Pistons Mailbag - THURSDAY, March 16

A look at the present young core and what the off-season might mean for the future of the Pistons is on the menu for this week’s edition of Pistons Mailbag.

@bigfella1951: If the Pistons were to draft purely on the greatest positional need right now, who do they pick come draft night?

Langlois: With the rather enormous caveat that they almost certainly will not predicate a high lottery pick on roster fit, the need would be for an athletic wing. The wing who seems to have separated himself from the pack is Alabama’s Brandon Miller. The other wings who are likely top-10 picks are Cam Whitmore and the Thompson twins, Amen and Ausar, of Overtime Elite. There seems to be a groundswell of reporting among those most connected to NBA draft evaluators that Miller now has a realistic shot at being the second pick depending on which team lands at No. 2 in the lottery after months of certainty that Victor Wembanyama would be the first pick and Scoot Henderson would be second. It will be interesting to hear Troy Weaver address the draft, both before and after the May 16 lottery, but I expect he’ll say that the overwhelming priority for exercising the pick will be to get the best player. And I’ll believe him. If the Pistons get the second pick and Weaver sees Henderson as a level or two above the field, the fact the Pistons already have Jaden Ivey, Killian Hayes and Cade Cunningham in the backcourt won’t scare him off taking Henderson.

Langlois: As someone who a decade ago couldn’t imagine that the teal would ever make a comeback, I’d only say, “never say never.” Those retro jerseys can come back for significant anniversaries, the ones that fall in five- or 10-year increments or to mark historical occasions. This is the 65th anniversary of the Pistons relocating from Fort Wayne, Ind. So the 2927-28 season, the 70th anniversary, is another opportunity we might see a uniform that reaches into Pistons history. Next season will be the 20th anniversary of the 2003-04 champions, which is another opportunity to bring out a special edition uniform. But it wouldn’t seem very likely that team – which never wore the teal or any iteration of that color scheme – would be the one to evoke a rendition of that uniform.

@robert_cavanagh/IG: If we don’t get the No. 1 overall pick, would you trade up for it?

Langlois: That’s possible at a reasonable cost some years, I suppose, but this most definitely will not be one of them. Victor Wembanyama is considered the most desirable prospect at least since Anthony Davis and possibly since LeBron James. There’s great hype about him and equally great mystery due to his unprecedented combination of size and skill. The team that wins the lottery will automatically have one of the 10 most valuable assets in the NBA and that might be understating it. Nobody’s trading that No. 1 pick.

Darrell (Detroit): I’m not saying the Pistons would consider this offer – and, if they did, it would only be because they won the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes and are trying to balance the roster – but how high of a draft pick could the Pistons receive in exchange for Alec Burks and James Wiseman? Obviously, picks one and two are out of the question. Beyond that, I don’t see a player in the draft that can offer as much production as these two. And the sky is the limit on Wiseman’s upside, but the Pistons are already high on Jalen Duren. I could definitely see San Antonio considering this move and possibly Charlotte if they don’t believe that Mark Williams is a championship-caliber center, assuming neither team lands in the top two of the lottery.

Langlois: The price for the Pistons to get Wiseman was Saddiq Bey and Kevin Knox. Knox was included to make it a deal that worked under cap paraments, so let’s just say it was Bey. Atlanta gave up five second-round picks to get Bey and the Warriors turned around and gave up five second-rounders to Portland to bring back Gary Payton II. That’s a long way of saying I wouldn’t expect a team with a lottery pick to be prepared to offer that for Wiseman (and Burks). First-round picks are like new cars; they lose some of their value when exercised. Troy Weaver isn’t going to turn around and trade Wiseman a few months after trading for him unless the return is irresistible. A lottery pick doesn’t seem realistic to be the return or surely Golden State would have found that level of interest when it shopped Wiseman and wouldn’t have traded him for Payton or for five second-rounders. But landing Wembanyama likely isn’t going to make either Duren or Wiseman expendable. The 7-foot-5 Wembanyama’s versatility and frame suggests he’s quite possibly going to spend his time more at power forward, at least early in his career.

