Pistons Mailbag - October 17, 2018

by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

The season opener – and the debut of reigning NBA Coach of the Year Dwane Casey as Pistons coach – has arrived. Pistons Mailbag dishes on Casey’s influence on 3-point shots, Stanley Johnson and surprise players in this week’s edition.

John (@CRichardson252): How likely do you think it is that the Pistons break the franchise record for threes in a game again this season? (And what game do you think that will be?)

Langlois: Here’s a great question to tip us off because we could see some records fall tonight with the Pistons and Brooklyn. The Nets were No. 2 in the NBA last season in 3-point attempts per game to Houston, averaging 35.7, and the Pistons were No. 2 in preseason to Houston, launching 40.8 a game. The record for number of 3-point attempts in any Pistons game came last March 22 in Houston when the Rockets got up 51 and the Pistons took 38 for a combined 89. You’d need even a less potent power of recall to remember the Pistons record of 47 attempts; that came in the final week of the 2017-18 regular season when they lost April 8 at Memphis. The record for 3-pointers made in a Pistons game also came in that Memphis game: 39, 23 of them by the Pistons. That obliterated the previous record of 17 made 3-pointers in a game. The answer is I think it’s likely that the record of 47 attempts falls and, it follows, the record of 23 makes probably goes down, too. The combined record of 89 attempts is in grave peril, given the trend of the game in general and the influence of Dwane Casey on the Pistons. One of these nights when the stars converge, the Pistons and their opponent are going to launch 45-plus threes each. When that might be, well, Houston, Brooklyn, Cleveland, Toronto, Dallas and a few other opponents are the likely co-conspirators.

Charlita (Detroit): It would be nice if we cable cord cutters could watch our much-loved Pistons on local TV. What is the likelihood of that?

Langlois: As Chuck Daly was fond of saying, “Slim to none – and slim just left town.” The truth is, I have no particular insight on this topic but going to local TV seems so far outside the business model of every NBA team now that it would be a major surprise if any franchise chose that course. More than half of the NBA’s teams – 17 of the 30 – last season had deals with the regional Fox Sports networks, as the Pistons do with Fox Sports Detroit. Seven others had deals with NBC’s regional sports networks. The six others had deals with smaller or independent regional sports networks.

Jesse (@jbens007): Which player will surprise us the most this season and why?

Langlois: Based on the preseason, the answer would be Langston Galloway. The odds against Galloway being part of the opening-night rotation seemed stacked against him when training camp opened, even though Galloway said that Dwane Casey told him he envisioned him as the Pistons version of C.J. Miles in Toronto last season – the player off of the bench who came in to give the second unit consistent scoring and, in particular, 3-point shooting. Casey’s willingness to use multiple-guard lineups – Galloway quite often played small forward in three-guard lineups during the preseason – cracked the door for Galloway. I think Glenn Robinson III is another candidate to make a bigger impact than the consensus might have anticipated for him. Really, anybody on the roster could be in line for minutes and, thus, get a shot to be the “surprise” player. Casey proved in Toronto that he’ll give anyone who merits a shot a full and complete trial. It’s still astounding that Fred Van Vleet went from undrafted free agent to permanent backup point guard who usually found himself on the court at the end of close games so quickly in Toronto – for a team fighting for the No. 1 seed in the conference both seasons.

Dan (Birmingham, Ala.): Why were Luke Kennard’s minutes so paltry during the preseason? He is an elite 3-point shooter and Dwane Casey seems to want to fire half of the team’s shots from out there. Seems like more of the same as Stan Van Gundy. Is it the summer knee rehab? Kennard will score 20-plus if he plays 30-plus minutes.

Langlois: Being idled from early July through the start of September has a lot to do with it. Kennard had flashes in preseason – the first half in the Oklahoma City opener, the first half in the Cleveland finale – but Casey felt Kennard was still a little behind the curve as far as reacting to the speed and rhythm of the game from being idle. It’s tough enough for a veteran to miss that much of his summer and not skip a beat but even more challenging for a player coming off of his rookie season. Kennard’s knee is fully healed so no worries on that front. Now it’s just a matter of making up for lost time and getting his conditioning levels on par with everyone else. The staff is high on Kennard and has made that clear since late June.

Joseph (@JosephDandronMI): Realistic expectations for Stanley Johnson in year four?

Langlois: If he stays healthy – the nagging injuries he had last year always seemed to stall his momentum – and he’s starting with a toe injury, so not a great way to open the season, then a realistic expectation would be incremental improvement across the board. Decision making, shooting and consistency of focus would be the areas that would do the most to boost Johnson’s career. His defense, by and large, is a significant strength. He’ll get turned around a few times off of the ball – that’s the focus part – but put him on a star player when his competitive juices get flowing and you’ll usually get a winning effort out of Johnson. If he could moderate the wild fluctuations in his shooting numbers – eliminate the 1 for 8 or 2 for 13 nights – I suspect the rest of his game would be elevated to the levels the Pistons anticipated for him when he got his career off and running with an impressive rookie season. Remember, Johnson was effectively the sixth man on a 44-win playoff team as a rookie. The feeling around the team is that Dwane Casey’s influence will boost Johnson’s confidence and put him back on that path. To expect that to happen after three weeks of the preseason probably isn’t realistic. But let’s see where we’re at after 40 games.

Adam (St. Petersburg, Fla.): If Stanley Johnson can’t go in the opener, who do you think will start in his spot?

Langlois: Johnson didn’t practice the last three days with a toe injury, which could well mean that they’ll hold him out of the opener. The likely alternative is to start Glenn Robinson III, but it’s not a slam dunk. Dwane Casey could go with Luke Kennard or Langston Galloway. He might even roll out rookie Bruce Brown, who would give him some of Johnson’s defensive tenacity while also putting another ballhandler on the floor. Robinson remains the most logical from an outsider’s perspective; Casey might have something else in mind.

Joe (@snaida7): Glad Zach Lofton made the team. What’s your take on his game?

Langlois: He made an impression right off the bat in Las Vegas, even though his minutes were sparing in the early going there, for his ability to get up – and make – shots. There are shooters and then there are scorers and Lofton – though a really good shooter – fits the latter category. He’s just one of those guys with a nose for the basket. He’s got an incredibly quick release on his shot and the mandatory lack of memory that all great scorers have – they quickly put the last miss behind them and not let it affect their decision making the next time down. He’s 26, so it remains to be seen how much growth is still possible for him. As a guy on a two-way contract, Lofton obviously will be spending most of his time with the Grand Rapids Drive once the G League season rolls around and it will be worth monitoring to see how he performs consistently with major minutes. If he goes to Grand Rapids, plays 30 minutes a game and scores consistently and efficiently down there, then he becomes a legitimate option to fill a role with the Pistons – this season or in the future. The real possibility for him would seem to be next season. The Pistons face the possibility of losing one or both of Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson after the season when Bullock will be an unrestricted free agent and Johnson will be restricted. There won’t be much wiggle room under the cap next July. Ed Stefanski has the Pistons well positioned to absorb potential attrition on the wing with the drafting of Khyri Thomas and Bruce Brown and the free-agent addition of Glenn Robinson III. Finding a guy like Lofton to bolster depth there would be a bonus.

Bryan (@Bryan_10s): What will you write about more this year? Henry Ellenson’s improvement, Stanley Johnson being a darn good defender or Reggie Jackson being hurt again?

Langlois: You forgot option four, Bryan: smart-aleck fans.

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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