Pistons Mailbag - October 9, 2019
With preseason under way and the regular season now just two weeks from tipping off, Mailbag dives into the roster for questions about Christian Wood, Svi Mykhailiuk, Joe Johnson and more in this week's edition.
Charles (Redford Twp., Mich.): Don't the Pistons have any scouts? They needed a small forward last year even more than they do this year. So if Joe Johnson can still play, why didn't they sign him last year? Or are they just incompetent?
Langlois: At the start of last season, they had Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson available at small forward in addition to Luke Kennard. Also, Joe Johnson isn't a small forward these days by his own admission. He's a power forward now, which acknowledges two unassailable facts: (1) Johnson is 38 and not presently equipped to chase perimeter wings; and (2) the game has changed markedly enough that even if Johnson were 28, he'd probably be spending most of his minutes at power forward.
Johnathan (@theoriginalkep): Who would you rather start at center: Drummond but he's as skinny as Thon or Thon but he's built as solidly as Drummond?
Langlois: This makes my head hurt. If Drummond were as skinny as Thon, he wouldn't be Drummond. Look, a big part of what makes Drummond Drummond is athleticism in a 275-pound (or thereabouts) frame. The reason he's such a unique player is guys with that physique are not supposed to be as nimble and fast as he is. But I'll play along and say Drummond anyway for one reason: hands. Good hands are an extraordinarily important asset for a big man – or any athlete, really – and Drummond has great hands. Hands are one of Maker's deficits. The Pistons had him spend time with training consultant Arnie Kander over the off-season to work on his hands.
Adam (St. Petersburg, Fla.): What was your impression of Christian Wood from the preseason opener?
Langlois: It lends credence to his performance with New Orleans to end last season. And he was doing it against Orlando's front-line players. If Wood's underlying fundamentals catch up to his ability to register points and rebounds – and we're talking about things like setting solid screens and rolling hard, boxing out, making the right reads and rotations defensively – then it's an easy call that he'll make the roster and be Andre Drummond's primary backup. The jury is still out on his performance in those areas of nuance solely because we haven't enough evidence one way or the other just yet.
Jordan (@MaestroMatip): Do you expect to see much of Svi Mykhailiuk this season. Or will he just get two or three minutes a game every now and then?
Langlois: Based on everything we've heard from Dwane Casey over the course of the last month and what we saw in Monday's preseason opener, Mykailiuk is slightly behind Langston Galloway in the battle for what appears to be the last wing spot in the rotation. Tony Snell, Bruce Brown and Luke Kennard figure to get the most minutes there and Galloway was first up with the second unit among the other contenders, primarily Mykhailiuk and Khyri Thomas. Mykhailiuk's offensive upside is tantalizing, but Galloway remains the more likely option – at least to start the season – because Casey trusts him implicitly on the defensive side and also knows Galloway, whether he's draining threes or not, always represents a threat that will cause the defense to be pulled toward him. One other thing working in Galloway's favor is that Kennard – assuming he comes off of the bench and Bruce Brown is the starter – is the staple on the wing with the second unit and pairing him with Galloway allows Kennard to most often guard the lesser offensive threat. Pairing him with Mykhailiuk would give the Pistons two similar offensive players – and perhaps the greatest offensive upside – but it would be a challenge defensively.
Josh (@Josh_Simms): Do the Pistons have any path to improve the shooting guard position?
Langlois: There's no sense that's a priority at this point. With the caveat that every team is always open to upgrading the talent base, the Pistons are pretty happy with their roster given the tools at their disposal over the off-season to make improvements. They've got Bruce Brown, Luke Kennard, Langston Galloway and Khyri Thomas plus others – Derrick Rose, Reggie Jackson, Svi Mykhailiuk – capable of playing the position. If they were looking to make a move to bolster any position, I would think a more certain No. 2 center would be the play. Maybe Christian Wood does enough over the next few weeks to cement that role after an impressive preseason debut. And Casey is a fan of Thon Maker for his defensive versatility and high motor.
Terry (@rtwz55): How is the starting lineup going to score enough with Tony Snell and Bruce Brown (combined 10 points per game for their careers) a part of it? Reggie Jackson is probably 15 points a game at best right now. That's only 25 points combined from their starting point guard, shooting guard and small forward. And Andre Drummond isn't really a skilled offensive player, either. There's just not enough offense.
Langlois: They play on both ends and Brown and Snell's value is tied largely to the defensive end, though both have elements they bring to help grease an offense's gears. Brown is a good cutter and – as he showed in Summer League – has some flair in him as a pick-and-roll ballhandler. He's got an explosive first step and above-average strength that ought to lend themselves to helping him become an effective penetrator and finisher. Snell is a career 38 percent 3-point shooter who can put the ball on the floor a little. Your point isn't invalid – scoring matters! – but there are other ways to help an offense's functionality than simply scoring. Both Brown and Snell have some of those traits.
Gilbert (Indianapolis): Christian Wood and Joe Johnson are both worthy of roster spots for the Pistons. Langston Galloway should be the odd man out. Half of his $7 million salary for 2019-20 could be deferred to next year and they would have the cap space and roster spot they need for Wood and Johnson.
Langlois: Your valuation of Galloway doesn't match Dwane Casey's, so I'd give your blueprint for roster building very little chance of being accepted. Casey said of Galloway last week, “He's like that old blanket. He's just a steady, steady pro. He's a lot of our glue. He's going to be a huge part of what we do.” One correction on your interpretation of the “stretch” provision. It allows a team to spread the cap hit out over three years. So Galloway would count a little less than $2.5 million a year over the next three years and the Pistons would realize a cap savings of $5 million this season but have that much less in each of the next two years. Since they're currently under the tax threshold, the motivation to stretch anyone this year probably wouldn't be enough to cut into cap space for the next two off-seasons.
Fatima (@drummondfp): Are the rookies going to be in the rotation this season?
Langlois: The only rookie not on a two-way contract is Sekou Doumbouya. He's unlikely to crack the rotation, at least to start the season. I wouldn't rule it out at some point, though. He's got the “it” factor from a size/skill/athleticism standpoint. He's also preposterously young. I looked at the rosters of Michigan and Michigan State and Doumbouya would be the second-youngest player on each team. And the only player on MSU's roster younger, Julius Marble, is only so by six days. He's the youngest player in the NBA since they changed draft eligibility rules after the 2005 draft. Beyond that, he is facing enormous transitions on many fronts in learning a new language – the Pistons are having him tutored in English – a new city, a new country and a new and significantly better league. If Jordan Bone and Louis King, the two rookies on two-way deals, find themselves in the rotation then either something has gone horribly wrong or the Pistons found phenomenally undervalued players.
Race Spider (@race_spider): With Dish/Sling TV no longer carrying Fox Sports Detroit and League Pass blacking out Pistons games due to contractual agreements, how can I watch Pistons games? I could only listen to the game on FM radio Monday night. They stated there is no plan to bring them back in the future.
Langlois: You're right on both counts – Dish dropped Fox Sports Detroit and League Pass is blacked out in local markets to protect the rights holder. Unless you switch to a different carrier, you'll be shut out unless Dish and Fox come to an agreement. Here's a link https://www.keepmyhometeams.com/ that Fox Sports Detroit is providing to its viewers to communicate their views to Dish.