Pistons Mailbag - January 29, 2020
Trade deadline chatter, Christian Wood’s playing time and the limits on two-way players Jordan Bone and Louis King are on the menu in this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.
Randy (Sterling Heights, Mich.): Can you speak to the inconsistency of Christian Wood’s minutes? Granted, he’s gotten 20-plus the past few games but it’s only because of injuries to Andre Drummond. He’s a big who’s active on the glass, can stretch the floor and if you’re going to a youth movement why can’t we run him out for 30-plus minutes a night regardless of who else is on the team. I know there were some effort or attitude problems that caused him to lose his spot with Milwaukee and New Orleans, but from what I’ve seen he’s been giving great effort. Am I missing something that coach Casey sees?
Langlois: Since Dec. 26, or after Wood returned off of a minor injury, he’s averaged 21.1 minutes a game. In only five of those 17 games has he played fewer than 18 minutes. He’s playing behind Andre Drummond. I wouldn’t call that an “inconsistency” of minutes. Wood isn’t so well established that he’s going to be guaranteed minutes on nights he’s underperforming. That’s a privilege reserved for veterans who’ve established their bona fides over several seasons, in most cases – the opportunity to play your way out of lethargic starts. Two players have averaged 30 or more minutes since that time: Drummond and Derrick Rose, Rose coming in exactly at 30 minutes a game. Wood has been given the most consistent opportunity for playing time in Detroit than any of his four previous NBA organizations have granted him. If he continues to progress, his minutes will ramp up correspondingly. Dwane Casey has said several times this season the Pistons have had no issues with Wood’s professionalism, which by Wood’s own admission was an issue for him earlier in his career. I don’t know that it was an issue in either Milwaukee or New Orleans, the teams that had him at various points last season. He was waived by both teams due to roster crunches. In Milwaukee, a run of injuries that depleted the backcourt necessitated waiving Wood, who had the only truly fungible contract; and in New Orleans, the Pelicans – after the bounty of draft picks and players received from the Lakers in the Anthony Davis trade – needed to clear roster spots and Wood’s non-guaranteed contract was the one easiest to target.
Doe Jumars (@DoeJumars): Is this front office going to acknowledge reality and trade their assets or does it still think Derrick Rose “sells tickets?”
Langlois: I cleaned up your crude reference to an anatomically impossible feat and changed it to “acknowledge reality” and reluctantly decided to include your question out of a desire to dispel the myth that the front office is making roster decisions based on a perceived ability to sell tickets. This front office is acutely aware that the only thing that ultimately drives sustainable interest is winning basketball. If Derrick Rose is retained at the Feb. 6 trade deadline, it will be because it has determined that whatever was offered in return for Rose wouldn’t further that objective. The Pistons are going to have Blake Griffin on their roster next season almost certainly. The expectation is that he’ll be healthy after having undergone a relatively minor procedure to clean up debris in his injured left knee in early January. They’ll either have the mid-level exception to fill other roster needs – that’s if Andre Drummond isn’t traded and opts in to his contract – or have about $30 million and a critical need in their frontcourt should Drummond opt out. They’ll need to address point guard in either case given that Reggie Jackson’s contract expires. Rose at less than $8 million would give them a significant piece to address point guard needs for a team that – with Griffin in tow – won’t begin the season with expectations of being in the lottery. That’s the reality. Griffin isn’t going to be moved before he proves he can play at a high level – a level commensurate with his contract, in other words – and if he proves he can play at that level the Pistons are going to ride the wave, one suspects. There are only two seasons left on his contract. Tying themselves to Griffin – not that they have a realistic choice at this juncture – isn’t going to have ripple effects beyond the foreseeable future. This front office has two off-seasons and one trade deadline on its resume. You’d be hard-pressed to show me the evidence that they’ve sacrificed the future for the present. (No, they haven’t abandoned the present, either, if that’s what you’re suggesting they do.) At last year’s trade deadline, they traded Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson – expiring contracts – for Thon Maker, Svi Mykhailiuk and a future No. 2 pick. That was hardly the telltale sign of a front office pushing their chips to the center of the table on the present.
Drip God Kelly (@sportsforensics): Will Andre Drummond be traded? When will Christian Wood be unleashed?
