Pistons Mailbag - Monday, May 2, 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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Darious (Detroit): Do you think the Pistons should move Jonas Jerebko to small forward? He seems better suited to play that position. If not, why?

Langlois: He’s most familiar with small forward because that’s what he played in Italy, but he doesn’t have a strong preference one way or the other, Darious. Here’s what he told me two weeks ago when I asked him whether he felt the added strength and weight he gained while working with Arnie Kander this year would benefit him if he winds up as the Pistons’ starting power forward: “If you put me and (Austin Daye) out there at the three, the four, who cares who’s the three and who’s the four? Me and AD, we can switch everything. Even with Greg (Monroe), me, Greg and AD, if we’re in there, we could switch everything.” He appeared more comfortable and effective defensively guarding small forwards as a rookie, but with experience and physical maturity there is no reason – at 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds – that he can’t guard power forwards. Will the best among them – Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Zach Randolph, LaMarcus Aldridge, et al – present a big challenge? Sure – that’s why they’re all making huge money (and, now that I look at that list, they’re also all in the West). In the East, there’s Chris Bosh, Kevin Garnett, Carlos Boozer, Amare Stoudemire (when he isn’t playing center) and Josh Smith at the top of the list. Against some of those teams, the Pistons might decide Monroe would be a better matchup and let Jerebko, perhaps, guard a center who isn’t a post-up focus of the opposition’s offense. I talked to Joe Dumars last week about Monroe’s versatility and asked if that gives him greater latitude in looking for that next frontcourt piece to pair with him – we were talking more specifically about the draft, but the same general concept applies to Jerebko – and he said, yes, it absolutely did. He saw Monroe play effectively next to several different types of big men this season – from Ben Wallace to Charlie Villaneuva to Chris Wilcox to Jason Maxiell – so playing him next to Jerebko, a more balanced player than others on that list, would be a relatively easy game-planning call for Pistons coaches.

Matt (Redford, Mich.): I want your take on Serge Ibaka. Offensively, he looks as though he has the potential to be a face-up jump shooter with textbook release for a big man. But his main attribute is his ability to block shots. I think the Thunder’s trade opened them up at power forward for him to shine and that getting Kendrick Perkins was simply a bonus. If you had to choose between the Heat and Thunder as the powerhouse team to ride for the next five years or so, which would you take?

Langlois: Ibaka does have a pretty amazing skill set for a guy who was billed by most as not much more than a shot-blocker and rebounder coming out of the 2008 draft, where he was picked 24th – four spots after Charlotte let Larry Brown talk management into trading a future first-rounder away to go up and take another international mystery man, Alexis Ajinca. Ibaka, in a few years, could have an offensive and overall game that approaches Kevin Garnett’s – not the impact of the MVP-level Garnett, but similar in style – for his ability to step out and knock down 18-footers, if not 3-pointers, with consistency, and for his menacing paint presence. Getting Perkins completed the Thunder. If you were starting an NBA franchise from scratch, you might take Jeff Green over Perkins based on age, health and overall skill. But Perkins’ bulk, defensive mind-set and toughness checked off the last items on OKC’s to-do list. Miami has a more certain championship future, but I think sometime within your five-year time frame, the Thunder could pull past the Heat – if everybody stays healthy, management can afford to keep the team together after the new collective bargaining agreement is OK’d, and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook continue to keep pulling in the same direction.

Steve (Ionia, Mich.): The Pistons really need to make a move. What do you think is most likely and what is your guess for when they will have a good shot at the playoffs?

Langlois: First things first, Steve. The next move is the May 17 lottery, which will go a long way toward telling the Pistons what type of player they can expect to get in the June 23 draft. A top-three pick – they have a 15 percent chance – means they’ll come away with a potential impact player: Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams or whoever they determine is the best big man, Enes Kanter or Jonas Valanciunas. That likely dictates what comes next. If the Pistons wind up drafting Williams, for instance, then they’ll be pretty well set at forward with Williams, Jonas Jerebko, Austin Daye and Charlie Villanueva, and might focus trades/free agency on landing another big man. It could also affect how they handle the free agencies of Tayshaun Prince and Tracy McGrady. If they were to take Irving, that would have its own ripple effect. Ordinarily, I would say the chances for a trade before the draft would be minimal. And they probably still are. But we don’t know what affect the specter of a potential July 1 work stoppage could have. Maybe some GMs will be itchy to get a major piece of business accomplished before the shutdown and propose something that appeals to the Pistons. The other date to watch – still to be determined – is the closing of the sale of the team to Tom Gores. It’s common when teams are in the process of changing hands to forestall significant personnel moves until the incoming ownership is formally installed. Witness the Golden State sale last year, the most recent NBA transfer, when new ownership took control late in the summer and the Warriors wound up changing coaches on the eve of training camp.

Marvin (Richmond, Va.): You’ve talked about how Jonas has gained weight and improved, but how about Terrico White? Did he gain any muscle or weight or work on his skills? How did he look during the time he actually practiced with the team?

Langlois: By the time White was finally cleared to practice after recovering from a broken foot that was expected to sideline him for about eight weeks, he reported to Pistons staff that he was experiencing foot pain not long after he was cleared to practice. Media are not allowed to watch practice, Marvin, so I can’t tell you how he looked. I suspect that he really got very little opportunity to show much. It was well into the season when he was cleared and by that point, coaches across the NBA really start pulling back. There aren’t many practice days available – not when you factor in games, travel and the necessity of giving players an occasional day off to let their bodies recuperate. It was largely a wasted year for White in that he, far more than anyone, really needed court time more than anything. His body was never the issue – it was skill work (and some of that he was able to do, working with Arnie Kander on ballhandling and agility drills and the like) and feel, the type of thing you really only gain from five-on-five, full-court basketball. The Pistons were more sold on White’s need to soak up D-League experience than any player they’ve ever had except for Amir Johnson. They were fully prepared and eager to send him to Fort Wayne for a few weeks at a time. Not getting that D-League experience makes it tough to predict White’s future. Time doesn’t stand still for anyone in the NBA. Look at what happened with Milwaukee’s second-rounders last year. The Bucks took Tiny Gallon of Oklahoma and Darrington Hobson of New Mexico. Gallon didn’t show them much and was cut before training camp. Hobson suffered a hip injury and the Bucks cut ties with him, too. White will have to seize on the next opportunity for him to impress. It won’t help him if there’s a lockout this summer that wipes out Summer League. He’s an enormously gifted athlete, but NBA teams knew that going into last year’s draft. They wanted to see if he could master the nuance of the game, and he simply didn’t answer any of those questions in his rookie season.

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