@wisenum1fan33/IG: Any chance we get to see James Wiseman in Summer League?

Langlois: It’s possible, but I doubt it. My best guess is Wiseman is with the team that goes to Las Vegas to practice and go up against Jalen Duren but doesn’t play in Summer League games. It’s pretty unusual for players going into their third year to play in Summer League games let alone their fourth year. Isaiah Stewart played in a few last season because he said he’d missed out on his first two Summer Leagues – the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out 2020 and Stewart had an ankle injury that precluded his participation in 2021 – and wanted to get some repetitions at power forward alongside Duren. So maybe if Wiseman goes to the Pistons and requests to play, he might appear in a game but my money is on letting Duren get a few games in and keep Wiseman relegated to the pre-Summer League practices.

@wbslobin: I love @hamidoudiallo. I’m hoping he can be part of the @DetroitPistons going forward. Your thoughts?

Langlois: There’s a huge difference in the equilibrium between being an unrestricted free agent and a restricted one. Diallo was a restricted free agent two years ago and that gave the Pistons all the leverage in negotiations. Now the balance of power swings to the player. What we know is that Troy Weaver was part of the Oklahoma City front office that drafted Diallo and leads the Pistons front office that traded for him, so it’s safe to assume the Pistons will be interested in retaining him – and they’ll have his Bird rights to help facilitate that outcome. Diallo definitely turned a corner this year, finding a comfortable niche offensively. He’s figured out a way to be an effective player without being a 3-point threat, excelling in transition and becoming an active cutter off the ball. He’s a unique player and a dynamic athlete and that will make him appealing to a number of teams that lack someone with his skill set. As always, it’s going to come down to money. Diallo is a complementary player and that usually means other dominoes have to fall first, but if there’s a team that only has one or two cards to play in free agency and sees Diallo as the best fit they could act fast to land him. But I suspect he’ll enter free agency knowing what his value is to the Pistons and somebody will have to beat that fast to pry him away.

@ck2art/IG: Who are foundational pieces of this restore?

Langlois: Any young player drafted in Troy Weaver’s first three drafts and still here – Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, Cade Cunningham, Isaiah Livers, Jalen Duren, Jaden Ivey – has every opportunity they could ask for to stamp themselves with that label. Hayes, after taking an eye-opening leap forward earlier this season, needs to finish the season getting back to that level to keep a foothold on being considered that. James Wiseman should be considered in the same company. The Pistons made a similar move last year for Marvin Bagley III and gave him a three-year contract when the season ended. There are now four young big men and whether all four can play at a high enough level to share equal pieces of the frontcourt remains to be seen, but Troy Weaver has certainly created a competitive environment that should bring clarity to the equation. And another high lottery pick will automatically qualify for entry into the club. What your definition of “foundational” piece is shapes your answer. If it means someone’s untouchable, then it’s a completely different answer.

@Billups68: Buenos dias, Keith. Es el momento perfecto para agracedar a Casey los servicios prestados?

