Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, June 28, 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.

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Rob (Capac, Mich.): Tell me why I shouldn’t be concerned that the Pistons gave away a first-round pick just to save one year of Ben Gordon’s salary?

Langlois: It’s not exactly that simple, Rob. It’s not that the Pistons want to save money; it’s that they wanted to create the ability to spend it elsewhere. The cap space the Gordon trade will create after next season will enable them to pursue players via free agency or trades in ways that would have been otherwise impossible. If the Pistons make the playoffs in 2013, then Charlotte gets their No. 1 pick, 15th or lower. I think every GM in the league would trade a pick in the second half of the first round if it enabled his team to get $20 million or so below the salary cap. As a general rule, I’m not a fan of trading future No. 1 picks away, either, but the type of player or players the Pistons can add next summer with the cap space they figure to have almost certainly will add more to the team than a late first-rounder would be able to contribute. Now, if they don’t make the playoffs next year and the pick must be conveyed in 2014, they would only keep the pick if they were in the top eight. That increases their risk, I suppose, but unless you’re content treading water risks must be incurred in the attempt to improve.

Andrzej (Gdansk, Poland): The No. 1 pick the Pistons traded to Charlotte is protected in the lottery in 2013, top-eight protected in 2014, top-one protected in 2015 and unprotected in 2016. Does it mean the Bobcats have the right to choose when they will use the Pistons’ pick?

Langlois: No. If the Pistons make the playoffs next season, Charlotte gets the pick. If they don’t, the Pistons keep the pick. That’s obviously the best-case scenario for the Pistons. If the Pistons keep the pick next year, then the following year they would only keep it if – after the results of the lottery are final – they are picking in the top eight. And so on. There is no wiggle room for Charlotte to choose – the terms of the pick are clearly detailed in the trade agreement.

David (Guelph, Ontario): With Ben Gordon gone, does that mean Joe D might take a guard at No. 9 if he’s the best player available?

Langlois: I’d be surprised, David, but if the Pistons have one of the shooting guards (Dion Waiters, for instance) rated significantly higher than any of the big men who figure to be on the board at that spot, then sure, it’s a possibility. I think Waiters goes ahead of the Pistons, but that would still leave them Austin Rivers, Jeremy Lamb and Terrence Ross. Maybe the Pistons love one of them, but none of them are universally viewed as better than the group of big men in range at nine.

Tara (South Lyon, Mich.): This trade is good for the cap, but doesn’t it create a logjam at small forward and power forward? Minutes for Prince, Maggette, Daye, Villanueva, Singler, Macklin, Maxiell, Jerebko, Big Ben and the No. 9 pick … how do you see it all playing out?

Langlois: Prince and Maggette are the primary small forwards as of now, Tara. Daye will have to scrap for minutes at shooting guard – Gordon’s departure leaves him an opening there – and power forward. Singler probably starts off No. 3 at small forward, I would guess, if he shows up and plays as he did in Spain. This probably means Jerebko again will play primarily at power forward and battle Maxiell, who will return for the final year of his contract, and Villanueva – and, possibly, the No. 9 pick if the Pistons go with a power forward. Macklin will battle for the backup center spot, possibly with Ben Wallace if he’s back, possibly with Tyler Zeller or Meyers Leonard if the Pistons go in that direction at No. 9. (No Ben Wallace news as of late last week, by the way.) It’s very early in the off-season. I don’t think the Pistons are finished dealing.

Johnny (Sterling Heights, Mich.): What do you project the Pistons do in free agency in 2013?

Langlois: Let’s wait to see what the draft, free agency and trade season of 2012 yield, Johnny. There is about a zero percent likelihood that the Gordon trade was made with a specific 2013 free agent in mind. Create cap space and opportunities arise.

Pablo (Mar del Plata, Argentina): I was still confident Ben Gordon would get his game going, but his contract was very bad. Are the Pistons likely to use the amnesty clause on Charlie Villanueva?

Langlois: I would be surprised if the Pistons were to exercise the amnesty clause on anyone this summer, Pablo. Remember, teams get to use it once for the length of the current CBA. It would seem to make more sense to hang on to it for possible use next summer, when they could be in position to create very significant cap space as the contracts of Corey Maggette, Jason Maxiell and Will Bynum come off the cap.

Marshall (Detroit): It would make a whole lot of sense to draft John Henson. Meyers Leonard probably won’t fit the bill. I think a combo of Leonard and Monroe would be too dysfunctional. If Henson is available, is there a high percentage he will get picked?

Langlois: He’s the guy I penciled in at No. 9 in my mock draft, Marshall. But I wouldn’t say there’s anyone who has a “high percentage” of being the pick. I don’t think Henson is any better than 50-50, especially if Andre Drummond manages to slip. As for a Monroe-Leonard pairing, I don’t think anyone could really know about the synergy – or the dysfunction – that would result until we see them together. Leonard has his share of skeptics, but I think there’s a world of potential there to mine.

Alfred (Ishpeming, Mich.): I do not see John Henson being a good fit. He doesn’t have an outside shot, will not be strong enough to score in the low post and is a horrible free-throw shooter. I’m sorry to say he will be a big bust in the NBA.

