Philadelphia — Some would say the Pistons should have been rebuilding years ago instead of starting in the latter part of this season.
The situation, with massive games lost to player injuries and their early-season losses, has dictated that the Pistons shift their focus to moving their high-cost veteran pieces and make room for the young players to see more time to assess their value.
At 20-45, the Pistons are closer to having the worst record in the league to securing even an eighth playoff spot in the East — and a reprise of last season’s drubbing in the first round of the playoffs.
This week’s Mail Satchel looks at some elements of the rebuild, including staffing, draft picks and some young pieces they can build around:
►Question: If the Pistons are "rebuilding", how come Sekou has averaged 19 MPG since the Drummond trade? In addition, how come Bone and Hall do not get much playing time either? – @jwsorensen
►Answer: Coach Dwane Casey has been adamant that he’s not going to simply give players minutes simply because the rebuild calls for it. One good example is Christian Wood, who has developed into their brightest young player. Wood played through some early-season defensive mistakes — and Casey points out that Wood is still making them — but he’s reduced those errors and has a much higher value on the offensive end.
“The number of mistakes that Christian is making are far less than some of the others. Say, for instance Sekou,” Casey said. “It’s so much to learn; it's not only just the mistakes, it’s not boxing out, not switching out, going in and not finishing at the rim. All those things are just compounded.”
There has been a lot of fan criticism for not playing Doumbouya more, but with a young group on the floor, there are only so many mistakes a team can make before it becomes embarrassing. Casey tries to keep a veteran on the floor often, simply to ensure they’re doing the right things. Doumbouya and Jordan Bone have had highlight nights in the G League but haven’t carried that same confidence to the NBA, which is difficult for players at their level.
“I would say (intensity) is probably the biggest challenge for Sekou, to play hard every possession — not every other possession — sprint the floor and just do everything hard,” Casey said. “He's learning to do that and I think the one thing that teaches them that is playing in the G League.”
►Q: What do you think it will take to sign Christian Wood, and do you think he's worth this type of investment, or might he require more money to sign than he's really worth, and become a financial albatross like many others the Pistons have taken on in recent years that will limit future financial flexibility? – Dennis Kiley (email)
►A: It seems that Wood is in a good spot for a hefty raise with his breakout season. The issue is that there aren’t many teams with available cap space this summer. Wood is an unrestricted free agent and unless a team like the Hawks, Hornets or Knicks breaks the bank for him, he’ll more likely get an offer for the nontaxpayer midlevel exception, which is about $10 million.
The Pistons have Wood’s early Bird rights, so they can go higher than another team’s offer to retain him. That seems to be the likely direction things will go.
From what Wood has shown this year, the talent and consistency are there. The only hesitation might be whether he can maintain that same level over the long term. That’s a valid concern, but the Pistons can’t afford to lose Wood because they don’t have another center signed for next year, either.
► Q: With the rebuild in full effect, do you foresee the Pistons and Casey parting ways for an up-and-coming coach, or someone like Kenny Atkinson? Or is it more probable that Casey sticks around? – @jake_sall40
►Q: Serious question are the Pistons looking at getting a new medical/training staff for next season? Alot of injuries this year. – @tnick537_nick
►A: I’ll make this a 2-for-1 special. No and no. There is no indication that the ownership group or the front office, headed by Ed Stefanski, is unhappy with what Casey has done in his two seasons. Injuries have been a huge impediment and Casey wasn’t brought here for a rebuild, but he can help engineer this one.
As for the training staff, I don’t see any injuries that were mishandled or things that could have been done better. Every team gets injuries — the Pistons’ were just especially bad because they were starters. I wouldn’t put Blake Griffin’s surgery or Derrick Rose’s ankle sprain on the staffs; some things just come with the territory.
►Q: Any chance any of the expirings (BK, Henson, Langston) come back on cheaper deals next year to help younger guys? – @Koenighoops
►A: A lot of that will depend on what the players are looking for. I like John Henson’s game because he knows what his strengths are and he sticks to those. Langston Galloway is an outstanding veteran to help mentor the younger backcourt players because he has a strong work ethic and gives them someone to emulate off the court.
Knight may have bigger goals in his next deal, but I wouldn’t rule it out if the numbers work.
Pistons at Sixers
Tip-off: 7 Wednesday, Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia
Outlook: The Pistons (20-45) are reeling, having lost four straight and have lost John Henson (ankle sprain) for at least a week; Brandon Knight is questionable. The Sixers (38-26) will be without Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid is questionable.