Pistons Mailbag - November 20, 2019

by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

A look at Luke Kennard’s trade value and sudden emergence as the focus of opposing defenses and a lot of talk about young Pistons players, including No. 1 pick Sekou Doumbouya, tearing it up in the G League is front and center in this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.

Snooty the Clown (@cl0wn_sn00ty123): Any chance the Pistons buy? I think Bradley Beal could get this team to turn the corner and be a six seed. Could win a playoff game or two. Three firsts and Kennard for Beal: Who says no?

Langlois: The NBA. Beal can’t be traded at all this season due to the two-year, $72 million contract extension he signed last month that takes him through the 2022-23 season (with a player option for that final year). As much as I like Beal, I’m not giving up Kennard and three No. 1 picks for him unless the protections on those picks are so ironclad that the likelihood is that some or all of them would convert to second-rounders. Ask yourself this: If Beal was worth that much, why has a team with both him and John Wall on it for as many years as they played together not won at higher levels? Again, I think Beal is terrific. And maybe the value of a No. 1 pick has been skewed by the sheer volume of them traded over the summer. But there’s a difference between the Clippers opening the vault for both Paul George and Kawhi Leonard or Houston for Russell Westbrook when those teams have every reason to believe those moves gave them the opportunity to immediately compete for the NBA championship. If the Wizards were able to trade Beal, I’d have to think Kennard and three No. 1s would be very difficult for them to beat. Even if there were another team in a similar situation to the Clippers and Rockets, giving up a rising young talent like Kennard plus three No. 1s would be a steep price for Beal. But it’s moot. Beal can’t be traded until after the season. Washington had said before the extension that its intention was to build around Beal and Beal said he wanted to stay. The fact the extension was offered and signed lends credence to both public pledges of allegiance.

DEEETROIT BASKETBALL (@deeetroit_wyso): Was Luke Kennard putting up only five shots against Charlotte a product of trying to integrate Blake Griffin back to the offense and overdoing it or was that potentially a sign of things to come?

Langlois: File that one under “small sample size noise” until further evidence is in. In Griffin’s first game back, Kennard took 17 shots and scored 25 points against Minnesota. There’s no question Charlotte was game planning for Kennard. After Kennard came around a screen and took what seems his favorite shot – going to his right, stepping back into the three – in the first half at Charlotte, Hornets coach James Borrego was off the bench and angrily signaling for a timeout before the ball came out of the net. Dwane Casey said that Kennard played an excellent game, citing his plus-18, and responded well to Charlotte blitzing him to get the ball out of his hands. If other teams play Kennard similarly – and it’s fair to guess he’s going to get a lot more attention now that he’s emerged as an elite shooter and consistent scorer – there will be other games where his shot totals are suppressed but always at the risk of the defense being exploited by his teammates.

TiriForry (@MangoCoconutNG): At what point would rookie Sekou Doumbouya get a look, especially given his exploits with the Grand Rapids Drive?

Langlois: What’s been especially encouraging with Doumbouya is that he’s adjusted so quickly to the G League talent level. In just six games, you can see the arc of his progress quite clearly. But it’s six games. That’s not enough to alter the evaluation process. The Pistons loved what they saw from Doumbouya in training camp from the standpoint of athleticism and potential, but they also saw the gaps in his game that only experience can start to address. If Dwane Casey becomes convinced that Doumbouya can help the Pistons win games, he’ll not hesitate to give him some playing time. But he’s of the mind that both the interests of the player and the organization are best served at this point by letting Doumbouya soak up experience and make his mistakes in the G League. As quickly as he’s showing progress to this point – and it should be expected that it won’t always be a steady uphill climb for him; he’ll experience some adversity – it wouldn’t shock me if at some point this season he earns Casey’s trust to the extent that he earns stretches of playing time. Casey wouldn’t do it if he felt it would impede his progress or hurt the team, but periodic exposure to NBA-level talent can help Doumbouya’s perspective, too, by understanding better how to get what he’s doing successfully in the G League to translate to the NBA.

