Pistons Mailbag - June 17, 2020
Questions about Christian Wood’s mindset, Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose’s futures and the practical implications of life inside the Orlando bubble are among the items up for discussion in this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.
David (Potomac, Md.): Regarding Christian Wood, I cannot forget a WJR interview Joe Dumars did in the summer before the 1996-97 season in which he said, “Detroit will re-sign Allan Houston, 100 percent.” Houston famously bolted for a contract with the New York Knicks. Even before Christian Wood’s post, “I want to win,” I thought it would be in Wood’s interest to go to a winning team or a major market rather than toil on a rebuilding Pistons team. He also had a firsthand seat as Detroit declined to give All-Star big man Andre Drummond a max contract. If that is Wood’s preference, can the Pistons salvage the situation by executing a sign and trade?
Langlois: By way of explanation, Wood two weeks ago Tweeted, “I want to win.” Without context, that could mean anything. Interpret it at your own peril. It remains to be seen what the landscape for free agency will be when the NBA and Players Association make accommodations to account for the unprecedented scenario that confronts them as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its fallout. But even without the coming and almost certain reduction in the salary cap, there weren’t going to be many teams positioned to offer Wood more than $10 million in first-year salary – an important threshold given that the Pistons can offer approximately that much as the early Bird exception. (To be clear, the Pistons could offer more than that if they want to sign Wood purely out of their cap space. The move that would best advantage the Pistons, though, would be to use their cap space first and then sign Wood with the exception, the risk being that a team with considerable space could present Wood an offer north of $10 million in first-year salary right out of the gate.) Couldn’t Wood just as easily interpret the decision to trade Drummond as faith in his ability to fill his void? But to your question, sure, a sign and trade is a tool available to them if it comes to that. The probability of it, though still not great, likely increases with a diminished cap as it could well mean fewer teams with the capability to sign Wood with cap space.
Tank Casey (@RedAlternates): If you had to make a guess, how many days from now do you expect the Pistons to name their new general manager?
Langlois: If these were normal times, it would be easier to imagine a time frame. I’ve written it before, but the organizations that figure out how to maximize the extraordinary luxury of time that the suspension of the season has provided them will come out of this in better shape than their peers. Ed Stefanski said about a month into it that he felt the front office was getting as much or perhaps more accomplished by working remotely than they would have otherwise. The groundwork for the draft and free agency is being accomplished months before the information will be put to use given the projected dates of Oct. 15 and Oct. 18. Stefanski took over the front office in May 2018 a little more than a month before the draft and free agency. And he’ll still be in place to guide those efforts this time around. In other words, the Pistons can take as much time as they deem necessary to feel comfortable they’ve made the right decision. I’m sure you’ve seen reports that name Troy Weaver, Mark Hughes and Jeff Peterson as top contenders. If that’s accurate and they’re down to a final three, it follows that the resolution isn’t far away. Often the calendar drives these decisions. That’s not the case in this instance. But the decision likely isn’t months away. Sooner rather than later.
Raj (Hamtramck, Mich.): If a team has a full roster and their G League roster is full, is it necessary for a team to draft?
Langlois: It would be technically possible but practically impossible to field a roster in which all 15 players have guaranteed contracts for the following season. So that wouldn’t prevent a team from exercising its first-round draft pick; first-rounders, unlike second-rounders, come with guaranteed contracts. A number of things would happen in the extremely unlikely scenario in which a team has no open roster spots. First, it could draft a player, likely a foreign-born one, that it doesn’t intend to sign for the following season while still retaining draft rights; second, it could trade the draft pick for a future pick or picks. It would be professional malpractice to pass on exercising the pick and surrender a valuable asset for zero return. If I’m an owner and my general manager comes to me with that as a plan, I’m getting a new general manager.
Xegesis (@xegesis): The starting point guard for the Pistons next year is?
Langlois: He’s probably not on the roster. I wouldn’t anticipate Derrick Rose being free of his minutes restriction next season and if they’re trying to hold him to 28 minutes or less, Dwane Casey’s preference would be to bring him off the bench. Rose might well wind up playing the most minutes at point guard of anyone on the roster and he very likely winds up finishing games. But Casey probably would hope that free agency gives the Pistons a player good enough to start at point guard, play alongside Rose in spurts and take the burden of both starting and finishing games off of Rose. The Pistons could well draft a point guard in the lottery, but I wouldn’t bet on that player getting penciled in as the starter. Drafting a point guard might not have a huge impact on free agency at the top, at least. By that I mean I would expect the Pistons to go after the same player – the player they identify as their best fit at point guard – whether they draft a point guard or not. If they draft a wing or a big man, they might elect to add two point guards in free agency. You can Google “top free agent point guards 2020” and pick your favorite. Whether the Pistons want to go all in on the best available is the decision that will probably be on top of their to-do list leading to October.
Dundadah Bartholomew (@Dundadah89): Are we headed to Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose taking off or will they be a couple of veterans tending to a playpen until movement happens?
Langlois: If you’re asking if either Griffin or Rose will be moved before the start of the 2020-21 season, the answer is very likely not. Griffin’s contract is such that teams are unlikely to be willing to take it on without evidence that he’s still the player he was in 2018-19. Griffin sounded very confident last week that the minor surgery he underwent in January had him on course to be that guy. He’ll have trade value again if that’s the case. When that time comes, the Pistons will evaluate their options. They value everything Griffin has meant to them these past few years – from Pistons owner Tom Gores to coach Dwane Casey to his teammates. His example and his leadership are not to be dismissed for an organization going through a transition period. Rose would have more immediate trade value, but the Pistons decided at the trade deadline he was worth more to them in his presence than in trade. It’s fair to assume nothing has changed since then.
Karthik Kumar (@chi11imac): If the NBA resumes at the end of July as planned, will the coaches have to weak masks on the sidelines? Players definitely cannot wear masks while playing, can they? If so, how do coaches expect to pass on instructions? Will the team with the best floor general do better?
Langlois: Reports of what’s in the health and safety protocol manual – apparently, it’s more than 100 pages in length – say that coaches and players on the front row of the team bench do not have to wear masks, while those in the second row will be required to do so. But to your point, even if the head coach were masked, he’d have a 100 times better chance of being heard through a mask in an empty arena – one without fans – than he would unmasked in a typically attended game with 18,000 screaming fans (and pumped-in music and other artificial noise, perhaps) drowning out his instructions. Teams with the best floor generals will have an advantage in Orlando just as they would otherwise, but not because the five players on the floor will be any less connected to their head coach. In fact, they’ll be able to hear sideline instruction better than ever. The flip side is, so will the opposition. The happiest people about the bubble environment will be the advance scouts – the personnel employed by every organization whose job it is to scout upcoming opponents and chart their plays. They try to not only diagram each play but label it with the play call, though as franchises looked to maximize the value of every seat with proximity to the court those scouts have typically been moved farther away from the playing surface – and, thus, have a more difficult time hearing play calls in a noisy arena from farther away than ever. Assuming advance scouts are part of the mix in Orlando – and, with every team’s travel party limited to 37, reportedly, that’s a big assumption and perhaps teams will choose to scout via television only – they’ll be much better able to hear play calls as they map play design.