Pistons Mailbag - May 23, 2018
Will the Pistons deal for another star player this summer? What’s next in the search to replace Stan Van Gundy on the sidelines and in the front office? It’s Pistons Mailbag time.
Adam (@AdamJanssen3): Do you think the Pistons make a significant move this summer like trading for Kemba Walker to add a third superstar next o Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin?
Langlois: Walker would likely be on anyone’s top-five list of star players likely to be traded this off-season. In fact, he might be No. 1. Charlotte is facing a vexing cap situation and coming off of a lottery season. Walker is their most desirable asset but the down side is that he’ll be a free agent after the 2018-19 season. That makes it a tougher call to part with the No. 1 pick that Charlotte will surely require as the centerpiece of a Walker deal than it was for the Pistons to give up a No. 1 pick for four-plus years of Blake Griffin. Since the Pistons gave up their No. 1 pick for Griffin this season, they can’t trade a No. 1 pick for 2019. So the chances of them trading for Walker, or anybody else of that stature, is diminished.
Josh (@ThatGuyGayle): Excluding the bigger-name coaching options (Casey, Hammon, Stackhouse, Jackson, Blatt) are there any non-rumored potential coaches that you think the Pistons might try to get?
Langlois: It appears, based on the sporadic and limited reporting of the dual searches for a coach and a front-office chief executive, that the priority is to get the front-office role filled first. Who gets that job, in all likelihood, will be instrumental in the process of determining who’ll be the next coach. So to talk about under-the-radar candidates at this point would be nothing more than throwing darts.
Nick (Brisbane, Australia): I’m a bit perplexed by the timing of the Stan Van Gundy firing. I think he deserved to see out the final year of his contract of the squad he assembled. Also, I follow Andre Drummond on Instagram and he seems to be doing a lot of work on his jump shot and 3-point shooting. Would this be at the request of the Pistons and a sign of him taking more jumpers next year or just him individually looking to improve?
Langlois: It might not be the norm to have waited three weeks from season’s end to firing, but it’s hardly unprecedented. In recent Pistons history, Michael Curry was fired in late June, after the draft. Owner Tom Gores, by all accounts, went about a deliberative process to make the best-informed decision possible. Whether it was the right course or not, as always, only time will tell. As for Drummond’s off-season regimen, I wouldn’t make much of it at this point. It’s May. Players won’t get back into the meat of their off-season workouts until mid-summer. Drummond – and virtually every NBA player – often practices shots beyond his normal shooting range. It’s not necessarily frivolous. Luke Kennard’s normal pregame routine with assistant coach Rex Walters includes shooting from a good 10 to 12 feet beyond the 3-point arc from one wing to the other. Those are shots he’d never attempt in a game, but getting a feel for shooting from 32 to 35 feet, the theory goes, can only make the typical NBA 3-point shot seem easier.
Horace (Las Vegas): Didn’t the Pistons have to lose their No. 1 pick? So with this being a deep draft, shouldn’t we just get it over with?
Langlois: Well, sure. Except the Pistons would have much, much preferred to pull a top-three pick this year than hand over the No. 12 pick to the Clippers and then take their chances next season – assuming they get relatively healthy seasons from Reggie Jackson and Blake Griffin – on winning 45-plus games, making the playoffs and turning over a pick anywhere from the high teens to somewhere below that. So, yeah, they were only going to have to give the Clippers one No. 1 pick, but they’d rather have done it after a playoff appearance and make it a less attractive pick.
Kevin (Farmington Hills, Mich.): I keep reading how the Pistons turned down an offer from Boston of “four first-round draft picks for Stanley Johnson,” (our No. 8 pick that year). Can you please confirm or clarify what I’ve read?
Langlois: Shortly after that draft, it was reported that Boston made an offer to Charlotte to move up from No. 16 to No. 9 with Justise Winslow, apparently, the target. Last week Bill Simmons said on a podcast hosted by ESPN’s Zach Lowe that Danny Ainge offered a deal that had four “potential” first-round picks. One, presumably, would have been the No. 16 pick in that draft that was Boston’s. What the others might have been and how heavily the pick protections on them were, who knows? We do know that Boston was guarding its trove of future first-round picks zealously and only when Kyrie Irving became available did the Celtics part with Brooklyn’s 2018 No. 1 pick. So while that deal sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly wasn’t quite as alluring as Simmons made it sound. It’s also a useful reminder of the mixture of luck, speculation and uncertainty involved in the draft. Boston took Terry Rozier at 16. Would Ainge – now regarded as at or very near the top of the GM pyramid – swap Rozier straight up for Winslow today? As for whether the Pistons really got such an offer, who knows? Maybe it will be a chapter in Stan Van Gundy’s memoir someday.
