Pistons Mailbag - July 1, 2015

Some Stanley Johnson stuff, some free agency questions and a little bit of what to do with life after Greg Monroe top the docket in this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.

Bigdog (@bugsygod): Who are some of the backup centers they are looking at? Stopgap guys or high-level backup guys?

Langlois: They can’t say which guys they’re going to pursue, but parsing Stan Van Gundy’s words from last weekend it would appear they’re going after someone they’d feel comfortable sticking in a game for 15 to 20 minutes every night if it came to that and someone with starting experience or potential in case Andre Drummond is out due to injury for a game or two. They want Joel Anthony back, but Van Gundy is going to be judicious about overextending him. He’ll be 33 in August. “We’ll try to sign the best guy we can,” Van Gundy said. “Joel’s far from being done, but he’s getting up there in years. So we would like to sign a younger guy there, too, and he’s been made aware of that. He understands that.” It won’t be a big name, but anyone who follows the NBA will recognize the player and his capabilities, I’m guessing.

John (Farmington Hills, Mich.): Assuming Jennings comes back healthy, how practical would it be to start Jackson and Jennings and have KCP come off the bench for a three-guard rotation, similar to but not the same caliber as Isiah, Joe and Vinnie?

Langlois: Don’t see that as an option Stan Van Gundy would seriously consider, John. He’s going to want more size in his backcourt to start games. He’s also going to want Caldwell-Pope in the lineup to start games to give him a quality defender at a position that traditionally is a scoring spot. Now, once teams dip into their benches, another story. In fact, as I’ve written, if Jennings indeed comes back healthy I’d be surprised if Van Gundy didn’t use a Jackson-Jennings tandem to great effect with two guys who can attack off the dribble. If Jennings can pick up where he left off, his scoring and ability to make plays off the dribble will be a great weapon for a second unit that’s going to have some scoring punch with Jodie Meeks and Anthony Tolliver and, perhaps, Stanley Johnson as the anchors. Among the other issues that come with starting Jennings and Jackson together, you’d have to be awfully careful about staggering their minutes unless you’re comfortable with your No. 3 point guard playing big minutes, as well.

Samuel (Ann Arbor, Mich.): The Pistons seem to be banking their future on Andre Drummond becoming a prolific low-post scorer. Have you heard anything through the grapevine about Drummond’s low-post scoring potential and how long it may take him to develop into that type of player?

Langlois: I don’t think it’s an entirely accurate characterization, Sam, to say the Pistons are “banking their future” on Drummond’s low-post scoring development. Are they working with him to advance his post skills? Of course. Is he eager to become a more effective scorer with his back to the basket? Very. It gives the Pistons another arrow in their quiver and it helps Drummond achieve the status as an elite player he craves. But it’s only one element of the offense Van Gundy envisions. The backbone of their offense for the 2015-16 season, at least, will be the Reggie Jackson-Drummond pick and roll. But it’s not going to surprise many if Drummond shows noticeable improvement next season based on what we know. We know he took some significant steps even over the course of last season and especially after the All-Star break. We know he’s working extremely hard this summer, having gotten leaner and working on his post game. “I added a lot of new things to my arsenal,” Drummond said in early June. “A lot of new parts to my game. Been working on my footwork a lot.”

Michael (@mcculleymichael): How much are we going to miss Greg Monroe?

Langlois: A little easier to answer that question after free agency and the reshaping of the roster, Michael. Taken on its own, he leaves a big hole. You don’t subtract 16 points and 10 rebounds a game from your roster and blithely move on. But it’s not like they lose Monroe and have no mechanism available to replace him. Monroe’s departure leaves the Pistons with almost $19 million in cap room and, in effect, they really had about $27 million in cap room and chose to use $8 million of it on a big piece of the puzzle to replace him, Ersan Ilyasova – a trade the Pistons were unlikely to have made if they didn’t already suspect Monroe wasn’t coming back. Stan Van Gundy admitted to disappointment in his inability to figure out ways to make the Pistons more effective offensively with a Monroe-Andre Drummond tandem, so while they won’t have perhaps the same balance between perimeter and post scoring next season the intent is to be a more efficient offense overall. Check back in a few months and we might have a better idea. But we probably won’t know for sure until we see the evidence of the roster moves play out on the court.

