Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, April 14, 2011

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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Marcus (Birmingham, Ala.): A number of elite prospects have recently declared they will return to school with the potential NBA lockout being cited as the most likely reason. I was wondering if the top international prospects might do the same or if they have the option to continue playing overseas until games resume?

Langlois: We’ll know more over the next 10 days to two weeks, Marcus. The deadline for all players who aren’t automatically eligible for the draft – players who have exhausted their four years of college eligibility or, for internationals, those who will be 22 in the calendar year of the draft – who wish to apply is April 24. The NBA releases the list within three or four days. So far, two players who likely would have been taken among the top five or six picks – or ahead of where the Pistons will draft if they don’t draw into the top three in the May 17 lottery – have said they will be going back to school (Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger, Baylor’s Perry Jones). A third, North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes, is at least seriously considering a return to college. If all three indeed are not in the draft, the Pistons will have fewer options. The international players to watch who fit that category are Jonas Valanciunas and Enes Kanter. Kanter almost surely will be in the draft. Valanciunas is less certain, but even more concerning for NBA teams at the moment is whether he intends to play in the NBA next season even if he does submit his name for the draft, and also what the specifics of his buyout are. Euros have much wider latitude, specific to your question, than college players. The NCAA mandates college players pull out by May 8 to maintain amateur standing. (They are now on the verge of pushing that date even earlier next season, to before the April signing day, which is being done solely for the convenience of college coaches to the detriment of the players.) Internationals only have to abide by the NBA’s June 13 date for pulling out. They also can stay in the draft but have little fear of a work stoppage. If they’re good enough to be drafted by the NBA, they’ll have little difficulty finding a place to play for pay in Europe until the NBA settles its issues.

James (Delta, British Columbia): I was just wondering about Greg Monroe’s rebounding averages since January, especially his offensive rebounding numbers. It seems every time I check, he has more offensive rebounds than defensive.

Langlois: Since Jan. 1, it is no exaggeration to say Greg Monroe has been an elite offensive rebounder. Here is the top five in the NBA since that time: 1. Zach Randolph, 4.3; 2. Dwight Howard, 4.3; 3. Kevin Love, 4.2; 4. J.J. Hickson, 3.8; 5. Greg Monroe, 3.8. The rest of the top 15 is equally heavy with prominent names: Al Jefferson, Andrew Bynum, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Jeff Foster, Blake Griffin, Serge Ibaka, DeMarcus Cousins, DeAndre Jordan, David Lee. There was a stretch of games in early February when Monroe seemed to hit the rookie wall, right before the All-Star break. In those nine games, Monroe averaged just 2.1 offensive rebounds a game. Throw out those nine games, and since Jan. 1 Monroe averaged 4.1 offensive rebounds a game. Overall, Monroe was 12th in the NBA in rebounding since Jan. 1 at 9.0 per game. That knack for offensive rebounding, as part of a package that also includes a nose for finding scoring openings around the rim, solid defense and keen passing skills, give Monroe a solid base. When he adds a mid-range jump shot and a bread-and-butter post move offensively, then continues to learn personnel around the league to help him on the other end, you understand why the Pistons feel they have a centerpiece for a bright future.

Will (Dallas, Pa.): With a new owner, what should we expect in the future? How can this new ownership shake things up and make us a contender again? Leadership is what we need, but haven’t had since Mr. Big Shot.

Langlois: There is great anticipation and excitement for the new ownership team, Will, but even Tom Gores has said he isn’t sure what moves he will make until he learns the business of basketball, his way around the NBA and the strengths of the organization. As for leadership, I think the front office feels good about the character of their young players, particularly the ones Joe Dumars has cited repeatedly this season as building blocks: Greg Monroe, Jonas Jerebko, Rodney Stuckey and Austin Daye. Yes, Stuckey made some poor decisions this year in confrontations with his coach that became public matters. He could use some maturity, as he himself admitted last week. But they don’t question his desire to win or willingness to fit into a team concept. They obviously love Monroe’s maturity and have come to learn just how competitive Monroe is. With Jerebko, it’s his fearlessness and fire. With Daye, it’s his even, upbeat temperament. Will one of them – Monroe? Jerebko? – emerge as their leader? It wouldn’t surprise me. But leadership doesn’t always have to be one player. Leadership can come from the coach or it can come from a collective. I think you could say that the 2004 champions were truly led by Joe Dumars and Larry Brown more than any one player. In some ways, Billups led. In others, they followed the lead of Rasheed Wallace. Perhaps in others still, Ben Wallace led.

Jens (Cologne, Germany): I was stunned watching the Nike Hoops Summit last week. I guess Bismack Biyombo would be the ideal addition to the frontcourt. Jerebko, Monroe and Biyombo would make a very talented and physical frontcourt. Do you think Biyombo will be gone before the Pistons are on the clock?

Langlois: Lots and lots of Biyombo questions. Right now, he truly is the international man of mystery. NBA scouts are aware of him, but he hasn’t been on the radar for very long. They will poke and prod between now and the June 23 draft, for certain. What Biyombo did over one weekend against high school players is just one piece of information. He’s created a tremendous amount of buzz since last week’s Portland event, Jens, and I’ve heard in talking to scouts who were there consistently that two stand out: how hard he plays and how his wing span (measured at 7-foot-7) affects games. At 6-foot-9 in shoes, I’ve hard him compared to Serge Ibaka and Ben Wallace. But if you’re going to project him as a starting power forward next to Monroe and Jerebko, the first question about the Pistons will be where they’ll get enough scoring to compete. Do I think he’ll be gone by the time the Pistons pick? Tough to say without knowing who else will be in the draft – if Sullinger, Barnes, Jones and Henson are all really out – but my guess is he would be there at No. 7 if the Pistons are interested. There are also some questions – and though they might be baseless, you can bet NBA teams are going to inquire and investigate – of Biyombo’s age. If he’s 18, he’s intriguing. If he’s 24, maybe not so much.

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