Detroit — As the NBA’s trade deadline approaches at 3 Thursday, Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy can sit back and relax, as he’s already completed the bulk — and maybe all — of his shopping way ahead of time.
The Pistons are streaking and trending toward a playoff spot, chasing the Philadelphia 76ers for the No. 8 spot and just four games behind the Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Wizards, before Wednesday’s games.
Whether they make another big deal before the trade deadline isn’t clear, but even with adding Blake Griffin in the blockbuster deal last week, they’re in position to get back to the postseason for just the second time in the last decade.
This edition of the Pistons mailbag look the likelihood of a trade before the deadline, attendance at Little Caesars Arena and the backcourt rotation.
Question: If you were SVG/Bower, with Stanley Johnson's resurgent play, what type of return would you need in order to move him? — @THE_FERNANTULA
Answer: I’m not convinced that the Pistons would move Stanley Johnson for anything less than a starter and a draft pick. For all his shortcomings, Johnson has become an integral piece in the starting lineup and has improved his production of late: 15 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists in the last five games, including a career-high 26 points against the Cavaliers. He’s also had a promising week on defense, having guarded the likes of LeBron James (twice) and Damian Lillard, showing his versatility.
While Johnson didn’t seem to fit well with the starting lineup at the beginning of the season, he’s looking more comfortable since Blake Griffin has arrived and is finding a niche. He’s still on his rookie contract, which makes him more valuable, at least for now.
Q. What do you expect to take place before tomorrow’s trade deadline. Dreaming (keyword) of a Kemba Walker trade — @MotownSports4
A. I’d expect nothing. The Pistons are exploring the trade market to see if there’s anything they can do, especially with a trade exception of $7 million and the Disabled Player Exception of $5.25 million for Jon Leuer. The trade market seems tight, as evidenced by so few trades through Wednesday. Unless another team does something significant on Thursday, the Pistons could be the big winners in the market, having made a long-term commitment, but getting themselves a big upgrade in Griffin.
If you’re dreaming of Kemba Walker, I won’t wake you from that slumber, but it’s very unlikely to happen. The Pistons don’t have the assets — short of caving on trading Luke Kennard or Johnson — to bring in a player of Walker’s caliber. It also would mean the end of the Reggie Jackson era. I’ve never believed the Pistons had a shot at Walker, because the Hornets are trying to shed salary — and Jackson makes about $4 million more than Walker.
Q. I'm amazed at how many empty seats are in the lower bowl of games. Any chance they reduce prices to help fill them? Embarrassing to see on TV.— @rudyjuly2
A. This has been a thorny topic all season. Many of those empty seats within view of the TV cameras are club seats, which include food and drinks in the ticket price. Many of those fans are in the club areas — behind the seats and out of view — and some come later in the game to watch, after they’ve eaten. In fairness, I’ve been told that season-ticket sales are up more than 20 percent and there’s certainly been a bump since they acquired Blake Griffin. The biggest issue is that the seats are red; at The Palace, with neutral gray seats, it was hardly noticeable if those areas weren’t filled in.
Q. Non-deadline question: When Reggie comes back, we have will have 4 guys who have played well at PG as of late: Buycks, LG, Ish, and RJ. Do you see Buycks getting pushed out of the rotation entirely? Will LG strictly play SG? And how much action with RJ at SG will we see? — @VegasAnalytics
A. Dwight Buycks has played well in his time as the backup role. When Reggie Jackson returns, Buycks might get squeezed out of that time, as will Langston Galloway, likely. There will be some opportunities for all of them to play, with Galloway at shooting guard. With Griffin doing some ball-handling, it opens an intriguing opportunity for Jackson to play more as a shooter in some sets, which is a strength for him.