Rather than hear my thoughts, I thought it'd be nice to have a fresh perspective on things. A few days ago, I reached out to Pistons.com editor and Pistons official beat writer, Keith Langlois who was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer some of my questions about the state of the Pistons. Mr. Langlois provides great insight to questions I think a lot of Pistons fans share. Continue reading this post if you're interested in what he has to say.
1. Obviously we've been told time and time again why the Chauncey deal went down and we've heard all the different reactions to it. Why did Joe Dumars wait until we were 2-0 in a new season to make that type of deal, though? He had an entire summer to make something happen. Was Allen Iverson, given the timing of the trade too, really the best deal possible?
Many trade proposals were discussed, some initiated by Dumars and others brought to him. Nothing accomplished what he wanted to make possible – to create the cap space to give him the chance to get younger and in position to compete for titles without having to tear it down and rebuild over a period of years. When Denver came to him with the Iverson deal – which gave the Pistons a unique, if risky, shot at being competitive in 2008-09 – and the prospect of having roughly $20 million in cap space this summer, it was too enticing to ignore.
2. I don't think the Chauncey trade happens if we didn't have a guy like Stuckey who Joe believes will be an elite guard in this league. He had flashes of brilliance this season, but do you think he'll be that elite player or do you think that Stuckey is destined to always be just a slightly above average starter?
He just turned 23. He’s spent one season as an NBA starter and that under difficult circumstances. He came to the Pistons after just two college seasons at a low-level Division I school. That’s a long way of saying it’s tough to judge exactly how high Stuckey’s ceiling is, but whatever it is, he’ll reach it. There are no red flags on character with Stuckey. And he’s a physical specimen. I think there’s a wide gap between "elite player" and "slightly above average starter." I’m comfortable saying he’ll be something more than the latter. Whether he becomes elite or not, who can say? You’d get a stiff argument from many that Chauncey Billups was not an elite player, but if Stuckey can give them 10 years of what Billups gave them for six, everyone would be delighted.
3. Out of the players on our team who have contracts for next season, who would you like to see moved the most this offseason?
I’m not rooting for anyone to be moved, but I think any plan of real ambition to dramatically alter the Pistons probably means that at least one of Tayshaun Prince or Rip Hamilton is traded. The Pistons need to have one player at those wing spots who is adept at putting the ball on the floor and breaking down defenses in this era of NBA basketball.
4. Who is the one guy in the NBA--one we have a legitimate shot at getting-- you'd like to see in a Pistons uniform most next season? Why?
Ben Gordon and Carlos Boozer (assuming he opts out) are the most desirable free agents. Chris Bosh is the most talented of the players who could be on the trading block. It would be pretty exciting if the Pistons managed to come away with two of those players. It won’t be easy, but it’s a possibility.
5. When he was a player, I always admired Michael Curry's determination and hard work to maximize his talent and stay in the league as long as possible. As a coach, he wasn't put into a very fair position his first season, but there are some people who question his ability to be a good head coach in the NBA at all. Do you think it's possible for him to use that same work ethic from his playing days to improve or do some people just have a knack for coaching that can't be developed?
I think it’s fair to say a lot of people don’t have a knack for coaching, but I wouldn’t put anything past Michael Curry. He’s a tireless worker, a keen judge of character and a good communicator. It’s tough to judge him on this season, given the tumult created by the Iverson trade – not just the timing of it, but the radical shift in styles it necessitated – and the constant issue of injuries.
6. Also, a lot of people are saying Curry is merely serving as the transitional guy, and that once the Pistons implement the right corps of players for their next championship run they will replace him with a big named coach. Do you think that is true or just noise?
First I’ve heard that one. Coaches have pretty short shelf lives in the NBA. That’s just the reality. And losing takes a toll. I won’t pretend to say Curry’s credibility didn’t take a little bit of a hit this season because that’s the nature of the business. Until you’ve won a ring, a coach is always tied to his most recent performance. That said, a good start to next season makes what happened last season go away.
7. A lot of talk on the local radio shows are saying the Pistons might trade up in the draft to land a top five pick. Do you think that would serve them better than going out and signing the Carlos Boozers of the world?
Unless they could trade for the No. 1 pick and the instant help that Blake Griffin would provide, trading up holds little promise. And whoever gets the No. 1 pick isn’t trading it this year unless you make a ridiculous offer. Beyond that, the Pistons would have to overpay for what looks like marginal talent. The teams picking there are lousy, for the most part, and need to sell their fans on the promise of a bright future. They also like the cost certainty that the rookie scale provides. With the cap space the Pistons will have, there are far surer and more advisable ways to improve than trading up in a weak draft. They are far more likely to trade out of the first round for the approximately $1.6 million they could save and then apply to pursuing free agents.
8. I graduated from Davidson College last year, so this next question might be for my own curiosity, hopes, and dreams. Plus, I read in your blog that you think the Pistons need a consistent 3-point threat. I also think this depends a lot on whether or not Joe plans on keeping Rip, but if Stephen Curry fell to the Pistons at No. 15, do you think we'd take him?
I can’t speak for the scouting department’s take on Curry, but it’s highly unlikely he’ll get past the lottery in a draft this weak. If he were there, I’d have to believe he would get extreme consideration.
9. If not Stephen (and the realistic side of me says it won't be), who do you think would be the best fit for Detroit at the No. 15 spot in the draft?
At 15 in a weak draft, you’re either going to play it safe and pick someone you’re pretty sure will at least be a solid rotation player in a few years, or you’re going to roll the dice on someone who could be great but more likely will wash out. Somebody like DeJuan Blair or Eric Maynor or Terrence Williams falls into the first category. A player like B.J. Mullens represents the latter.
10. I have to admit, Will Bynum had to win me over this season. I have some friends who are big Tech basketball fans and love him, but I thought he was too "street ball" at first. I understand what you mean when you say the Pistons need guys to break defenses down and I now believe Bynum has that ability. The Pistons told us how they feel about Will Bynum by exercising their option on him (at virtually no cost), but honestly is this guy for real or was this season just a flash in the pan?
It was for real. The only question with Bynum is can he get better in certain areas. Can he cut down on his turnovers? Can he adjust when defenses go at him by posting up bigger guards? Can he remain effective playing against front-line players instead of backups? But his ability to get into the paint and to finish at the rim are proven to me and are invaluable to a team otherwise short in those areas.
11. I've read that you liked interviewing Chauncey and 'Sheed (when he opens up) in the past. Now that Chauncey is gone, and 'Sheed will most likely be gone, who is your next favorite interviewee?
When Tayshaun Prince feels like being expansive, he’s very thoughtful. Antonio McDyess is always honest and straightforward. Arron Afflalo has his feet on the ground and offers great perspective for such a young player. Will Bynum is refreshingly sincere. Amir Johnson is getting more comfortable with a microphone in front of his face.
12. So many people ask you questions about the Pistons, but nobody ever asks you about you or your job as the Pistons journalist. What's the best part about your job?
The best part about my job? It beats working for a living. Seriously, to be able to put food on the table by staying immersed in the great game of basketball played at the highest level – and to do it for an organization that’s been universally recognized for its class – is a pretty good way to go.
Many thanks to Keith Langlois for his insight. Remember to check out his blog, True Blue Pistons and Pistons.com for more from Mr. Langlois. If you have any questions you'd like to ask him yourself, you can submit those via the Pistons Mailbag.