Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, December 8, 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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Rickey (San Diego): Welcome back, Keith! One of the things I hated most about the lockout was not having my twice-weekly dose of Pistons Mailbag. What type of approach do you think the team will take in trying to sort out and improve the roster? Do you think Joe will have the green light to be as aggressive as he was while we were pursuing our title run a few years back?

Langlois: Thanks, Rickey. Lots of sentiment just like yours – Pistons fans are happy to be talking basketball again and hopeful that a new season and all the changes this one brings with it will have the Pistons again pointed in the right direction. Do I expect Joe D to be aggressive? Absolutely. Does that mean headline-grabbing moves are right around the corner? Not necessarily. As in every off-season – this one will just be crammed into a matter of days – the headline grabbers are always the handful of title contenders at one extreme and the handful of teams with significant cap space on the other. The Pistons fall in neither camp this off-season, so they’ll probably have to wait until the dust settles in free agency before teams move on to the next phase of roster tweaking. Will Joe D have a green light? The Gores ownership team has made it clear they want to see results, sooner rather than later, and I think from that you can safely assume they will be encouraging of activity. But they have also been very supportive, publicly and behind the scenes, of the team they’ve put in place, including Joe D and Lawrence Frank. If those two are in agreement about the value of the assets in place, then there’s no reason to anticipate a radical housecleaning, either. Frank might very well want to see what he can get out of some veterans who have underperformed over the past two seasons first.

Jeremy (Kewadin, Mich.): Should the Pistons make Brandon Knight the starting point guard and move Rodney Stuckey to shooting guard?

Langlois: That’s not a yes or no question – not at this point, at least, Jeremy. Eventually, I could see it playing out – assuming that Stuckey re-signs with the Pistons as a restricted free agent and they’re both around here for the long haul – where Knight and Stuckey comprise the starting backcourt with Knight the putative starting point and Stuckey the shooting guard but, in effect, their roles are determined by matchup and feel. I’m not comparing them to Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars, but back in the Bad Boys era Chuck Daly would sometimes move Isiah Thomas off of the ball and let Joe D run the offense, taking advantage of Isiah’s defensive matchup to let him focus his energy on scoring. That wasn’t as much of an option in the Chauncey Billups-Rip Hamilton era because Hamilton wasn’t really cut out to run an offense. But if Knight proves to be what the Pistons and pretty much everybody else projected him to be coming out of last June’s draft – a dynamic all-around guard who can create shots and shoot with deep range – then Lawrence Frank will have a wealth of options.

Connor (Grand Blanc, Mich.): What we should do is get Andrei Kirilenko, Sasha Vujacic and Caron Butler in free agency. Tell that to Joe D.

Langlois: Trust me, Joe D’s calendar is sort of booked right now, otherwise I’d be sure to pass along your suggestions, Connor. The Pistons simply wouldn’t have the cap space to sign three free agents, at least two of whom will be looking for something above the mid-level exception (though no guarantee they’ll be able to get it). Vujacic wouldn’t really be a fit – the Pistons don’t need another shooting guard at this point – and, in any case, he’s obligated to play out the rest of this season in Turkey. Butler, coming off of ACL surgery, will be an interesting case. I expect he will sign with a contending team. Kirilenko is a wild card. If he’s willing to take a mid-level deal, he’d be a great pickup for a contender.

Patti (Des Moines, Iowa): I’m just wondering what the status of Rip Hamilton is. Will he be a Piston when the season starts?

Langlois: There is no reason to believe he won’t be at this point, Patti. Hamilton is under contract. He finished last season strong and Lawrence Frank has spoken of his regard for Hamilton. Long term, it’s pretty clear the Pistons would be best served by swapping some of their backcourt depth for frontcourt reinforcements, but because of the unusual circumstances of the off-season, free agency is going to be the first item on the plate of almost every GM in the league. I would say the odds of a Pistons trade will be better at the trade deadline this season than in the short interim between the start of training camp and the Dec. 26 opener at Indiana.

Darrin (Mio, Mich.): Are Jonas Jerebko and Terrico White back to 100 percent healthy?

Langlois: Can’t answer that with any authenticity other than what we know from their own Twitter accounts or media reports, Darrin. Jerebko has said he is “150 percent” healthy and never been more eager to get back on a basketball court. According to his Twitter account, he has been recently training in Chicago at Attack Athletics under renowned trainer Tim Grover, who has worked with Will Bynum and Ben Gordon – and some guy named Jordan, long ago. White apparently provided plenty of fodder for the viral video gang over the summer with his dunks in pickup games. Jerebko, a restricted free agent, will come back to a significant role if he re-signs with the Pistons, as is fully expected. White’s status is more uncertain. His contract was to have been fully guaranteed for his second season in mid-July, after the conclusion of NBA Summer League. But the lockout barred any action the Pistons might have taken regarding his contract. It is something that the new bargaining agreement will have to address. White, most recently, said via Twitter that he would not be back with the Pistons this season. While that would not be a surprise, it is also not official.

Aaron (Detroit): What are the Pistons’ chances of trading for Al Jefferson? He would be a great fit because he’s a big that will rebound and has a great post presence, which we really don’t have. We really need to add a good big to our roster, someone to complement Greg Monroe.

Langlois: With Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter in tow, everyone is watching to see what Utah’s next move is. They still have Mehmet Okur in addition to Jefferson and Paul Millsap. I think Millsap or Jefferson is likely to be traded, if not before the season then by the trade deadline. Jefferson’s ability to command double teams in the post would allow Monroe free runs at offensive rebounds, which he excels at grabbing. I’m sure there would be some doubt about their pairing at the defensive end, but no question adding a potential 20 and 10 guy would be attractive. The question becomes what the Pistons have that would interest Utah. The Jazz probably would be seeking an athletic wing – remember, they are without Andrei Kirilenko as of now – and I don’t know that the Pistons are a logical fit at this point.

Josh (Farmington, Mich.): What would you think about letting Stuckey walk, signing Jerebko and using the amnesty on Charlie V. We would have roughly $13 to $15 million under the cap. If we don’t sign and trade Tayshaun Prince, we could use that money on Thaddeus Young and Kris Humphries.

Langlois: Not sure on the numbers now, Josh, with the terms of the new CBA still somewhat unclear. But if you’re in the ballpark with your guess on how much those moves would leave the Pistons under the cap, I don’t think that would get them both Young and Humphries. Could be wrong – there’s just no way to know how teams are going to proceed yet. I like Young – new Pistons assistant coach John Loyer was instrumental in his development, by the way – but I’m not sure Humphries is going to live up to expectations if he gets a big new deal.

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