Pistons Mailbag - September 30, 2020

Trade up? Trade down? Or keep the seventh pick and take your best shot? That’s a hot topic of discussion in this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.

Mc Saint Nick (@419mcsaintnick): There have been reports of the Pistons wanting to trade down in the draft, possibly with the Celtics. Staying at seven is the best chance to get a game-changer, in my opinion. A middle and two late-round picks doesn’t move the needle for me and you possibly look back with regret of being had.

Langlois: You’re right to assert the best chance, historically, to get an impact player will come the closer you get to the top of the draft. That doesn’t always mean in any individual year that it’s best to stand pat rather than trade back. With the understanding that you can’t evaluate the merits of moving back in a vacuum – a critical element is what the enticement is for trading back, naturally – it’s undeniable that the draft will over time prove to yield higher impact in the top 10 than the middle 10 and hold a larger margin still over the bottom 10 picks of the first round. But if, for instance, Troy Weaver thinks there is a dropoff after the top six players and then a group of about 12 or 15 of relatively equal value, trading from seven down to 10 or 12 and picking up a few additional assets would be an easy decision. Boston holds picks 14, 26 and 30 this year. If Weaver thinks he can get a similar player at 14 as at seven and thinks 26 and 30 can yield a useful player or two – or be packaged into moving back up to get a second player in that group of 12 or 15, perhaps – then it’s certainly worth exploring. My inclination is similar to yours. I’m guessing he wouldn’t do that deal, but I don’t make that bet with great confidence. To be clear, though, there have been no credible reports to my knowledge of the Pistons being desirous of trading back. There has been plenty of speculation from fans and bloggers, none of it claiming any insight into the thought process of Pistons executives.

Matt Hansen (@MattJHansen): If Wiseman is still available at seven, there is something terribly wrong with him and I’d still trade back.

Langlois: I think there’s only a slim chance Wiseman is there at seven, but if he is then Troy Weaver isn’t passing on him based on herd mentality or innuendo. If there’s truly something alarming that causes six teams picking ahead of the Pistons to steer clear of Wiseman, then I think it’s a pretty safe bet that Weaver has picked up on that intelligence. He’s as wired into the draft process as any general manager.

SC.81 (@SeanCarmody81): There’s been a lot of talk about how the Pistons are open to trading their pick. Do you think it’s more likely they’ll trade up or down? Or is that an offer-by-offer decision?

Langlois: I think it’s fair to say Troy Weaver is open to anything he thinks can improve the talent base and the No. 7 pick is one of the most valuable assets under his control at the moment, so, yeah, it stands to reason he wants to gauge just how valuable that asset is to his peers across the NBA. How much Weaver values the assets within reach would determine whether he would exchange the No. 7 pick. My guess is that when Nov. 18 rolls around, it’s Weaver and the Pistons who make the seventh pick. If I had to guess whether it’s more likely he trades up or down, I’d take down. I don’t see a reasonable deal, given the other assets Weaver has in his possession, that gets him into the top two or three, in all likelihood.

Niranjan Anantharaman (@niranjamka): Can we expect to see Killian Hayes targeted as a prospect?

Langlois: Hayes said on Monday that the Pistons are one of the teams he’s met with remotely as part of the predraft process, so if that constitutes “targeting,” yes. As I wrote earlier this week, Hayes is among a group of four players – Isaac Okoro, Onyeka Okongwu and Tyrese Haliburton the three others – who seem most likely to produce the next Pistons draft choice. But as Hayes said, his agent pegs his draft range as anywhere from two – the pick held by Golden State, a team rumored to be intrigued by the French teen point guard – to 10. I have no idea whether Troy Weaver has his fingers crossed that Hayes slips through the top six picks or whether he’s hoping someone picking ahead of him takes Hayes to help push a prospect he really covets down a rung. He does seem to check a lot of boxes, but Weaver has scouted Hayes extensively – in person and on tape – and he’ll be prepared to make the call on Nov. 18 if Hayes is available to be taken by the Pistons.

Flashy Stats (@FlashyStatsPod): Do you think the Pistons will make a big signing this off-season or multiple one- and two-year contracts?

Langlois: I wouldn’t count on a big signing. If it happens, it’s because Troy Weaver and the inner circle involved in the decision making, Dwane Casey most prominently, believe that the player involved will be a critical piece of the future and can be had at a price that isn’t crippling to other aims. And I’m not sure there will be a fit on that count. The more likely uses of cap space will be less prominent signings or trades that amount to salary dumps by other teams needing to clear cap space or avoid luxury tax given the reality of lower cap and tax lines than projected. There aren’t more than a few of those types of deals in most seasons – the Pistons and Tony Snell and the Pacers and T.J. Warren last off-season come to mind – but there could be more than a few this time around given the unprecedented circumstances. If that type of deal doesn’t present itself to the Pistons, then I would look for them to dip their toe in the water of some significant free agents – say, players who’ll command eight figures in first-year salary – but also look for value signings – the one- or two-year deals of which you write. Those would be players who fill one or more of the following categories: young players looking to find their NBA footing; veterans who can fill multiple roles for rebuilding teams; players who don’t find a landing spot in the first wave of free agency and are looking for a place to re-establish market value at below-market price points and might also have appealing value at the trade deadline.