Parker (@PDub358): What are the chances we see either Sekou Doumbouya or one of our two-way guys get called up with how well they’ve been playing of late? I’d love to see Louis King, Jordan Bone or Sekou Doumbouya get some minutes with the team.

Langlois: We’re not there yet. The Pistons have played games without all three of the point guards on their depth chart and Bone didn’t get the call. Dwane Casey moved Bruce Brown to the point and cobbled minutes together with Luke Kennard, Svi Mykhailiuk and Langston Galloway sharing duties when Brown needed to sit. And Bone is closest of the three G Leaguers to ready after three years at Tennessee compared to King’s one year at Oregon and Doumbouya’s leap from France to the NBA at 18. All three have been impressive in the early going for the Grand Rapids Drive, as I wrote this week, but their season is less than three weeks old.

Kamal (Detroit, Mich.): From a skills perspective, I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen from Jordan Bone in the G League. It looks like he has the tools to be a serviceable NBA point guard. Has Dwane Casey given any recent feedback on his thoughts about him?

Langlois: Yup, and I’ll provide the same link as I gave to Parker above. Casey feels Bone is a more natural scorer than playmaker at present – that jibes with draft evaluations, as well – and playing 35 minutes a night in Grand Rapids should be a great way to hone Bone’s point guard instincts. He’s averaged 8.6 assists a game so far, so on the face of it that’s encouraging, though Casey wants a little more of a body of evidence of the types of assists Bone is amassing. His 3-point shooting has been exemplary at .471 percent so far. If he can maintain anything close to that, then Bone’s speed should become a serious weapon against closeout defenders. That speed should enable Bone to become more proficient at getting to the rim, which – as he builds his bank of experience through countless repetitions – should eventually make him an effective drive-and-distribute player. It bears repeating that the Pistons valued Bone as a first-round talent last June and traded back into the second round to get him with the 57th pick. I’m intrigued by his potential and his early success in the G League.

Ian (Westland, Mich.): Sekou is starting to heat up in the G League. He just had two 20-point games and is shooting 50 percent overall and 40 percent from three. What position are they developing him for? How is he doing on the defensive end?

Langlois: The Pistons are limiting Doumbouya to playing small forward at present. They want to make things as simple for him as possible as an 18-year-old facing the gamut of challenging transformations on his plate – learning a new language in a foreign country while adapting professionally to a far greater level of competition. I think eventually Doumbouya will be able to flip seamlessly from three to four where his length, quickness, shooting range and athleticism will make him a matchup problem at either position. The way the NBA is trending, you’d probably say that Doumbouya is destined to spend more time at power forward but I would suggest that his apparent versatility will allow the organization flexibility to add talent around him without as much regard for positional fit. In other words, if they have a decision to make in free agency between filling one spot or the other, Doumbouya’s potential to play either spot would allow them to take the best player. As for Doumbouya on the defensive end, that length and athleticism give him a chance to be a plus player on both ends. Right now, it’s pretty likely that his offense is ahead of his defense.

Davidbg23 (@davidbg23): Any updates on Reggie Jackson?

Langlois: Nothing official. The Pistons said he’d be re-evaluated in late November. He has been doing light shooting work in addition to his physical therapy, so that would seem an indication that it’s trending in the right direction.

Eshrath (Clifton, N.J.): When a player has a non-guaranteed contract, what does this mean and how do they get paid? Do NBA players and coaches with non-guaranteed or guaranteed contracts get paid weekly or biweekly?

Langlois: A non-guaranteed contract means the player only gets paid as long as he’s part of the 15-man roster. If he were to be waived, the team is under no further obligation to pay him. It’s fairly standard for non-guaranteed contracts to have a date, or multiple dates, after which the contract converts to a guaranteed deal. A guaranteed contract must be paid even if the team dismisses the player from the 15-man roster. The team can do it outright or use the stretch provision, which allows them to spread the payments out by double the number of years remaining on the contract plus one. So, for instance, when the Pistons waived Josh Smith with two full years (plus one partial) remaining on his deal, they stretched those last two years to five years. As for when players get paid, it’s standard to be paid on the 1st and 15th of every month during the NBA regular season. Some players prefer to spread the payments out over the calendar year. That can be accommodated.

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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