Pistons Mailbag - Monday, February 20, 2012

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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Dawn (Allendale, Mich.): It’s been nice to see Stuckey performing well lately. Do you think having Knight around has taken some of the pressure off of him? I think having Chauncey as a mentor has rubbed off on him and he is paying it forward to Brandon. It suits him.

Langlois: Stuckey’s enthusiasm for playing with Knight sure seems genuine, Dawn. Stuckey has said often that it doesn’t matter to him if he plays point guard or shooting guard. Playing alongside Knight allows the Pistons great flexibility. They can alternate running the point depending on matchups or play calls that might suit the strengths of one better than the other. Knight is really good at looking to pass the ball ahead in transition and Stuckey, as Frank has said, it a one-man fast break. Stuckey has said several times now that he plans on working out over the summer at The Palace with Knight to accelerate the fostering of chemistry between them. They give the Pistons a little bit of everything in a backcourt combination that could become one of the NBA’s best tandems. Should be fun to monitor.

Mike (Detroit): The Pistons have been playing pretty well without Charlie Villanueva. Do you see them trading him before the deadline? If not, how will he fit in the rotation when he gets better?

Langlois: Doubtful they could trade a guy who has barely played this season and might have a tough time playing himself back into peak form before the March 15 trade deadline, Mike. If he is cleared to start practicing fairly soon – and Villanueva within the past week has been encouraged about the progress of his ankle – then I think he’ll get an opportunity to prove himself. Especially with Austin Daye’s enduring shooting slump, the Pistons could really use the qualities Villanueva offers – a big man who can knock down 3-pointers with the best of ’em. But he’s going to have to show Frank he can defend and rebound well enough to stay on the floor.

Tony (Roseville, Mich.): If the Pistons could continue winning and reverse their first half, I could see them finishing around 33-33. I’m not saying it’s likely, but do you think it would be enough to make the playoffs?

Langlois: They’d have to go 22-11 over the second half, Tony, which would be a complete reversal of their 11-22 first half that concluded with winning seven of nine counting Sunday night’s thorough trouncing of Boston. In a season that’s seen Jeremy Lin go from obscurity to superstardom in two weeks, nothing is impossible, but that would be a remarkable turnaround for a team that started 4-20. I’ve maintained since training camp that the Pistons, record aside, would be a noticeably better team by season’s end, and show incremental improvement month to month, and I think that’s what we’re seeing. I’m not sure they’re ready to win two games for every loss just yet, though. I do believe that a .500 record will be good enough to make the playoffs in the East, but I think the days of two or three teams with losing records making the field are over.

Skip (Blissfield, Mich.): Give yourself a pat on the back, Keith. The team is coming together just as you predicted.

Langlois: Good to know you’re reading and are possessed of a fine memory, Skip. It wasn’t that tough a call for me, actually. I saw the way Lawrence Frank attacked the job, his refusal to lean on any excuses and his consistency of message, and I saw the way the emerging young players responded to some tough love. They didn’t make any secret of the fact they loved that Frank held players accountable across the board. Frank has said that the opposition doesn’t care if a player is a rookie or a 10-year veteran so he shouldn’t either. That cuts both ways. He doesn’t cut rookies any slack for mistakes but doesn’t allow veterans to get away with short cuts. Everybody seems happy with that approach.

Derek (Canton, Mich.): How about a three-team trade between the Pistons, Jazz and Grizzlies in which the Pistons would get Rudy Gay from Memphis and Paul Millsap and Devin Harris from Utah; Memphis would get Ben Gordon and Tayshaun Prince from Detroit and a trade exception from Utah; and Utah would get O.J. Mayo from Memphis and Jason Maxiell, Brandon Knight and Austin Daye from Detroit. I know trading Knight would be scary, but getting proven players in return could make it worthwhile. Utah gets younger and athletic. Memphis gets a proven playoff veteran and a scorer. The Grizzlies did well without Gay last year. Do you think any of the teams would jump at this?

Langlois: Utah was fond of Knight before last June’s draft and Harris had his best days under Lawrence Frank in New Jersey. I think Utah would rather put Al Jefferson into a deal than Millsap, but I could see the Jazz having interest in this deal more than Memphis, unless Memphis was motivated by moving Gay’s big contract. The Knight and Harris angle is the factor that makes it at least intriguing, but there are some unknowable questions in there, such as how Frank really feels about Harris as opposed to Knight and whether Joe Dumars and his staff feel Gay’s elite athleticism and scoring – two attributes the Pistons could put to good use – would be enough to pry Knight away. The Pistons are very high on Knight. That doesn’t make him untouchable, but the Pistons would need to feel certain that the return would be part of a long-term solution. Gay still elicits a variety of opinions, despite his obvious strengths.

Preston (Ortonville, Mich.): Is there any chance the Pistons could get Carmelo Anthony?

Langlois: Start from this premise, as I’ve maintained any time somebody suggests the Pistons trade for an acknowledged superstar (or at least a prominent star, because there is honest debate about whether Anthony qualifies as a superstar). The Pistons have three highly desirable assets: Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and a presumed 2012 lottery pick. The Knicks would want two of those three things, plus filler. Since they seem pretty well convinced that Jeremy Lin is now their long-term point guard, they’re going to ask for Greg Monroe and the No. 1 pick, plus enough other salary to balance the trade, so be prepared to part with Jonas Jerebko, for instance, as well. To me, that trade makes little sense for the Pistons. Anthony – though he’s safely under contract for the long haul – would likely be an unhappy camper, undermining any chance the trade would have of producing results commensurate with the headlines it would generate.

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