PistonPowered Mailbag: Trey Burke Trey Burke Trey Burke, Wyatt Family abductions and click bait debate

Submit questions for the weekly PistonPowered Mailbag to  patrickhayes13(at)gmail(dot)com or on Twitter @patrick_hayes.

I have to start this off with an apology — it has been about 12 weeks since the last installment of this “weekly” mailbag. I do have a good reason, though — my daughter was born in November. I didn’t expect the mailbag to be out of commission as long as it was, but it had been almost four years since we had a baby in the house. I got a little overconfident about the work that babies actually entail (it’s amazing what you forget in a few years) and the two or three weeks I thought I’d be missing in action from PistonPowered turned into almost three months. Oops.

Anyway, I appreciate the people who still submitted questions. I kept them all, and the ones that still have some shelf life are included in this edition (apologies to those who had more Pistons-Raptors trade scenarios that netted Rudy Gay … you can now focus your attention on hoping Gay opts out of the last year of his deal so Joe Dumars can figure out a way to offer him $15 million per year in the offseason).

One other note for this week’s questions — I got about 27 different variations of, “Why didn’t the Pistons draft Trey Burke???” this week. In the interest of brevity, I only included the question once (the winning Burke question I selected was the one that ended with the most question marks — I could feel his passion).

Not that it’s hurting anyone, but this mailbag thing seems like kind of an exercise in futility. I mean, even the Pistons’ very own mailbag has been utterly useless for years now. I’m not sure this accomplishes any more than simply writing opinion blogs and interacting with people in the comments. — Otis

Oh, dear Otis. How I’ve missed you since you went back to your home planet. You’re right, though. I don’t have any particular inside information at my disposal that smart readers of this site who follow the NBA don’t also have access to, so this mailbag is certainly not going to be like asking a connected reporter questions. But there are still a couple of reasons to do a mailbag rather than just interacting in comments. The first reason is that, even though we have quite a large commenting community, our readership is much larger than just commenters. Maybe people don’t like delving into comments sections, but do want to participate, ask questions or interact and would be more comfortable doing that via email or on Twitter once in a while than reading through all of the comments and interjecting. It’s just a chance to bring a few new voices into the fold.

And secondly, my hope is that it can be a mix of some Pistons analysis along with some light-heartedness — after all, sports are not serious and there should be space devoted on sites like this to remind people of that. Who knows, maybe someday it can be as big as the great comedy mailbags in the world like the ones written by humorists like Drew Magary, Bill Simmons and Keith Langlois.

There have been a few rumors going around concerning the possibility of trading Stuckey, Monroe, or some combination of the two. After a few hours of boredom I came up with another option that no one else is mentioning right now and wanted to get your take. Stuckey and Smith to New York for Carmelo and Pablo Prigioni. The Kicks are terrible, and it seems obvious that Melo is not going to re-sign there. This deal saves them 10 million per year moving forward while still ensuring they have a (all)star forward. This would also improve our odds of winning this year (which is all Gores seems to care about) while allowing us more flexibility to build around our young talent this offseason. My question, in this hypothetical situation, is who says no? — Mark

New York, definitely. For all of their dysfunction, the Knicks are still the team that can pay Carmelo Anthony the most money as a free agent. And for all of his noted flaws, Anthony is still a legitimate superstar presence and one of the most popular players in the NBA. Getting Smith, an expensive player who is not having a good season, and an expiring contract is nowhere near enough for the Knicks to consider a trade like that. If they indeed shopped Anthony, the return he’d command even as a possible free agent would be greater than Smith and an expiring deal. And on top of that, I don’t think the Knicks care one bit about saving money.

I do think the Pistons should already be open to a deal that sheds Smith because he’s obviously been a poor fit, but I don’t know that they’d be interested in taking a half-season flyer on Anthony without some assurance that he’d sign with them. It’s also hard to believe Dumars would trade Smith and essentially admit that the most expensive free agent signing in team history is already kind of a flop.

Vince Ellis criticized one of your guys’ headlines on Twitter and said it was “click bait.” Fair or unfair? — Stephen

First of all, I think we can all agree that if we were interested in “click bait,” we wouldn’t be writing about the Pistons, one of the least interesting teams in the league for about five years running now. And I don’t mean that as a slam — there just hasn’t been a ton of fan interest in the Pistons since their downturn (for reference, they were 17th in the league in Facebook likes and 22nd in Twitter followers in October of 2013, according to this marketing site). “Click bait” is purposely writing about popular or salacious or “buzzing” (barf) things to generate traffic. We don’t really do that (although I did once purposely work “Justin Bieber” into a headline, if that counts). And even if we did, no Pistons topic is going to generate enough “clicks” to be considered “click bait.”

Now, I do think Dan and I tend to be more blunt in our headlines and don’t use the watered down, overly polite and pointless conventions that modern journalism is known for (here’s a GREAT Deadspin post from yesterday translating “journalism speak” into real, succinct English). We say what we mean. So no, I don’t think Vince’s characterization as “click bait” is accurate, but he’s certainly entitled to his opinion. Our role at PistonPowered is to tell the truth as we see it. That certainly doesn’t mean we’re always right — there are definitely things Dan and I have been way off on over the years doing this site. But I also think that honesty is why people read us. Beat writers have a different role to fill — the priority is being fair to sources and people they cover, whether they agree or not with a particular player, coach, executive, etc. Our tone at this site is not for everyone, but I also think our independence and willingness to give our honest, unvarnished opinions at all times is why we do have a loyal readership. If we were doing “click bait” people wouldn’t continue reading us.

