Pistons Mailbag - Thursday, December 29, 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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Mack (Detroit): With the need for defensive size the Pistons have, would it not be worth it for Joe to sign Hasheem Thabeet to a minimum 30-day trial period to see what he can do defensively for the Pistons? At 7-foot-3, it couldnít hurt. As a last-chance deal, maybe heíll try harder to stick.

Langlois: Iím sure thatís a name Joe Dumars and his staff have batted around, Mack. It could very well be that Thabeetís agent is shopping him around for the best offer he can get and hoping to get something other than a minimum contract for him. There is no such thing as a 30-day trial. There are 10-day contracts that under terms of the old CBA could be signed starting sometime in the middle of the season. I donít know what the specifics of 10-day contracts are under terms of the new CBA, but I suspect that if they still exist itís too early for them to be offered. The Pistons would be one of the teams that could interest Thabeetís side most, I would think, given their lack of great size or frontcourt depth. Itís one to watch, I suppose.

Alfred (Ishpeming, Mich.): How do we solve the problem about the lack of interior defense, scoring and rebounding? Emphasizing it has to be a team effort that hasnít worked for several years now.

Langlois: Interior defense has been an issue since Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess left as free agents, for certain. Before that, and especially when Ben Wallace was their teammate, the Pistons were consistently one of the leagueís top defensive teams. Itís no great leap to make the connection between their absence and the onset of the Pistonsí difficulties keeping good teams out of the paint. But letís be careful about labeling Lawrence Frankís team about two games. He bristles at any notion that the roster condemns the Pistons to being a subpar defensive team. But thereís no question that there is an adjustment period ongoing, compounded by the unusual circumstances of the lockout and the condensed preseason, that has the Pistons playing serious catch-up under a new coaching staff. As Steve Kerr said on TNT during Tuesdayís Miami-Boston game, he believes teams with new coaching staffs are particularly handicapped by the situation. Pistons players are enthusiastic about absorbing Frankís system, but theyíve admitted that they have much learning to do before it becomes ingrained and instinctive.

Roz (Ann Arbor, Mich.): When can we stop talking about the need for a big and get one? The talk about the need for a big has gone on for a few years now.

Langlois: As the Pistons were making their runs to six straight conference finals, the big men leading the charge were Ben Wallace (through 2006), Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess. Remarkably, they were born within 10 days of each other in September 1974. It was almost inevitable Ė as long as Joe Dumars and the organization decided, as I think any organization would have, that it was going to milk as many legitimate title runs out of that core group as seemed prudent Ė that the Pistons would endure a frontcourt shortfall as those players saw roles diminish and eased into retirement. They are comfortable that theyíve found one above-average big man already, Greg Monroe, who has the potential to be much more than that. Thatís a pretty good start. The coming draft, strong in big men, will give them another opportunity to find a companion. Perhaps they will be in position next summer to be factors in free agency. Letís face it Ė there arenít more than a handful of teams in the league who feel they have enough frontcourt talent and depth.

Vance (Detroit): Since the Pistons are looking for a young big, have they thought about Keith Benson? Heís a shot blocker and a free agent?

Langlois: I answered a similar question about Benson in the last Mailbag, Vance. You can check that out for a more complete answer. Bottom line is this: Benson is a project and the Pistons could really use somebody ready to play right now. That said, how highly regarded as a prospect is Benson? He struggled in a low-level Italian setting and got waived by the team that drafted him two weeks into camp Ė thatís fairly unusual Ė and there has been no rush from 29 other teams to sign him. I think Benson will make a nice living playing basketball somewhere, but it might not be in the NBA Ė at least for now.

Michael (Modiin, Israel): Last year Monroe sat on the bench at first, then in his first few games he wasnít very good and his shots were constantly blocked, but he kept playing and something clicked and he became a double-double machine. Why not start our rookies and Austin Daye and let them learn from their mistakes? They can grow just like Monroe did.

Langlois: Just because it worked that way for Monroe doesnít mean it works that way for everyone, Michael. Some young players can have their progress retarded by being given playing time thatís not merited by practice performances. Lawrence Frank answered that very question just this week and said for a coach to maintain any integrity with his team, he must give playing time to players who earn it. I believe, however, that Brandon Knight is going to have a similar learning curve as Monroe. I wouldnít worry so much about Knight starting or not starting Ė heís already a part of the rotation, and as he showed with his 23-point performance in Wednesdayís home opener, a big part of it. That will give him a great opportunity to lay claim to more playing time with his performance. He just turned 20 and heís playing the most mentally demanding position, so letís give him some rope before coming to any sweeping conclusions. Austin Daye, similarly, has a chance to earn more playing time via his performance. Frank played young players in New Jersey when their play dictated it was warranted. I wouldnít expect it to be any different here. He knows he didnít take over a team ready to compete for a title, but he also places a high value on restoring a sense of pride and competitiveness to the franchise Ė and thatís much easier to facilitate when youíre putting your team in the best position to win games.

Joseph (La Union, Philippines): Iíve been an avid fan of your True Blue Pistons blog and Pistons Mailbag for many seasons. Since 2004, Iíve been a Pistons fan, following the team as a seafarer on board a cargo vessel. The opening loss to Indiana made it obvious the team needs a legitimate rebounder. If they donít get one, they will be in the lottery again.

Langlois: The Pacers beat them up pretty good in the first half, outrebounding the Pistons 30-16. It was 24-23 Pistons after halftime, so Iím not sure we have enough of a sample size to say rebounding is going to be their downfall, Joseph. Cleveland came back and outrebounded the Pistons 40-26, so for a two-game trend, itís worrisome. Itís widely accepted that the Pistons could use more size and more frontcourt athleticism. That will be the focus, Iím sure, of the scouting department throughout the season. The Pistons should be able to address that concern in the draft. Theyíll also be looking to get incrementally bigger and more athletic in trades and in free agency next time around.

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