Pistons Mailbag - January 22, 2020

The status of Reggie Jackson and Luke Kennard, Derrick Rose’s future and how the Pistons approach the rest of this season – and next – are among the topics of discourse in this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.

Parker (@PDub358): Say Luke Kennard and Reggie Jackson come back healthy. What do you think would be better for the long term? A playoff push led by the young core? Or perhaps a season with a less-stellar record and a higher draft pick? Morale boost or bolster youth with a pick?

Langlois: It’s a given that they’re going to come back healthy. They wouldn’t be cleared to come back – or be comfortable in their own minds doing so – if they weren’t. Do they come back in mid-season form? That’s a tougher question. We know that when Jackson came back from his knee (2017) and ankle (2018) injuries, he struggled to hit his passing gear. Even last season, when he didn’t have the benefit of a typical off-season as he spent it rehabilitating his ankle, it took Jackson until mid-season to feel like he was himself – as predicted for him by Pistons training consultant Arnie Kander. So we’ll have to see. I expect that Jackson is making as certain as he can be that he’s really ready to return this time before giving the all clear. Kennard’s injury history is less prolific. He had the shoulder separation last season, but Kennard was early in his second season then and hadn’t yet really established his baseline as an NBA player. I wouldn’t make much of that experience to use as a way of knowing what to expect of him when he returns. To your larger question, when they come back, I would expect they’ll assume the roles Dwane Casey imagined for them – Jackson as the starting point guard, though Derrick Rose has established himself as the team’s offensive bellwether and his role won’t be diminished in any case, and Kennard playing starter-level minutes, whether he’s actually starting or coming off the bench. The returns of Jackson and Kennard will have little to no effect on the development of players like Sekou Doumbouya, Christian Wood, Bruce Brown and Svi Mykhailiuik with regard to their playing time. Kennard would obviously be taking from the larger pool of minutes available on the wing for Brown, Mykhailiuk, Tony Snell and Langston Galloway, but Kennard – in his third season – counts as that “young core” you’ve cited. The Pistons will try to win games, bottom line. Casey has made it clear that when you set your priorities elsewhere, it’s hard to remove that mindset from your locker room when you again set your priorities to winning.

Charles (Redford, Mich.): Can NBA two-way players like Jordan Bone be included in an NBA trade this season?

Langlois: Yes, they can. They can’t be traded until 30 days after they are signed, but both Bone and Louis King – the other Pistons player currently on a two-way deal; each team is allowed two – both signed after the draft last June, so they are eligible to be traded. By all indications, the Pistons like their two-way players. If you noticed some activity on the two-way front last week, it’s because Jan. 15 is the last day of the NBA calendar that teams can sign players to two-way contracts until the off-season. Last year the Pistons wound up waiving in January both of the two-way players they’d signed the previous summer, Zach Lofton and Keenan Evans, in order to sign two others, Kalin Lucas and Isaiah Whitehead. This year, they stuck with Bone and King.

The Daily Fantasy Hitman (@DailyHitman): Do you think Christian Wood and Andre Drummond could play together at some point?

Langlois: They’ve done it here and there. I don’t know that it would be a lineup you could use as a staple of the rotation given the defensive matchups it might present for Wood. He’d be guarding farther from the basket, in general, against players that are more comfortable playing on the perimeter and perhaps more skilled at putting the ball on the floor. It’s a lineup you could use in select situations. Of the top off of my head, if they were playing Philadelphia, for instance, and the 76ers fielded a lineup of Joel Embiid and Al Horford, then a Drummond-Wood countering duo would make a lot of sense. If they’re playing the Celtics, on the other hand, and Boston has a center on the floor with Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward and Kemba Walker (or Marcus Smart for any of those four), then a Drummond-Wood pairing would probably put Wood in disastrous matchups. I don’t know that Wood has achieved quite enough yet to roll with that matchup and try to use his length to win it on the other end, either.

Rudy (@rudyjuly2): I’d just like full injury updates on everyone – Luke, Blake, Reggie. Is Blake Griffin rehabbing? Was the surgery a success? How serious at Luke’s knee issues? When is Reggie getting back?

Langlois: Griffin’s surgery was deemed successful, as the vast majority of surgeries are considered, and his return is open ended though unlikely to occur this season based on the timetable of a typical recovery, the calendar and everything Dwane Casey has said about the priority for the rest of the season being winning while developing young players, citing Sekou Doumbouya, Bruce Brown, Christian Wood and Svi Mykhailiuk. If Griffin’s recovery goes so well that he’s physically ready to play before April 14’s season finale, the decision might swing on what would be gained by having him return at that point. If they get to a point where a decision is necessary, then that’s the best possible outcome for the Pistons. The Pistons have given periodic updates on Luke Kennard and Reggie Jackson, but keep in mind that every injury and every rehabilitation is unique. It is rarely a straight line where progress continues unimpeded and at a scripted or predictable pace. They’re not rehabbing to return to a desk job or even a warehouse job that would require them to be on their feet for several hours a day. They’re rehabbing to run and jump and cut and stop and do it not against a standard of measurement but against other human beings trying to impede them or outdo them in those quests. And at some point, it comes down to the comfort of the player in declaring himself fit for return. Those are all complicating factors that thwart your desire for “full injury updates.” Casey has said as recently as Monday that he thinks Jackson could be back as soon as this week. He said last week that Kennard’s return might come sometime around the All-Star break, which starts with the Feb. 12 game at Orlando and ends with a Feb. 20 home game with Milwaukee.

Demitirus McNeal (@demetirusmcnea7): I’ll be at the Pistons game on Saturday night. How will the Pistons defend Kyrie Irving?

