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Pistons Mailbag - January 21, 2015

More Greg Monroe chatter, plus debating whether the Pistons should now make a trade to help a 2015 playoff drive. On with Mailbag ...

Alejandro (Houston): With Monroe signing a qualifying offer to become a free agent next summer, can the Pistons still sign and trade him?

Langlois: Yes. But the likelihood of a sign and trade isn't nearly as strong as it might have been under the old collective bargaining agreement, Alejandro. No longer can a player be signed using Bird rights to the five-year contract that only his original team can offer and then be traded to another team. He can be only signed to a four-year term if he is to be shipped out in a sign-and-trade deal – the same term a player could get by signing outright as a free agent with the team of his choice. That really eliminates much of the motivation for a player to do anything that would enable the team he's leaving to get something in return for him since, presumably, his new team would have to give up something of value in the exchange and weaken their roster or their cache of future assets.

Michael (Ferndale, Mich.): I know Monroe can't sign an extension right now, but can he verbally agree to one? I love that the Pistons are winning games, but I just can't help but feel that if the Pistons make the playoffs and lose Monroe in the off-season they will be taking one step forward and two steps back. The Pistons still need more young talent, especially if Monroe doesn't return. Could the Pistons do a three-team trade with Boston and Atlanta with Atlanta getting Monroe and D.J. Augustin, Boston getting Schroder and the Pistons get Atlanta's first-round pick that they get to switch with Brooklyn and take on Gerald Wallace's contract for Boston's first-round pick this year?

Langlois: The Pistons just waived Josh Smith, Michael, and Stan Van Gundy says that was his preferred outcome as opposed to the reported trade on the table last summer in which the Pistons would have taken back some plausibly good players (Carl Landry, Jason Thompson) but had money on their salary cap beyond this season. Your proposed trade would deliver the Pistons two No. 1 draft picks, both potential (perhaps likely) lottery picks, so let's start by saying it's unlikely Boston would be inclined to give away a lottery pick for Schroder even if it does unload Wallace's deal, which just has one year left after this one at more than $10 million. In general, if you limit the conversation to more realistic deals, my bet is that Van Gundy would rather have the cap space – potentially around $30 million should the Pistons renounce their rights to Monroe, which they likely would only do if they were certain he was headed elsewhere – than a draft pick and a player taking up that much of his available cap space. As for the first part of your question, sure, Monroe could verbally agree to an extension. But it would be unlikely. As I've written several times, he sacrificed and risked a great deal to get to unrestricted free agency. I can't see him giving it up when he's just a few months away from getting there. And even if he were to verbally agree, it's not binding. Cleveland and Carlos Boozer verbally agreed to a deal several years ago. Boozer wound up signing with Utah. (Also, as an aside, Atlanta has won 26 of 28 games after beating the Pistons on Monday. It would be fascinating to see how the Hawks would react to a trade that appears pretty lopsided in their favor when they have everything going their way right now, even though – once again – Monroe has the right to veto any trade for him and almost certainly would do so.)

Isaac (Irvine, Calif.): Monday we saw relentless Hack-a-Drummond at work by the Hawks. How can we deal with this? It seems like it can be the Achilles heel, especially in close games.

Langlois: Only two legitimate ways to deal with it, Isaac. Andre Drummond either makes his free throws – often enough to dissuade the tactic, at least – or Stan Van Gundy has to decide whether he can afford to play him. He talked at length about how he wrestled with the decision to not play Drummond in the fourth quarter in the Atlanta game after Tuesday's practice. He said he was torn, and even wondered if he'd done the right thing as he was leaving Philips Arena, because Drummond, he said, had played one of his best defensive games of the season while grabbing 18 rebounds. But the Pistons trailed – he said it would have been easier to put him back in if they'd been ahead – and Drummond had just gone 2 of 10 in the third quarter. That's a lot of possessions given away against a really good team. Drummond had been shooting free throws significantly better over the past several games and he's actually responded pretty well in the past when being intentionally fouled. When the Pistons have the enviable option of using Greg Monroe at center and surrounding him with shooters, it's not a huge concern from the team's perspective – except for how it might affect Drummond's confidence in future situations. For his part, he's been stoic about it and continues to work hard on his foul shooting.

Fran (Subic Bay, Philippines): With Gigi Datome now in the D-League, what could the Pistons get for him in a trade? Two thoughts: No. 1, a second-round pick; No. 2, give someone cap relief in a three-team trade and get a first-rounder with a high-priced player of little value.

Langlois: I'd say Datome – recalled, along with Spencer Dinwiddie, on Tuesday by the Pistons after playing three games with Grand Rapids at the D-League Showcase – has almost no trade value right now, Fran. He's dealt with some tough circumstances since coming to the NBA, but the reality is he has yet to prove he can play at this level no matter what the reasons are. He had a good run in the Showcase, no question, and that helps. Datome is a phenomenal shooter based on everything I've seen in countless shooting drills. But – again, in limited opportunities – it hasn't translated to NBA games. It's now something of a Catch-22 situation for him. He can't prove himself if he doesn't play, and with the Pistons playing well and having something meaningful on the line it doesn't appear likely he's going to get any playing time with the Pistons unless a few injuries strike. Things happen, though. One thing everyone is in agreement on regarding Datome: The guy has been as professional as it gets, putting in extra time without fail, staying ready despite the uncertainty of his chance ever coming.

