Pistons Mailbag - June 26, 2019

The future for Sekou Doumbouya, what to expect from the Summer League Pistons and a whole lot more post-draft chatter dominate the agenda in this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.

Erges (@ergeskelo14): Do the Pistons see Sekou Doumbouya as a small forward or a power forward?

Carribean Public Defender (@islandpapi): Do you see Sekou getting most of his playing time at the three or the four? Prospects on Bruce Brown’s Summer League position?

Langlois: I asked last week about how the Pistons viewed Doumbouya’s positional home. Dwane Casey says he’s a natural power forward but has the ability to defend small forwards. He’ll need to develop his offensive skills a little more to truly project as a small forward at the other end, in all likelihood, but he’s still seven months away from turning 19. It’s tantalizing to imagine what he might be when he’s 20 … or 22 … or 24. As for what he’ll play at Summer League, I’d guess mostly the four given the makeup of the roster – three wings from last year’s draft in Bruce Brown, Khyri Thomas and Svi Mykhailiuk – but also to keep it simple for him in his first time around. Learning the defensive coverages at both spots with only three days of practice before the first game might be a lot to throw at an 18-year-old in a radically new environment. Brown, though, might play some point guard, at least early in Summer League. You probably heard a certain point guard drafted 57th is destined for the Pistons, but the trade to make it official isn’t likely until July 6, the day after the Summer League opener. So perhaps Brown gets early run at point guard in Summer League and then they phase him out, given that he has 56 games of starting experience already. Brown has plenty to work on offensively – his 3-point shot items A, B and C – but that can get accomplished mostly in shooting drills. If they’re serious about giving him a look at point guard, that is best accomplished in games. The Pistons are going to have a lot of prospects on their Summer League roster this time they’ll want to evaluate – last year’s three rookies, last week’s three draft picks and a reported two-way signing in Oregon’s Louis King. That’s seven players who might show up in a Pistons uniform at some point, a high number. With that many prospects to develop, they’ll have to parcel out their minutes and put players in situations they want to expose them to judiciously.

James (Detroit): With no official measurements in some time and either Ed Stefanski or Dwane Casey mentioning at the introductory press conference that Sekou Doumbouya looks pretty close in height to Andre Drummond, inquiring minds over at DetroitBadBoys.com would like to know, “How tall is Sekou and what is his wingspan?” Given he’s only 18 and his last official measurements were a year ago, can you share any updates here?

Langlois: I wish. DraftExpress did a side-by-side comparison chart of Doumbouya and Pascal Siakam but didn’t include wingspan. When Doumbouya was measured at the 2018 All-Star break at a Basketball Without Borders event – the measurements you are likely referencing – he was 6-foot-9 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan. He was also listed at 210 pounds and DraftExpress has him now at 231. Perhaps of more relevance, he had a standing reach of 8-foot-11½. That’s the same as Siakam measured as a 22-year-old at the 2016 combine. At the 2012 combine Drummond’s was measured with a 9-foot-1½ standing reach when he was 18. Now that he’s in the NBA, I wouldn’t expect any updates on wingspan for Doumbouya. It might get measured; it won’t be announced. If those inquiring minds over at DetroitBadBoys.com find out, let us know.

Craig (Auckland, New Zealand): I like the players the Pistons drafted and the moves they made, but it seems they’ve really gotten their calculus wrong here in that none of the three players are likely to make an impact while Blake Griffin is still in his prime. Given they want to (theoretically) maximize their window now, wouldn’t they have been better served looking for immediate help in the draft? They could have just drafted Brandon Clarke and Carson Edwards at 15 and 30. Doesn’t their draft strategy disconnect a bit with their current roster construction?

Langlois: It’s a fair question. Grant Williams was the two-time SEC Player of the Year and was still 20. You could make a case for drafting him at 15, too. Ed Stefanski was skeptical going into the draft that the Pistons could count on anyone to offer immediate help, though. You can argue with that assessment, but if you’re Stefanski and you don’t believe that anyone at 15 can provide instant impact, then better to take the player(s) you think have a combination of the highest ceiling and the best likelihood to achieve that in a reasonable time frame. They thought Doumbouya was that guy and acted accordingly. But you’re stretching it by saying “while Blake Griffin is still in his prime.” He just turned 30. The way he’s transformed his game – relying far less on explosive power at the rim and far more on perimeter shooting and playmaking – portends well for maintaining his level of impact well into his mid 30s, or at least through the duration of his contract in 2021-22. I think the Pistons are going to expect some impact from their draft picks before then. Heck, Stefanski has said he thinks Doumbouya, now that he can put a face to his 15th pick, is gifted enough that at some point next season he’ll force his way into the mix.

