Pistons Mailbag - WEDNESDAY, June 7

@ritzzpatty: When’s the press conference and are we going to be aggressive in the trade market during the draft and free agency? I’d like to see the Pistons trade the fifth pick for high-value players like Pascal Siakam and O.G. Anunoby from Toronto, if that’s realistic.

Langlois: Expect a press conference to formally introduce Monty Williams as Pistons coach sometime next week. I would expect the Pistons to be active in moves that improve the outlook not just for the future but for the present without actively harming chances for long-term success this off-season. The decision to target a top-of-the-market coach like Williams is a clear signal that owner Tom Gores and general manager Troy Weaver are in sync in feeling the time is right – thanks to laying the groundwork the past three years in talent acquisition – to shift to the next phase. As for your trade proposal, that is not a realistic framework. Never mind the salary-cap logistics of absorbing approximately $57 million in 2023-24 salary, it would require the Pistons to give up something more than the fifth pick, I would suspect, to get either one of those players on their own, never mind both.

Langlois: If you’re going to judge a coach on what he does when his team loses a sure-fire Hall of Famer, that’s not going to go well for any of them. Far from having red flags, Williams was the one coach available who I thought checked every box the Pistons could have imagined wanting filled, as I wrote. There were credible reports that teams like Milwaukee and Philadelphia sent out feelers to Williams to gauge his interest in coaching next season and got the same initial response the Pistons did. Williams had three years and $21 million left on his Suns deal and coaches of his stature – coaches who don’t have to fear they’ll be forgotten if they sit out a season – usually like to take the gap year to recharge their batteries but also to give the entire league plenty of time to consider their candidacy and improve their options. That Williams chose to pass up that gap year and accept the Pistons jobs speaks volumes to (a) the dogged nature of owner Tom Gores’ and general manager Troy Weaver’s pursuit but also to (b) the belief Williams has in his chances to coach a winner in Detroit. No coach, and certainly no coach who has and would have had many other attractive options, wants to sign on to a place where he feels success is a long shot. I’m sure it took great salesmanship to convince Williams to pass up a gap year, but no amount of salesmanship would have convinced him to talk into a no-win situation. Williams clearly sees the nucleus – or a good chunk of it, at least – in place to grow a winner in Detroit.

@bigfella1951: Free agent wings that stand out to me are Jerami Grant, Kyle Kuzma and Cameron Johnson. Of these, who do you feel would best fit Pistons needs and are there any other free agents you think should be given serious consideration?

Langlois: Grant is the best player of the three and the fit is obvious given his history with the Pistons. Johnson is a restricted free agent and we all know the history of RFAs is that they very rarely change teams if the home team wishes to retain them, which I would assume is a decision Brooklyn management made the day they executed the trade to ship Kevin Durant to Phoenix for Johnson, Mikal Bridges and a boatload of draft capital. My belief is that the Pistons are more likely to use the bulk of their approximately $30 million in cap space via trade than in free agency. We don’t know exactly how the incoming collective bargaining agreement that includes more punitive measures for exceeding the luxury tax line will affect the market this summer, but I suspect it will be the basis for many transactions. And the Pistons, as a team with more cap space than all but a handful of franchises, are in position to benefit from that.

Darrell (Detroit): When I read trade proposals involving Pistons players by writers and bloggers, all I can do is roll my eyes. The Pistons regularly get fleeced in their trade proposals. Bogdanovic, Bagley, Burks and Wiseman are routinely given away for what amounts to three beans with no promise of magic in them. Can you inform your colleagues that Troy Weaver doesn’t get fleeced; he does the fleecing? And thank you.

Langlois: Trade proposals are fun but take them all with a very large grain of salt. They’re written to generate discussion when there’s no substantive news to write about and no access to team principals available to writers whose livelihoods depend on generating content. I’m not sure what proposals you’ve seen that failed to inspire you because I pretty much ignore those types of things. They are what they are.

@_ericbel_/IG: Are there any early rumblings of who the front office is looking at favorably if they do keep the pick?