Why didn’t the Pistons draft Trey Burke?? Why??????? — Andrew

Well, there are a few theories:

  • They prioritized filling a need in the interest of competing for the playoffs immediately over taking the best player available
  • They legitimately believed, against what every major scouting service believed, that Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was the better prospect
  • They had reservations about taking a home-state star

Only one of those three options is an acceptable justification for passing on Burke. If they believed KCP was the better prospect, I have no issue with them taking him, even if it proves to be wrong. It’s the absolute wrong move for teams to prioritize need over talent in the draft, so I’d be really disappointed if the Pistons did that. And where Burke played in college should have zero impact on the decision to draft him or not. If he’s the best guy, take him.

Right now, it looks like the Pistons made the wrong move. Burke is having a very good rookie season. He’s already one of the best point guards in the league when it comes to protecting the basketball. He was made to be a NBA pick and roll point guard, and as soon as his shooting numbers creep up just a bit, he’ll be a very talented NBA lead guard.

But that gap has closed significantly. Caldwell-Pope got off to a rough start this season, but as Sean Corp of Detroit Bad Boys pointed out, Caldwell-Pope’s improving shooting and killer defense is helping him quietly ascend up the list of the top rookies in the league. He’s made good contributions to the team, albeit in a smaller role than Burke is being asked to play on a tanking Utah team.

Long-term, I’d still bet on Burke as the better player, but I’m not as convinced of that as I was before the season started. Caldwell-Pope has the chance to be a really good NBA shooting guard. Also, it’s pretty funny how much the Pistons don’t want anyone to think about Burke. Passing on Burke was a huge story, especially considering reports near the draft that Burke thought the Pistons might pick him if he was there. Burke’s first game against the Pistons, in the state he starred in is a big deal, regardless of whether passing on him or not was a mistake, right? Certainly something people will be interested in watching on both sides of the debate tonight, right? Who is Trey Burke?, says Pistons.com.

If you could have the Wyatt Family abduct one member of the Pistons, who would it be? — PT

The Wyatts just “abducted” (Well … maybe not abducted. Brainwashed? Coerced into joining?) the biggest young star WWE has had in quite some time. Daniel Bryan was already popular. They did the abduction/brainwashing angle for a couple of weeks, then let Bryan turn on his “captors.” He emerged from it an even bigger star, as evidenced by the insane crowd reaction to him turning on Bray Wyatt Monday. An already popular star is now a superstar, thanks in part to the Wyatts. So let them abduct Andre Drummond for a couple of weeks, then he can come back as the Pistons’ own version of Dwight Howard, minus the lame jokes and too tight shirts.

Why is there nobody at Pistons games when I go? I swear that place is empty. I’ve been to five games this year. — Kevin

Well, missing a lot of open jumpers, playing with low basketball IQ and routinely blowing huge leads late in games is not conducive to winning back fans. I’ve been to two games this year, and the arena experience is decent. But the simple fact is fans aren’t going to go to games again until the basketball product is fun and rewarding to watch. And while I’m on the subject of Daniel Bryan, maybe the Pistons should try a ‘YES!’ chant to get people into the games. It’s working for Sparty — the Izzone hasn’t been this alive in years.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m0ttEbPycDs]

Why is Mo Cheeks getting a pass for his poor rotations and coaching decisions from the national media (specifically Zach Lowe’s column from this week)? — Jason

First, I have to say this: Zach Lowe is the only Pistons source I consider must-read. That includes all of the local media who covers the team on a daily basis.

Lowe is the best writer covering the NBA, and his interest in the Pistons this season has been much-appreciated. His on-court analysis is always on-point and unlike some others with access, when he interviewed Joe Dumars, he asked him smart, challenging questions.

I think Lowe’s column this week did gently question some of the coaching decisions. Particularly, this excerpt:

Monroe and Drummond have great hands, fantastic for the pickpocket steals that fuel Detroit’s high theft rate, but their footwork and decision-making are poor. Monroe’s issues are well documented. He inspires zero fear at the basket, and he’s not the quickest cat. He’s certainly not quick enough to execute a scheme that often asks him to jump out aggressively against pick-and-rolls, chasing little point guards 25 feet from the hoop.

To be fair to Cheeks, Lawrence Frank also employed that same stupid strategy with Monroe, trying to get him to switch aggressively on pick and rolls. No idea why anyone would replicate a Frank strategy, but it’s probably a bad idea to apply rational thought to this team.

As for your question, I think Cheeks still has some time before he starts shouldering the blame for the team’s performance. This roster is weirdly put together, they lack shooters and, other than Smith, they lack players who really understand how to play defense. Those things aren’t Cheeks’ fault and I think Lowe was right to focus more on defensive shortcomings and poor instincts of some of the players than blame coaching. Players being young and not fundamentally understanding how to defend would be a challenge for any coach, even if he had a great scheme he was trying to run.

But I also think Cheeks was a poor hire. Because of the strangeness of the roster, the Pistons really could’ve used a coach who was known for having a creative offensive or defensive approach to maximize the talents of this team and hide weaknesses. Cheeks has never been known for running strong offensive or defensive schemes, so I’m not super confident he can figure this team out. I hope I’m wrong though, and I do think he deserves to be evaluated more thoroughly at the end of the season rather than right now. If the Pistons are better by April, Cheeks figuring out what to do with his lineup will be a reason why.

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