Pistons Mailbag - June 12, 2019

by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

With the draft and a week and a day off, it’s no surprise that’s the dominant topic in this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag – and opinions are all over the map.

Aaron (Jamaica, N.Y.): What are your thoughts on taking Tyler Herro at 15? I’ve watched countless footage of every draft prospect that could land at 15 and he is the best in my opinion. No other player around that range is as poised and can get any shot they want.

Langlois: I don’t know that there’s any such thing as a “normal” draft year, but when you’re picking 15th and there’s a week to go before the draft I would typically expect to have the group of likely prospects whittled down to a handful or so. This year it might be more like three handfuls. You can take 10 guys and throw them out because they’ll be either surely or very likely gone before 15. (The 10 I’ve determined who fit that category are Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, Jarrett Culver, Sekou Doumbouya, De’Andre Hunter, Darius Garland, Coby White and Jaxson Hayes.) That leaves only four more players who’ll be unavailable at 15, but good luck narrowing down the list. You’d expect that next tier of players to be about 10 or 12 deep, but this year it might be more like 25 deep. That can either say that it’s a deep draft or it gets mediocre in a hurry. In reality, there simply appears to be a lot of players who have a high variance between their floor and their ceiling. Herro fits. At his best, he could evolve into a J.J. Redick type, a shooter who moves well without the ball and has a quick release. But there haven’t been many (any?) players who’ve drawn Redick comparisons since he was drafted 11th in 2006 to grow into that role successfully. Herro worked out for Orlando on Monday and told reporters there, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic, that he has workouts set up with Miami, Indiana and Minnesota. That doesn’t mean he won’t work out for the Pistons – whose pick comes after Miami and Minnesota’s but ahead of Indiana’s – but there isn’t a lot of time to fit in any more workouts for Herro.

Rick (Frederick, Md.): A local blogger did a podcast with an NBA draft guru who dismissed all of the wings available at 15 in favor of Carsen Edwards. Per the expert, Edwards has the best shot off the dribble in the draft, length and athleticism to get his shot off against NBA defenses and is a good fit for Dwane Casey’s offense. Your thoughts?

Langlois: Edwards helps illustrate the point I made in response to Aaron’s question above. There is a wide pool of players with roughly equal appeal once you get past the top 10 or 12. I agree on Edwards being a skilled shooter off the dribble, though that’s a tough thing to hang your hat on in the NBA. Even if you’re exceptionally good at it, it’s still viewed as a mostly undesirable shot by the analytics. Edwards is built like an NFL running back at 6-foot-0 and 200 pounds – his body type calls to mind Kyle Lowry’s – and he measured with a 6-foot-6 wingspan at the NBA draft combine last month. I wouldn’t put Edwards in the top five of likeliest Pistons picks at 15, but neither would I rule him out. Edwards had the ball in his hands a ton at Purdue, especially as a junior, but there’s a school of thought that he’d be best served by playing off of the ball in the NBA. How the Pistons view him – and how they value him if they see him as more of an off-the-ball type – will determine if he makes it to their short list on draft night.

Liam (@Liam27Whelan): Will the Pistons consider trading down with teams with multiple picks so they can have as many rookie scale contracts on their roster as possible?

Langlois: Answered a similar question in last week’s Mailbag, so check here for more detail. Bottom line, the Pistons have 11 players under contract for next season – 10 if they decline to pick up the option on Glenn Robinson III’s deal – and still need to add another wing with more size than anyone else they have can offer, a point guard and a backup big man. They have two draft picks and it’s unlikely they’re banking on either one to fill a rotation spot. Bottom line, they don’t have the roster spots to absorb more than two draft picks – not unless they swing a multiplayer deal that ships out more bodies than it returns and that’s not likely knowable at this point.

Blakdre Griffmond (@RudonGayward): How probable would you say it is that we move down in the draft? There are some great guys late in the first, early second.

Langlois: See above. Not very likely. If there are “great” guys late in the first, early second, then take them at 15. I’m not against picking up more assets, but it’s impossible to know who will be there late in the first or early in the second in a draft like this one. The guy who’s 15th on your board might be 35th on another team’s.

