Pistons Mailbag - July 17, 2019
Mark (Fort Wayne, Ind.): Any insight as to why Bruce Brown didn’t play in the last Summer League game, the quarterfinals? The team seemed out of sync without him. As a longtime Pistons fan (40-plus years), I follow the team pretty closely all year long. Even though it’s just Summer League, it would have been nice to see them keep playing and perhaps win it all.
Langlois: The original purpose – and still the overriding purpose – of Summer League was to develop young players. It’s a way of taking the things focused on in individual skills work and seeing how they can be incorporated into NBA-like settings. Let’s start with that. The Pistons gave Brown four games to be the primary ballhandler for 25 or 30 minutes a game and he performed exceptionally well as a point guard. It’s not like there’s not more development ahead for Brown, but they also wanted to put the ball in the hands of other players to spur their growth and give front-office and coaching staffs a glimpse of where those players are on their own development timeline. Svi Mykhailiuk, Khyri Thomas and especially Jordan Bone got opportunities as playmakers they wouldn’t have gotten with Brown getting another 25 or 30 minutes as the primary ballhandler. Since the NBA has taken over Summer League operation and turned it into a significant marketing tool – complete with sellout crowds and national TV coverage – the focus inevitably has drifted from developmental to more competition based. There’s some value in that for players, too, but you’ll find a lot of people around the NBA who would prefer Summer League revert to something closer to its roots. The Pistons went to Orlando in 2011 as a response to the greater commercialization of Las Vegas. Then-coach Lawrence Frank preferred the setting – no fan attendance, no Las Vegas trappings, a condensed schedule (five games in five days). That continued under Stan Van Gundy’s regime. Only when a new administration took over in Orlando – the Magic hosted Orlando Summer League at Amway Center’s practice gym – and opted not to continue as hosts did the Pistons, out of necessity, return to Las Vegas.
Matt (@MattSwrzntrb): How do the Pistons develop their players in the off-season?
Langlois: Aggressively is the short answer. They hired four player development coaches, including the acknowledged guru of the craft, Tim Grgurich, and they spend the great bulk of their off-season traveling to wherever players decide to make their summer home base. They’re all periodically visited by members of the training and strength and conditioning staffs, as well. Recall last spring when Ed Stefanski was hired and made his first priority not staffing a front office to tackle the draft and free agency but getting a head coach in place so they could fill out a coaching staff and get a jump start on off-season player development. Then look at Casey’s track record in Toronto where player development was prioritized and the results were obvious. Player development in general has become a focus for organizations, especially ones that can’t rely on market lure as a tool in free agency.
J.R. Swish (@swish_jose): Do you see Langston Galloway getting traded? If he does, when do you see that happening and what can the Pistons get in return or can he be a throw-in player in a different trade?
Langlois: There’s no sense that Galloway is about to be traded, but the Pistons have more than adequate depth at his primary position(s), an open roster spot and an arguable need for another big man. With a year left on his contract, proven durability, an above-average 3-point shot on high volume, he could prove an attractive trade target for a team with an imbalanced roster now that free agency’s first and second waves have landed and the last few pieces are being put into place across the NBA. So I wouldn’t say it’s likely that Galloway is traded, but I’d say that if the Pistons were to make a trade he would be one to watch.
Rudy (@rudyjuly2): What are the odds Khyri or Svi take Langston Galloway’s spot in the rotation? With no true backup center, how confident are they in Thon Maker?
Langlois: There might be room for only one of Thomas, Mykhailiuk and Galloway in the rotation if you assume that Reggie Jackson, Derrick Rose, Tony Snell and Luke Kennard are going to play 20-plus minutes each and that Bruce Brown did enough as a rookie and is important enough defensively that he’s earned a spot. In fact, you could see a way that Dwane Casey could fashion a rotation that excludes all three, especially if Tim Frazier – a credible option to take regular minutes, too – forces his hand. Galloway needs to hit threes at a good clip. When he slumped at mid-season, Casey gave Thomas one shot in the first half of a late-February game at Miami. When it didn’t go well, he turned back to Galloway in the second half. He helped the Pistons win a big road game and held on to his spot the rest of the season. Casey values Galloway’s toughness and his shooter’s mentality, so he’s not going to automatically go with the second-year guys based on a belief in greater upside. He’s going to need to see them earn minutes. But, yeah, there is certainly a chance for either Thomas or Mykhailiuk – or both – to earn a rotation spot. As for Maker, I don’t think their confidence level in Maker has much to do with their pursuit of another big man. If they have to play without Andre Drummond for any length of time, they’ll need someone capable of soaking up 15 or 20 minutes a night, at minimum, even with Maker playing a big role. That’s the argument for adding another big man.