Langlois: There’s no doubt that if Henson were 235 pounds instead of 216, you’d feel a lot more confident about taking him with the No. 9 pick. Then again, if Henson were 235, he’d probably be in the discussion to be picked second. I know the ACC isn’t the NBA, but Henson figured it out well enough there to be the two-time Defensive Player of the Year. He’s a shot-blocker and a rebounder and those two traits are the very ones scouts feel most reliably translate to the next level. It doesn’t make him fail-safe, but I don’t see Henson winding up a bust.

John (Hexham, England): With his draft stock slipping, has Andre Drummond worked out for the Pistons or was it considered he would be drafted too early to consider the Pistons a possible destination? Between Drummond and Monroe, who would be the center and who would be the power forward?

Langlois: Drummond, by all accounts, did not come to Auburn Hills to work out for the Pistons. No surprise there. He told me at the Chicago draft combine he would work out for five teams. His agent, Rob Pelinka, I’m sure was walking a fine line over the past two weeks as it became less and less likely that Drummond would go in the top five. Pelinka knows, however, that the Pistons have taken both Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight without having seen either in an individual workout. There is a report that the Pistons did travel to New York this week to see Drummond work out, though, which has not been confirmed. As for Drummond and Monroe’s positioning, that’s a great question. I really believe that, if it comes to pass, their defensive position would be determined by the matchups. In other words, on some nights Monroe would guard the center and on others Drummond would, much as Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace would decide which player to guard – sometimes on a possession-by-possession basis.

Anthony (Bensenville, Ill.): I have mixed feelings about the Ben Gordon trade. I’m happy to move his contract, but I was thinking Tyrus Thomas would have been a better return for the Pistons. Did those two salaries not match up? Or did the Bobcats not want to part with Thomas? Also, can the Pistons buy out Maggette’s contract? I wouldn’t want him taking minutes from Singler or Daye.

Langlois: I think Lawrence Frank will be intrigued by what Maggette and his attacking style will add to the offense, Anthony, but the opportunity to go into the 2012-13 off-season with significant cap space was the real motivation for the Gordon trade. Thomas has three years and $26 million left on his deal – the Bobcats are desperately trying to move him, reportedly trying to tie him to any attempts by teams to take their No. 2 pick this year. A Gordon-Thomas trade could have been accomplished under cap rules because Charlotte was under the cap and could have absorbed the difference in salaries.

Jamara (Detroit): With the Gordon trade, will the Pistons pursue Chris Kaman?

Langlois: We’ll see how it plays out, Jamara. While there’s no doubt the greater cap significance for the Pistons will come next summer, it does pare about $1.4 million off of this year’s payroll. That isn’t a lot, but it does give the Pistons more wiggle room under the tax threshold. I’m still not of the opinion the Pistons will use a full mid-level exception on any free agent this summer, but you never know. It will be interesting to see what effect the new CBA has on the free-agent market and where the market will be for Kaman. He might also be at the point in his career where he wants to chase a ring. I’m sure Miami would love to have him if he wants to play for the vet’s minimum or take a bi-annual exception deal.

Lemar (Ann Arbor, Mich.): If we continue to play the kind of basketball we played down the stretch, the Pistons probably won’t get another lottery pick for the foreseeable future. Now is the time to get significantly better. What scenario could lead to the Pistons getting two first-round picks in this draft?

Langlois: Trading down from 9 to a team with multiple picks (Houston has 12, 16 and 18) or the willingness to trade one of Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight or Rodney Stuckey. I think Joe D would be open to trading down from 9 – as long as he is comfortable getting any or the three or four big men he would have to like at 9, knowing at least one would be there at 12. I can’t see them trading one of their young core players, though.

Donna (Southfield, Mich.): Are the Pistons going to get “jumped over” again in this draft? And will there be enough depth for us to still get a worthy player where we draft?

Langlois: If Andre Drummond gets past Portland at No. 6, I think there’s a 50-50 shot that either Golden State takes him or trades the pick to somebody who wants Drummond. If it’s the other side of that 50 percent and Drummond is still on the board with Toronto’s pick – which probably means that both Damien Lillard and Dion Waiters, two players Toronto is believed to like very much, are gone – then I think it’s again 50-50 that the Raptors deal the pick to a team that at least believes Drummond won’t get past the Pistons at nine. I’m not certain that the Pistons would automatically grab Drummond if he’s there at 9, by the way, but when you’re picking ninth and you have a chance to get a player that even Drummond’s critics concede has the potential to be a dominant defender … wow, that’s hard to pass at that point. If Drummond is gone, yes, I think the Pistons will come away with a player who will be a worthy complement to Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight. I have John Henson going there in my mock draft. The only question with Henson is how he will hold up at power forward at 216 pounds.

Ryan (Grand Rapids, Mich.): Villanueva, Maxiell, Daye and No. 9 to Atlanta for Josh Smith and No. 23. This would give Detroit a ton of cap space next summer to facilitate trades and a borderline All-Star to pair with Monroe up front. The No. 23 pick could then be used on the best available player instead of targeting a position.

Langlois: Atlanta has a new GM, Ryan, in Danny Ferry. I don’t think anyone really knows what his marching orders are, or what vision for the direction the Hawks should take was discussed with ownership during the interview process. But if he’s going to trade Josh Smith, there has to be a clear win somewhere in the deal for the Hawks – a budding young player and cap space, for instance. I don’t think your package would move the needle much for the Hawks.