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Archive → July, 2013

Greg Monroe not worried about Pistons trading him

Greg Monroe, via Ben Golliver of Point Forward:

“I have a very close relationship, as do most players who play for the Pistons, with the front office,” Monroe said. “They communicate with us very well. … There’s always going to be speculation, people are going to make up stuff, they’re going to hear stuff, they’re going to write it. I don’t worry about it. I’m very happy being a Piston and I hope they’re very happy with me. As far as I know, they like me.”

I could point to a more recent example, when Tayshaun Prince said he wouldn’t be traded and then was traded, but let’s just jump straight to the source Monroe is referring to.

Joe Dumars in a Q&A with Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

Q: How much repair work did you do when it came to Chauncey Billups’ hurt feelings about being traded in 2008?

A: “You can’t go to a guy and divulge business like that. It was tough because he’s right — I had a close relationship with him. But there’s no way you can divulge everything to a player that you’re talking about and why.

I’m sure the Pistons like Monroe, as they should. He’s a very good young player at a position where talent is at a premium. But other teams will like him for the same reasons, and the Pistons have two other players – Andre Drummond and Josh Smith – capable of playing the power positions well.

The Pistons don’t have to aggressively shop Monroe, but they should at least entertain offers for him. As to whether they tell him about all those discussions, that’s another matter entirely. Just ask Billups or Prince – or Dumars himself.

Chauncey Billups takes Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond out to dinner in Vegas

Chauncey Billups is the athlete representative on the 2013-2016 USA Basketball Board of Directors, and Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond are participating in a Team USA minicamp. So, all three are in Las Vegas this week.

Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

Chauncey Billups also has been around Las Vegas this week, having been a part of the USA basketball pipeline in past years.

He took Monroe and Drummond to dinner Tuesday night, along with some team front-office members who are also in attendance.

“We got a chance to sit and talk to him, get to know him a little bit,” Monroe said.

Billups knows how to play point guard, and hopefully Brandon Knight will better learn the position as a result of Billups being on the team. But Billups also knows a whole lot about playing in the NBA and managing the lifestyle that comes with it, and those lessons apply to every player. Ideally, Billups imparts than knowledge on all the Pistons’ young players.

Pistons projected 10th in East by ESPN

Tom Haberstroh of ESPN projected the Eastern Conference standings, and he has the Pistons finishing 10th:

I’d be more excited about the Pistons had they addressed their spacing issues brought about by Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, but then they exacerbated the problem by signing notorious long-2 maven Josh Smith.

No doubt, Smith will improve their score prevention on the defensive end, but I’m still not sure how this team can put up enough points to be a playoff team. Can Kentavious Caldwell-Pope rescue a dreadful backcourt?

I have a huge issue with Haberstroh’s assessment Larry Sanders and John Henson – not Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond – are the East’s best young frontcourt, and I have minor disagreements with his rankings. But his projections mostly fit my seeding tiers:

  • 1: Heat
  • 2-4: Nets, Bulls, Pacers
  • 5: Knicks
  • 6-7: Hawks, Wizards
  • 8-11 : Cavaliers, Bucks, Pistons, Raptors
  • 12-15: Magic, Celtics,* Bobcats, 76ers

*There’s probably no team I feel like I have a worse grasp on than the Celtics. Today, I have them in the 12-15 range. Tomorrow, I might push them up a notch and expand the higher tier to 8-12. Maybe I should just place Boston in a tier of its own at 12.

That’s not to say the Pistons can’t climb into to the 6-7 range, and I think they’re closer to doing that than falling below 11, but that’s basically how I have it slotted right now. Of course, within the Pistons’ tier, there’s a huge difference between 8 – making the playoffs – and 9, 10 and 11. Unfortunately, if my projections hold true (they won’t), four near-equal teams will produce only one playoff appearance among them.

