Pistons Mailbag - May 13, 2020
The draft, how the Pistons tinker with Blake Griffin's role and Svi Mykhailiuk's future are among the topics on the table in this week's edition of Pistons Mailbag.
Jason Gruchala (@curseofthegooch): Which draft prospect fits with Sekou Doumbouya and Christian Wood?
Langlois: I've written that roster fit isn't likely to be much (or any) of a consideration for the Pistons and that teams that do draft for roster fit ahead of them might wind up doing so to their benefit. The Pistons aren't sure what they have in Doumbouya and can't be certain they'll be able to retain Wood in free agency – unless, of course, free agency winds up slotted ahead of the draft in the post-pandemic NBA – so that's another argument for merely drafting the best available player regardless of roster considerations. But the draft is deepest in point guards, the Pistons have a pronounced need for a long-term answer at that position and any frontcourt player – such as Doumbouya and Wood – would benefit from having a dynamic playmaker at point guard. So if the Pistons get their pick of point guards and believe that one among the group headed by LaMelo Ball, Killian Hayes, Cole Anthony, Tyrese Halliburton, R.J. Hampton and Kira Lewis is destined to grow into an average or above-average NBA starter, then that would seem a logical pick. The caveat there, and going back to my larger point, is they're not going to take a point guard just because they need a point guard if at their turn a player they view as a potential star – and someone they judge better than anyone else available – is on the board.
Philip Shaw (@agridome): The Canada-United States border presents a problem for the NBA with 14 days of isolation required when crossing. How will the NBA deal with that going forward?
Langlois: Short answer: I don't know. Longer answer: That's one of the many – dozens, scores, hundreds even – of little questions that present major issues as the NBA goes about the massive undertaking of reopening for business in a manner that ensures the safety of all. It's a bigger problem for the NHL, of course, where seven franchises call Canada home instead of the NBA's one. If a game at Toronto requires a 14-day quarantine upon arrival before the game could be played and a corresponding 14-day quarantine on the other side of the border before the team leaving Toronto can play another game in the United States, then that obviously is going to preclude the Raptors hosting home games. Even if you could allow the Raptors to stay at home for a month so they could host a series of teams without tremendous disruption to their schedule, the visiting teams would be limited to one game (at Toronto) over a 28-day period. Perhaps the two nations' governments could grant waivers, contingent on rigid testing availability and implementation for arriving and departing team travel parties. The likelier answer, though, is that by the time it's deemed safe for the NBA to resume games at home sites – as opposed to the discussed concept of playing in a one- or two-site “bubble” environment – conditions will have improved to the point that the 14-day quarantine is no longer in force.
Joe Winkler (@joewinklercmu): With Andre Drummond gone, what does Dwane Casey see for Blake Griffin's role? And a big screener missing from Derrick Rose's game?
Langlois: I don't know that Griffin's role is going to change much based on Drummond's absence. Griffin was clearly the focal point of Casey's playbook while Drummond was here and that, if anything, isn't likely to be affected with him gone. The Pistons didn't run plays for Drummond and they're unlikely to run them for their next center. If the Pistons are able to retain Christian Wood in free agency, then it stands to reason that Wood is going to play more minutes at center than he did in his first season with the Pistons. And since Wood is a very different player than Drummond, it will give Casey the ability to design a five-out offensive scheme and also allow Griffin to operate with more room when they're posting him given Wood's ability to draw his defender away from the rim. Rose can operate in pick and rolls with Griffin, Wood or any other big man the Pistons employ. Wood represents a lob threat, though lobbing isn't one of Rose's strong suits.
James Vos (@JamesVos): Svi Mykhailiuk took a big step forward this season but he's still just a rotation player. What areas does he need to work on in the off-season to earn a starting role?
Langlois: One of the things that flew a little under the radar after the trade deadline was the growth in diversity in Mykhailiuk's game. In his last six games, Mykhailiuk finished with three or more 3-pointers four times, five or more rebounds three times, four or more assists five times and two or more steals three times. He's a better athlete than people expect. His vertical jump of 37 inches at the 2018 combine was 1 inch less than Bruce Brown's and he ran a 3.15 three-quarter sprint to Brown's 3.2. Mykhailiuk has above-average playmaking potential for a wing player – the four or more assists in five of his last six games underscored that burgeoning skill – and continuing to hone his ballhandling will draw that out even more. Dwane Casey was greatly encouraged by Mykhailiuk's defensive growth as his second season progressed, too. His 3-point shooting always will be his calling card, but Mykhailiuk can't be pigeonholed as merely a shooter.