Langlois: Your guess is as good as mine on the Drummond front. We’ll know no less than eight days from now. Ultimately, it comes down to what the Pistons are willing to settle for in return. It’s safe to assume there’s a market for Drummond if the return doesn’t include giving up a No. 1 pick or young talent, but less clear if there would be one if the Pistons are holding out for such an asset. The uncertainty of whether Drummond will opt in or out of his contract complicates negotiations. It stands to reason that teams would be more willing to part with something of value if they were getting one-plus seasons of Drummond rather than one-third of a season. Or, there could be teams only interested in taking on Drummond for this season and willing to offer something of value for that but, for a variety of reasons, less enthusiastic about committing to a full season of him at nearly $30 million. Also, we don’t know what the Pistons are thinking. They might be using this time to gain as much insight as they can glean into Drummond’s likelier course of action for next season, as well.
Patrick B (@Patrick_J_B13): Since we don’t hear much from the front office or owner, is the franchise finally committing to a rebuild or are they content to fight for the eighth seed going for what feels like the 10th season in a row?
Langlois: I would submit that Tom Gores speaks to the media more often than the majority of NBA owners. He did so as recently as earlier this month. You can read about it here. The Pistons aren’t ever going to take the extreme path of the Philadelphia 76ers and write off multiple seasons in the hope of winning the lottery or getting multiple top-three picks. But Gores did say recently that the Pistons are evaluating all of their options as the trade deadline approaches.
Logan Tharp (@MrHaaTastiC): Do you see a fire sale coming at the deadline? I like the trade potential of Markieff Morris and Langston Galloway. I like Morris to Houston for Isaiah Hartenstein and a second-rounder. Good player that fits at power forward for Houston and we get a young center to mold and replace Andre Drummond.
Langlois: It’s impossible to predict the volume or magnitude of the trades the Pistons might engage in because there are too many variables in play. I think it’s fair to believe that the Pistons are looking to cash in some of their current assets for future assets based on their dire injury situation and what it would take to realistically push into the playoff race at this point. If they did it last year – trade Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson, the only two people on the roster at the time who credibly could defend a variety of small forwards – when they were better positioned for a playoff push than they are today, then it’s only logical that they’d be even more receptive to similar deals this time around. Galloway, on an expiring contract and an above-average 3-point shooter with a keen defensive aptitude, seems a player multiple contenders would be interested in discussing. Would he fetch a Bullock-like return of a second-round pick plus a prospect? Depends on the marketplace – who else is available and how many teams are hunting that type of piece. Morris’ value is clouded some by his player option for 2020-21. It’s for a very reasonable number (a reported $3.36 million), but it might be enough to scare away some teams that are either facing a cap squeeze next season or doing their best to carve out as much space as possible.
Adam (St. Petersburg, Fla.): Good story on Louis King. Can you refresh my memory on how much time the two-way players are allowed to spend with the Pistons and the rules about the timing? And how many days he and Bone have left? Could the Pistons convert one or both to a standard contract before the season ends?
Langlois: Players on two-way contracts, as King and Bone are, can spend 45 days with the parent NBA team during the G League calendar, which starts when G League training camp opens and ends with the last regular-season game in late March. Time spent before and after do not count against the 45-day limit. So they’ll spend the last two-plus weeks of the NBA regular season – the Grand Rapids Drive’s final regular-season game is March 28, the Pistons season ends at New York on April 14 – with the Pistons regardless of how many days they’ve already logged. As to how many that is now, NBA teams don’t freely make that information available, generally, and it’s not as easy as looking at how many games they’ve played. To date, Bone has played in six games and King in eight, but practice days count, as well. King spent most or all of the 12-day trip in December and January with the Pistons, for instance. Dwane Casey said on Tuesday that he thought both Bone and King had exhausted about half of their 45-day allotment. Both were sent to the Drive for their game at Toronto today. The Pistons don’t have a roster spot at present to elevate either Bone or King to a standard contract. Should they open a roster spot by next week’s trade deadline, they would have the flexibility to do so. But keep in mind the Pistons are a mere few thousand dollars under the luxury tax. Unless opening a roster spot also gave them appropriate cap space, I doubt we’d see them go into the tax to convert a two-way contract to a standard deal. The only advantage to doing so would be to ignore the 45-day limit and that isn’t all that much of a factor.