Pistons Mailbag - January 20, 2021

A month into the new season and we’re covering a little bit of everything – from Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose to Saben Lee and Deividas Sirvydis – in the latest edition of Pistons Mailbag.

Chuck Hugener (@ChuckHugener): Any status on getting Fox Sports Detroit back on streaming services like YouTube TV, etc.?

Langlois: I asked and was told the best advice is to go to the Fox Sports Detroit landing page and check out your options based on ZIP code. Here’s the link: https://getmyhometeams.com/

Outstanding, yes? (@NateVariety): Is there any word on what’s up with Blake Griffin? Should we accept this as the new normal? Feels like a little more than finding a rhythm at this point.

Langlois: He’s second to Jerami Grant in minutes per game. If you’d have asked me before the season how many minutes per game I would have expected Griffin to have played through the first month, I would have guessed 28 to 30 maybe. He’s at 32, skewed a little by the fact the Pistons have played 15 minutes of overtimes already, adding 1½ minutes to Griffin’s 10-game average. That argues to me that he’s healthy. The Pistons have held him out of back to backs and he missed another game and a half in concussion protocol – that half game would have probably added another minute to his per-game average – so there’s obviously still some level of concern, reasonably so given the circumstances, of overtaxing his left knee. Some of Griffin’s diminished points production is the fact that Grant has become a bigger part of the offense than anyone Griffin has played with since coming to the Pistons. He’s playing a different role than two years ago. Dwane Casey spoke to Griffin’s importance and to his current state on Tuesday night after the Pistons practiced in Atlanta: “He does so many things for us the numbers are not showing – the quarterbacking, the quarterbacking on defense, a lot of nuances of our offense go through him. He’s a big part of what we do. We need him out there.” Griffin’s usage rate is at 19 percent; for comparison’s sake, a career low by a significant amount. His previous career low was 25.4 in his third season with the Clippers, 2012-13. In his All-NBA 2018-19 season for the Pistons, his usage rate was a career high 30.2. Last season, even though Griffin was clearly dragging his leg, it was still 28.4. So this goes beyond his health. He’s taking a half-step back as Grant asserts himself. I think we need to give it more time – half a season? – to see how a player who’s already transformed himself remarkably handles another metamorphosis.

BLake (@B_Lake007): What is your prediction as to whether Troy Weaver will keep Sekou Doumbouya after this season? Wouldn’t he be better off in the G League right now? Let him dominate there and then bring him back?

Langlois: That’s impossible to project and depends largely on how Doumbouya progresses from today through game 72. If he’s made it impossible to keep him from a significant role in the rotation, then you’d expect he’d be considered a big part of the future. If his progress seems stunted, then the front office is going to examine from every perspective why that might be. And part of the evaluation will be a consideration of how much different this season was than any other and how the absence of a G League alternative might have factored into the outcome. Yes, Doumbouya would have benefited from a G League option, but it’s not available to the Pistons at this time.

Rudy (@rudyjuly2): Any inside info on how Deividas Sirvydis has looked? How is his English? Do the rookies room together at all? Do some of the young guys scrimmage or do heavy work on the side on game days knowing they won’t play?

Langlois: He made his NBA debut in the final minute of last week’s win over Miami. So you’ve seen as much of him as I have. Dwane Casey gave a positive review of him last week and in watching him shoot after home games, it’s easy to see why he was considered one of Europe’s top prospects. At his size, his shooting stroke is rare. Sirvydis communicates well in English so there won’t be any issues on that front. Rookies don’t live together unless they choose to do so and everybody gets their own hotel room on the road. As for scrimmaging and working out on the side, yes, yes, yes. The Pistons made player development a huge priority when Dwane Casey was hired as coach and they’ve doubled down on that given the makeup of the current roster and the circumstances of the season.

Motor City Hoops (@MotorCityHoops): Who is the most “tradeable” player on the roster not named Jerami Grant?

Langlois: If you’re asking who carries the most trade value – and that’s different than simply being someone who’s easy to move, which would start with anyone on a one-year, minimum contract – then the answer really depends on what the market demands at any point in time. Derrick Rose certainly would generate trade interest as a veteran who creates his own offense and it on a very reasonable expiring contract. But he would appeal to a certain set of teams and not as much to others, while Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart – rookies who’ve carved out rotation roles and are under team control for three-plus years – would appeal to another set of teams. Wayne Ellington, a high-volume and borderline elite 3-point shooter on a vet minimum deal, surely will generate interest at the trade deadline, one would imagine. It will be interesting to see what the addition of the play-in tournament – which means 10 teams will play a 73rd game in each conference this season – does to the balance of buyers and sellers at this year’s trade deadline. But if you’re dreaming of the Pistons getting returns of first-round draft picks in deals for their players, don’t hold your breath. As ESPN.com reported today, there are effectively eight teams – most of them the teams that would be in the market for immediate help – that can’t trade a first-round pick this season and 15 teams, more than half of potential Pistons trade partners, that are handicapped in dealing future first-round picks because of previous trades and commitments.

Luke Jenema (@ljay_6): Do you think we are trending toward no surgery for Killian Hayes based on recent pregame injury reports?

Langlois: I don’t think there’s been any change one way or the other. If no surgery has been scheduled yet – and there’s nothing to indicate it has – then it’s likely that they’re waiting for a period of time to see how the injury responds and whether it shows signs of healing on its own. But if that’s the approach, I don’t think two weeks is nearly enough time to make that assessment. I don’t know what a reasonable amount of time would be, but I would guess a month at minimum unless there’s compelling evidence from experts that indicate otherwise.

