Pistons Mailbag - June 20, 2018

by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

What will Dwane Casey's impact be on the Pistons roster and what can the front office do this off-season to improve it are among the hot topics in this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.

Ken (Dharamsala, India): How do you think Dwane Casey will handle Stanley Johnson? Johnson has great athleticism and he is a tough man in the paint defensively. If he could only hit the ground with a bean bag – if he could come near NBA shooting averages – the Pistons would be a nasty team to contend with since Luke Kennard is going to blossom this year.

Langlois: It’s no secret that the biggest impediment to Johnson taking the next step and becoming a quality NBA starter is his 3-point shooting. He needs to become a better decision maker with the ball, sure, but some of that is also tied to the troubles he’s had knocking down open shots. When your shot can’t be trusted, the tendency is to plow ahead into traffic and that puts Johnson in tough spots too often. Can Dwane Casey and his staff find a way to help Johnson take that kind of leap over the course of the off-season? No idea. It certainly wasn’t for lack of attention by Stan Van Gundy and his staff, Bob Beyer chief among them, that Johnson’s shooting never got off its plateau.

Casey had a great track record in Toronto developing players drafted at far lesser spots than the No. 8 the Pistons took Johnson in 2015, but there’s no way to judge the impact he’ll have on him until we see it in real NBA games.

Cash Considerations (@BlakeMH529): I’m curious to know who exactly will be making our 42nd pick on Thursday since we don’t have a general manager in place. Will it be Ed Stefanski and Dwane Casey together deciding? Is there any other staff still in the front office that has stayed to help with the draft?

Langlois: I wouldn’t expect Casey to have much – or anything, really – to do with the draft. As a coach, he was immersed in the playoffs until Toronto was bounced by Cleveland in the second round. He wouldn’t have spent any time looking at draft prospects before then. He almost immediately became immersed in the process that led to him becoming Pistons coach last week. In the next few years, I would expect Casey to at least be consulted and offer opinions on draft prospects once the front office presents him with their preferred candidates at whatever draft spots the Pistons wind up having. For this draft, no, I’d be surprised if he was part of the decision-making process. Ed Stefanski was involved in draft preparation as a member of Memphis’ front office and he’ll have all the support he needs from the collective work put in by Pistons scouts in preparing for this draft. He’ll make the pick. Contracts for front-office employees run through the end of June.

Tio (@2kTio): Should we trade Reggie Jackson or keep our current core? Pursue Isaiah Thomas?

Langlois: The Pistons hired Dwane Casey and paid him a reported $35 million over five years. They traded for Blake Griffin a few months ago. I don’t think you turn around and trade your point guard – unless you’ve got another plan to land a point guard you like just as much or better. And there’s no tree that grows starting-caliber point guards – and the last season Jackson was fully healthy, 2015-16, he was a top-10 point guard – you can shake and have one drop into your lineup. I don’t know what the market will be for Isaiah Thomas this summer. Surely, he’s not getting the maximum contract he’d envisioned before the hip injury. I would expect he’ll probably have to sign a short-term deal at modest money that will allow him to re-establish his market value and go back on the free-agent market next summer. I don’t think the Pistons’ depth chart with Jackson and Ish Smith would be very attractive to Thomas, given the urgency for playing time he must feel, nor would the likelihood of the Pistons running much of their offense through Griffin be something that would allow him to show he’s back to 2016 levels. His free agency is very tough to project, but the Pistons seem a most unlikely landing spot.

Andy (@NBAndrew14): Is trading for a pick on the radar? Any number?

Langlois: It’s tough to trade up and I’m not sure what the Pistons would use as bait. Veterans with big contracts that they could spare – Jon Leuer, Langston Galloway – aren’t very likely to fan that type of interest given they both have two years remaining and are coming off injury or depressed production. And it’s tough to see them eager to part with their key complementary players, which would only create another hole. Would they trade a future No. 2 pick plus their pick at 42 to move up a handful or two worth of spots and get to the early part of the second round? For the right player, I’d guess they would. Can they find a trade partner? I speculated on some of these topics in this piece, Andy.

Leon (Grayling, Mich.): I have a trade suggestion. Swap Jon Leuer for Utah’s Alec Burks, then follow by sending Langston Galloway to Charlotte for Jeremy Lamb. With Burks and Lamb and Stanley Johnson, Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard on the team we would then have a nice set of wings. Then re-sign Anthony Tolliver. Our team would be complete then.

Langlois: Charlotte is looking for cap relief and adding Galloway and his two remaining years by shipping out Lamb and his one remaining year doesn’t move the needle for the Hornets at all. Not to mention Lamb averaged 12.9 a game and had his best season as a pro last year. Utah might lose Derrick Favors in free agency this season, so it’s conceivable the Jazz might be in the market for someone capable of giving them minutes at center and power forward if they don’t think last year’s No. 1 pick, Tony Bradley, is ready. But it’s the same situation: Leuer has two years left, Burks one with Burks playing a fairly important role in Utah’s rotation. The Utah trade would be a little closer to the realm of the possible, but still unlikely given Leuer coming off a season in which injury limited him to eight games.

Nancy (Gladstone, Mich.): Do you know the roster for Summer League?