Excited to watch the Pistons’ big lineups

I participated in today’s 5-on-5 at ESPN on the Eastern Conference, and I was the only panelist to answer a question with the Pistons (though Israel Gutierrez of ESPN also gave them an honorable mention:

3. Which team are you most excited to watch in the East in 2013-14?

Feldman: Detroit Pistons. I might be a bit biased, but as the league has gone small, I’ve been waiting for more teams to counter with big lineups. Josh Smith, Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond might get in the way of each other, or they might redefine how to worship small ball. New coach Maurice Cheeks has been given an opportunity to look like a genius, though he’ll certainly have to earn the label — because the potential pitfalls are just as great, if not greater.

Gutierrez: Wizards. It’s a tough call, but I’m always looking for new and exciting. And with Wall coming into the season healthy, Beal, Porter and a quality frontcourt, the Wizards should be fun. And they might win. Also receiving votes: the Pistons’ frontcourt. The Nets’ chemistry experiment. And, of course, Derrick Rose‘s team, starring Derrick Rose.

First-round pick Pistons owe Bobcats complicates Josh Smith signing

Consensus opinion, at least outside Michigan, on the Pistons signing Josh Smith has veered negative. As I’ve written, I think that’s because Joe Dumars is still paying the price for overpaying Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. Many are just going to assume, barring strong evidence to the contrary, any free agent Dumars signs will fail.

One national writer has taken a different approach: Rob Mahoney of The Point Forward, who wrote a sensible and reasonable article mostly praising the Smith signing. Read it. Absorb it. Cross-reference it with J.M. Poulard’s brilliant piece.

I agree with much of what Mahoney wrote, but rather than restating what he put so well – like I said, read it – I’m going to quibble with a part that I think needs more context. Mahoney:

There’s also no rush. Fretting over Smith’s fit on a team that’s still gathering assets and developing young talent is premature, especially considering that his very arrival opens up a greater breadth of options for the Pistons.

If all else fails, Smith will still be of value to other teams even it it doesn’t work out in Detroit — giving the Pistons one more high-quality trade chip than they had previously.

Redundancy isn’t some great sin for teams in construction. Value is value, and Detroit paid a fair price to pick up a talented player, explosive defender and experimental component while the younger pieces on the roster develop.

Usually, I’d be totally in favor of a young rebuilding team like the Pistons adding talent and then sorting out fit later. Premier talent – certainly, Smith qualifies – is difficult to come by.

Generally, there’s little wrong with incremental improvements once a team has acquired young talent (like Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe) if it comes through that young talent developing and the outside addition of not-old talent (like Smith).

But the top-eight protected first-round pick the Pistons owe the Bobcats next season complicates matters. The Pistons must time their surge forward in ways most teams needn’t worry about.

If the Pistons make the playoffs or land a top-eight draft pick, Smith, at least in that regard, would present no immediate downside.* But for a team that picked eighth this year, Smith offering slight improvement could really set the Pistons back. Getting a pick 9-14 and sending it to Charlotte, meaning the Pistons miss the playoffs, would be a disaster.

*Though, if the Pistons get a top-eight pick with Smith, something has likely gone extremely awry.

This doesn’t make Smith a bad signing, and the Pistons clearly believe he’ll push them all the way past the disaster zone and into the playoffs. Smith’s signing could be the Pistons timing their surge just right.

But the chance he upgrades Detroit to a pick in the 9-14 range – not all the way to the playoffs – is a fundamental risk. The Pistons, despite what Smith believes, are not a lock to make the playoffs. The Heat, Pacers, Bulls, Nets and Knicks are safe choices. After that, several teams are in the mix for the final three spots, including the Pistons.

I still like the Smith signing more than I dislike it – for many of the reasons Mahoney articulates – but there’s more downside than Mahoney acknowledges.

Pistons sign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Tony Mitchell, Mitchell gets three-year contract

The Pistons have signed Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Tony Mitchell.

Caldwell-Pope will receive the standard 120 percent of the rookie salary scale, according to ShamSports.com.

More interestingly, Mitchell signed a three-year contract – though the third season is fully unguaranteed until the July preceding that season. That will allow the Pistons to hold his bird rights if he completes the contract.