Ed (Grand Blanc, Mich.): Why are the Pistons waiting to hire a coach? The Coach of the Year, Dwane Casey, was foolishly fired. Hire him now!
Langlois: There’s no ironclad blueprint, but the preferred course when organizations have openings for both a coach and a front-office leader is to get the latter in place first. You’d like to have the guy responsible for organizational oversight to get a say in who’ll coach the team. And there’s more of an urgency to get a front-office executive – whether the title is president of basketball operations or general manager or something else doesn’t really matter – in place in May than there is to name a coach. The Pistons have to prepare for a draft, free agency and trade season in late June and early July. A coach isn’t necessary for any of those mileposts. The only added urgency with hiring a coach, I suppose, is that the Pistons aren’t the only team with a coaching vacancy. But they are the only team currently in the market for a front-office chief executive. Casey’s an interesting case. It’s clear he had broad support among his peers, winning Coach of the Year from them – the official award, as voted on by media members, hasn’t yet been revealed – among a strong field of candidates. Perhaps the thing that most impressed coaches was the transformation Toronto’s offense underwent from isolation heavy to one predicated on motion. There have been suggestions it was a decision brought to Casey by management, which sheds new perspective on the evaluation. In any event, it’s not always a cookie-cutter profession. In other words, because a coach was successful in one place doesn’t mean he’s the right fit everywhere else. That’s why you go through a rigorous vetting and interview process. The Pistons would be wise to do it right over doing it fast. Casey might well emerge as the right man for the job.
Ed (@edchungtweets): Likelihood the Pistons buy a pick a la the Warriors, which free agents they should target with the mid-level exception, their most tradeable asset besides Luke – Ish, Stanley or using the trade exception?
Langlois: The likelihood the Pistons spend to buy a draft pick this year is probably slim to none. They have 12 players under contract. Their only pressing need is to find competition with Stanley Johnson at small forward. The most realistic path to pursue that objective is trade or free agency. As for which free agent they should target with all or part of the mid-level exception, I’ll confess I haven’t spent much time perusing the list of available free agents. They won’t be picking from the top shelf because that’s the nature of having only the exceptions to utilize, which gives the advantage to teams taking cap space into free agency. But they’ll have the advantage of targeting who they want and acting quickly because they have nearly a full roster already and it figures the front office will have a very clear idea of what type of player they want to complement a lineup with very clearly established rotation mainstays. They could very well let the market cool and find a valuable rotation player at below-market rates, as happens every year. Players who fit the profile they’re targeting are likely to be intrigued by playing on a roster with Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, among others. Most tradeable asset? I think Reggie Bullock would stir up a lot of interest. One year left on his deal at just $2.5 million for a guy who shot it better than anyone in the league – Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, everyone – who took at least 3.0 3-point shots a game after moving into the starting lineup on Dec. 12. But can a Pistons team that likely sees itself as not merely a playoff contender but potentially one that can open on its home court and make some noise afford to part with such a player?
Christopher (Pontiac, Mich.): Larry Brown is looking for a head coaching position. Let’s make it happen. Indiana and Utah showed the league that hard-nosed defense and team play can still belong and win in this league. The Larry Brown way to play can turn this team around. We have just as much, if not more, talent than the Jazz and Pacers. We just have to play the right way, Bring him back, Keith.
Langlois: He’s 77. I don’t think it’s ageist to suggest that the demands of being an NBA head coach during the season would tax unduly someone that age who isn’t superhuman. They aren’t doing physical labor, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a physical toll exacted by the demands of the job, including the grueling travel schedule – lots of 3 a.m. arrivals, bus rides, hotels, early morning coaches meetings to plan that day’s practice or plan for that night’s game. He’s a brilliant basketball mind. No one would ever dispute that. A franchise might be well served by having him on staff as an adviser. But Brown had physical issues as Pistons coach 14 years ago after undergoing hip surgery that sidelined him. I don’t think he’s a serious candidate to come back as an NBA head coach at this stage.
Koyel (Clifton, N.J.): Which player should the Pistons take in the NBA draft?
Langlois: We’ve begun our NBA draft series, Koyel. First up was Devonte Graham and today’s installment was on Jevon Carter. They’re two of the most prominent possibilities. As we inch nearer the June 21 draft, we’ll probably have another handful of players who’ll move into that territory. Stay tuned.