Langlois: The Pistons employ a low-rumble front office under Troy Weaver. Some teams announce predraft workouts – the Pistons did under Stan Van Gundy and Ed Stefanski’s regimes – but the Pistons are one of the many who do not. (And, by the way, the front offices that announce visits do so for their own strategic reasons, not to advertise their interests.) Based on the most credible draft intelligence from the various big boards compiled by those in the draft analysis industry and institutional knowledge of the Pistons, I’m profiling six first-round candidates for the No. 5 pick: twins Amen and Ausar Thompson, Cam Whitmore, Jarace Walker, Anthony Black and Taylor Hendricks. Chances are pretty good the pick will be one of those six if the Pistons stick at five. But if there’s ever a year where they go off schedule, this is the one. 

@EazyE711: Are we really going to sign Dillon Brooks?

Langlois: By one means or another, the Pistons are going to be in the market for a proven wing player this off-season given the roster need. At this time of the off-season – the busiest time of the NBA calendar for front offices with the draft and free agency looming – general managers and their cabinets are holding brainstorming sessions that debate topics exactly like this. They’ll get to a point where they rank the free agents by pecking order and devise a game plan that lays out which ones will be pursued first and prioritize them by position. Where Brooks falls in that pecking order is anyone’s guess. Because his own teams has so publicly announced it will not pursue him, every other team in need of someone as his position will have thoroughly considered Brooks well before June 30 when negotiations can officially begin.

@GeriniereA: Who’s your favorite with the fifth pick?

Langlois: If you go by the NBA.com consensus mock draft, it’s looking pretty likely that not only will Victor Wembanyama, Brandon Miller and Scoot Henderson be off the board in the top three picks but that Amen Thompson will be gone, as well, before the Pistons pick at five. Nine of the 10 mock drafts used by NBA.com to compile their consensus mock draft have Houston picking Thompson at four. Cam Whitmore is the pick of five mock drafts to the Pistons at five. I don’t know that he’s the prohibitive betting favorite to be the fifth pick, but he’s probably the narrow leader at this point over Jarace Walker and Ausar Thompson. I do find Whitmore intriguing with his age – he won’t turn 19 until teams are in Las Vegas for Summer League – athleticism, shooting and playmaking potential.

@Johnny_Junya83: Any word on whether the Pistons will move up to the top three? Dangle Bojan and No. 5?

Langlois: If you take Troy Weaver at his word – “I think you could scramble it up pretty much from three to eight and we’re in that range at five. We’re excited to land there and get another young player” – then there wouldn’t seem to be much motivation to move up two spots to get a player he regards as in the same tier. Now, I suppose you could make the case that if whoever Weaver has as No. 2 to Victor Wembanyama doesn’t get picked by Charlotte at two that giving up your leading scorer to move up two spots would be a consideration. I think Portland would consider that deal pretty seriously except for one problem: How do the Trail Blazers, who have some cap issues, absorb Bogdanovic’s contract or how would they manage to cobble together other contracts to send to the Pistons to make the trade work without depleting their depth? I don’t see the Pistons moving up. It’s more likely they would move down. But it’s most likely they stay put and exercise the fifth pick.

@nathaniel_antonio7/IG: If the Pistons were to trade back on draft night, what players could they target?

Langlois: I don’t know that there’s any player they could realistically know would still be available if they made the decision to trade down from five. Let’s take the Utah picks at nine and 16 as an example of a realistic trade framework, five for nine and 16. The Pistons might be able to take educated guesses at who’d go at five, six, seven and eight if they were to ship the pick to Utah, but there’s no way they could be confident that a player they “targeted” would still be there. This draft seems more uncertain than most and it’s entirely possible that a player the Pistons have valued as a top-nine pick would be regarded more like a 15-20 pick by the league consensus. But it only takes one team picking in the 5-8 range to agree with them to foul up their plan to get a player they really like and pick up extra assets at the same time in trading down. If you look at some of the more credible mock drafts, you’ll see players like Anthony Black or Taylor Hendricks going anywhere from six to 12. That’s at least a little bit unusual this close to the draft.