G27 (@G2720146899): What will happen to Blake Griffin? He’s an All-Star player and the Pistons are heading toward a rebuilding year.

Langlois: Griffin is one of the most intelligent and self-aware athletes I’ve covered in more than three decades of dealing with professionals across all sports, so he knows what the reality is here. He’s said last winter after the Pistons traded Andre Drummond and on more than one occasion since the season was suspended in March that he is willing to fill whatever role the Pistons ask of him. The Pistons, though they’ve acknowledged that they’re a franchise in transition, do not accept a fate of several lottery-bound seasons and see Griffin as a primary reason they can morph into something formidable in a reasonable time frame. Until we see what the results of their roster makeover are, there’s nothing more concrete to know about Griffin’s future with the Pistons. By all appearances, Pistons management has no preconceived end-game in mind for Griffin other than they consider him a vital piece of their present and hope he can help ensure a promising future.

Charles (Redford Twp., Mich.): Will the Pistons be able to offer Christian Wood a contract where it’s more back-loaded, allowing them to use Bird rights to sign him to go over the cap? For instance, $10 million the first year and, say, $15 million the next with a 10 to 15 percent raise each year after?

Langlois: No, that won’t fly. Many contracts can go up (or down, when a team decides it’s advantageous to front-load the contract) by a maximum of 8 percent per year. As an early Bird free agent, Wood’s contract will fall under that provision. So there can’t be a 50 percent increase in year two of the deal, as you propose. But you’re also correct that they can sign him using Bird rights, which would allow them to use most or all of their cap space – using only Wood’s $1,7 million cap hold against their cap sheet – and then add Wood, though they are limited to the average 2019-20 NBA salary as a provision of the early Bird exception, which means about a $10 million first-year salary.

Raj (Dearborn, Mich.): If Carmelo Anthony had been drafted by the Pistons in 2003, what are the odds the Pistons would have won another NBA championship with a roster that included Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace and Anthony?

Langlois: It’s a great hypothetical that’s been debated at length for at least 15 years, Raj. I wrote about it just last April and flipped the question as part of the analysis: Would the Pistons have won the 2004 title in Anthony’s rookie season had they drafted him? Darko Milicic played no role in their ’04 title run for a team that won based on suffocating defense and finely tuned chemistry. It’s worth asking what would have happened to those elements with a scoring-dependent rookie on their roster – one who was clearly ready to play and would have been difficult to keep tethered to the bench as Milicic was. In retrospect, as I wrote, the perfect pick from that draft for the roster as it stood at the time would have been Dwyane Wade. But the reality is that it was never going to be Wade – or Chris Bosh, who went fourth, after Anthony and ahead of Wade – for the Pistons. They loved Anthony – easily the consensus next-best American prospect after LeBron James in that draft class – but were captivated by the size, athleticism and potential of the 17-year-old Serbian.

Ahmed (San Antonio): If a player gets released or traded after being on a team’s roster for only one game, is he eligible to receive a championship ring if his ex-team wins the title?

Langlois: Eligible? Yes. Whether he gets a ring or not is a determination made by those still part of the organization at the time the championship is won. In this year’s Finals, for instance, Dion Waiters began the season with the Miami Heat and joined the Lakers in the Orlando bubble. So it’s possible he’ll get a championship ring no matter what happens in the NBA Finals. But he’s not guaranteed a ring. His relationship with Miami was a little rocky and it would probably come as a surprise if he were included in ring distribution.

CoSvid-19 (@RedAlternates): How have Louis King and Jordan Bone handled Pistons team camp so far?

Langlois: Dwane Casey spoke a little bit about each player over the weekend. He’s said King has made strides in a critical area for him – strength gains, more so in his lower body than upper. Of Bone, Casey said he’s learning how to use his speed and becoming more of a point guard.

Lee Caver (@wataman66): Do you think Jordan Bone has a chance at point guard this year at least as the No. 3 point guard? What about Brandon Knight as the backup? Bone still needs time, in my opinion. He appears to be too timid. What are your observations?

Langlois: The Pistons have Derrick Rose and whether you call him the primary point guard or the backup, I’d wager that as long as Rose is healthy he’s going to have the ball in his hands, as he did last season, to finish games in the balance. The Pistons are going to prioritize acquiring a starting-caliber point guard – via free agency or trade – to share minutes with Rose. Should they draft a point guard with their lottery pick – and I’d wager that it’s about a 50-50 call – then that player would likely be in the mix for rotation minutes. Yeah, there could very easily be three point guards as regular rotation staples given Dwane Casey’s offensive preferences and the trend line of the NBA. I still think there would be room for Bone on the roster, though it’s not a slam dunk. Troy Weaver might have other preferences. I would guess the ongoing team camp is a chance for Bone to make his impression on a general manager who wasn’t part of the front office that traded back into the second round in 2019 to draft Bone.