Matthew (Onekama, Mich.): With the draft finished I was wondering about center depth, so my question is what is more likely to happen: the Pistons bring in Mouhammadou Jaiteh; the Pistons retain Joel Anthony; the Pistons trade Quincy Miller for Josh McRoberts; the Pistons bring in a veteran free agent like Carlos Boozer or Andrea Bargnani?

Langlois: The only one that qualifies as remotely possible, though probably stops short of “likely,” is re-signing Joel Anthony. The Pistons have made it known they want him back and he expressed sincere interest late last season in returning. Jaiteh is not on the Summer League roster after going undrafted, so that’s the least likely. Trading Miller for McRoberts doesn’t do anything about addressing center depth, since McRoberts is a power forward whose scoring strength is perimeter shooting and the Pistons have their bases covered there with Ersan Ilyasova and Anthony Tolliver. We’ll see if the Pistons bring in a veteran free agent power forward. If they do, I would expect it would be someone who offers a different skill set than Tolliver and Ilyasova, so post scoring or shot-blocking might be the defining skill set.

Chris (@allchris2): This might be a stupid question, but can the Pistons sign Caron Butler since he was waived? I loved his veteran presence.

Langlois: The Pistons could not re-sign Caron Butler until next June 11, Chris. That’s a fairly recent rule, sparked in large measure by a number of trades in which teams would send away a player to satisfy salary cap considerations with the wink-wink understanding that the receiving team would waive the player and he would return to his original team. The Pistons did this both in 2004 when they got Lindsey Hunter back after including him in the three-team deal to obtain Rasheed Wallace and again in 2008 when they got Antonio McDyess back after including him in the Chauncey Billups-Allen Iverson deal. The rule now says that when a team trades a player who is subsequently waived by the other team, it can’t claim him off waivers or re-sign him should he clear waivers until the one-year anniversary of the trade (June 11 in this case0 or until the July 1 following the end of his contract, whichever is earlier. Even though Milwaukee chose not to exercise the option on Butler’s contract, the Pistons could not sign him until one calendar year after all conditions of the trade were met – so, June 11, 2016.

Al (Wolverine Lake, Mich.): What do you expect out of Stanley Johnson as a rookie?

Langlois: Someone who’s very probably a different player in April than he is in July or October or January. It’s important to remember that Johnson just turned 19 – 19! – a month ago and that he spent one year in college. He’d never done more than play with weights until he got to Arizona, yet he’s a sculpted 242 pounds on a 6-foot-7 frame. I don’t think you’re going to see his body change much, but a good strength program almost surely will make Johnson a more explosive player. I found all the angst over Johnson’s shooting “weakness” in the wake of his drafting a little curious, given that he shot 37 percent (and 30 percent of his attempts were triples, so it’s not like he only rarely shot it from there) as a college freshman. The shot might not have textbook fundamentals and Stan Van Gundy has said they’ll work with him on ironing those nuances out. (The Pistons have hired a shooting coach, Dave Hopla, whose first duties will take him to Santa Barbara, Calif., where Andre Drummond is in the midst of a six-week stint at the P3 training facility.) How much is expected of Johnson as a rookie, to a degree, will depend on how successful the Pistons are in free agency at attracting a quality small forward to start at the position. If they can get someone who can shoulder 30 minutes a game or so, then Johnson won’t be asked to do more than he’s ready to handle out of the gates. Of course, Johnson might have something to say about all that. The Pistons will begin to get some idea of what they might expect from him in Summer League, though what shows in games will be just the tip of the iceberg. Stan Van Gundy will learn at least as much about Johnson in the practices the Pistons conduct leading to those games. He knows the two-a-day sessions will test players and probably leave them a little heavy-legged for games, but he’s not going to be overly concerned about shooting numbers produced by wobbly legs. He’s looking to see who pushes through fatigue and competition challenges to keep playing hard.

Cal (Grand Rapids, Mich.): How much are you looking forward to the Monday Summer League game with Miami to see the Stanley Johnson vs. Justise Winslow matchup?

Langlois: It’ll be fun, sure, but it will be the third game in three days for the Pistons – following on the heels of multiple consecutive days of two-a-day practices. As I said in the question above, the players are going to have very heavy legs in Summer League. I don’t know what Miami’s practice schedule will be leading up to Monday’s game, but Winslow probably will be in a similar situation. Just be careful about wild extrapolations based on one Summer League game. If we had done so after Andre Drummond’s first game, the Pistons would have packaged him and a first-round pick to Orlando in exchange for Kyle O’Quinn.

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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