Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, September 6, 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.

Peter (Jackson, Mich.): What NBA teams might have an interest in trading for Tayshaun Prince given the number of small forwards on the roster?

Langlois: I get why you’d ask the question, Peter – the Pistons have Corey Maggette and Kyle Singler at small forward and a few other players, including Austin Daye, who won’t go to camp as primarily small forwards but can play there. But Maggette will be a free agent next summer and has indicated this could be his last season, while Singler has yet to play an NBA game. So I wouldn’t leap to the conclusion that their apparent depth at small forward means Joe Dumars would blithely part with a player that Lawrence Frank, as every Pistons coach for the last nine years has, leaned on heavily last season. But if you were to target NBA teams that would be interested in Prince and ignore the likelihood that the Pistons would or would not trade him, then limit your search to veteran teams built to win now. Off the top of my head, I can think of two obvious teams, each of whom has been linked to Prince trade rumors in the fairly recent past: Dallas and Boston. Boston has no reliable backup as it stands now for Paul Pierce, unless the Celtics think second-rounder Kris Joseph is ready to be a part of their rotation. Dallas is potentially thin at small forward, as well, unless the Mavs intend to play Vince Carter at that spot. (They have a glut of guards, so it’s possible that Carter, 36 in January, will, in fact, play small forward exclusively.) The NBA team with the greatest need at small forward is Atlanta, which goes into the season with Kyle Korver as the apparent starter. It’s unclear what direction the Hawks are going to choose, though.

Eric (Phenix City, Ala.): Do you think Andre Drummond will be a starter at any time this season?

Langlois: Too many variables to offer a credible guess at this point, Eric. Once training camp gets going, the coaches can at least begin to assess what Drummond’s starting point is. If he’s able to pick up the offensive and defensive systems – keep mental gaffes to a reasonable number and show the aptitude to learn from mistakes – then Drummond will get a chance to put his wondrous size and athleticism to use. If he can get on the floor, then how big a role he carves out will come down to how much he offers compared to the alternatives. From a physical standpoint, Drummond is going to be able to do things that nobody else on the roster – and not many in the league, for that matter – are capable of doing. The consistency with which he contributes those plays, and the consistency he can exhibit in avoiding negative plays, will determine what his rookie season becomes. Trying to project what that will be in November is one thing, but until we see what he looks like in November, it’s impossible to project what he’ll be doing in April.

Aaron (Renton, Wash.): How does the NBA choose games for national broadcast? The Pistons have been on TV maybe twice a year for the last three or four years. I’m tired of watching blowouts with Miami and Charlotte simply because of big names. I would much rather see a good matchup of teams trying to make the playoffs.

Langlois: The NBA is a star-driven league, Aaron, at least from a marketing standpoint. Even if the NBA would like to see television time more evenly distributed among its 30 teams, it’s obligated to give the TV networks that shell out hundreds of millions of dollars in rights fees the leeway to air the games that will allow them to realize the greatest possible return on their investment. There’s a balancing act, of course, and perhaps even a little bit of cause and effect in play. When you only show one-third of league teams on a consistent basis, you in fact are making the players on those teams all the more marketable, making it even more difficult to justify airing games involving the other two-thirds of teams. The only way to break into the group that shows up on TV frequently is to win. Once the Pistons prove themselves a playoff team again, they’ll grab a handful or so of national TV games each year. If they become a consistent top-four team in the East, as they were for seven straight 50-win seasons, they’ll be one of those teams in the regular national TV rotation.

Matt (Onekama, Mich.): I’ve been keeping track of Slava and Jonas during their EuroBasket tournament games. Slava is averaging 22 minutes, 8.4 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.0 blocks in his first five games. Jonas is averaging 31 minutes, 18.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.4 steals in his five games. Can you put into perspective what those statistics should mean to the average Pistons fan?

Langlois: International games are 40 minutes as opposed to the NBA’s 48 and scores generally reflect that discrepancy, so adjust for that, for starters. Jerebko is quite clearly Sweden’s best player and the offense is funneled through him, so he is being used in a much different role than he has been asked to fill for the Pistons. To the extent he is thriving in that role and enabling an undermanned Swedish national team to hold its own, it bodes well for what it says about his ability to continue to expand his game and improve. Kravtsov’s performances would seem to back up what we’ve been led to believe about him. As Pistons assistant general manager George David told me last week after returning from seeing both players in action, the numbers don’t accurately reflect Kravtsov’s impact on his team. If he can adjust quickly to the pace of the NBA game, his ability to block and alter shots could earn him a path to playing time under Lawrence Frank.

Anders (Bath, England): As there is a lack of depth in the backcourt, how about the Pistons sign Will Conroy from the D-League? He’s never really been given a chance in the NBA and is probably the D-League’s greatest player ever.

