Pistons mailbag: Is Killian Hayes better off bench? Is Ben Simmons worth the price?
Detroit — Cade Cunningham won’t make his Pistons debut until the regular season.
Cunningham was ruled out of the final preseason game, on Friday, against the Philadelphia 76ers. The slew of injuries has left fans frustrated, but coach Dwane Casey has said the team is being patient with Cunningham’s recovery, not trying to rush him back for a preseason game, with so much at stake in the regular season.
There’s no clear indication of when the Pistons will have their full starting lineup intact for a game, with the injuries to Saddiq Bey and Killian Hayes this week. A difficult start to the schedule will make things difficult to figure out, but the focus continues to remain on the big picture, instead of trying to rush things in the short term.
This week’s mailbag hits on questions about Hayes’ role, Ben Simmons rumors and spending time with a favorite Pistons player.
► Question. Should Killian come off the bench? He’s shown flashes but has been very inconsistent. I know they want to give him a chance being the no.7 pick. But if I was another team outside looking in, I would say he’s a weakness of the Pistons. — @bigdogpistons
► Answer. I can’t see Hayes coming off the bench. He’s a No. 7 overall pick who’s starting his second season after playing in only 26 games because of a serious injury. Hayes has had his struggles, but it’s too early to make sweeping decisions about what he is or isn’t. Give that at least 50 games — and probably more like 82 games total, if we’re being completely fair.
More than that, the Pistons are in a rebuild, so it’s not time to give up on last year’s first-round pick. Look at Sekou Doumbouya, whom the Pistons just traded in the summer. They gave him a couple of seasons to figure out what he was before deciding to part ways with him.
Truly, I can see the concern about Hayes’ production, but he and Cunningham are two different players. Any playing time Hayes is getting doesn’t impact Cunningham’s development at all. I’m all for making the starting lineup the young guys plus Jerami Grant, and the second unit being the more veteran group. If the Pistons run into problems or dig a hole with the starters, the reserves can help keep the game close.
► Q. Are the Ben Simmons/Pistons rumors true? I can see him improving our play but I’m a huge ‘no way’ because of his contract. — @Meeeshigan
► A. I would think the reports about the Pistons are true. After all, it’s just an indication that the Pistons “have interest” in Simmons, not that there are specific players that the Sixers would be interested in. For what it’s worth, I think the Pistons have inquired about what it would take to get Simmons, but that would be general manager Troy Weaver doing his due diligence to check in and see what the potential cost would be. If he’s getting any sticker shock from what the Sixers are asking in return, the Pistons would be best to leave the whole thing alone.
Simmons is an All-Star, but he isn’t a franchise-changing player by himself. The Pistons likely would have to give up Grant, their leading scorer, for a player who isn’t a high-volume scorer or ballhandler. They’d essentially be building around Simmons, Cunningham and Bey, which isn’t an easy sell.
The Pistons might be looking to bring on a max-level player in the offseason, but that would be in addition to their current cast, not subtracting to make room for a player who doesn’t fit their culture or the framework of their rebuild.
► Q. Rod, if you could grab a drink with one Piston, who would you choose? All time, anybody who suited up for Detroit. — @Zachery12058184
► A. That’s a tougher question than it seems on the surface. There are so many intriguing personalities, and given an opportunity to pick their brains, or just to go out and enjoy some time, the options are plentiful. I’ve always wanted to sit down and talk to Chris Webber about several topics, including the timeout at Michigan, how he handled that fame on campus and his relationship with Jalen Rose. He’s had a heck of a career, both in college and in the NBA.
Add Grant Hill to that list, because of what he went through at Duke and beating UNLV in the 1991 NCAA championship game. Now, he’s head of USA Basketball, so just his ascent through his time with the Pistons to being an important figure in international basketball would be a huge topic.
There are others, like Brandon Jennings, who was such a smart and interesting player, but never really stuck here. Dave Bing was the mayor of Detroit and had so many experiences during his time. I’ve talked to Joe Dumars about many things, but not about how he built that 2004 team, which would be cool to break down.
Sixers at Pistons
► Tipoff: 7 p.m. Friday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit
► TV/radio: BSD/97.1
► Outlook: The Pistons (1-2) again will be without Cade Cunningham (ankle), and Saddiq Bey and Killian Hayes are doubtful for the preseason finale.