Pistons Mailbag - October 10, 2018

by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

The surprising surge of Zach Lofton, the projected won-loss record of the Pistons and Andre Drummond’s MVP candidacy are among the items on the docket for this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 10

Detroit Pistons News (@DetroitttPiston): Chances we let one of our two-way players go in favor of Zach Lofton? He seems to be getting a lot of time.

Langlois: It’s clear that the Pistons are intrigued by Lofton. It’s far more typical for a guy in his position – invited to camp with zero guaranteed dollars beyond that – to never take off his warmups in preseason or get in for a few garbage-time minutes at the end of one, maybe two, preseason games and then be waived, never to be seen again. Lofton has played in all three games, averaging 5.7 points in nine minutes. He’s played more than second-round pick Khyri Thomas and two-way player Reggie Hearn at his position. Dwane Casey explained it Tuesday. In short, the Pistons have Thomas on a guaranteed contract for three years but they need to make a decision on Lofton by next Monday or risk losing him to another team. “There’s nothing wrong with Khyri,” Casey said. “Khyri’s done an excellent job defensively. You want to see what you have in Zach. We have Khyri for three more years, but I don’t want to take anything away from Khyri at all because he’s played well, also.” The Pistons have 15 guaranteed contracts on the roster – the limit – and both of their two-way spots are filled, too, by Hearn and Keenan Evans. The likeliest way to prevent Lofton from leaving for another organization would be to pare one of the two-way contracts, Hearn or Evans, and sign Lofton. That won’t be an easy call. But Lofton, clearly, has opened some eyes with his ability to score and to create his own shot. It could well come down to a choice of Lofton or Hearn, both of them shooting guards/small forwards. Hearn is more of a known quantity – the Pistons had him on a two-way deal midway through last season, he’s played for the Grand Rapids Drive and they’ve seen him with USA Basketball’s World Cup qualifying team – so they’re getting a long look at Lofton to make the most informed judgment possible.

Umair (@Umair21): From early observations, what is your prediction for a Pistons W-L record?

Langlois: There are too many variables to come up with a meaningful estimate for the wins and losses for the vast majority of NBA teams. The Pistons are part of the NBA’s wide middle class and not much separates one team from another among them. Injuries surely will be a big factor in determining which teams in that group – and it encompasses perhaps half of the Eastern Conference’s members – wind up making or missing the playoffs. If the Pistons stay healthy – meaning that their key players don’t miss more than 10 or so games each – I think they’ve got 50-win potential. If they don’t, a season similar to the last two – where they win in the upper 30s but fall short of the playoffs – is also within the realm of their possibilities. At least a handful of teams in the East would likely make a similar case for their fortunes.

Charles (Redford Twp., Mich.): After turning down the Warriors offer, what would it take for the Pistons to sign Patrick McCaw?

Langlois: They’d go into the luxury tax, so let’s start with that. I doubt there’s a team in the history of the NBA that would willingly become a taxpayer to sign a fringe rotation player before the season starts. The Pistons turned their wing spots into a position of depth by signing Glenn Robinson III and drafting Bruce Brown and Khyri Thomas to go with Reggie Bullock, Luke Kennard, Stanley Johnson and Langston Galloway. Throw McCaw into that mix and it’s possible he’d win playing time, but it’s not a certainty. So all of that argues – overwhelmingly, in my view – against signing McCaw. But what would it take? Well, McCaw turned down a reported two-year, $5.2 million offer. So it would take something north of that, at minimum, and as a restricted free agent that still means Golden State would have the right to match the deal.

Ian (Westland, Mich.): If Andre Drummond finishes the season with 20 to 25 points and 15 rebounds a game and the Pistons finish in the top four in the East, is he a legitimate MVP candidate? He looked so good in that open practice.

Langlois: Those numbers with that result for the Pistons would at least have him in the conversation. After that, it really depends on the magnitude of the seasons experienced by the familiar names: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Steph Curry, et al. If Philadelphia or Boston dominates the East, then names like Joel Embiid or Kyrie Irving could float to the top. If the Pistons solidify themselves as a top-four team and Drummond is clearly their dominant player, then he’ll join the mix. I don’t know that it’s a likely scenario for Drummond to score that much when the offense is going to revolve primarily around Blake Griffin, but we’ll see how it evolves.

Joe (@Joe_Truck): What do you think Brown and Thomas’ split between Detroit and Grand Rapids will be?

Langlois: Too early to say. Given that Thomas appears slotted last in line at the wing spots, he seems more likely to spend time in Grand Rapids initially. But Ed Stefanski and Dwane Casey have been insistent that they’re going to make more use of the Drive than the previous administration. So unless Brown wins a regular rotation role, I think he’s going to spend a fair amount of time in Grand Rapids, as well.

Brenden (@BrendenWelper): Does Langston Galloway’s performance on Monday mean anything, opportunity wise, for him long term?

Langlois: It can’t hurt. How much it helps depends entirely on how consistently he manages to maximize his opportunities. Galloway’s in a tough spot because he probably is No. 5 or 6 in the wing pecking order – the top four in no particular order: Stanley Johnson, Luke Kennard, Reggie Bullock and Glenn Robinson III with Bruce Brown in the running for the next spot with Galloway – and that by definition means an inconsistent role. He was given 36 minutes of playing time in Monday’s game and that gave him ample opportunity to settle into a groove. He won’t get that luxury most times out. Performing consistently with inconsistent opportunities is one of the most challenging roles anyone in the NBA faces. That said, it’s clear that Dwane Casey values Galloway’s shooting and his scrappiness. And Casey seems as open minded as it gets in giving guys chances to improve their standing. So that top four listed isn’t etched in stone. Galloway, conceivably, could push himself into that group.

Rudy (@rudyjuly2): Are the Pistons actively looking to make trades or do they want to wait until they play awhile?

Langlois: I’d say teams are actively looking to make trades rarely at this point in the calendar unless special circumstances arise. The Pistons made a minor deal four years ago at this point when they needed another center because free-agent signee Aaron Gray was diagnosed with a heart condition that ended his career. They swapped Will Bynum to Boston for Joel Anthony. Minnesota is actively looking to trade Jimmy Butler now – well, ownership is, at least, with reports that coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau is trying to slow play it in hopes Butler comes off of his trade request. But for the most part teams have their rosters set and are prepared to open the season with what they have. Teams talk to other teams virtually 365 days a year, just throwing hooks in the water to see if somebody bites, so at some level that’s being “active.” Pursuing a specific deal is another matter. I’d be surprised if the Pistons are engaged at that level with any team at present.

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