Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, May 26, 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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Tim (Kentwood, Mich.): I know it might not happen, but I would love for the Pistons to draft Isaiah Thomas at 52. It would be nice to hear the announcer say “Isaiah Thomas” again. Isiah Thomas was and still is my favorite player. What are the chances we take Isaiah Thomas with that pick?

Langlois: Yours wasn’t the only Mailbag entry to express a similar sentiment, Tim – Pistons fans would love to see another I. Thomas in uniform. (Remember when the Pistons had to include the initial on the back of his uniform when they signed his former Indiana U backcourt partner, Jim Thomas?) I’m sure he’ll be on the list of players the Pistons consider with that pick – but it will be a long list, so the odds aren’t great. The Pistons go into the off-season with Will Bynum written in ink as their backup point guard and Thomas is a similarly sized point guard with a scorer’s mentality, like Bynum. If the Pistons are looking at a point guard in this draft, my guess is that it would be one with more size to offer – someone who could guard both backcourt positions. But you never know. They won’t draft him because of his name, but it would certainly make for a good story if they picked him. For those who missed it, it wasn’t mere coincidence that he was named Isaiah Thomas, either. (Scroll down toward the bottom.)

Glenn (Cavite City, Philippines): Do you see Kyle Singler as a suitable replacement for Tayshaun Prince at small forward and will Terrico White be healthy for the 2011-12 season?

Langlois: I would put Singler on a list for possibilities – a medium-length list, perhaps – with the Pistons’ pick at No. 33, Glenn, for a few reasons: (a) that’s about the right range for Singler, by most accounts, though he could certainly go in the latter third of the first round, and (b) assuming the Pistons go big at No. 8, they could be looking for a small forward at 33 because both Prince and Tracy McGrady are pending free agents. And as a four-year college player with a high basketball IQ, Singler – who might not excel in any one area but has no glaring weakness, either – will be one of the few players drafted in the second round (if he slips to 33 or beyond, at least) who appears to be ready to play now. As for White, I would expect the foot he broke in early October to be sufficiently healed by the start of next season. But only White really knows how limiting the pain he reported experiencing even after being cleared to practice really remains.

Josh (Pinckney, Mich.): I’ve been watching a lot of Kanter video and I think if he’s available at No. 4, the Pistons should trade up to get him. What do you think it would take? Would the No. 8 pick plus Ben Gordon and a second-rounder do it?

Langlois: There was an unconfirmed report that Cleveland offered Memphis the No. 4 pick for Rudy Gay and was rejected. It wouldn’t surprise me if it were true. The Cavs have a desperate need for wings, scoring wings especially. Look at their roster – Anthony Parker, Alonzo Gee, Christian Eyenga, Joey Graham and Manny Harris. I’m not sure where they’re going to get scoring from next year to put around the apparent No. 1 pick, point guard Kyrie Irving. I have to believe they’d very strongly consider that trade. Gordon would give them a potential 20-point scorer and at No. 8 they could add one of the big men that the Pistons are likely to wind up considering should they stay put. While Kanter is considered by a narrow consensus the best big man in the draft, is the gap so wide that the Pistons would sacrifice Gordon for the difference between Kanter and one of the other big men who would be there at eight? That would be a very tough call, let alone throwing in a second-rounder, to boot. Chad Ford’s latest mock draft on ESPN.com has the Pistons taking Jonas Valanciunas at No. 8, though there are also suggestions out there that the Cavs prefer Valanciunas to Kanter at four. You don’t have to search hard to find an NBA scout who likes Valanciunas better than Kanter. Kanter probably is more ready to contribute immediately, but Valanciunas might have a higher ceiling. If there’s a chance the Pistons can stay put and land Valanciunas – assuming the Pistons share the belief that there isn’t much that separates the two prospects – there is little motivation for them to do that deal.

Dave (Lenox, Mich.): Do you see a separation of talent in the big men where the Pistons are picking at No. 8 and further down? Say between Biyombo and Vucevic. Would it be to the Pistons’ benefit to trade down or maybe to trade up for Valanciunas or Kanter?

Langlois: Trading down is probably a more realistic possibility than trading up, Dave, but I’d be surprised if the Pistons went in either direction. I think the key to whether they attempt to move back will be what you suggest – the separation in big men. Teams generally rank players in tiers. Last year, for instance, the Pistons had DeMarcus Cousins, Derrick Favors and Greg Monroe in the top tier of big men, as Joe Dumars explained after the selection of Monroe. They would have taken any one of them at No. 7 over anyone else. Joe D didn’t go any further than that, but it implies that if Monroe hadn’t been there then it wasn’t an automatic that they would have taken the next best big man, whether that was Ed Davis or Ekpe Udoh on their board. (And there would have been a debate about it, but ultimately I think the fact Davis was more than 2 years younger would have won the day had they decided to go big with that pick.) They might have gone for a player at another position. My general sense is that most draft analysts believe the big men with the highest ceiling are Kanter and Valanciunas. After that, take your pick: Vesely, Biyombo, Thompson, Motiejunas and the Morris twins all probably have pockets of support, with scattered votes for one or more of them for emerging as a better player than even Kanter or Valanciunas. Where do the Pistons draw the line between tiers this year? We won’t know at least until the night of June 23. You mention Vucevic – a very interesting guy and a fast riser. A week ago, I thought it was 50-50 that he would be available at No. 33 in the second round. Now it wouldn’t surprise me if he went 15 spots higher. This time of year, that’s a dramatic leap. If the Pistons like him well enough, then maybe they would trade back with him in mind if the opportunity arose.

Bob (Commerce Twp., Mich.): I agree with some of the opinions that Vucevic might be a sleeper for the No. 8 pick. I look at his numbers compared to all the other big men and he beats them all. I have a hard time understanding why a guy like this falls so far.

Langlois: The general impression of Vucevic was that he had solid basketball skills but not enough athleticism for his college production to translate to the NBA level. That’s difficult to understand on one level, but history tells us that big men who lack lift and explosion and lateral quickness simply can’t affect the game at either end of the floor in today’s NBA. Now, Vucevic has begun to change that impression by measuring and testing better than expected at the Chicago combine – though certain areas of his athletic testing was still unremarkable. I don’t know that it’s possible to change impressions so radically that he’ll go from the second round to the mid-lottery in a month, though – that’s a long climb. We’ll see. The Pistons expect to get their chance to see Vucevic in person; he told me last week they were in the process of arranging a workout for him. But his agent might have other ideas today. If he’s hearing from teams with picks in the early 20s that he won’t get past them, then he’s probably not going to be willing to work out for teams below that point – unless the Pistons and other teams with lottery picks convince the agent he’s a consideration there.

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