Modeled after ESPN’s 5-on-5, three of us will answer three questions about a Pistons-related topic. Please add your responses in the comments.
1. Should the Pistons tank the rest of this season?
Dan Feldman: I’m not sure they have much choice. I think we can agree the Pistons weren’t tanking through the end of January, and they won just 17 of 46 games at that point. How much worse can it get? Well, a little, so here’s where I draw the line. I’m against telling players, directly or indirectly, not to give full effort. I’m for playing it safe on injuries and giving younger players the benefit of the doubt when it comes to earning playing time.
Patrick Hayes: Fortunately or unfortunately, I don’t think they have the option of choosing. With the injuries piling up down the stretch, the Pistons are precisely what a bad team should be to close out a season. They are playing hard (for the most part), but don’t have nearly enough talent healthy right now to compete with most teams in the league. If Khris Middleton continues to get big minutes and Kim English and Viacheslav Kravtsov get some playing time to see if the Pistons have anything at all with those three players, the end of the season will be a success. They’ll lose, they’ll get a look at some young prospects and they’ll have more lottery combinations. Win-win-win.
Jameson Draper: Yes. It’s not like they really can’t tank right now, either, due to the losses of Andre Drummond and Brandon Knight. When not making the playoff push, there’s no reason to try to win games. Give young players playing time (they’ve been doing a nice job with that lately – Khris Middleton played 25 minutes on Monday night), and see how they will help the team next season. It’s really the only reasonable thing to do.
2. Should the Pistons play Andre Drummond again this year?
Dan Feldman: If he’s fully, 100 percent, no-doubt-about-it healthy. Otherwise, no. It would be great for Drummond to get more experience, ensure his All-Rookie team bid and give the Pistons a chance to evaluate him playing with Greg Monroe. But Drummond can’t elevate his status within the Pistons’ rebuilding effort. He can only hurt it with further injury. The Pistons already know Drummond is fundamental going forwrard, and they can operate with that in mind without seeing him play another minute this season.
Patrick Hayes: No. For what? When healthy, the biggest, most noticeable flaw in Drummond’s game was simply conditioning. As much as the Pistons needed him to assume a larger role, and as much as his production suggested he deserved one, there were plenty of instances showing that Drummond was just not physically ready to handle big minutes on a game-to-game basis. So start his offseason early, get him on an intense training regimen and have him prepare to be a starter next season.
Jameson Draper: Please no. The Pistons aren’t making the playoffs. Why bring back the most promising player too early? I mean, if he’s completely healed, then give him limited playing time (because in-game action is the best rehab assignment), but if not, they shouldn’t play him. It’s not like it would sell any more tickets at this point.
3. How should the Pistons handle Brandon Knight down the stretch?
Dan Feldman: Knight is a bit different than Drummond, because the Pistons don’t know exactly what they have in Knight. If Knight can become a competent scoring starting scoring guard, there’s no need to spend a lot of money to get one in free agency. If Knight can’t fill that role, the Pistons should pounce on someone like O.J. Mayo. So, seeing more of Knight could change a $40 million (give or take decision). Still, Knight has played more than anyone in his draft class save Chandler Parsons. Maybe it’s time to let Knight rest a bit. Like Drummond, Knight shouldn’t rush back, but the level of caution – especially given a guard’s durability relative to a center – needn’t be quite as high.
Patrick Hayes: The side of me that wants to see the Pistons finally land a top three pick in the draft would emphatically favor shutting Knight down the rest of the way, and if his injury is serious enough that his return could cause any lingering damage at all, I would definitely advocate that approach. But if Knight gets healthy enough to play again, he’s in a bit of a different situation than Drummond. While he’s still certainly in the Pistons’ long-term plans, the actual position he’s best-suited to play is still up in the air. He had some good moments playing shooting guard prior to his injury, and it would be nice to see him get the opportunity to build on those before the season ends. Any opportunity the Pistons have to give Knight big minutes at shooting guard again this season should be taken advantage of so that the team can better evaluate its needs heading into the draft and free agency.
Jameson Draper: I’m not as adamant about not playing Knight as I am Drummond, but if he’s not healthy, why play him? This is pretty much the same response as the last question for me. Even if he’s not as good as Drummond, Knight is still one of the Pistons’ best players. Why risk him being re-injured? The team shouldn’t be trying to win games anyway, so Knight shouldn’t get too much playing time. I say shut him down, but it’s not too big of a deal if he returns this season.