Michigan Fan (@MGoBlue1988): If they keep up this pace, could they potentially look to add players instead of trading players at the deadline?

Langlois: Sure. I don't know what the likelihood of a trade is, and if there is one to come it would be more likely of the type that landed them Anthony Tolliver rather than a blockbuster. But adding a player they feel can help this season is now a greater possibility than it would have been a month ago. It's worth remembering, though, that the Tolliver trade was made when the Pistons were 5-23. The conditions of that trade were such that Stan Van Gundy felt it was a no-lose situation. They felt strongly that he could help them now – so far, so good on that count – but if they had been wrong the cost, and thus the risk, was negligible. They were taking on his contract this year (about $2 million more over the course of the entire season, so about $1.3 million given the timing of the trade, than they were shipping out in Tony Mitchell's deal) but the guaranteed portion of Tolliver's contract for next season reportedly is just $400,000. I think it's a pretty safe bet that the Pistons will pick up Tolliver's full contract next season, but that decision – like pretty much all decisions made by NBA front offices – won't be made until it has to be. So if there's another low-risk, moderate- to high-reward deal to be made, sure. I think it's still highly unlikely Van Gundy would compromise next season's cap space or cede future assets in any significant way just for the chance to marginally upgrade this year's roster, though. If he does a deal like that, you can bet it will be for somebody he wants around for the long term.

Syte (@Young_Dodger_B): Your honest opinion: Should the team make a trade?

Langlois: What I wrote in reply to Michigan Fan stands, Syte. I think they should make trades that they believe can benefit them either now or now and in the future but not if there is any consequential risk of lessening their chances to compete next season and beyond. They're clearly on the right track and Stan Van Gundy, as he told me within the last few days, is very happy with the culture being created and the chemistry of the current roster. If the right fit comes along he feels will complement that equation, then I think they should do it. The question becomes, if they're not willing to deal draft picks or core young pieces, how much is left that has trade value and wouldn't compromise the momentum they've built over the past month?

Ken (New York City): I believe there is some lack of energy and athleticism at the small forward spot. I think Maurice Harkless is a player who has great potential on both ends of the floor. Since he isn't receiving much playing time in Orlando, I was wondering if there's a possibility of bringing him to the Motor City.

Langlois: I can't speak to Orlando's views of Harkless. There is a lot of young talent on that roster – Harkless, Vucevic, Harris, Gordon, Payton, Oladipo, Fournier – and they're trying to sort out how all the parts fit. So far, Harkless is sort of the odd man out. If Orlando shops him, I'm not sure what the Pistons offer that would interest the Magic. They're looking for young talent and draft picks. I can't see the Pistons offering a No. 1 pick for him, so where's the match?

Lemar (Ann Arbor, Mich.): Despite shooting well, Kyle Singler still doesn't do much else at or above the league average for his position. What do you think it would take to get Kawhi Leonard out of San Antonio? He's a high-character guy who could do all of the above. We could offer him the extension that San Antonio hasn't.

Langlois: Short of a hostage situation, I'm not sure what gets Leonard out of San Antonio, Lemar. All indications are San Antonio held off on the Leonard extension merely to take care of other business first. That's a prudent way to do it because, much like Greg Monroe, Leonard's cap hold will be smaller than what he will earn in the first year of a new contract. Gregg Popovich has been effusive – surprisingly so – in his praise of Leonard and his contention that he is at the core of the next era of Spurs basketball once Duncan and Ginobili retire and Parker heads into his twilight years.

Larisa (Livonia, Mich.): Where is Mike Abdenour?

Langlois: As I write this, seated four rows behind me on Roundball One, Larisa. He has a new job title – director of team operations – and responsibilities this year. Basically, he's the guy who makes sure all the logistical needs of the team are met, home and away, a job that Stan Van Gundy says is – along with his video coordinators – most important to make sure he can do his job well. He no longer is on the bench during games and no longer taping ankles – note to self: Ask Mike Abdenour how many ankles he figures he's taped in the last 40 years – but still a vital part of the Pistons organization.

Ethan (Radford, Va.): Why don't NBA teams look to play at smaller venues across parts of the country that don't have a team near them anymore? I remember back in the day they would sometimes look into doing this. I remember being a child and watching the Hornets and Bullets (at that time) in Knoxville, Tenn., which was much closer than either of those cities to my location.

Langlois: That probably wasn't a regular-season game you're talking about, Ethan. If it was the Hornets and Bullets, it must have happened between 1989 (when the Hornets launched) and '97 (when the Bullets became the Wizards), which was well after the early barnstorming era of the NBA when the league was the less popular stepchild of college basketball and looking to gain a foothold in public consciousness. The NBA still stages preseason games at some pretty remote places. The Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves played a preseason game in Winnipeg, Manitoba two years ago. The Pistons have played preseason games in Grand Rapids and Toledo in the fairly recent past. But home games simply aren't going to be moved out of home arenas any more unless it's to play an international game as the NBA tries to broaden its horizons. With home arenas producing more and more revenue streams – corporate licensing, suites, concessions, parking, etc. – it no longer makes sense to market in areas that already have exposure to NBA games.