Darrell (Detroit): Do you believe the Bucks would match a four-year, $36 million offer sheet from the Pistons to Malcolm Brogdon on the first day of free agency? Brogdon would solve the problem for backup point guard next season and starting point guard for the future.

Langlois: Do I believe the Bucks would match a contract that comes in at less than a mid-level exception for Brogdon, who arguably was their second-best player in the playoff loss to Toronto? Yes. So fast it would make your head spin. There is speculation that the Bucks are bracing for someone to throw a four-year, $80 million offer at Brogdon. Maybe it doesn’t get that high, but it surely is coming in with a starting salary of more than the $9.25 million mid-level exception the Pistons have as their best tool in free agency. Not that anyone would waste Brogdon’s time approaching him with that offer, but Brogdon certainly isn’t signing an offer sheet for that amount. Points for trying, though.

Bob (Albany, Oregon): Great draft! Any hints on signing a center? Dewayne Dedmon comes to mind.

Langlois: I’m pretty sure Dedmon is looking for a bigger role – and a bigger role means a bigger payday – than he’d get playing behind Andre Drummond, who never misses time and is going to play 32-plus minutes a game. Dedmon averaged 10.8 points and 7.5 rebounds in 25 minutes a game while shooting 38 percent from the 3-point line on a fair sample size last season. (Granted, for a thin Atlanta roster.) It’s tough to peg value in free agency because it’s not a consensus of what he’s worth to 30 teams but of what he’s worth to one, but if I had to guess I’d say somebody might give Dedmon a deal for around the mid-level exception of $9.25 million a year. And that’s too rich for the Pistons, who need to address point guard ahead of center.

Kamal (Detroit): Two questions: (1) Will Luke Kennard play in the Summer League?; (2) How many of the second-round picks we acquired for giving up the 30th pick do we have left and how exactly did it play out?

Langlois: Kennard is not playing in Summer League. That’s no surprise. The Pistons have plenty of young players, including last year’s three rookies, plus three players picked in last week’s draft, plus another player signed to a two-way contract. Kennard played big minutes in a playoff series. Whatever he needs to work on this summer, it’s not going to be sped along by playing in Summer League. Best for him to be in the gym working on specific skills and taking care of his body and getting stronger. The Pistons got four second-round picks from Cleveland for trading out of No. 30, then used two of those picks to trade up from 45 to 37 and a third of those to trade back into the second round at 57. So the Pistons wound up with one additional future second-round pick, reportedly Cleveland’s 2023 pick. They also have the 2021 pick of the Lakers, but none of their own second rounders from 2020-23.

Lazarus (@lazchance): Expected starting lineup for the game against Croatia?

Langlois: Depends on who gets added to the roster at center and trade timing to determine who starts at point guard. They had 7-footer Johnny Hamilton a year ago and he spent the year with the Grand Rapids Drive, so that seems like a strong option. As I wrote above, the timing of NBA trades will dictate the situation at point guard regarding the 57th pick, whom the Pistons can’t discuss until the trade becomes official. Let’s assume, for the moment, he’s not available for the July 5 opener. Then maybe Bruce Brown starts at point guard with Khyri Thomas at shooting guard, Svi Mykhailiuk at the three and Sekou Doumbouya at the four. That’s a guess. Louis King, another three/four reportedly signed to a two-way deal, is also likely to get significant minutes. Whether the first second-round pick, another trade acquisition subject to the same limits, is available for the opener or July 6 or later is another wrinkle. Lots of young guys to keep track of this summer.

The Inc (Rochester, Mich.): Adding Tony Parker would make sense to me. A champion from the world-class Spurs organization, French, etc. Your thoughts?

Langlois: As a player? He announced his retirement recently, so that isn’t happening. I’m extrapolating here, but if your intimation is that they should hire him in an advisory role to have him as a mentor to French compatriot Sekou Doumbouya and be a conduit to young talent in France while grooming for a front-office position with broader responsibility, well, good idea. But I would have to believe that if Parker were interested in a role like that, he’d pitch the Spurs on it.

Hevvy (Harper Woods, Mich.): So the Pistons got lucky in the draft and a top-10 player fell to them at 15 – great pick. It seems to me they got lucky again at 30 when Kevin Porter Jr. fell to them, a player many say has top-10 talent. I think trading this pick was a big mistake – you watch.

