Pistons Mailbag - September 2, 2020

What role is in store for Sekou Doumbouya in his second season, the fate of two-way players Jordan Bone and Louis King and more draft talk top the docket for this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.

Gilbert (Indianapolis, Ind.): I heard Jordan Bone and Louis King have been working out with the team. Do you expect the Pistons to sign Bone and King? I think they both have really good upside.

Langlois: Dwane Casey said recently that both have been among the group of players working out of the Pistons Performance Center and he lauded King for the strides he’s made this summer. “That’s another young man that’s done a good job with his lower body,” Casey said. “Still needs some work on his upper body. Lou King has worked hard in the weight room and is doing individual work every day.” King admitted he had a way to go in the maturity department – emotional as well as physical – when he went undrafted in 2019 despite some expectation that he was a candidate to be taken in the 20s. He showed promise in the G League last season and had a few nice moments in limited NBA opportunities. Players with his combination of length and shooting range have a chance to make their mark. As for Bone, the Pistons see the speed and scoring instincts and think there’s more to come. The Pistons have hired a new general manager, Troy Weaver, since last year’s decisions to man their two two-way slots with Bone and King, so it’s always possible Weaver has others in mind for roster spots over them for the coming season. But it seems Bone and King are pressing their case to be included in plans for the future. The team camp scheduled to start Sept. 14 will be a chance for each to make an impression.

Xegesis (@xegesis): I enjoyed your article on Sekou Doumbouya. What role do you see him having for the Pistons next season – backing up Blake Griffin, starting small forward, etc.?

Langlois: Like his rookie season, I think he’ll get minutes at both spots. The distinctions between positions diminishes a little more each season, so we don’t need to overthink this one. You’d expect as he gains strength and physical maturity which will be naturally occurring as Doumbouya approaches his 20th birthday that he’ll profile more closely with a traditional power forward, but if he maintains quickness and lateral mobility he can guard a wider variety of players from the rim to the 3-point arc and beyond. And if you can guard a variety of players, then you make yourself that much more valuable and defy positional pigeon-holing.

Eli Bashi (@EliBashiNBA): Wouldn’t now be the best time for a rebrand considering that’s what most teams do going into a “rebuild?” The Pistons have had the same jerseys for 20 years and fans want something fresh. Wouldn’t it help the team’s jersey sales since jerseys probably won’t be flying off of the shelves?

Langlois: I’m told by Jason George, vice president and creative director, that there are no plans for a complete overhaul of Pistons uniforms at this time. The City Edition uniforms change every year, of course, and there are new design elements being introduced with the three other uniforms.

Off-White_Clone (@APistonsfan): Any idea on who we’re targeting for the draft?

Langlois: It’s tough to target anyone when you’re at the mercy of the six teams picking ahead of you. Troy Weaver said after the Pistons were bumped to the seventh spot by the results of last month’s lottery that he expected the draft to be a scramble from “three to 13” and you can take that to imply that there are two players he figures will be gone for sure when the Pistons pick and all bets are off after that. Which two players? I speculated Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball, though James Wiseman could be swapped in for either player. At any rate, I don’t think it’s likely any of those three is available at seven. Who the other three players to be taken ahead of the Pistons might be is truly anyone’s guess. You could throw a net over the group of Tyrese Halliburton, Killian Hayes, Onyeka Okongwu, Isaac Okoro and Deni Avdija. I’d make it about 80-20 the next Pistons pick comes from that group but which two (or more) players among them will be available is up for debate and whether Weaver and his staff will like those players better than the field is also unknown.

Kshithij (@Kshithij): What are the plans for Derrick Rose?

Langlois: Get him to the regular season in full health and use him judiciously is the strong guess. I don’t think there will be any lifting of the minutes limit that Rose played under last season when they attempted to keep him to 28 or less a game. Ideally, you’d bring him off of the bench to better accommodate that stipulation, giving Dwane Casey the flexibility to then use Rose a little more in the second half and finish games with him. Casey put the ball in Rose’s hands in the closing minutes of undecided games and I would expect that to be the case again in 2020-21. I would bet the Pistons are going to make stockpiling competent point guards the priority of the off-season so they can field a competitive lineup without having to extend Rose. But Rose and Blake Griffin will be the two staples of closing lineups.

Matthew (Detroit): The Pistons front office has had interest in Dennis Smith Jr. more than once. With the continued logjam at point guard in New York and rumors the Knicks are looking to draft another point guard, what do you think the chances are that we draft a small forward or big and go after DSJ? Is our front office still interested? Personally, I think DSJ has “it” and can be a premier guard in this league.

Langlois: Both teams have newly installed front-office bosses, so whatever was true before – there were reports of the Pistons expressing interest in Smith 2018 and ’19, though as a recent lottery pick of course there would be widespread interest in his availability – might be completely irrelevant today. Smith has been a significant disappointment so far, seemingly validating some of the concerns about him leading to the 2017 draft. I would expect the price on him to have come down, especially since he can become a restricted free agent in 2021. He certainly passes the eye test, but the results have been underwhelming through three NBA seasons and last season was especially discouraging. But maybe the Pistons see a player closer to the guy drafted ninth than what he showed with the Knicks last season.

JG77 (@JGRIFFY2020): What realistic targets for free agency do we go for?

Langlois: So many moving parts on that front that it’s impossible to say. The first piece that has to fall into place is the determination on the salary cap. The NBA Finals will end on Oct. 14 as a last possible date and something will need to be in place at some point soon after that, though there have been multiple reports saying the Oct. 18 target date for the start of free agency is almost certain to be pushed back a month or more. The Pistons would have gone into free agency with about $35 million in cap space – more than all but two teams, the Knicks and Hawks – had the cap been set at its initial projection. That’s very unlikely, it seems, given the financial hit the NBA will take as a result of suspending the season and resuming without fans in mid-summer when no one is conditioned to watching basketball. The next piece of the puzzle is how the Pistons choose to use their cap space. Do they use it in trade to absorb contracts other teams are intent to move, which could be a more robust market this off-season given the squeeze a lowered cap will put on many franchises – whether they’re motivated by a need to cut costs or by a desire to create cap space beyond what they anticipated needing to pursue other targets and facilitate title runs? Or do the Pistons target free agents they desire simply from standpoints of culture and roster fits? All to be determined. But everything is on the table.

ZAY (@ZayTurner8): Do you think the Pistons could net a first-round pick for one of Rose, Snell, Svi or Luke?

Langlois: There are wildly divergent values on first-round draft picks between a top-10 and a bottom-10 pick, so that’s a pretty broad question. I would doubt teams would be throwing around first-round draft picks at this stage unless it were to be part of a larger trade package. Rose would surely hold appeal to teams in win-now mode and those teams are almost surely drafting at 20 or below. It’s more likely that he’d be a trade target at the deadline than the off-season. Kennard will be a restricted free agent in 2021 if the two parties don’t agree to an extension before the start of next season, which could affect his trade appeal.

BLake (@B_Lake007): Tyrese Halliburton looks like a promising point guard candidate for the Pistons. Do you think he will be available at seven and, if so, do you think the Pistons would take him?

Langlois: Halliburton truly is on the bubble at No. 7. As I wrote above, once you get past Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball and James Wiseman, there is another group of players very closely bunched together. How the front offices of the teams picking ahead of the Pistons – Chicago, Cleveland and Atlanta at four, five and six, most notably – view the crop of available players will determine who is on the board when the Pistons pick at seven. If he’s there, it sure seems logical that Halliburton would be in a very tight circle of candidates to be the pick.