PistonPowered Mailbag: Welcome to the season

The PistonPowered Mailbag will run every Wednesday. Submit questions to patrickhayes13(at)gmail(dot)com or on Twitter @patrick_hayes. Also, follow me on Twitter … there is no reason Feldman should have like 1,500 more followers than me. He barely even tweets!

In my column on Monday, I timidly put out a request for questions to start a weekly mailbag feature. I was anticipating that it would take a few weeks for the idea of a mailbag to catch on, so I was planning to just answer any questions that came in on Mondays as part of my column. I was pleasantly surprised by getting a handful of really good questions in emails, tweets and comments already — I mean, I’m no Keith Langlois (yet!) when it comes to volume of questions to choose from, but I think we have at least enough to have some good pregame discussion as the season opens tonight. Let’s dive in …

Who will be the Pistons most tough/interesting match up this season? @CreatorMarvin on Twitter

How the Pistons and their really unique super-sized, athletic lineup that can’t really shoot matches up with virtually every team in the league will be interesting in some capacity this season. There’s a lot of interest in seeing whether Detroit’s strategy — mashing talent together regardless of fit/position — works. They’ll create matchup issues for most teams and, in turn, have matchup problems of their own against some teams. I’ll pick three opponents that I’m really looking forward to seeing Detroit play.

Miami, because duh. No one can defend LeBron James, but Josh Smith is the type of long-armed, athletic, strong defensive player who can at least make things tough for him. They have growing options in the backcourt to defend Dwyane Wade — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was drafted partially for his defensive inclinations, Kyle Singler isn’t the most quick-footed defender but he can competently defend multiple positions (he often gets beat off the dribble, but he’s great at recovering by reaching over players to block or contest shots without fouling once he’s been beat) and Rodney Stuckey, in theory, is strong and fast enough to be a great defensive guard (I’ve written this sentence before each of the last five seasons or so). Combine those perimeter options with a rim protector like Andre Drummond, and the Pistons should have the tools to copy some of the effective ways Indiana defended the Heat with physical perimeter defense, followed by funneling everyone inside to Roy Hibbert to contest shots. And speaking of …

Indiana. Before a stray beer from a moron helped derail things, the Pistons and Pacers were developing a compelling rivalry in the mid 2000s. A combination of fan pummelings, injuries and other issues brought that throwback to the 80s-90s era of two physical teams abusing each other to a premature end, but just under a decade later, the Pacers are once again a very talented, physical, up-and-coming team. The Pistons aren’t as good as the Pacers yet, but I would love to see another inner-division rivalry between these two teams develop over the next couple of seasons. The Pistons need to do their part by committing to defense and finding another shooter or two to add to their lineup, but at the very least, I’m hoping for competitive games this season with Indiana.

Memphis. I’m mainly just interested in seeing how the Pistons match up with arguably the league’s most physical team over the last few seasons. The other element of intrigue here is that the Grizzlies have had great success with a frontcourt-dominant, large lineup that didn’t feature much elite perimeter shooting, so perhaps the Pistons can learn from their model. The first step, though, is finding out if Detroit, one of the league’s softest teams over the past few seasons, can deal with a bullying, tough team like Memphis. If they can, making the playoffs will seem like a much more probable result for this season.

Patrick, can you explain why max contract guys have agents? I’ve never understood this. Is it just about negotiating outside endorsements? Because when your salary is capped and you’re going to hit that cap anyway, why pay someone a percentage to negotiate for you? tarsier in the comments

Well, I would first of all say that those outside endorsements are a pretty huge deal … in some cases, endorsement deals for max-level players can run longer than someone’s playing career and be more lucrative as well, so having someone who can negotiate good deals for you at the height of your fame and popularity is a pretty big deal.

As for why have an agent negotiate for you when you are surely a max player, I assume it just has to do with the complexity of the CBA — I can barely figure out how to pick the right health insurance plan, so I can only imagine all of the legalese that has to be navigated through while signing a max-level NBA deal, and minus an agent involved, I wouldn’t put it past a team to slip some sort of team-friendly provision or loophole into a deal. Plus, flexibility, or lack thereof, could also be a motivation. You’re paying an agent to represent you, but you’re also paying for their connections. Maybe a player wants a max extension but doesn’t want it from his current team — having an agent to advise how to navigate your way to another team while still getting the money/years you want on your contract would likely be helpful.

Two questions for the mailbag 1) will the pistons regret not drafting Kelly Olynyk? 2) how about Rudy Gay/Demarr Derozan for Monroe/V/Stuckey? pT in the comments

Hmm … I have a hunch pT is Canadian, with those Canada-friendly questions he submitted. But I actually think he’s fairly serious about both proposals, so I’ll give a response.

