Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, May 5, 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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Desmond (Cowley, England): One reason Pistons fans don’t want Bismack Biyombo is his perceived lack of size. We all know about his 7-foot-7 wing span, but he was measured at 6-foot-7¾ at the Portland workout. But then I found that some of the other bigs in the NBA listed at 6-foot-10 – Kevin Love, Tyrus Thomas, Ronny Turiaf and Ersan Ilyasova – are also 6-foot-7¾ or under without shoes. So how is Biyombo undersized? And do you think he’ll be listed at 6-foot-10 on draft day?

Langlois: I suspect they’ll take Biyombo’s measurements from the Nike Hoop Summit for draft-day purposes, Desmond. Biyombo is not expected at the Chicago draft combine later this month, where prospects will be measured and tested. Biyombo was 6-foot-9 in shoes at Portland. Coupled with his wing span and athleticism, I don’t think many teams will downgrade him for size. He’ll be able to defend at power forward. He’ll more than likely be able to defend at center, as well. The question marks with Biyombo will be age (if he isn’t really 18, how close is he?) and offensive limitations. But it will be a lottery filled with question marks – Kyrie Irving played 11 games at Duke; Enes Kanter didn’t play a game all last season; and the other Euro big men – Jan Vesely, Donatas Motiejunas and Jonas Valanciunas – are all question marks for Chicago participation. Unless somebody uncovers evidence that Biyombo is significantly older than his stated 18, it’s now looking very likely he’ll go in the top 10 picks.

Lucas (Hong Kong): I know there are questions about Biyombo’s age, but from his stats in the Spanish ACB and his performance at the Nike Hoop Summit, I’m not sure why some Pistons fans think it’s a reach to draft him at No. 7. I think he is exactly what the Pistons need – he’s long with an NBA body, amazingly athletic, rebounds and blocks shots.

Langlois: I don’t have a sense that a majority of Pistons fans who are plugged into the draft are rising up against the prospect of drafting Biyombo, Lucas. Most appear intrigued by him, if uncertain exactly what or who he is. That’s not much different than NBA executives at this point. They will be doing a lot of kicking of the proverbial tires between now and draft night. A month ago, it seemed like the biggest question for the Pistons would be how much they could learn about him leading to the draft. Now, it just might be whether he’ll still be on the board at seven. That would have seemed ludicrous before Portland. I think if Biyombo is there at seven (assuming that’s where the Pistons pick) – at least if they satisfy their questions about his real age – he’ll be on a very short list for consideration.

Donald (Los Angeles): Saw some clips of Jonas Valanciunas and I think he is overhyped. He might be a good rebounder and have the motor and passion for the game, but he looks really raw offensively. He has quick feet but limited post moves. It might take him another two years to be NBA ready. Some reports say his contract could actually be messier than expected. Is there any chance he’ll fall beyond sixth overall?

Langlois: At this point, yes, there is a decent chance Valanciunas would fall to No. 7. But I wouldn’t assume the Pistons would jump at the chance to take him should that happen. Consider him, yes. Grab him without hesitation, no. You’re right about his readiness – he would not be likely to provide instant help next season. His ceiling might be as high or higher than anyone’s – he’ll barely be 19 on draft night – but the fact he is a year or two away coupled with the question about his buyout makes Valanciunas a candidate to tumble a few or several spots past where his talent would suggest he should go.

Ken (Dharamsala, India): Given the culture of the Pistons – the importance of defense to all three NBA titles the franchise has won – and the obvious emphasis recent NBA champions have put on defense, why can’t the Pistons play defense? I am beginning to think they just don’t have the athleticism across the board to play defense. Vague allusions to “lack of chemistry” are hard for me to buy.

Langlois: I don’t mean to undersell the importance of physical characteristics – length and quickness at every position is one quick-fix ingredient to porous defense, for instance, or an active big man with shot-blocking capacity. But physical characteristics aren’t the whole of it. There are teams that finish in the middle of the pack or better defensively every season that on paper shouldn’t be very stout defensively, Ken. When I talk to some former Pistons who stay connected to the team, they just didn’t think this team was ever on the same page defensively. John Kuester came to the job sounding every right note. With Cleveland, his most recent job, he became known as the Cavs’ offensive mastermind. But he’s never really been an offensive specialist. He sounded very much like the Dean Smith-Larry Brown disciple he is when he arrived in Detroit, stressing defense first and often. It just hasn’t taken hold. The Pistons finished last in the NBA in field-goal percentage defense for the 2010-11 season. It was clear many times after an opponent would score a dunk or layup that there had been a missed assignment or broken communication to allow the play – clear because of the puzzled looks or grimaces of frustration that would be exchanged between teammates. “Chemistry” is a frustrating explanation when things go wrong, but when it doesn’t exist, the effects are very real and very obvious.

Ben (Grosse Pointe, Mich.): There have been reports of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook feuding with each other, most notably because Westbrook wants to be the big star and that won’t happen with Durant there. Is it possible he would want out? If he were available, the Pistons should absolutely make an offer.

Langlois: Don’t mistake isolated comments of frustration or the occasional heated on-court exchange between two highly competitive players for unrest, Ben. Durant is way too grounded to let whatever situation exists devolve to the point that he and Westbrook could no longer co-exist. Larry Bird was a great teammate, but he wasn’t an easy one. Chuck Daly’s Bad Boys were at each other’s throats in practice all the time. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen had many contentious moments. It’s the nature of the beast. Headstrong competitors are going to snap at each other every now and then. It doesn’t mean they want the other one to change sides. If it ever becomes anything more than that in OKC, where they have the potential to win a title someday, then shame on them. If there’s an issue developing or one with the potential to become untenable, my guess is it will be Westbrook growing restless with the notion of being a sidekick and not the clearly acknowledged alpha male. I was told two years ago, when Westbrook was coming off of his rookie season, that those around him were struck by how he saw himself. They thought that Westbrook fully believed he was the best player on the floor every time he stepped on to it. That’s a wonderful trait – and also a potentially problematic one for a team that already has Durant.

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