As the draft, trades and free agency converge, there’s plenty of hot topics for this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.
Peter (Jackson, Mich.): For my money, Kira Lewis is the best point guard in this draft. Supposedly, Weaver likes big, athletic players with length. Does he value speed and shooting? Because Lewis has both.
Langlois: We know that Lewis worked out for the Pistons, for what it’s worth. And what, really, is it worth? In a typical draft year, maybe not much. At times, teams hold workouts for players they have no intention to draft for any number of reasons, including as a favor to an agent whose consideration is imperative to the franchise’s success. This year, does that really apply? Teams were granted merely 10 in-person workouts/interviews with draft prospects and, one would presume, they’re being judicious about parceling them out. Lewis was widely considered a late first-round prospect a few months ago, but he’s been rocketing up mock draft boards ever since. Whether that’s an accurate reflection of NBA team evaluations or just mock drafts finally catching up with a sentiment that was there all along is anyone’s guess. It’s generally true that Oklahoma City drafts have tended to result in players with plus size for their position and it’s tough to argue with the results. The Thunder have been consistently among the NBA’s top defensive teams in large part because of their size and athleticism. But I don’t think Weaver is oblivious to the importance of great shooting or high-level skill, either. Where all of that puts Lewis on his draft board remains to be seen. I think the odds are that five players – James Wiseman, Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball, Deni Avdija and Obi Toppin – will be off the board when the Pistons pick at seven and that the Pistons pick will come from a pool of another five players: Killian Hayes, Tyrese Haliburton, Onyeka Okongwu, Isaac Okoro and Patrick Williams, though at least one of the five is unlikely to still be available. (My guess is Haliburton – whose maturity, versatility, shooting and character profile will be of appeal to plenty of teams – goes somewhere in the top six.) Lewis would be an upset at No. 7, but not a huge shocker. He's got a shot to go in the top 10 and I fully expect him to be a lottery pick.
4th quarter covid (@not_presti): Who do the Pistons realistically take/have the potential to take assuming we make no more moves prior to the draft?
Langlois: As I wrote in the previous question, I think the Pistons likely will pick from a pool of Killian Hayes, Tyrese Haliburton, Onyeka Okongwu, Isaac Okoro and Patrick Williams. If I had to narrow it down any further, I’d say flip a coin between Hayes and Williams. I think Haliburton just might be the likeliest to be unavailable to them, though any of the five has a realistic chance to be taken in the top six. There are reports today that Okongwu is dealing with a foot injury that isn’t expected to be a long-term thing but likely will keep him out of training camp and the start of the season. If I had to place a bet, I’d split my money on Hayes and Williams.
Ralo (Taylor, Mich.): I keep hearing rumors of Patrick Williams being drafted by the Pistons but don’t see the upside in his game or his shooting. Is he worth the pick at No. 7?
Langlois: No question he has become the hottest name linked to the Pistons over the last few weeks. Whether it’s real or a head fake, we’ll see. The upside is perhaps Williams’ outstanding appeal. His tape is filled with plays that scream upside. How that translates to possession-by-possession efficiency and production is another matter, but the upside is as tantalizing as anyone’s in this draft. At 6-foot-8 with an estimated 7-foot wingspan and high-end athleticism, Williams is the prototype for the modern-day forward, not unlike Sekou Doumbouya in that regard. As for his shooting, the sample size was small at Florida State – 50 3-point attempts for the season and 16 makes, or 32 percent. That doesn’t scream elite shooter but it surely doesn’t suggest he can’t be developed into at least an NBA average 3-point shooter. Free-throw shooting is viewed as perhaps the most accurate predictor of 3-point potential and Williams was an outstanding foul shooter, making 83.8 percent of his free throws at Florida State. If there’s a quibble with Williams, it might be his fairly anemic rebounding numbers for a player with his size and athleticism.
Walter (Boca Raton, Fla.): Let’s say they hold on to Derrick Rose until the trade deadline and they get a good offer. Since Rose is a free agent at the end of the season, could they trade him to a contender and sign him again as a free agent? It’s not the same as the Lindsey Hunter case a few years ago when he was traded to Boston, waived and re-signed by the Pistons.
Langlois: There would be nothing to prevent it in the collective bargaining agreement, though from a practical standpoint it seems unlikely. The Pistons are in a different place today than when Rose signed with them in July 2019, coming off of a playoff season and envisioning Rose as the driver of an improved bench who would join Blake Griffin as part of the closing unit. You’re right that it’s a different scenario than when the Pistons traded Lindsey Hunter to Boston as part of the three-team trade with the Pistons and Atlanta that netted Rasheed Wallace at the 2004 trade deadline. The deal was done with the understanding that Boston would waive Hunter and he would re-sign with the Pistons. The trade went down on Feb. 19, Hunter waived on Feb. 25 and re-signed Feb. 26 with the Pistons. That prompted the NBA to change the rule to mandate a 30-day waiting period before a player could re-sign with the team that had traded him. That’s what happened in 2008 when the Pistons traded Antonio McDyess along with Chauncey Billups to Denver for Allen Iverson on Nov. 3. The Nuggets waived McDyess a few days after the trade, as was understood would happen by both parties, but he had to wait until early December to re-sign. After that, the NBA changed the rule to say that if a player was traded and waived by the receiving team, he couldn’t re-sign with the team that traded him until the one-year anniversary of the trade. If Rose were traded this year on an expiring contract, he could re-sign with any team when free agency opens for the 2021-22 NBA season, the Pistons included.
#Sad Boys (@DetroitSadBoys): Any predictions on how the roster will change under Troy Weaver? Any indication on his long-term strategy?
Langlois: We’re about to get some clues, though I would be careful about reading too much into early acquisitions. General managers can’t have rigid philosophies on talent other than to collect as much of it as possible. Weaver’s overriding philosophy, based on what he’s said so far, is to make sure the character matches the talent. Another clue: He loves the competitive edge that is the hallmark of the two Pistons championship eras and wants to emulate those teams. But that doesn’t mean every player will be cut from a certain mold. Not all of Weaver’s acquisitions are going to be viewed as street brawlers, if that’s the impression anyone had. Winning teams require a variety of skills and making the scoreboard move is as critical as players who prevent the opposition’s side of it from moving.
Dean Ski (@FreedumFyghter): Unless we trade up or down, Tyrese Haliburton is at the top of our big board, right?
Langlois: No one other than Troy Weaver and a select few of his inner circle really know the pecking order of preference. I’m sure there are at least three or four players Weaver knows will be unavailable to the Pistons with the seventh pick and then another group of four or five he has studied exhaustively and, of them, he’s probably hoping for one or maybe a choice of two or three to be there for the Pistons. Which circle Haliburton falls into is anyone’s guess. We’ll know a little more – maybe not everything – after the draft. Haliburton checks off a lot of boxes, but he’s not the only one.