Auburn Hills — Pistons fans love playing the what-if game. Whether it’s taking Carmelo Anthony or Chris Bosh instead of Darko Milicic or passing on Andre Drummond’s max deal or picking Devin Booker or Donovan Mitchell, the fan base is enamored with second-guessing and hindsight.
It’s good talk over a beverage or in a barber shop but along with the talk, there’s also some logic that goes with some of the decisions. They all didn’t end up being the right call, but the choices weren’t made in a vacuum, either.
This week’s mailbag looks at why the Pistons invested heavily in Andre Drummond and how their moves in the front office and at the trade deadline could impact them moving forward:
Question: If (Andre Drummond) was on another team would he be a max player like he is on the Pistons ? — @Danthemancarnah
Answer: This is one of the constant diatribes that Pistons fans get on that makes me chuckle. It’s not like Drummond walked into the Pistons facility with a ski mask and demanded a max contract. A lot of talk now is about contracts in other sports being for future projected performance rather than past performance. Drummond’s deal certainly wasn’t a payment for what he had done in his rookie contract.
Pistons owner Tom Gores and the front office decided that Drummond was worth the gamble and that he’d elevate to a max level. He’s a top-10 center in the league — some would argue top five — and he’s a two-time All-Star. Drummond is the best rebounder in the league but doesn’t measure up to the versatility of some of the others such as Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid and DeMarcus Cousins.
At the time that Drummond signed his max deal, they just had passed on Greg Monroe and they couldn’t part with back-to-back first-round picks and not get anything in return for them. Fans will argue that Drummond isn’t worth his contract, but at the time, he was the best alternative they had to become the face of the franchise. He has his weaknesses, including his poor free-throw percentage, lack of drive at times and bad shot selection. He’s improved on a couple of those in recent years, but he still can be better.
Q: I have a couple of questions: 1. Is Svi going to see any significant playing time or have they already decided he is not ready?
2. What will the starting line-up look like coming out of the break? — @stvnoel
A: Svi Mykhailiuk looks like he’ll be able to garner some playing time, but the big question is when. He has size at 6-foot-8 and some athletic ability to guard opposing wings — which is becoming a big problem defensively for the Pistons. It looks like the offensive mindset is there, but it’s about whether he can get the job done on defense.
I can see a role for him, but given the logjam at the wing positions, it’s going to be tough to break through this season. Glenn Robinson III and Luke Kennard (6-foot-7) are the only other tallish wings after the trades sending Stanley Johnson and Reggie Bullock away in trades but they’re not close to the defenders that their predecessors were.
At some point, probably in the next week or two, Wayne Ellington will join the starting lineup — presumably alongside Reggie Jackson, Bruce Brown, Blake Griffin and Drummond. Some have been clamoring for Kennard to step into that spot, with his skill set seems to fit the second unit more than the starters.
Q: Do you have faith that this front office will build a team around Blake that can compete? — @LoganPant14
A: The front office seems intent on fixing the roster little by little and not making rash decisions for short-term gain in trying to improve the talent level. They seem to be setting their own identity and balancing Gores’ desire to win with some patience and shrewd moves at the deadline. Though the Pistons didn’t make the big splash that some expected at the trade deadline, they improved their roster and financial flexibility for the future.
They did well in the draft last season, with only two second-round picks but we’ll get more evidence with a first-round pick this year and some roster flexibility with a couple of contracts coming off the books.