Langlois: I took two years of Spanish in high school and what I have to show for it today is the ability to say, “Cerveza, por favor,” in a taberna. And the Pistons played in Mexico City in December 2019, so I got to flex a few long-dormant muscles then but I’m still a long way from fluent. So forgive me for responding in English. (I’ll save others the task of translation. @Billups86 is asking if the time is right for the Pistons to thank Dwane Casey for services rendered.) Owner Tom Gores and general manager Troy Weaver have been nothing but fully supportive of Dwane Casey throughout his time here. They extended his contract through the 2023-24 season two years ago and Weaver said during the 2020-21 season that he saw Casey as the perfect coach for the phase the Pistons had only recently entered. My expectation is that Casey will be on the bench when the 2023-24 season tips off. But every coach who gets into the business knows that there’s an expiration date on all of them. There comes a time when it’s best for all parties to install a new voice. Casey has been part of five NBA organizations over the last three decades. He’ll also be 66 next month and has two school-age children. The job of being an NBA coach is an enormous grind that requires a ton of separation from family. Casey has given no outward indications that he’s been worn down by the day-to-day workload – in fact, he’s said the challenge of developing a rebuilding team has energized him – but maybe that will be a conversation to be had sometime in the days after the season ends. I’m sure there’s a large part of him that yearns to be around for the payoff after enduring the first three years of a rebuilding job. But he’s a man who’s seen and experienced a lot in his time – from the early days of integrating the SEC as a player to being scapegoated by the NCAA and coaching in Japan before landing on his feet as an NBA assistant and proving himself over and again for years – so I don’t think for a second Casey needs any validation. I think whatever decision is reached will be by mutual agreement, reflecting the tremendous respect that exists between owner, general manager and head coach.

@niccolopascual/IG: What is Troy Weaver’s long-term vision for team, skill set and team-identity wise?

Langlois: He’s been clear about that from his introductory press conference nearly three years ago. He wants a team that reflects the city and, more precisely, the teams that won the three NBA titles in Pistons history – a team known for its defense, toughness, smarts and togetherness. It’s not a complicated formula, but finding the right ingredients is a delicate needle to thread.

@DetroitRoze: How are you doing working through this rough season of Pistons basketball?

Langlois: Fine, thanks for asking. I went into the season with a realistic outlook. I’ve seen enough NBA games to know that young teams – and especially teams with young guards – have a tough time winning games mostly because they need to learn how to win at this level. It’s a different game than college or whatever level they’ve played before coming to the NBA and executing in the final five minutes of games in the balance is extraordinarily difficult. The most important thing about a rebuilding is to land young players who project to be good NBA players for a long time and I think it’s a fairly easy conclusion to say Troy Weaver has done that. It’s too early to say just how high those young players can soar just yet, but there is a lot of talent in place. If everything had fallen into place for the Pistons this season, I thought there was a remote chance they could make the leap to put themselves on the fringe of play-in contention, but when you lose your primary playmaker and undisputed top talent 12 games into the season, as the Pistons did with Cade Cunningham, expectations need to be seriously re-calibrated. But in the big picture, Cunningham’s prognosis is excellent to return fully healthy, Jaden Ivey and Jalen Duren have hit or exceeded every reasonable marker and James Wiseman has shown in a month that his ceiling is as anticipated when he was the No. 2 pick in 2020. The Pistons have six players 21 or younger – Cunningham, Ivey, Duren, Wiseman, Killian Hayes and Isaiah Stewart – and I’m pretty sure that whoever wins the NCAA title next month will field a starting five with an older average age, just as last year’s champion, Kansas, did. The Pistons will add another high lottery pick in June and have somewhere around $30 million to allocate to upgrade the roster beyond that. No matter what the NBA standings might say, there are a number of franchises whose general managers would rather have the asset sheet of the Pistons than their own right now.

@IanQuinnPistons: What are your thoughts on Cam Johnson for the Pistons? Would Brooklyn match?

Langlois: The idea of Cam Johnson is something that would surely be of interest to the Pistons. In other words, a 6-foot-8 wing player who is an above-average 3-point shooter is the obvious hole on a roster that now includes four young big men – James Wiseman, Jalen Duren, Isaiah Stewart and Marvin Bagley III – and three lottery-pick guards in Killian Hayes, Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey. But Johnson will be a restricted free agent and “restricted” does a lot of work in that term. I would bet with 99 percent certainty that Brooklyn has every intention of retaining Johnson. The Nets might be willing to trade him at some point, but the second most important asset they got for trading Kevin Durant is not someone I would imagine the Nets letting walk out the door even if the offer sheet is one that makes them wince slightly.