Pistons Mailbag - June 10, 2020

by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

Christian Wood’s free agency, Blake Griffin’s return and the 2020 draft are among the items on the docket in this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.

Troublesum78 (@Troublesum78): What are the chances of re-signing Christian Wood?

The Pistons have one important advantage in holding early Bird rights on Wood, which allows an exception that enables them to offer Wood the average salary for the 2019-20 season, or roughly $10 million in first-year salary on a new contract. There won’t be a ton of teams able to offer more than that, but there will be a handful – depending on where the salary cap is set when the NBA adjusts for the diminished BRI (basketball-related income) that determines the next season’s cap parameters. The Pistons are set to have more cap space than all but two teams (New York, Atlanta) and they can also sign Wood using their cap space. But if they believe that Wood wouldn’t elicit offers that start at more than $10 million in first-year salary, then their best way to maximize assets would be to use cap space to acquire other players and assets and then use the exception to retain Wood. There’s some risk in there if they’re uncertain who might pursue Wood at a level above $10 million in first-year salary and that’s the calculation the front office must make.

WAVEAJ (@waveAJ): What are the chances the Pistons go all out for Brandon Ingram even though he’s a restricted free agent? I feel like we are a solid point guard away from being like the Grizzlies. How far do you think LaMelo Ball slips in the draft?

Given his age (22) and production (24.3 points per game in 2019-20), Ingram will be the most coveted restricted free agent. It’s also unlikely that New Orleans would let him get away. He’s a pretty ideal complement to Zion Williamson given Ingram’s size and perimeter ability. Charlotte has been commonly linked to a run at Ingram, probably based on nothing much more than cap space and the fact that Ingram is a North Carolina native. The odds-on outcome is Ingram remaining in New Orleans whether that’s agreeing to an extension or the Pelicans matching an offer sheet. Before the pandemic, NBA shutdown and resumption under conditions sure to have significant economic impact, it was considered a certainty that Ingram would get a max contract. Nobody has any idea how the altered reality will affect him or other free agents to be.

Darius D. Darling (@dddarling): Does Blake Griffin return for 2020-21? And is LeMelo Ball on the radar if he slips to fourth or fifth, projected draft slots for the Pistons?

By all accounts – Griffin’s, most significantly – he’ll be ready to return whenever the 2020-21 season tips off. Griffin said about a month ago that, “I feel great. I’ve basically been cleared for a while now. I just have been stuck in my house. I’m ready to go whenever things pick back up. I’m just working out and trying to stay ready and stay sane. It’s nice to be healthy, though.” As for Ball, if the Pistons are picking fourth or fifth and he’s still available, he’d probably be the favorite to be their pick. That’s based on nothing more than the consensus opinion that Ball is one of the top three players in the 2020 draft without knowing whether the Pistons concur with that perspective. If you’re picking fourth or fifth and you can get a top-three talent, that’s a win. It would be a pleasant coincidence that point guard, Ball’s position, just happens to be a need for a Pistons team with only Derrick Rose under contract at that spot for next season.

Xegesis (@xegesis): Is Sekou Doumbouya the starting small forward next season?

I’ll put my money on Tony Snell as of today, though as I wrote earlier this week Snell – similar to Jon Leuer a year ago at this time – would be a logical trade candidate if the Pistons are in position to take back a contract with more than one year to go from a team looking to get off long-term money. If Snell is moved, Doumbouya would be a candidate to take that spot, though it could just as easily be Luke Kennard or Svi Mykhailiuk. Doumbouya’s best position right now is power forward, but he’s not starting on any team with a healthy Blake Griffin. Doumbouya’s focus for the off-season will be on improving his strength and conditioning while refining his skills, ballhandling and shooting especially. If he makes strides in all of those areas, he’ll see the floor at one position or the other.

Jack Straayer (@JackStraayer): How many more years do we have to pay Josh Smith?

That obligation has been satisfied. The Pistons stretched Smith in December 2014 after signing him in July 2013. He played 105 games for the Pistons over his one-plus seasons. Smith received normal payments through the 2014-15 season and then had the final two seasons of his four-year deal stretched over five years – two times two plus one, the stretch provision formula – or through the 2019-20 season. He is finished getting paychecks from the Pistons.

Detank Pistons (@detank_pistons): Who are the best prospects for the Pistons to draft?

If you’d have asked the 30 front offices that question last year, you probably would have gotten two answers and one overwhelming winner in Zion Williamson over Ja Morant. This time around, you might get more than five – or 10 – different responses. The Pistons will have a top-eight draft pick with a 10.5 percent chance at No. 1 and a 42.1 percent shot at landing a top-four pick. Georgia freshman Anthony Edwards is generally considered the best prospect but, again, there is no one close to a consensus No. 1 pick this year.

SupaCoop (@Big_JCoop1): Are there any leading candidates for the Pistons general manager job?

There is no reported front-runner nor is there any confirmation from the Pistons that there is an active ongoing search. Ed Stefanski remains senior adviser to owner Tom Gores and, in effect, the head of basketball operations.

J. RIP NIP (@2DayWasAGoodJ): Can the Pistons trade Derrick Rose?

I wrote this earlier this week on the likelihood of players currently under contract to return for the start of the 2020-21 Pistons season. Since Rose is under contract for next season, sure, he – as all players under contract and without a no-trade clause – can be traded by the Pistons. I don’t think it’s a likely course of action for the off-season because Rose is the only point guard the Pistons have under contract currently and he’s seen by both Dwane Casey and the front office as someone they’d like to keep around to help stabilize what otherwise will be a very young and unproven roster. The Pistons surely will be looking for at least one point guard in free agency, quite possibly two, and it would surprise no one if they use their high lottery pick on a point guard, given it’s the deepest position in a flawed draft class.

Ahmed (San Antonio): What teams benefit and which teams are hurt by the long layoff before the resumption of the NBA season?

All teams were shut down at the same time and the 22 teams that will be part of the completion of the season will face the same conditions upon their return. We know Utah’s Bojan Bogdanovic underwent wrist surgery last month that will keep him out for the rest of the 2019-20 season and learned this week that San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge underwent shoulder surgery in April that similarly ends his season. So the Jazz – a team that many felt could make some noise in the postseason – are probably hurt the most by the loss of Bogdanovic. San Antonio already faced a tough climb – four games out of the No. 8 playoff seed in the West and with four teams to claw past to make it – before it became known that the Spurs would have to do it without Aldridge. On the other end of the spectrum, Portland – 3½ games behind Memphis for the West’s final playoff spot – should benefit if Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins are able to return from the injuries that had kept them out all season in Nurkic’s case and limited Collins to three early-season games before a shoulder injury. After that, we’re really guessing. I think Milwaukee had been so dominant – a league-best 53-12 record and an eye-popping 11.2 point differential – while managing the minutes of its stars so well that the Bucks figured to feel the effects of a long season less than their peers in a normal postseason. That advantage will be erased by every team going four-plus months between games. Then again, Giannis Antetokounmpo was experiencing knee pain when the season was suspended, so perhaps the layoff proves to be a wash for the Bucks. The Lakers had seemed to hit their stride in the West at the time of the shutdown. Can they crank it back up again? If we expand the scope of your question to beyond this season, obviously the eight teams excluded from resumption – the Pistons among them – will face challenges from an unprecedented layoff. How do they go about keeping their young players from regressing when going nine months or more, depending on when the 2020-21 season starts, between games?

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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