Pistons Mailbag - November 6, 2019
Injuries have dominated the early storyline of the Pistons 2019-20 season and, yup, talk of injuries dominates this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.
Brent (@brent_shotwell): Assuming Blake Griffin comes back in the next week or so and Reggie Jackson is out multiple weeks after that, what is your best guess as to what that starting lineup will be when Blake returns?
Langlois: Griffin, Drummond and Snell are the locks. Bruce Brown is likely to be a fourth, but whether it’s at point guard or not depends, really, on how he handles the role while injuries to Jackson, Derrick Rose and Tim Frazier force him to become a full-time point guard. Dwane Casey thinks it’s his NBA future, but he didn’t anticipate needing him there this season with three point guards with NBA starting experience on the depth chart. If Brown shows he’s capable of the job, then starting him while Jackson is down makes sense because it keeps both Rose and Frazier in their anticipated roles – Rose as the catalyst for the second unit and Frazier in a pinch-hitting role, capable of playing rotation minutes whether he’s an every-night player or used more situationally. If Brown handles point guard, then there are really two options at shooting guard: Luke Kennard or Langston Galloway. Kennard is going to get starter’s minutes whether he’s coming off of the bench or not, but Casey might ultimately opt to start Galloway for the greater defensive certainty he offers against NBA starters with the bonus of keeping Kennard with Rose on a unit that has potential to be a difference-maker.
Steve (@BurqueWorld): Why has Khyri Thomas not seen any time on the court despite the team being so depleted from injuries?
Langlois: He only got 12 minutes in five preseason games. It was pretty obvious then that he was last in the wing pecking order. Even though that particular position hasn’t been directly hit by injury, the spillover effect of losing Reggie Jackson, Derrick Rose and Tim Frazier plus Blake Griffin means some minutes at power forward for Tony Snell and minutes at point guard for the trio of Bruce Brown, Luke Kennard and Svi Mykahiliuk with Kennard and Mykhailiuk also playing some small forward to allow Snell to get time at power forward. Dwane Casey is patching it together with those players and, as of yet, not Thomas. Whenever he’s asked about Thomas, Casey remains bullish on his ability, intellect and future. But he’s caught in a numbers game right now.
BigBowlcutBrand (@ksteph5): When should we expect our core guys to return? Is Markieff Morris available to trade for a bag of Better Made BBQ Chips?
Langlois: Other than the statements that Blake Griffin would be re-evaluated in the first week of November – and we’re almost to the end of that window – and Reggie Jackson would be re-evaluated in four weeks, which comes in late November, no timelines have been set on a return date. Keep in mind that “re-evaluated” doesn’t mean “return.” It just means “we’ll need that much time to further assess rehabilitation progress and then have a better idea of a return date.” Derrick Rose’s hamstring strain and Tim Frazier’s shoulder strain would seem to be lesser injuries, on the face of it, but those are both fairly vague injury descriptions. No one has expressed any concern that either will be out for a significant time. We know both – along with Griffin and Jackson – are out for tonight’s game with the Knicks, but the Pistons are treating the Rose and Frazier injuries on a day-to-day basis, which means they’re not ruled out for Friday’s game at Indiana. Morris hasn’t hit his stride yet, but he’s got a track record of productivity and he just turned 30. He’s going to help the Pistons win games.
Aaron (@aaronds313): I know it won’t happen, but what if the Pistons brought Blake Griffin off of the bench like Derrick Rose? I think both of them could regularly go for 30-plus nightly against second units. Short-term results speak for themselves with Rose.
Langlois: Rose isn’t going for 30-plus when he’s coming off the bench. (By all indications, the Pistons have capped his minutes at less than 30. The most he’s played so far is 26:44. So what’s the cap? Maybe 28?) If you’re going to play somebody 30-plus minutes a night when he’s coming off of the bench, it necessarily means he’s going to be playing longer stretches at a time. That’s probably not advisable for any player subject to the “load management” regimen that both Griffin and Rose are. Starters usually play at least the first six minutes of the first and third quarters. That means you’d have to play 15 of the last 18 minutes of each half to get to 30. You’d have to play 18 straight minutes to close each half to get to 36. Griffin averaged 35 minutes a game last season. I think the Pistons probably want to cut down on that number – even if Griffin, before the setback to start the season, was almost certainly going to play fewer games this season than last – this year but not by a lot. My hunch is Griffin will still average 32 to 34 minutes a game. Yeah, he’d punch second-unit matchups but teams would manipulate their rotation to avoid that, anyway, and now you’re doing them a favor by limiting Griffin’s minutes. The more minutes the Pistons play without Blake Griffin on the floor, the better off the opponent should be. The idea of bringing Rose off of the bench was motivated primarily by the necessity of limiting his minutes, but it also is a way of giving the Pistons one dynamic playmaker on the floor at all times. When they’re both healthy, I fully expect Dwane Casey to have them on the floor together at the end of tight games.
Alex (@garcia_alex27): What realistic upside do you see in Thon Maker? I don’t see him worthy of getting any minutes once our rotation is fully healthy. Thoughts?
Langlois: The upside with Maker has always been a lithe 7-footer who can cover the floor defensively, handle the ball some and shoot from the 3-point line. He’s a high-motor guy who can have an impact on games without putting up big numbers. He’s not off to a great start this season, but he’s a player Dwane Casey admires for his reliable hustle and selflessness. He’ll need to turn it up to keep his spot in the rotation when Blake Griffin returns because there’s not room for both Maker and Christian Wood behind the three certainties in the frontcourt: Griffin, Andre Drummond and Markieff Morris.
Zay (@SekouSZN): When will the Pistons announce their city jerseys and what is the earliest date the NBA allows teams to debut them?
Langlois: Nov. 20 is when they get unveiled. Nov. 29 – the day after Thanksgiving – is the first time they can be worn. The Pistons host Charlotte that night at Little Caesars Arena, FYI.
Jordan (@MaestroMatip): How long do you think Sekou Doumbouya will be in the G League until he’s called back up to the main squad?
Langlois: Doumbouya will be up and down for the foreseeable future. That’s the way teams use their G League affiliates to maximize player development. When there are points in the NBA parent’s schedule that preclude practice time, the preferred option is to be send young players to the G League to soak up game experience. When there are lulls in the NBA schedule that allow the team to get some practice time in between games, the organization often prefers to have the young players there to work against NBA-level talent and get the full attention that a well-stocked NBA coaching staff can devote to them.