Wish we had a G League team where he could participate,” Dwane Casey said earlier this week when I asked about Sirvydis. “Once we get a G League team, it’s going to be a big part of our development and set the tone. Sirvydis is going to be a prime candidate for that. He’s an excellent shooter. He’s done an excellent job with his body. There’s only so many guys we can develop (at the NBA level) at one time and that’s kind of where he’s at right now.”

Ian (Westland, Mich.): Killian Hayes needs to be developed, not hit with an early injury. Once he gets past the rookie mistakes like some of his turnovers and slows the game down a second when he gets to his spots before he shoots, he can do some other stuff like work on a floater. But he has shown he has potential. I could easily see him as a 10- to 15-point scorer with 10 assists on good percentages while being a big plus on defense. And we need some low draft picks this year and next so that should give Hayes ideal time. Hopefully, he gets it by the time of his third or fourth year, but it took a while for guys like Steve Nash and Chauncey Billups to become who they are.

The hip injury is a blow but if there’s no lingering damage from it – and we don’t have a reason to expect there will be at this point – then it should have little long-term effect. The best thing Hayes has going for him is his age. LaMarcus Aldridge as a Texas freshman suffered a similar injury and bounced back as good as new. As Dwane Casey said, as disappointing as it is for all parties to get the diagnosis of a torn labrum the challenge is to make the best of the situation and for Hayes to see the game from a different perspective. If he can accelerate his assimilation to the NBA, then it won’t be a lost season for Hayes.

Charles (Redford Twp., Mich.): With Derrick Rose no longer needed to mentor Killian Hayes and Orlando losing Markelle Fultz for the season to an ACL injury, do you see a trade where the Pistons can get a 2021 first-round pick and/or Cole Anthony for Rose?

Anthony is already a pretty important part of the rotation for an Orlando team playing well, so I think the likelihood of Orlando using Anthony to address a need for minutes at point guard – the position Anthony is helping fill – is most unlikely. But, yeah, I could see Orlando being a team that would have interest in Rose. And there are likely to be several others. The Pistons will be under no obligation to deal him and when they say they value his contributions and leadership, it’s genuine. Frank Jackson said just this week how surreal he found it to be Rose’s teammate and how he was surprised to learn that the player he looked up to for so many years is also a great leader. There’s value in that, too.

Peter (Jackson, Mich.): Is there any possibility the Pistons can trade Blake Griffin at the deadline? He gave Pistons fans a great season in 2018-19 – maybe the best season I’ve seen from an individual Pistons player – but it is clear that injuries and Father Time have taken a toll. In Jerami Grant the Pistons have their new scoring leader. Maybe it’s time to trade Blake to a contender if someone will take that contract.

The trade deadline is March 25. I fully expect Blake Griffin to be a Piston until at least then and would give it heavy odds he’ll remain one past that date. If Griffin is healthy and playing at a high level at that point, his contract wouldn’t be a non-starter for some teams. But let’s not diminish the difficulty of trading a player who is due to make $39 million next season. There are only a few teams for which that would be possible and only a few for whom it would make some sense. Obviously, that pool dwindles if there are concerns about Griffin’s health or capacity to be an elite player. He hasn’t yet gotten rolling at the level he’s accustomed to playing at and there are ample reasons to believe it’s more about the conditions of the off-season and the fact he’s dealt with concussion protocol and management of his rehabilitation – being held out of back to backs so far – for not yet finding his rhythm. But teams are going to want hard evidence before taking the plunge

Paul (Phoenix): How has Saben Lee looked in practice? With Hayes out, will we see him? I sure don’t want to see a trade for a rehash point guard.

Practices aren’t open to media or fans. His teammates and coaches talk highly of him. Wayne Ellington spoke glowingly of Lee last week. Dwane Casey loves his intensity and potential. The G League would have been a huge benefit for Lee. His physical tools are undeniable. He could use as much experience as an NBA point guard as he could get and the G League would be the most obvious path to that.

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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