Pistons mailbag: KCP's future dictates Pistons' direction

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Los Angeles — Seven games into the season and the Pistons have had an up-and-down ride. Well, it’s been predictably up when they’re playing at The Palace (four wins) and down when they’re on the road (three losses).

On to this week’s Mailbag.

Q. Is KCP a Piston next year? — @Jbiss

A. That’s actually not an easy question to answer.

He’ll become a restricted free agent after this season, and the going rate for his services might be in the range of $20 million. Is he worth that? Probably not, but the Pistons might have to pay up. If they don’t, another team likely will.

Let’s assume the Pistons offered around $18 million and Caldwell-Pope and his agents believe he can get a bigger offer sheet elsewhere — some guards have gotten $17 million or more, and KCP is a starting defensive-minded, perimeter-hawking player who can defend either guard position.

The more interesting question is whether the Pistons might make a trade at some point to upgrade the position. If they’re going to pay Caldwell-Pope, they could seek a better shooter, even at the expense of some defensive ability. That just depends on who might be available.

Q. If DeMarcus Cousins is on the market, would Stan Van Gundy give up Andre Drummond for him? — @_nelso14

A. The short answer is no. The Pistons value Drummond’s potential, and he’s only 23. He’s the NBA’s leading rebounder and has tremendous potential.

“When he plays (to his potential), we’ve got a chance to be good,” Van Gundy said. “He really changes our whole defense, especially, when he’s active and playing.”

There are a lot of unknowns in dealing with Cousins. He’s a tremendous talent, but he might have reached his peak.

Cousins could be an upgrade in some fans’ eyes, but he might have more baggage than the Pistons are willing to deal with.

Q. Getting Marcus Morris for $4.5 million a year might be the second-best contract in the league behind Steph Curry’s. — @JasperGoldenGod

A. I still think that was the biggest acquisition of Van Gundy’s tenure, followed closely by the Tobias Harris trade.

The Pistons got Morris — and Reggie Bullock — from the Suns for a 2020 second-round pick. And Morris is under contract for a reasonable salary ($4.6 million this year, $5 million next year and $5.4 in 2018-19).

That’s a bargain for a versatile forward who has good mid-range shooting skills and plays very good defense. He’s become one of the vocal leaders of the team and brings good effort every night — and he’s been one of the leading scorers.

It’s hard to put a price on that.

Q. Any chance you see Reggie Jackson playing time at SG with Ish because of how well he’s been facilitating the offense? — @eaves22

A. Van Gundy has talked about playing more three-guard situations, based on matchups and necessity. That would likely mean having Jackson, Smith and Caldwell-Pope on the court at the same time, which isn’t ideal. There was some talk of doing something similar last season when Brandon Jennings returned from his Achilles injury, but there turned out to be very little of that.

Van Gundy loves having Harris and Morris on the court together at the forward spots, so any three-guard lineup would put one of them on the bench. So there’s a strike against that already. If it’s just Jackson and Smith without Caldwell-Pope, it takes out the best perimeter defender, which isn’t ideal either.

The easy answer is that if it happens at all, it’ll be in small doses, against teams with smaller guards who aren’t big defensive threats. And there aren’t many of those in the NBA.