Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, January 12 - Page 2

by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

Pistons.com editor Keith Langlois answers your questions about the Pistons and NBA. Click here to submit your questions - please include your name, email address and city/state on the form. Return to the Mailbag homepage.

We reserve the right to edit your question for the sake of brevity or clarity.

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Ryan (Grand Rapids, Mich.): I don’t see the Pistons that far away up front. Monroe and Jerebko are two solid players. A high lottery pick like Davis, Jones or Drummond would make a great three-man rotation up front. What the Pistons need is someone who can score. How about, after March 1, a trade of Prince, Maxiell, Gordon and a 2013 No. 1 pick to Memphis for Gay, Mayo and Speights.

Langlois: Much depends on what happens to Memphis between now and then, Ryan. If Zach Randolph returns from injury and the Grizzlies begin to play as they did down the stretch and into the playoffs last season, they would have little motivation to break up the roster. If they’re out of the playoff chase, a financially challenged franchise might well be looking to pare payroll. But this trade wouldn’t really do that for them. If they kept their players and made the qualifying offer to Mayo but not to Speights, they’d be right about where they would be by taking the contracts of Prince, Gordon and Maxiell for 2012-13. My guess is that if Memphis decides to break up the roster and deal Gay, it’ll be for cap relief and young talent plus draft picks, not three well-established veterans.

Junior (Lucena City, Philippines): It’s been nearly nine years since the Pistons selected Darko Milicic. What really went wrong in building up Darko Milicic under Flip Saunders?

Langlois: Darko spent a half season under Saunders, so I wouldn’t put his failure to live up to his draft status on him. I wouldn’t put it on any of his many coaches, in fact. Maybe it’s unfair to put it on Darko, either. He was among the first wave of European big men in the post-Dream Team era. He was drafted not on performance but on potential – jaw-dropping potential, as has been well-documented, but potential nevertheless. He wasn’t the only Euro big man who fell far short of expectations, but it didn’t take NBA teams long to conclude that no matter how they measured and how dazzling they looked in one-on-none workouts, first-round picks should not be spent on players with almost zero playing history. But my take on Darko goes a step further. I think Darko didn’t necessarily love basketball beyond what it meant for taking him away from a war-torn country. Once he signed that first professional contract, I’m just not sure how bright the fire burned inside him any longer.

Nick (Brisbane, Australia): Although the Pistons have had statistically the toughest schedule to start the season, it’s been somewhat disappointing. I’m interested in your thoughts about Joe D’s philosophy on building from the draft. Would it not be better, given the supposed strength of the 2012 draft, to give themselves the best chance at drafting a franchise payer as opposed to going for another mediocre record in an attempt to make the playoffs?

Langlois: A little early for the age-old tank/don’t tank debate, Nick. Pistons fans have weighed in on that over the back halves of the last two seasons when the Pistons closed with some of their better basketball of the John Kuester era both times to cut down on their odds at a top-three pick. Time will tell, but it sure seems to have worked out very well in the case of Greg Monroe and things appear headed in the same direction with Brandon Knight. With a new coach preaching transparency and integrity to his team, I think the worst precedent that could be set – whether it came from the front office or the coaching staff – would be doing anything less than their level best to win basketball games and let the chips fall where they may.

John (Lake Orion, Mich.): As a Pistons fan, should I be upset that Brandon Knight is not starting since he was our first-round pick? Both Cavs No. 1 picks are starting and they are showing great signs. Is it because Kyrie Irving is better than Knight or does it have to do with the size you mention that Stuckey brings? I want the next Isiah Thomas and I am hoping Brandon Knight can be that.

Langlois: Starting or not starting is irrelevant to a rookie’s development, John. The key thing is getting opportunities to play – and earning those opportunities through performance, both in practice and in games. Knight wasn’t in the starting lineup until Rodney Stuckey got hurt, but through the first few weeks of the season he’s averaging slightly more playing time than Irving (about 28 minutes to about 27) and considerably more than Tristan Thompson (18), Cleveland’s other lottery pick. Eventually, Knight is going to be a starting point guard. In the meantime, he already has a more significant role with the Pistons than anyone could have reasonably anticipated given his lack of experience, the reality of the lockout and the conditions it imposed, and the players at guard ahead of him on the roster when training camp opened.

Rich (Canton, Mich.): I know it’s very early, but re-signing Prince and Stuckey is looking very awful right now. We seem destined to be a lottery team and I’d rather see Brandon Knight and Austin Daye starting. We should develop our youngsters. What’s your take?

Langlois: Even with Stuckey in the lineup, Knight is going to get plenty of minutes and opportunities. Even with Prince around, Daye will get plenty of minutes and opportunities. Daye hasn’t played well, clearly, and he first has to regain his confidence, start knocking down shots and using the rare combination of size and skill he possesses. Prince really has no bearing on Daye at this point. Damien Wilkins has usurped his role.

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