Homer (Hamtramck, Mich.): What are the chances for the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers to win at least 60 games next season?
Langlois: I’d give the Clippers a better shot, but can you tell me how many games Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will play together? I suspect Leonard will again take off a fair number of games. That only makes sense, given the force he was in the 2019 playoffs after Toronto’s cautious approach to his usage in the regular season – and the fact Leonard has the ability to opt out in two years will hang over Clippers management’s head. George is coming off of surgery on both shoulders and might not be ready for training camp, which means they’ll also have to use him judiciously. Across the hallway at Staples Center, LeBron James turns 35 midway through the 2019-20 season and Anthony Davis has his own history of injuries. The West is going to be a scramble next season. I don’t know that any team is going to win 60 games and I suspect most teams are going to de-emphasize piling up wins for home-court advantage at the expense of risking a limping team for the postseason. Denver’s depth and relative youth might make the Nuggets the best bet to win the No. 1 seed.
Halbridous (@Halbridous): Any feel for where Deividas Sirvydis will end up – G League or overseas?
Langlois: There was nothing definitive on that score while the Pistons were in Las Vegas. Now that Summer League has wrapped up, Sirvydis – who said he plans to work out in Los Angeles the rest of the summer – and the Pistons will put their heads together and come up with a plan that best balances his wishes with the most effective way to spur his growth. I think this would be an easier call for the Pistons if it were two years down the road and they had their G League team headquarters at their new downtown training center so he’d have the full benefit of all of the NBA parent’s resources, both in personnel (coaches, trainers, support staff, et al) and facilities. As it is, there are pluses and minuses to both returning to Lithuania and staying in the G League (and not on a two-way contract that would allow Sirvydis to spend up to 45 days during the G League calendar with the Pistons).
Andrew (@BuffKret2407): Is Reggie Jackson a Piston 12 months from now?
Langlois: Can’t answer that question without knowing how 2019-20 unfolds. There are a ton of factors at play. Does Jackson pick up where he left off in 2018-19 when he closed strong after still getting over the serious December 2017 ankle injury for the first half of the season, as training guru Arnie Kander predicted would happen? How does Derrick Rose, under contract for 2020-21, hold up? How does Bruce Brown, a player Dwane Casey thinks has a future at point guard, come along? Where is Jordan Bone, the point guard the Pistons traded for in the second round and had valued as a first-round talent, on his development timeline? What’s the market for point guards around the league? What does the free-agent point guard class look like in July 2020? And then there’s the biggest one of all: What does Reggie Jackson want? He’ll be a free agent. The ball is in his court. From the Pistons’ perspective, the adage I abide by in pretty much all personnel decisions is never make a decision until it must be made.
EthanCP (@RaddyLite): How would Justin Anderson on the league minimum sound? He would add some much-needed 3-point help and seems to be a bargain right now.
Langlois: For another team, sure, it’s worth a flier, though it’s worth noting that over four seasons and 216 career games, Anderson is a 30 percent 3-point shooter who came to the NBA after a four-year college career. It’s worth questioning how much of Anderson is untapped, though it’s also fair to point out he’s played on some pretty bad teams and has never really had a consistent role. He’s only played more than 700 minutes a season once, his second year, though his numbers didn’t fluctuate much even with a greater role. The Pistons have one roster spot left and the clear need is for another big man over another wing.
Jacob (Midland, Mich.): What are your thoughts on a trade for Andre Iguodala? He is a high-character guy and can give us solid minutes starting or off of the bench. Having all that playoff experience doesn’t hurt, either.
Langlois: Memphis has indicated it isn’t hanging on to Iguodala, who’s due to earn $17 million in 2019-20 on an expiring contract. The odds are he’ll eventually be bought out for close to the full $17 million and then be pursued by virtually every NBA title contender – a longer list than any recent season with the dissolution of the Golden State dynasty – for the league minimum. The Pistons would have to trade $17 million in contracts back to Memphis due to their cap situation and that makes it a non-starter. The Grizzlies aren’t looking to take back salary and also don’t have the roster space to accommodate multiple returning parts and the Pistons would be hard pressed to put together $17 million in contracts without doing more damage to the roster than Iguodala could help fix. If there’s a contender left that appeals to Iguodala and also has something more than a minimum to offer, maybe that expedites the buyout process and gets it done soon. The Pistons will be on the outside looking in at this one, almost certainly.