Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, May 3, 2012

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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Kim (Sterling Heights, Mich.): The Pistons finished 10 games out of the playoffs this year, so I think talk of the playoffs next year might be premature. What should they do to make up 10 games and get in next year?

Langlois: I don’t think you attack the situation quite in that way, Kim. In the first place, figuring out what it would take to make the playoffs is a moving target. This year, the No. 8 seed finished four games above .500, but recent history shows that .500 makes the field in the Eastern Conference more often than not. All Joe Dumars and Lawrence Frank can do is go about making the Pistons better. For Joe D, it means nailing it in the draft again, just as he did with Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight; working his network of peers to find a trade or two that help incrementally; and casting his net for a bargain free agent that meshes with roster needs and Lawrence Frank’s desires for role players. For Frank and his staff, it means working hard to improve the individual skill level of the players already on the roster and – with the benefit of a season of familiarity under their belts – tinkering with the playbook to best draw out their strengths and best mask their deficiencies. They can’t control the moves of their 14 Eastern Conference competitors, but they can do everything in their power to improve what they can control.

Alfred (Ishpeming, Mich.): I’m one of those who believes it usually takes more time to develop young frontcourt players. I’m interested in your thoughts on Vernon Macklin. What areas do you think he needs to work on to turn his impressive D-League play into a consistent NBA player?

Langlois: Macklin’s D-League turn was impressive, Alfred, and the Pistons are encouraged and eager to see how it translates to Orlando summer league play. I think it’s right to be optimistic but also realistic. Macklin came to the NBA as a 25-year-old rookie – he spent a year in prep school and then five years in college, including a redshirt season spent after transferring from Georgetown to Florida. The fact he put up dominant rebounding numbers in the D-League, almost 15 a game, is the most encouraging stat. If he’s to get his foot in the door, it’s vital that he has one or two things a coach can count on him to do every night. Rebounding and playing solid defense would be a great start. Macklin runs the floor well and showed off a pretty decent stab hook shot, as well. He’s active around the rim and could pick up a bucket or two a night off of put-backs if he can carve out a role, but maintaining a high level of focus and tenacity on the boards will be the key for him. We’ll know more after the week in Orlando and a full preseason.

Dot (Oakland Twp., Mich.): What’s the deal with Kyle Singler? Is he still a part of the team and, if so, will he come back next season?

Langlois: The Pistons still own Singler’s NBA draft rights. The expectation is that he will be a part of the team’s summer league entry in Orlando this July. After that, it’s a matter of negotiating a contract for him. It appears Singler is very much open to playing in the NBA next season, despite the success he enjoyed in Spain and the way he embraced life abroad. It seems he’ll be able to command more than the typical second-round pick based on his resume in Spain, so it won’t be quite as straightforward a contract negotiation as usual for a player of his draft status.

Chris (Brighton, Mich.): Mehmet Okur, Arron Afflalo and Amir Johnson are players the Pistons lost mostly due to roster spots and cap space. Is there concern about a similar thing happening with Macklin? It would be a shame if he turns into a 10-point, eight-rebound, one-block guy with another team.

Langlois: There’s almost no danger of the Pistons losing Macklin to another team, Chris. Macklin will be a restricted free agent this summer, which gives the Pistons the right to match any offer he should get. It’s very unlikely he’d get an offer simply because of the nature of restricted free agency and the fact Macklin has yet to establish his place in the NBA.

Kobina (Decatur, Ga.,): Joe Dumars did not answer the question about redress owners have when other teams are tanking for lottery balls. Can you speak to this issue?

Langlois: That’s something that clearly would have to be initiated by the commissioner’s office, Kobina. There are growing rumblings from disparate sources – media and former coaches and executives, mostly – over dissatisfaction with the current lottery system that involves more than just the concept of tanking. I don’t expect any immediate action, but I wouldn’t be surprised if within the next five years there is a serious look at restructuring the lottery. My suggestion, as I touched on in my most recent blog post, would be to tie lottery odds to win totals rather than to place in the standings. This year, for example, there was a four-game difference in win totals for the Pistons (25) and Cleveland (21). Yet the Cavs go into the lottery with a more than nine times greater chance at landing the No. 1 pick and about an eight times greater chance at landing a top-three pick than the Pistons. That incentivizes losing in the season’s final weeks for some. Had they tied their odds to games won, Cleveland would have had less than a 20 percent greater chance at landing a top pick than the Pistons. When the incentive for tanking is reduced to a more insignificant margin, franchises would have a more difficult time weighing the reward vs. the cost in exposing your players to the concept that losing is to be encouraged. The Pistons bypassed a handful of teams in the season’s final weeks that dramatically altered their draft odds. Had the stakes been less dramatic, as they would be if lottery odds were tied to wins, I doubt we’d have seen all of those teams staggering to the finish line.

Kevin (Farmington Hills, Mich.): What do you think about the idea of the draft order being determined by record over the past three seasons? This way, San Antonio would not have had the chance to draft Tim Duncan just because David Robinson missed the season, thus giving them two superstars.

Langlois: It’s a thought worth considering, Kevin. But there’s a flip side to your example. What about Oklahoma City? After tearing it down following the 2006-07 season, including trading Ray Allen to Boston for its lottery pick, OKC drafted Kevin Durant No. 2 and Jeff Green No. 5 in 2007. The Thunder got the No. 4 pick in 2008 and picked Russell Westbrook. They still went 23-59 the next season after a 3-29 start and wound up with James Harden at the No. 3 pick in 2009. With a terrific nucleus in place – they also got Serge Ibaka out of the 2008 draft with the 24th pick, obtained from Phoenix – OKC turned in a 50-win season in 2009-10. By using the three-year rule, though, a team loaded with young talent would have wound up with another high pick.

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