Pistons Mailbag - Monday, December 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.

We reserve the right to edit your question for the sake of brevity or clarity.

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Brian (Livonia, Mich.): How do you go from 2004 NBA champions to what the Pistons are now? I donít see Dallas, the Lakers or any other team that recently won a championship falling apart. Every other team is loading up on superstars. I went to 10 games last year, but I donít enjoy the Pistons as much as I used to. Iím hoping the Pistons get a top draft pick like Anthony Davis, Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones or Andre Drummond. Can we really envision us going back to the NBA championship soon?

Langlois: After Michael Jordan retired, the Chicago Bulls missed the playoffs six straight seasons and averaged less than 20 wins per year over those six. Until advancing to the Eastern Conference finals last spring, the Bulls had been out of the first round once in 12 seasons. After the Pistons beat the Lakers in the 2004 Finals, the Lakers missed the playoffs the next season and averaged 40 wins over the next three seasons Ė and they did all of that with Kobe Bryant. Dallas was an NBA laughingstock before Dirk Nowitzki arrived in 1998. San Antonio is going to be severely challenged once Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili get overtaken by Father Time, which isnít far off. Donít forget that after winning the 2004 NBA title, the Pistons advanced to the conference finals the next four seasons and came within a Game 7 fourth quarter of winning another title. The Pistons in the past three years have gotten a very nice start on the next generation, laying groundwork in two trips to the lottery by landing Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight, whom Pistons fans are going to come to appreciate sooner rather than later, to go with Jonas Jerebko, Austin Daye and Rodney Stuckey. Is it possible theyíll miss the playoffs again this year? Sure it is. The Eastís middle class is much stronger than it was a year ago. By all accounts, if you have to land in the lottery, this is the year to do it. I think any team picking in this yearís lottery, and even five spots beyond, perhaps, is going to come away with a player capable of making an immediate impact. By the end of this season, no matter what the record says, I think Pistons fans will come to see that the team is in a pretty good place, clearly headed back in the right direction.

Terry (Flint, Mich.): With the season about to start, Iím curious where the Pistons are at salary-cap wise?

Langlois: Somewhere in the middle of the salary cap limit of about $58 million and the luxury tax threshold of about $70 million, Terry. They have enough cap space to offer someone a full mid-level exception, which under the new CBA allows a $5 million first-year salary. But there simply is not the value available at that price. If they use the MLE, it is likely to be only a portion of it, and perhaps for only a year or two. The better guess is that if they add anyone at this point via a signing, it would be for the league minimum. There is enough latitude at their discretion, given their cap structure and the rules of the new CBA, for them to get significantly below the cap next summer if they believe they are positioned to pursue desirable free agents.

Jacob (Detroit): Why is Damien Wilkins still on the team when we already have three small forwards signed to contracts and he is old?

Langlois: Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye make two small forwards. If youíre counting Jonas Jerebko, while heís capable of playing that spot, the makeup of the roster strongly suggests heís going to spend most of his time at power forward this season. Lawrence Frank wants somebody on the roster capable of guarding the wing positions, small forward and shooting guard, and Wilkins qualifies. Heíll be 32 in January and still appears to be in great shape. Heís not exactly ready for a rocking chair yet.

Brock (Lexington Park, Md.): Do you think the Pistons are going to sign anybody else?

Langlois: The Pistons go into the season with the league minimum of 13 players on the roster. So thereís a reasonably good chance they will add another player at some point, but perhaps not immediately. That will give them time to not only analyze their own roster, see whoís performing beyond or not quite up to expectations, but also rosters around the league and even in the D-League to see if thereís somebody out there who can help them.

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