E-Mo Town (@EmoTownPistons): Does the organization view Saben Lee as a piece going forward? I know he is on a two-way deal and we’ve let some nice two-way players walk recently. Saben reminds me of young Lindsey Hunter and I’d really like to get to watch him play in Pistons blue for a few years.

Langlois: Troy Weaver spoke of the rookies last week and referenced all of them and spoke, again, collectively of them as the “core four.” It’s safe to say the Pistons view Lee as part of their future.

Dakoka (Hudsonville, Mich.): How will the G League being played in a bubble affect the Pistons? How will it affect players like Saben Lee, who’s on a two-way contract, in terms of NBA action and their development?

Langlois: The Grand Rapids Drive, the Pistons G League affiliate for this season, will not participate in the G League bubble. Dwane Casey said Tuesday night that he and general manager Troy Weaver have discussed sending one or more of their players – Saben Lee and Deividas Sirvydis would be the two most likely candidates – to the bubble to play for other teams. But if and when the bubble is officially announced, Casey said, they’ll need to know what the protocols are – how long a player must be idled in order to enter the bubble, how long he must quarantine upon re-entering his NBA team’s environment, etc. Mostly, Casey is looking forward to next season when the Motor City Cruise is playing on the campus of Wayne State University and holding practices in the Pistons Performance Center. “It’s going to be great for our young guys. Right now, they’re playing games where they should be learning in the G League instead of our games. But it is what it is. We’re having fun coaching them. But our G League team next year is going to be off the charts as far as utilizing it. We’re going to be very generous about who we’re going to send there and how we use it.”

Hevvy (Harper Woods, Mich.): I read that the Pistons offered Chauncey Billups an assistant GM job before and he declined. Is that true? I think it would have been good for him to work his way up.

Langlois: I have no knowledge of that directly, though it was generally acknowledged that when the Pistons let Stan Van Gundy’s administration go in 2018 Billups was among a number of candidates considered for a front-office role. What’s interesting is that Billups decided to leave his gig as an ESPN analyst to take an assistant coaching position under Ty Lue with the Clippers. Billups was adamant as his playing career was winding down that he had zero interest in the coaching route. He had his eyes on becoming a general manager. Lue is one of his very closest friends, so maybe it had more to do with Lue than a dramatic shift in interests.

Everett (Clarksville, Tenn.): Could there be a trade that sends Derrick Rose to the Lakers for Talen Horton-Tucker? He could be a nice fit for a young team to grow together.

Langlois: The Lakers have built a pretty deep bench in year two after acquiring LeBron James. Horton-Tucker has a spot in their rotation. I don’t know that the Lakers feel any urgency to do much at this point. But a lot can happen between now and March 25 – this year’s trade deadline – so I’m sure (oh, yes, I’m sure) we’ll be revisiting this issue in Mailbag a time or two over the next two months. The Lakers, by the way, are one of the teams that cannot trade a first-round pick right now, so consider that for everyone targeting them as a landing spot for Rose.

Nick (Brisbane, Australia): Off a small sample size, I have really liked what I’ve seen from Saddiq Bey so far as a 3-point shooter and also look for great improvement in creating his own shots. Would Khris Middleton be a good comparison and with a similar ceiling?

Langlois: Middleton is an All-Star so that would be a pretty great outcome. It’s way premature to make that leap, though. It took Middleton until his seventh season to achieve that status in his age 27 season. Bey is 21 and 13 games into his career. They’re similar in stature and both are good 3-point shooters. Bey, like Middleton, can play both ends of the floor and looks like he can become more than a 3-and-D type – though, to be clear, players who are good at both the 3 and the D parts of the equation are very valuable players if they do little else.

Ken (Dharamsala, India): The hip injury to Killian Hayes likely will end his season. Pistons management should know better than most clubs just how vital healthy point guards are to a club. The Pistons have lost Brandon Jennings, Reggie Jackson twice, Ish Smith for a team and it really hurt them badly. The Pistons are depending on Delon Wright and a great player who is 32 years old and has bad knees, Derrick Rose. Point guard is the most important position in NBA basketball. What can the Pistons realistically do this year and next to assure they have quality point guards?

Langlois: You’ve reminded us of a painful part of the last seven seasons, Ken. I’d say good fortune on the injury front is important to the success of any franchise, not just the Pistons, and at any position, not just point guard. I’m sure the Golden State Warriors – with three recent NBA titles on their resume when healthy and a league-worst 15 wins last season on it, as well – would attest to that. I don’t know what more the Pistons can do to ensure the health of their players. The resources put into the medical/training aspect of NBA organizations is staggering. And I’m sure the more resources they pour into it and the more they learn, the more they find that remains unknown – but not unknowable. And that’s pretty much all they can do – keep chasing knowledge and improved methods of injury prevention and injury treatment.

David (Chapel Hill, N.C.): Saben Lee was impressive in his first minutes – two steals, drew a charge, kept opponents from penetrating. He looked like Lindsey Hunter. He was also aggressive on offense, despite missing a few shots. Two of his turnovers resulted from big men missing passes under the basket. No one in the media nor Casey said much about his performance and he didn’t get a second chance in the next game. What’s up?

Langlois: Well, first Frank Jackson was readied to play after arriving late and having to go through virus protocols to be able to join the team and get a practice or two under his belt and then Derrick Rose returned from a few games off with knee soreness. The Pistons are high on Lee’s ability to hound the ball defensively and to get into the paint and create havoc offensively. As discussed above, he’d be best served by getting playing time in the G League this season, but that’s currently not an option, so the Pistons are doing their best to create game-like environments for him with two-on-two and three-on-three scrimmaging and then working on skills development – an improved perimeter shot is critical for Lee to really make an impact – in individual sessions.