Mitchell’s contract pays more than league minimum for the upcoming season. I’m not sure how far back you’d have to dig to find a Piston second-round pick who didn’t play in Europe – eliminating Kyle Singler and Mehmet Okur, both of whom received more – and got more than a minimum salary, but I bet it’s been quite some time. Though his pay bump is relatively small ($9,820) and he’ll make just the minimum the following two seasons, I wonder what Mitchell did to earn such an honor.

ShamSports.com also updated its info on free-agent contracts. A few nuggets:

All updates are now reflected on the contract information page.

Andre Drummond’s goal at Team USA minicamp: ‘Take somebody’s spot’

Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe are participating in the Team USA minicamp this week in Las Vegas, which, among its many purposes, serves as a tryout for the national team.

Drummond, via Keith Langlois of Pistons.com:

“Just go out there and try to take spots – try to take somebody’s spot is really what it boils down to,” Drummond said. “I’m not out there for fun. I’m out there for business, so come out there to play as hard as I can. Hopefully, I get noticed and will be on the team. That’s my goal.”

I’ve never heard Drummond take that tone before.

When he slipped to No. 9 in the draft, he said he wouldn’t use the eight teams that passed on him as motivation. When voters left him off the All-Rookie first team, he said he wouldn’t use his his second-team selection as motivate.

For many NBA players, any slight, real or imagine, fuels their fire. They’re constantly looking for sources of motivation to get a mental edge. Getting mad about falling in the draft and not receiving proper award recognition are Motivation 101, but Drummond didn’t take the bait.

Drummond’s fire comes from a different place, I think a desire to please.

This is very different. He’s playing this week with a chip on his shoulder, and I’m excited to see whether this brings his game to another level.

Draymond Green, Tim Hardaway Jr., Ray McCallum highlight Michigan’s Las Vegas Summer League presence

 

LAS VEGAS – The Warriors’ leading scorer stepped onto the red carpet.

Draymond Green, the second-year forward from Michigan State, had just scored 18 points to lead Golden State to a 14-point win over the Kings.

But this red carpet was hardly glamorous. It laid on the floor of a narrow, dimly lit, crowded and stuffy hallway at the Thomas & Mack Center, home of the NBA’s Las Vegas summer league.

Here, Green plays a star role as one of the Warriors’ primary scoring options, an assignment that helps him work on his ball-handling and shooting off the dribble. As a rookie last season, Green served as a glue guy in Golden State, an off-the-bench defender and hustler.

“It’s an adjustment,” said Green, who’s averaging 12.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game heading into into Golden State’s summer-league semifinal against the Bobcats at 8 p.m. tonight. “We had a scrimmage before the first game, and it took me the whole first half to adjust to that role. It’s not going to be natural. It’s like putting myself back at Michigan State, being that role where I’m the focal point of the team. But, at the end of the day, it’s a role that I love playing, a role that I’m definitely looking forward to.”

Green also talked about Michigan State’s quality of preparation for the NBA, now that he’s been in the league long enough to develop his skills.

“One thing about Coach Izzo is that he preaches toughness and going hard each and every day, and in the NBA, you have to go hard each and every day,” Green said. “You’re going to play against guys better than you, you’re going to play against guys stronger than you, you’re going to play against guys quicker than you. When you have that work ethic and you’re going to continue to go hard, when a guy takes a play off it’s your chance to go in. Izzo taught me to go hard and have toughness each and every day.”

A week after the Detroit Pistons  and former Michigan point guard Trey Burke both finished competing in the Orlando Summer League, Green – a Saginaw native – is one of several players representing the state of Michigan in Vegas.

Another, former Michigan guard Tim Hardaway Jr., is making adjustments after the Knicks selected him No. 24 overall. Hardaway played in Michigan’s No. 1-rated offense last season, but that was sharing a backcourt with Burke.

“You know, the guards at the next level are totally different,” Hardaway said. “What Trey Burke did for us, he had to be that type of player in order for us to get as far as we got. So, it’s different at the next level with finding guys that are trying to get their teammates involved. They’re just trying to be all around players.

“I think once you’re practicing with the guys who are trying to make the team – the pros, second-year guys – then you get a sense of how you have to play. The practices really help out a lot. If you just keep practicing the games will come easy for you.”