First, I don’t think the Pistons will necessarily regret not drafting Olynyk, but I do actually think he’s a better fit with the team now than I did at the time of the draft. Olynyk can play, and though frontcourt isn’t exactly a need, floor-spacing is, so adding a stretch big to the mix who isn’t Charlie Villanueva wouldn’t be a bad move. But do I think they’ll regret it? No. Olynyk would be a nice luxury for the Pistons, but he’s not a necessity. They might regret taking Kentavious Caldwell-Pope if he doesn’t pan out as expected, and they might regret passing on Trey Burke, but they won’t regret passing on Olynyk, even though I think Olynyk is in line to have a pretty good rookie season.

As far as the proposed trade, I’d say yes to that if you remove Monroe as a piece the Pistons would send the Raptors in exchange. The issues with Rudy Gay are well-documented … despite “looking” like a prototypical NBA star with his height and athleticism, he’s never been close to playing at that level. He’d be a fine player to have in your lineup if he wasn’t being paid like he should be the best player in your lineup. DeRozan (DeRoZan? DeRoZaN?) is essentiallyRodney Stuckey — he can get to the line and occasionally score some points fairly inefficiently for you. He can give you highlight dunks. He can’t do much else. Hell, he might even be worse than Stuckey because Stuckey is cheaper, can play two positions, can handle the ball better and occasionally plays defense. DeRoZAn would do nothing but make an already bad shooting starting lineup even worse.

1. Did you know that manic, tweeter Karl you mentioned is a (semi-) famous German soccer player? He was on the national side that won the last world cup (1990) and euro championship (1992) for Germany, so big deal over here. (check him out at wiki, his nickname was even “air,” now he is a NBA nerd, I love it!)

2. Regarding Monroe, does he seem like the type of player to actually leave the Pistons – assuming the money is the same – or is all the trade buzz purely because he might not fit and Gores wants to avoid the tax. How do the Pistons react if the frontcourt meshes enough that some solid shooting from the backcourt solves all the spacing issues and Monroe performs up to max status. Is it still going to be a problem because they don´t want to pay the max? Do you see any scenario in which we don´t trade Moose? — Fabian

HUGE thanks to Fabian for that dispatch from Germany … we’ve heard from enough fans in Europe at PistonPowered over the years to know that the team does have a modest following there, but I had no idea the Pistons had celebrity European fans. I think I might have to reach out to Karl for an interview. Stay tuned for that.

As for your second question, I don’t think there has been any indication that Monroe is particularly unhappy in Detroit or longs to play elsewhere. I think his agent has — correctly — determined that Monroe’s market is the max, and I don’t think you’ll see him sign for less than that with the Pistons or otherwise. I’m not convinced the Pistons want to pay him the max yet, but there also doesn’t seem to be any indication that either side is displeased with the other, so that’s positive.

If everything goes according to plan, if Monroe-Smith-Drummond operate cohesively, and if the roster appears to need only a few minor upgrades rather than a drastic trade of a talented player like Monroe to bring in talent at a perimeter spot, I think it’s perfectly conceivable that Monroe signs a max extension and the Pistons proceed with that front line as their core group for the immediate future. There are only two scenarios where I see the Pistons trading Monroe — a team makes them an overwhelmingly good offer that they can’t turn down or the team underperforms and Joe Dumars makes a panic trade in order to reach the short-term goal of making the playoffs this season. I think both of those scenarios are unlikely, albeit not completely impossible. And the first scenario is certainly far more preferable than the second.

Mo Cheeks recently indicated that he prefers keeping Bynum in his role of coming off the bench, something i agree with. But part of his reasoning was that he liked the way the Bynum has been playing with Drummond. Please, please tell me that Cheeks wasn’t insinuating that Dre is going to be featured on the 2nd unit. This kid needs start and play as many minutes as his fouls allow. – Mark

What better note to close the first mailbag on than a Will Bynum question?

Mark’s question is moot for the moment as, it appears, that Bynum will start with Rodney Stuckey and Brandon Jennings out. As far as what happens when everyone is healthy, I don’t think Cheeks’ comments mean that he intends to have Drummond come off the bench. Cheeks has already said that Drummond will likely be the first big to rest in the frontcourt rotation, which makes sense considering Drummond’s age, his conditioning issues last year and the fact that the Pistons will want him to avoid foul trouble. So the likely answer is that Drummond likely goes to the bench first, then he’ll return to the lineup sometime in the second quarter along with Bynum, who will likely be spelling Jennings.

If Cheeks’ plan were to bring Drummond off the bench, his coaching tenure would be short-lived even by Joe Dumars’ standards. I think it’s safe to assume that Drummond, as long as he stays healthy and can handle the workload, starts and plays 28-34 minutes per game most nights. I do agree with Cheeks though — based on their chemistry, it’s going to be important to find some minutes for Bynum and Drummond to share the court together.

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