Gary Clark (@gadclark): I was disappointed to hear that Bruce Brown is now seen more as a secondary ballhandler than point guard. I thought he could be a special point guard with his defensive and rebounding skills. What would he have to improve on to close the point guard gap? Or has that ship sailed?
Langlois: Dwane Casey didn't close the door on Brown as point guard for the future beyond the 2019-20 season. He only said he wanted Brown to concentrate on becoming the best shooting guard he could be for the remainder of the season. He didn't get deep into the weeds for his decision, but the implication was that he values Brown as an elite defender and felt loading the responsibilities of being a point guard on a second-year player who'd never played the position at any level was perhaps detracting from the area that made Brown most valuable to the Pistons. I strongly suspect the Pistons will construct their 2020-21 roster in a way that enables Brown to play off of the ball, but the experience he gained while shouldering the load at point guard in his second season can only help Brown going forward even as a secondary ballhandler. I don't think the ship has sailed on Brown potentially having a future at point guard, but I don't think the Pistons are planning on needing him there next season, either.
Axel Irkinrump (@Irkinrump2): What percentage of Pistons Twitter still thinks this is a playoff team? I'm going with 65 percent.
Langlois: I think that's high based on my interaction, at least, though I'm under no illusion that Pistons Twitter accurately represents the perspective of Pistons fans at large, either. If I had to guess, I'd say Pistons Twitter is generally more cynical and pessimistic about the plight of the franchise than the broader community of Pistons fans because, well, that's the nature of social media. But the Pistons themselves acknowledged they weren't a playoff team as constituted and the trade of Andre Drummond for cap space and a future second-rounder was a pretty unmistakable public admission of as much. It's certainly possible that if Blake Griffin comes back at full strength – and that's a reasonable expectation off of minor knee surgery – and a few other things fall into place, the Pistons could wind up in the playoff picture in 2020-21, but their off-season moves will be motivated by longer term objectives than fielding a playoff contender for next season.
Bill Blasky (@bill_blasky): Do you think the Pistons will take the 2019 Knicks approach and look to add veterans on one-year deals until they find a free agent or trade partner to bring All-Star talent into the fold?
Langlois: Was that really a strategy the Knicks employed or was it their panicked response to being shut out by all 2019 premier free agents? I think signing a few veterans to one-year deals is likely to be one component of the Pistons off-season. Trading for veterans that contenders are looking to move in order to clear cap space for other moves is another. The wild card this off-season, of course, will be what happens to the cap in response to a reduced revenue stream and how teams feel about committing to future dollars in a wildly uncertain time.
Fatime E (@drummondfp): Will Blake Griffin be back when the season resumes?
Langlois: Griffin told ESPN's Sage Steele earlier this week that, “I feel great. I've basically been cleared for a while now. I just have been stuck in my house. So I'm ready to go whenever things pick back up. I'm just working out and trying to stay ready and stay sane. So it's nice to be healthy, though.” It's anyone's guess how the Pistons would view using Griffin if the 2019-20 season were to resume with regular-season games after a point where Griffin was deemed ready to play by the team's medical staff. Everyone – Pistons management and coaches, Griffin himself, of course fans – would be eager to see where Griffin was at physically. But the Pistons would also proceed cautiously. The last thing they'd want is to do anything to put Griffin's future beyond the 2019-20 season at risk. Ed Stefanski weeks ago had mentioned June as the target date for when Griffin would be cleared to begin aggressive conditioning, so perhaps when Griffin said he'd been “basically” cleared it wasn't quite the clearance Pistons medical staffers had in mind for when Griffin would have been able to begin a typical off-season regimen. And they'd want him undertaking that regimen, presumably, for weeks, or perhaps months, in order to prepare himself for the rigors of a full season. So how they'd feel about rushing his program to get ready for the potential completion of the 2019-20 season in, say, early July is unclear. But if I had to guess, I'd guess they'd want him ready for 2020-21 instead.