Los Angeles — The Pistons are reeling and fans are looking for changes — what can be done in the trade market and even into the offseason — to try to right the ship.
This week’s mailbag looks at those opportunities and how the Pistons may be able to still get in the playoffs without tearing up the whole roster.
Question: Do you foresee the Pistons buying or selling at the Trade Deadline?? – @jake_sall40
Answer: It’s not a simple either-or answer. I would think it depends on where they are near the trade deadline, which is Feb. 7. If they don’t pull out of this tailspin of nine losses in the last 11 games, they could be about 10 games under .500 — which still may not put them out of the playoff race in the East.
The short answer is that if they’re out of playoff contention — let’s say four or five games out of the eighth seed — then they could consider becoming a seller and trying to get future assets. The same point that I’ve been making for weeks still holds true, though: there aren’t many teams that value players on the Pistons’ roster enough to give up a reasonable return. Is a second-round pick for Reggie Bullock’s expiring contract enough? What should they accept in a potential Andre Drummond or Reggie Jackson offer?
As I’ve railed for the past week, teams are not going to help the Pistons unload the contracts that fans don’t like. The whole trade process is more nuanced than that and the Pistons shouldn’t make deals just to get rid of contracts. They’ll more likely wait for those deals to expire and then rebuild slowly.
Q. Will Casey ever try Kennard at point? The Calderon minutes are baffling. — @TheBukShow
A. Calderon is the third guard and I couldn’t see playing either Kennard or Bruce Brown for extended minutes ahead of him. He’s not as productive as he was even last season, but there hasn’t been a ton of practice with either Kennard, Brown or Khyri Thomas. Fans are pining for any other alternative, but if those guys don’t do well, what’s the other option?
Casey is adjusting and giving the young guys small stints with the ball in their hands but handing the keys to any of them for extended periods isn’t wise, to me, until they get more acclimated to it.
Kennard was slated to handle the ball more in Summer League, but his knee injury ended that.
Q. Are the Pistons seriously considering trading their first-round pick again? – @tonydombrowski
A. It depends. What’s on the other end of that? Is it in order to get an elite-level player like Blake Griffin? Is it a point guard who can propel them to the playoffs? In those cases, maybe yes.
I’m inclined to believe that they’ll be protective of the first-round pick unless something really strikes their fancy. Like last season, if they feel trading a first-rounder will get them to the postseason, they could take the gamble, considering the pick then would be in the 16-20 range, maybe. Otherwise, they probably will just hold on.
Q. What is more likely, a major trade occurs at the deadline or during the off-season? – J_Lawnicki@
A. If you’re looking for a major deal, it’s more likely to happen in the offseason, when the Pistons can have expiring contracts for up to seven players: Reggie Bullock, Ish Smith, Stanley Johnson, Henry Ellenson, Glenn Robinson III, Jose Calderon and Zaza Pachulia. They’ll still be in salary-cap trouble, as Smith’s $6 million per season is the largest among that group.
This summer, they’ll also only have one year remaining on the bigger deals for Jon Leuer, Reggie Jackson and Langston Galloway, which will make them more palatable for other teams to take on. I’m not sure what big names are out there for them to acquire now, but I would have said the same thing last January, before they traded for Blake Griffin. If they can find a good trade partner, it’s possible.
Q. What salary do you expect Bullock to command in the off-season? If the Pistons can't sign him, do you see him getting traded? – @rudyjuly2
A. It’s always tough to tell, but teams in this era will covet Bullock’s 3-point ability. If he can stay around 40 percent, he could command in the range of $12 million to $15 million. He plays good defense and is a smart, all-around player who fits in almost any system.
Bullock, at 6-foot-7, has good size and can play either of the wing positions. He’s an ultra-bargain now at $2.5 million and as an unrestricted free agent, it’ll be tough for the Pistons to keep him without going over $10 million per year, I would imagine.
My thought is they’ll do what they can to retain him but if they get into a bidding war with another team, they’ll be in hard pressed to pay through the nose.