Langlois: No room on the roster, Anders. The Pistons have 15 players with guaranteed contracts. If they brought Conroy in, it would almost certainly be on a deal with little or no guaranteed money so there would be minimal effect to the salary cap. If they create roster space, my guess is they will be most interested in signing someone with the ability to play point guard as well as shooting guard – or at least have the ability to defend both backcourt spots. Conroy has been a terrific D-Leaguer, but at 29 and with a few cups of coffee in the NBA, his window of opportunity to land in the NBA is pretty narrow at this point.

Jonathan (Troy, Mich.): Do you consider the Pistons to have a big three?

Langlois: The “big three” concept is more media creation than anything else, Jonathan. Teams fortunate enough to count a genuine NBA superstar among their rosters usually find it fairly easy to interest other great players in coming to play for them. By mere virtue of the fact that those teams then have second- and third-best players, they are labeled a “big three.” I’d prefer to limit the label for teams that have three legitimately great players. The Pistons don’t have anyone on the roster right now who has played in an All-Star game. If Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond get to the point where they’re All-Star staples, we can start the “big three” conversation. Right now, they have three young players – 22, 20 and 19 – with intriguing potential. Monroe is a legitimate All-Star candidate, perhaps as soon as this season. Knight proved himself as a rookie to be a worthy NBA starting point guard. Drummond has yet to give a hint at what his NBA future might hold, but he has a rare combination of size and athleticism. We’ll see where it all leads. Those three are high on the list of why this Pistons season is shaping up as the most intriguing since the Goin’ to Work gang started to splinter.

Rickey (San Diego): I recently purchased tickets to see the Pistons play the Lakers on Nov. 4 in Los Angeles. I’m a devoted Pistons fan, but should I go to the game with tempered expectations and in scout mode, looking at our young talent, or do you think since it’s so early in the season we would have a chance to be competitive and perhaps squeeze out a potential upset?

Langlois: It’s the third game of the season, so it comes at a time when teams can be all over the map with their performances. Upsets seem a little more commonplace in the first week or 10 days. That said, it’s the NBA – unless franchises are undergoing complete tear-downs, similar to what Charlotte did last year, there should be a reasonable expectation for a competitive game pretty much every night. The Lakers, for certain, will be favored to win the game. But they could be a little vulnerable, seeing as how they will be playing the Clippers on Nov. 2 (the Pistons play at Phoenix that night, then both teams are off on Nov. 3) and that game figures to get a huge buildup both in Los Angeles and nationally. The Lakers will downplay the showdown – they feign insult at even calling it a rivalry, given the disparity in the two franchises’ histories – but they’re no doubt eager to whip the Clippers so the notion that they could lose their grip on the city dies.

Jason (Atlanta, Ga.): We kept hearing before the season ended how coach Frank really wanted to spend some personal time with his players this off-season to build the chemistry he needs with them. We haven’t really heard anything about if that’s happened. Any plans to write about what Frank was able to get accomplished?

Langlois: Lawrence Frank has had a busy summer, Jason. I don’t know all the details of it just yet, but I do know he’s spent considerable time in both Los Angeles and Las Vegas, among other places, where it’s common for many NBA players to spend time with their summer training. I know Frank spent time in Los Angeles when Greg Monroe worked out there with Kevin Love. Frank was in Las Vegas during Tim Grgurich’s camp last month and got to spend time with Monroe, Brandon Knight and Andre Drummond. He was, of course, in Orlando for Summer League for more than a week and got to spend some uniquely personal time with a variety of players. We’ll have more with Frank before camp starts on Pistons.com.

Brian (Toledo, Ohio): With the new ownership group being more progressive and having already hired some advanced statistics people, are there any plans to purchase a multicamera player tracking system from STATS that only 10 other NBA teams have had installed but is providing interesting data?

Langlois: The Pistons, of course, hired Ken Catanella before last season to be their expert numbers cruncher in the front office. He has a variety of responsibilities. I’ve talked to him about the STATS system. He was very familiar with it from his time in the NBA offices, where it was widely studied. The Pistons, like most teams, keep the way they collect and analyze data closely held. What I can assure you, Brian, is that the Pistons have a high regard for analytics and I don’t know that there’s anyone in the NBA more highly qualified than Catanella, who came widely recommended from his job with NBA headquarters, where he was instrumental in launching the league’s sophisticated statistics-gathering program and later played a key role in analyzing the financial implications of various CBA proposals during last year’s labor negotiations. So in every way that analytics are used – in self-assessment of individual team personnel and various player groupings, in scouting opposition teams, in amassing scouting reports on NBA personnel, in assessing the contract terms appropriate for prospective NBA free agents or trade targets, and in ways we can only imagine – the Pistons are on the case. For more isolated and specific information the coaching staff can apply on a daily basis, assistant coach Charles Klask works independently and in collaboration with Catanella to provide information for scouting reports and to aid in player development.