In his second summer-league game Hardaway injured his left hand early in the second quarter and sat out the rest of New York’s games. Still, the Knicks tend to play small, and Hardaway showed enough in Vegas to indicate he’ll fit well.

“I felt great. I felt more confident today. I felt good. … Everything was going smoothly,” Hardaway said after his final game. “I was just upset a little bit because I had to come out.”

Perhaps no in-state prospect fared better in Vegas than Ray McCallum, the former University of Detroit point guard who’s from Beverly Hills, Mich. After picking him No. 36 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, the Kings signed to a three-year guaranteed contract, according to Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. McCallum averaged 12.6 points, 4.0 assists and 2.2 steals per game this summer, though he shot just 38.0 percent from the field.

Chauncey Billups and the difficulty of assessing leadership

Me at the Detroit Free Press:

The Pistons stumbled, at least in part, due to a leadership void the past five years.

But I think the story requires an additional chapter. Billups didn’t leave Detroit by accident. President of basketball operations Joe Dumars traded him, believing Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince could rise into leadership roles.

Instead, Hamilton feuded with Michael Curry and sabotaged John Kuester. Prince took Hamilton’s side and created some divisiveness of his own. Unlike most after-the-fact analyses of the Billups-Iverson trade, I’m not here to skewer Dumars. I’m here to defend him.

Dumars exhibited such incredible sportsmanship as a player, the NBA gave him its first sportsmanship award. Then, realizing that wasn’t enough, the league named the sportsmanship trophy after him.

During his playing career, Dumars had 104 different teammates. He shared locker rooms with personalities as wide-ranging as Isiah Thomas, Grant Hill and Dennis Rodman.

As a general manager, even before trading Billups, Dumars worked daily with strong-minded players. He hired strong-minded coaches and he worked for a strong-minded owner. If we can’t trust Dumars to properly value and identify leadership, whom can we trust to do it?

Leadership, chemistry and all those intangibles are important, and I don’t think anyone would deny that. But to what degree can those attributes be controlled by a front office?

Joe Dumars satisfied with Pistons’ roster

Joe Dumars, via Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:

“We’re still open to doing things,” Dumars said. “I’m not sure how much more. I feel good about where we are.”

Of course, Dumars is still open to making a trade, but we know how this process typically ends. “We weren’t going to make a trade for the sake of making a trade,” Dumars will say. And that’s fine. He shouldn’t make a trade for the sake of making a trade.

But that leaves this roster – likely with Peyton Siva’s potential contract dropped or deferred – for Dumars in what very well could be his last season if the Pistons miss the playoffs. Should he feel good about where he is?

In Josh Smith, Dumars got the available free agent who is most capable of helping the Pistons reach the playoffs next season. Even if Smith isn’t a perfect fit – and there are ways to work around thathis talent is so far ahead of the best well-fitting free agent, Smith still projects to make a bigger impact for Detroit.

The rest of the offseason was OK, as judged through the lens of getting the Pistons into the playoffs next season. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope can fill a role as a 3-and-D player, but it’s probably too early to ask for much more. Chauncey Billups is great for sentimental reasons, though he hasn’t played much, let alone played well, lately, and that problem rarely gets better for players his age. A re-signed Will Bynum is far enough down the bench that he’ll probably play his way up into a marginal role. Luigi Datome is intriguing, but credible comparisons to Austin Daye are hardly reassuring. Tony Mitchell is raw, and maybe if plays with sustained energy, he will carve out a role this season. He’s still more of a future investment at this point.

So, is this a playoff team? The Pistons have certainly put themselves in the mix, which is progress. I’d feel a lot better if they had added a point guard who was guaranteed to play better than Brandon Knight has the last two seasons, though an improved Knight, a healthy Billups, a hot Bynum or a contract-year Rodney Stuckey would do the trick. The Pistons have several players who could be a quality starting point guard next season, none of whom can be counted on to do it.

I’m not ready to make a playoff prediction one way or the other, but if I were Dumars and my job were on the line, I would be hopeful – though not quite confident – this roster can save me.

And I’d be on the phone looking for a point guard.