Langlois: Porter didn’t come to Auburn Hills for a draft workout, which perhaps means the Pistons didn’t invite him and perhaps means they did and he declined for various reasons – the presence of a number of young wings (Brown, Thomas, Mykhailiuk) a possible one. I saw a few Southern Cal games and Porter made a play or two in each to lend credence to the school of thought that he was among the few with the potential to blossom into a primary NBA scorer. But for a guy billed as a James Harden playalike, the stat that jumped out to me is that Porter averaged 3.6 free throws per 40 minutes last season – that’s a shockingly low number for someone billed as a dynamic scorer. Southern Cal wasn’t a great team – under .500 – and Porter was seventh (!) on the team in minutes played per game, a stat that wouldn’t reflect the games he missed while serving a suspension for misconduct. At the 30th pick, I suppose, you could argue that you gamble on the upside. But the Pistons traded out, got four second-round picks, then drafted a guy at 35 – they can’t yet discuss him due to byzantine NBA trade rules – that they believe has all kinds of upside, a guy who turned 19 just 10 days before the draft, including the potential to blossom into an elite shooter.

Gilbert (Indianapolis): Why is Kevin Porter Jr. showing when I click the team roster on Pistons.com? I was happy with picking him at 30, but then shocked to see that he was traded. In hindsight, the Pistons should have kept the pick and used it to select a center like Bruno Fernando, Daniel Gafford or Bol Bol.

Langlois: The reported trade – Cleveland getting the 30th pick that the Pistons obtained 24 hours earlier from Milwaukee in the Jon Leuer-Tony Snell trade – isn’t yet official and likely won’t be until July 6. You’ll see Isaiah Roby on that page, too, taken with the 45th pick that originally belonged to the Pistons. The roster pages for teams on all NBA team sites are controlled by the NBA and Turner Sports and they’re following league protocol.

Peter (Jackson, Mich.): After a great trade and draft by the front office, the Pistons now need to dump Glenn Robinson III and Wayne Ellington and sign a backup center and a backup point guard. The Pistons have the $9.25 million mid-level exception and the $3.6 million biannual exception to use. I assume the MLE will be used on a point guard. What decent rim protectors will be available for $3.6 million?

Langlois: FYI, there’s no need to “dump” Ellington; he’s an unrestricted free agent. He was beyond satisfied with his half-season with the Pistons; likewise from the team’s end. They’ve added Tony Snell, who brings more size at the position and similar quality (if not quantity) as a 3-point shooter. I wouldn’t rule out a return for Ellington if he doesn’t land a richer offer in the first week of free agency. But, you’re right – point guard and center are the priorities now. (As for Robinson, there’s a June 29 team option on his contract for next season and the acquisition of Snell might tip the scales to declining it, but we’ll know soon enough.) I think they’ll need two point guards. One of them might be signed with a veteran’s minimum exception, so that would enable the Pistons to do as you suggested and offer the full MLE to a point guard. But they can split the MLE up over multiple players if that option presents itself. There are a ton of free-agent centers this season and with more teams limiting themselves to two on the roster the demand won’t be great early. There’s a decent chance to sign a pretty good center for less than the full biannual. In one listing of the best free-agent centers available, from 25 to 30 are players like Noah Vonleh and Richaun Holmes, both relatively young and both logging more than 1,000 minutes last season. I’d look for somebody who fits that description.

Matthew (Portland): Do you think the Pistons should try to trade for Mo Wagner? I hear the Lakers have put him on the trading block to open up cap space. I think we could get him for one of our second-round picks and a cheap player. Wagner would only have to play 15 minutes or so. He is young and can shoot the rock for a big man.

Langlois: The Lakers don’t want to take back any money. Wagner’s on the books for $2 million next season. They’d only save $600,000 of cap space by taking back any of the three lowest-paid Pistons – 2018-19 second-round rookies Bruce Brown, Khyri Thomas and Svi Mykhailiuk, all due to make the second-year minimum of $1.4 million – and that’s not moving the needle for them. If they trade Wagner, they’ll want to clear the entire $2 million. For a Pistons team that has just two second-rounders over the next four years, it would have to be for a clear roster need. Yes, the Pistons need to add a backup center this off-season, but I suspect it will be someone who would have more of a defensive profile than Wagner. Do they have the roster space to add both of those things – a sturdy defensive backup center and an upside stretch five? I suspect it’s not a fit at this time.

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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