Langlois: Summer League rosters don’t come together until after the draft. Agents of undrafted free agents don’t want to put their guys on rosters where the primary objective of the team will be to give maximum exposure to their more valuable assets. The Phoenix Suns, assuming they take DeAndre Ayton with the No. 1 pick, won’t have their first choice of big men to fill out their Summer League roster because Ayton is going to get the bulk of playing time at center. As the draft unfolds Thursday night, front offices across the league will be working the phones to talk to agents of players who look like they’ll go undrafted trying to secure commitments for Summer League. Keep in mind that unless a team signs a player to a contract that obligates them to come to training camp – and that means a commitment of some dollars – signing for Summer League doesn’t give a team rights to the player for any more than those few weeks. When a player signs up for Summer League, he’s really looking for the opportunity that gives him the best chance to audition for all 30 NBA teams – and for teams in leagues across the world.

Peter (Jackson, Mich.): Any chance the Pistons move up in the draft to target Donte DiVincenzo? That kid is made for the modern NBA game and should still be available in the 20s. What would the price of moving into the lower first round be and could the Pistons pull it off?

Langlois: It’s 50-50 whether DiVincenzo will be available in the 20s. I went to the NBA draft combine last month with him on my list of players to talk to as a possibility to be taken with the 42nd pick by the Pistons. He was generally projected to go in the mid-30s at that time and when you get past the top 25 picks or so beauty is very much in the eye of the beholder. By the time I left Chicago a few days later, it was pretty clear – based on his eye-popping athletic testing and play during five-on-five scrimmaging – that DiVincenzo would be out of reach for the Pistons. Size, shooting and toughness. Unless it’s part of a larger – and very unlikely – deal, I don’t see a realistic way for the Pistons to trade up high enough to be a player for DiVincenzo. The over/under on where DiVincenzo might be drafted is probably 19½ .

Will (Vernon, Conn.): Is Gerald Green a legitimate option at small forward? I know he’s had a shaky career, but I never understood why. The kid has talent but has never been consistent. For some reason, I always wanted the Pistons to give him a shot.

Langlois: You answered your own question. Gerald Green was drafted 13 years ago – so “kid” might not be an appropriate label any more – and your “has never been consistent” line rings pretty close to true. There’s a reason the Bucks waived him last fall and he was out of basketball until Houston gave him a shot in late December. Green’s still athletic and his career numbers say he’s an average 3-point shooter. What you get from one night to the next has always been the issue. For what it’s worth, Dwane Casey was on Rick Carlisle’s staff in Dallas when Green played for the Mavericks, though he wasn’t a major contributor. Green spent the next two seasons playing in Russia.

Lenon (Detroit): With everyone healthy, the Pistons are closer to the top than the bottom. Will your reporting provide more insight into how Casey will close the gaps in player development, becoming top five in offense and defense?

Langlois: I talked about that some last week when Casey was hired, in particular the way Toronto developed the best bench in the NBA last season with most of the key parts acquired without expending premium assets – guys like Fred Van Vleet, Pascal Siakam, Norman Powell and Delon Wright. As the weeks unfold, we’ll have plenty of opportunities to talk to Casey about player development and other topics, including his vision for how the Pistons should function offensively with Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson as their key players.

Bands (@billybands): When do you think the Pistons will hire a general manager or do you think Ed Stefanski will take the general manager role?

Langlois: As I wrote when the Pistons named Ed Stefanski senior adviser while announcing he’d agreed to a three-year contract, I don’t put much stock in titles but a three-year contract with a job description that emphasized the fact he reports directly to owner Tom Gores got my attention. Whatever you call him and however the Pistons wind up filling out the front office, it’s clear that Stefanski is the lead voice. Stefanski will be the guy hiring the key front-office positions under him. It’s possible one of those people will wind up with the title of general manager – now or somewhere down the road.

Seif (@Seif97ify): Will you make any trades for shooters so you can utilize Blake Griffin better next season?

Langlois: Stay tuned. The trade market is the most likely path for the Pistons to upgrade or tweak the roster for better complementary fits over the summer, given the fact they don’t go into Thursday’s draft with a No. 1 pick and won’t have cap space when free agency opens July 1. But in Reggie Bullock and Luke Kennard, the Pistons have two players who shot 40-plus percent from the 3-point arc last season and a healthy Reggie Jackson gives them more of a 3-point threat at another perimeter position. Bullock and Kennard are going to play 50-plus minutes a game combined at the two wing positions. Stanley Johnson is the other primary option there and we’ve discussed the need for improved 3-point shooting from him. It’s almost certain the Pistons are going to add another small forward and the ability to be a 3-point threat will be among the most important criteria for candidates there.

O11O (@OttoBolea): Although unlikely, any chance the Pistons look to land Kawhi Leonard? Andre Drummond, Stanley Johnson and Reggie Bullock for Leonard and Pau Gasol could entice the Spurs. Risky for the Pistons if Kawhi simply leaves in 2019, but he may be worth the risk.

Langlois: Extremely unlikely. Extremely risky. Also, very little chance – without a No. 1 pick this year and without the ability to trade next year’s No. 1 pick because they traded it this year – the Pistons would have a competitive package to acquire him.

Patrick (@Patrick_J_B13): What can Dwane Casey do to improve this team to compete for the top playoff spots in the East as opposed to fighting for the seventh or eighth spots since we keeping hearing Pistons quotes that the roster will be pretty much the same again?

Langlois: Keeping them healthy would be a great start. Among the things more in his control, establishing trust and respect from the roster – and, most critically, key players Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson – is the first step. As part of that, developing a system that puts them in the best position to succeed offensively will be critical. The Pistons were a fairly effective and consistent defensive team under Stan Van Gundy – fringe top 10 – and Casey’s been known as a defensive savant during his time in the NBA. Figuring out the best way to attack on offense will be a priority.

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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