Langlois: Mostly with Bruce Brown, probably with a little Langston Galloway, perhaps a spin or two of Tony Snell, maybe a dash of Derrick Rose or Tim Frazier, but for sure with a scheme that requires 10 eyeballs to know where he is at all times.

Robert Canfield (@RobbyCan81): When will we be able to consistently beat the Washington Wizards?

Langlois: It’s not so much a matter of beating Washington as it is winning at Washington. The Pistons only played the Wizards three times in 2018-19, once in Washington, and finished with a 2-1 record. They split their two games with Washington at Little Caesars Arena this season. They’re 4-2 against Washington in six meetings at Little Caesars Arena all-time. It’s winning at Washington that’s been the issue and I can’t help you with a reason for it other than some of their worst performances in my memory have come there. If I had to boil it down to an overarching reason why they haven’t won there in 10 tries – since Jan. 18, 2014 – I’d say John Wall. Yeah, I know he didn’t play in either game there this season, but the Pistons’ inability to contain Wall in transition is the thing that my recollection tells me has been the dominant factor in many of those games.

Brian Smith (@SmithBrianA): In past years, the Pistons missed the chance to draft Devin Booker and Donovan Mitchell to name a couple of whiffs. How are they going to avoid blowing another draft this year?

Langlois: Both the 2015 (Stanley Johnson over Booker) and 2017 (Luke Kennard over Mitchell) drafts were conducted on the watch of the previous administration. Kennard is all that remains from that team’s four drafts and if he hasn’t elevated himself to All-Star status as Mitchell has, Kennard can’t be labeled a bad pick. Before he started feeling the effects of the bilateral knee tendinitis that’s shelved him since late December and caused him to miss two games a few weeks apart before that time, he was playing at a very high level. The current administration has had two drafts but only one first-round pick and that’s the only relevant bit of information to inform us of what to expect in the 2020 draft. They came out of the 2018 draft with Bruce Brown and Khyri Thomas and obtained a third 2018 second-rounder, Svi Mykhailiuik, in the trade for Reggie Bullock last winter that also netted a future second-round pick from the Lakers. Brown surely has exceeded his draft spot at 42. The jury is out on Thomas, who is still out after breaking his foot early in the season. Early returns on Sekou Doumbouya are promising, but it’s way too early to judge the 2019 draft – which also included a series of moves that wound up with the Pistons drafting 19-year-old Deividas Sirvydis and point guard Jordan Bone in the second round.

All things Pistons (@AllPistons): Have we gotten an updated timetable with Reggie Jackson or Luke Kennard? Any update on the preferred direction for next season? What do you think the Pistons will do heading into the trade deadline?

Langlois: Re: Jackson and Kennard, see above. There’s no specifics on a “direction” for next season at this point because there are too many variables at present to make for a meaningful assessment. When every season ends, every front office sits down and does a thorough self-evaluation and plots a blueprint for the off-season to come. And before they ever get to that point, this year’s trade deadline will have come and gone. If Andre Drummond is still with the Pistons after the trade deadline, then the ball is in his court with regard to whether he’ll opt out of the final year of his current contract and test free agency or play it out. If he doesn’t opt out, then the Pistons effectively will have no cap space and would have the mid-level exception (roughly $9.25 million) as their primary tool to effect roster change this summer. As for what happens at the trade deadline, it takes two to tango. I expect the Pistons to be willing to engage based on their actions at last year’s deadline, when a team better positioned to make a playoff run – one with a fully healthy Blake Griffin – still parted with the two players on the roster who fit the description of “small forward,” Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson. If they were willing to risk a half-step back last season – and those deals can’t be interpreted otherwise – you’d have to believe they’re of the same mindset this year. Whether anything happens depends on how they value what’s being offered and how other teams value their roster.

PA7IENT BULL (@cosimo_sarti): What do the Pistons want in exchange for Derrick Rose? Does he want to stay?

Langlois: By all outward signs, Rose is happy with the Pistons. He chose Detroit – he says his connection to Pistons vice chairman Arn Tellem, his former agent, was a critical factor – and he has often expressed his connection to the team’s training and medical staffs. That’s a big factor for a player with Rose’s injury history. The Pistons, for their part, have profound respect for Rose. That doesn’t mean they wouldn’t trade him if there was a clear benefit to the organization in doing so, but I think they’ll go the extra mile to make sure it would be a situation that Rose would find appealing. But I do not believe the Pistons are actively looking to deal him. They have a highly productive player under contract for next season and – if they feel reasonably sure they’re going to get a healthy Blake Griffin back for 2020-21 – having Rose leading a bench unit with a whole and powerful Griffin-led first unit would put the Pistons in solid playoff position. Take a look at the East this season and imagine what the Pistons might be doing if the Griffin of 2018-19 was carrying the first unit with Rose spearheading the second and then teaming up to close games. Pretty good chance that 16-28 record would be reversed. If the Pistons are going to give up 2020-21 Derrick Rose at $7.7 million, it will only be for a handsome return.

IBA (@iba_gr): Will Derrick Rose get any more minutes from now on?

Langlois: Dwane Casey hasn’t said that he’s under any different marching orders from the medical side with regard to Rose, though Rose has played more than 30 minutes four times in the last seven games after not playing more than 28 in any of his first 31 games. So maybe? It’s going to depend to some degree on how Rose responds to playing that many minutes. He was brilliant against both Boston and Atlanta last week and the Boston game came 48 hours after he played a season-high 36:31 in the overtime loss to New Orleans. They’ve tried to keep him to about 12 minutes or so in the first half, but now that he’s starting that’s a little tougher to manage. When they can do so, it allows them to use him for longer stretches in the second half. In general, they want to keep him under 30 minutes. I doubt that rough framework has changed or will change.