Joe Dumars Q&A - Part I

Pistons president Joe Dumars sat down with Pistons.com editor Keith Langlois on Monday to discuss the upcoming NBA draft, free agency and the summer ahead of him. Here’s Part I of their conversation.

KEITH LANGLOIS: With a little more than two weeks to go until the draft, there’s a consensus that four players will be gone before No. 7 – John Wall, Evan Turner, Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins. Assuming you accept that consensus, how narrow is your focus now? Do you have an idea which other two players will be gone and how wide is the pool that you’re focused on?

JOE DUMARS: I would say that pool is, at minimum, a half-dozen guys. Based on your numbers alone, one through four is gone, sitting at the seventh spot you have to look at the guys who would constitute five through 10, for sure, those six guys. I think that’s where we are. That’s a minimum. I’m not trying to be coy, but if you stay at seven – you can move up, you can move back – but if you stay at seven, at least a half-dozen guys you’re going to be looking at at that spot.

KL: Do you buy that consensus? There’s some speculation that Cousins could drop to you. Do you think there’s any chance of that?

JD: I’ve seen it happen before. A lot of talented guys – Paul Pierce dropped to 10th, I think, Amare Stoudemire dropped. You’ve had some talented guys drop before. History tells us that it can happen.

KL: If it goes according to plan, do you feel, given what you’ve learned since the lottery drawing, that at seven, do you think there’ll be a guy there who can come in and offer an upgrade immediately.

JD: Yes. I think we’re sitting in a good spot. I think we’re going to get a good player. What you’re going to have is two different types of players who will be there – kind of the mature guys who have a body of work that you’ve seen who are going to be extremely professional, the type of guys you want to add to your team. And you’re going to have some really talented young guys that have a tremendous amount of upside but maybe not as much of a body of work. That’s what you’re going to be faced with.

KL: I believe the salary slot at No. 7 is roughly $2.3 million. How much does that factor into your willingness to gamble? Are you more inclined to take a guy with a body of work because if you swing and miss at seven, that $2.3 million is a considerable bite?

JD: The $2.3 million really is secondary to me in terms of the factor. The factor to me is that when you have a top-10 pick, you want that guy to be able to step on the floor and be able to help you right away. That’s the No. 1 factor, irrespective of the salary. The salary could be $500,000 with the seventh pick, and if it’s a top-10 pick, you’re still going to want that guy to be able to produce for you. I think that overrides everything else.

KL: There is some speculation out there that at least a couple of the teams picking ahead of you might be willing to deal. I believe Minnesota’s GM has said he’s willing to deal. There is speculation that Philly might be willing to deal. Have you had any talks with any of the six teams picking ahead of you about moving up?

JD: No, I’ve not had any conversations as of June 7, 12:30 p.m.

KL: Is that typically too early to be having those conversations?

JD: People are still working guys out. It’s hard to truly have those conversations until each team works out all these guys, sees them up close and decides what they want to do. Everybody is still in the process of going through the evaluation.

KL: You said realistically there might be a half-dozen guys you’re considering who could be there at seven. How many of those guys, if any, have you worked out so far or are those workouts still to come.

JD: They won’t start in earnest until next week.

KL: And do you do that purposely to hold them as close to draft day as possible?

JD: Absolutely. What you want to do, early on, we have the 36th pick, as well. What you want to do early is get all of those workouts done. Once you get all those workouts done, the last two or three weeks of the draft, all your efforts are focused on the seventh pick. We feel good about what we’ve done in terms of workouts for the 36th pick, but from this week on, it’s all about that seventh pick.

KL: At 36 – that’s right between where you got DaJuan Summers and Jonas Jerebko last year – do you have a feel for the quality of this draft? Will you be able to get someone of that caliber at 36 this year?

JD: We honestly think so. We really do. First of all, this draft has some pretty good depth to it as you get later in the first and second round. And, secondly, history tells us that year after year after year you get guys who fall into the second round who were absolute late first-round picks. Whether it be Jonas Jerebko or DaJuan Summers or DeJuan Blair or Marcus Thornton, all of those guys were looked at as late first-round picks a year ago and all of a sudden there they are. History tells us that year after year you see that. So sitting at 36, based on what we see in the draft already and the history of the draft, you’re going to get a good player.

KL: We know that the way the draft works, agents are reluctant to let their guys work out if they’re projected to go higher than a certain spot. I know you won’t want to reveal names, necessarily, but I’m wondering if you’ve had good luck getting agents to agree to let players work out that you’ve requested to work out.

JD: Yes. When you’re drafting with the seventh pick, usually the guys you target up there, you’re going to get them in. At seven, you’re not going to ask a couple of guys who are supposed to go one-two to come in at seven, so you don’t even put yourself in that position. But other guys who are targeted for that range, it’s usually no problem getting them in.

KL: Let’s switch gears a little bit to free agency. It’s an unusual summer in that there are more teams with cap space and more elite free agents, and I’m just wondering how the teams without cap space might be affected. Will it be just a typical summer for teams without cap space or is the fact that there is all this expectation and money available in the marketplace, does that create opportunities for teams without cap space?

JD: If you’re a team going into the summer and you have the mid-level exception at your disposal, the fact that there are some teams with cap space and it’s a big free-agent class with a lot of big names, that particular issue has no bearing on you. They’re going to do what they’re going to do and the mid-level guys you may target for the mid-level or a portion of the mid-level, that’s not going to be affected by what the top-tier guys do anyway. The guys that you would go after with the mid-level exception, you’re still going to have the same issues to try to get them, whether it’s somebody offering them more than the mid-level or something like that. That doesn’t change your situation as a mid-level team.

KL: There are probably seven or eight teams with the cap space to sign a max free agent. And a couple of them have the ability to sign two. I don’t think you can project 10 max-level free agents out there. Some of those teams, it seems to me, are going to come away disappointed and then maybe look to use their cap space to add veteran players or by other means. Does that create opportunities for you?

JD: I’m sure that will be an option for some teams. I’m sure that will be. What happens when you have cap space is that not only can you go out and sign an unrestricted free agent, you can also re-sign guys from your own team and you can also take trades with guys into your cap space. Just going out and signing a free agent is not the only avenue with that cap space. You can do other things as well.