Peter (Jackson, Mich.): The Phoenix Suns are supposedly looking for a veteran point guard. Any chance the Pistons could trade Reggie Jackson for Phoenix’s first-round pick? It would give us the cap relief we need until we get rid of Jon Leuer and Langston Galloway’s contracts. I realize it would leave us without a point guard, but we could sign George Hill and Seth Curry as free agents and get another high draft pick to address the wing or backup center spots.

Langlois: If Phoenix is to be motivated to trade the No. 6 pick – given where the Suns are in their building process – it’s not going to be for a point guard with only one year left on his contract, in all likelihood. If the Pistons were to decline the 2019-20 option on Glenn Robinson III’s contract, they’d have about $112 million in guaranteed deals on the books. Subtracting Jackson’s $18 million would leave them at $94 million, about $15 million under projected $109 million cap. The cap hold for the 15th pick last year was $2.29 million and, presumably, will be slightly higher than that this season when it gets set. They’d need to sign a starting and backup point guard and they’d still need to find a wing and a backup big man. Good luck getting all of that done with a little less than $13 million. (After spending up to the cap, the Pistons would then also have a $4.8 million room mid-level exception available, plus the biannual exception of $3.6 million.)

Mark (@liduponmyhead): Given the choice (assuming they’re all still on the board at 15), would you take Keldon Johnson, Cameron Johnson or Nassir Little. Why? Or would you take someone ahead of those three who is likely to be available?

Langlois: I understand I’m in the clear minority, but I like Grant Williams out of Tennessee. I know what the question marks with him are – undersized power forward with unproven 3-point range – but the positives and the intangibles would be enough to sell me. He’s generally considered more a late-first, early-second round pick. I’d make a wager that five or six years from now Williams will have had a better NBA career than half of the people picked ahead of him. I also like Mfiondu Kabengele. And I wouldn’t write off Carsen Edwards. Of the more conventional options, Romeo Langford’s scoring potential is intriguing and I like the all-around game of Nickeil Alexander-Walker. I’m not sure what to make of Little or Kevin Porter Jr. I’d be simultaneously afraid to pick them and to pass on them. I think Keldon Johnson will be solid. I don’t have a strong opinion on Cameron Johnson just yet, though I know he was consistently productive at North Carolina.

Walter (Boca Raton, Fla.): I agree with you to get rid of the max and supermax contracts. Allow a team to pay any amount to a superstar, which would probably eliminate two or three great players working it out to be on the same team. I would also eliminate the player and team options. If a player signs a three-year contract, he is there for three years. If he wants to gamble that he won’t get hurt and thinks he can get a better payday a year later, let him sign a one-year contract like Greg Monroe did. The Pistons are not going to be a championship contender in one or two years. Stan Van Gundy set the team back five years with his draft and signings. Don’t trade for Mike Conley to make the team better next year but still a long way from Toronto, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, et al. Unless you are going to tank, swing for the fences with the 15th pick. It’s the only way to possibly get a future superstar with mid-round picks.

Langlois: I wrote about just that earlier this week, though let’s be real: The likelihood that the Pistons are going to find a superstar with the 15th pick is slim. Yes, Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo were both 15th picks within the last eight years and Steve Nash was a two-time MVP as a 15th pick a generation ago, but three Hall of Famers out of the 65 No. 15 picks of all time translates to less than a 5 percent shot at greatness. What are the odds that after 14 players are picked this year, a future Hall of Famer is still available? Probably also less than 5 percent. Who might that be? Bol Bol shot better than 50 percent from three in nine games – and 25 total attempts – as an Oregon freshman. He’s 7-foot-2 and 208 pounds. If you were to tell me in two years that Bol wasn’t going to get his third-year option picked up, I wouldn’t be surprised. And yet he might be the one guy at 15 who has a shot to be an All-Star someday. Does that make him the best pick? Or do you take a guy like Keldon Johnson, whose range is probably more like “solid rotation player” to “average starter?” If average starter doesn’t sound sexy, keep in mind that means (in theory, at least) you’re somewhere in the middle of the best 150 players in the world. It’s hard – really, really hard – to pick up a starter who is better than half the players in the league at his position. Not as hard as getting a Hall of Famer, obviously, but hard nevertheless.

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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