Tony (Roseville, Mich.): I don’t consider this a balanced trade, but down the line the only trade for a solid big man I can foresee is Tayshaun Prince for Samuel Dalembert. Sacramento needs a small forward and DeMarcus Cousins looks to have the starting gig locked up. What do you think?
Langlois: Dalembert is going to miss perhaps the first month of the regular season with a groin strain, Tony. I don’t know that the Pistons would have ever had interest in that trade, but it’s a pretty sure bet they won’t do the deal for an injured Dalembert. There’s also the question of whether Sacramento sees a need at small forward. Francisco Garcia, Omri Casspi and Donte Greene are all candidates to play there. The Kings probably have a greater need at shooting guard, though last season they got around to using Tyreke Evans there with Beno Udrih often playing the point. Prince has been the clearly better player than Dalembert over the course of their careers, but there is a premium on big men that doesn’t make your proposal completely out of the question. I think the Pistons will need some indication that Tracy McGrady will be a productive player before they would consider dealing Prince away. Though that position seemed pretty deep for the Pistons coming into training camp, the Achilles tendon tear incurred by Jonas Jerebko means Austin Daye probably will wind up playing more minutes at power forward. To the extent anyone considered Prince expendable a few weeks ago, he’s considerably less so today.
Philip (Negaunee, Mich.): What reason would I have to think this year’s team won’t finish in the lottery?
Langlois: It’s no lock that they make the playoffs, Philip, but they’re going to have a fair shot at it. I can give you five teams that go into the season with talent that, on paper, appear likely to make the playoffs in the East: Boston, Orlando, Miami, Atlanta and Chicago. Milwaukee could just as easily be grouped with those five. The Pistons are in the next group with the likes of Philadelphia, New York and Charlotte. Two of those four should make the playoffs. I’m picking the Pistons and 76ers as the two. The Pistons will need some good things to happen to them for the playoffs to be realized, but I like their chances for those things to happen. If three or four things from among a long list that includes getting contributions from Greg Monroe, seeing better and healthier versions of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva, getting full seasons from usually sturdy veterans Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince, improvement from point guards Rodney Stuckey and Will Bynum and better defense through greater lineup stability come about, then I think we can pencil them into the postseason. We’ll start getting those answers next week.
Jens (Cologne, Germany): I don’t like the fact we are giving up the glass in almost every preseason game that’s on the road or without Ben Wallace playing heavy minutes. Our interior defense is a disaster as well with players like Kevin Love and Tyrus Thomas dropping 20-plus points on us. We have to get another frontcourt player and I mean a defender and rebounder, not necessarily a low-post scorer. And we need that soon.
Langlois: An old NFL scout used to scoff at people who kept telling him his team needed to get a dominant left tackle. There’s no such thing as a tackle tree, he would say, that you can shake and have a great one fall out. Well, in the NBA, there’s no such thing as a big man tree. They’re hard to find. Teams that have them aren’t very likely to deal one that doesn’t have glaring flaws. It’s tough to have a dominant defense without a menacing defensive big man, Jens, but the Pistons can field a competent defensive team without one " a defense that gives them a fighting chance to win every night if they take care of the basketball and play with offensive efficiency.
Stephen (Birmingham, Ala.): I have not been able to see any of the Pistons’ preseason games, but statistically the same defensive issues seem so be plaguing us again this year. Do you see any improvement defensively?
Langlois: It’s nearly impossible to get a true gauge of something like team defense based on both the small sample size of six preseason games and the nature of preseason itself with the lack of consistency of lineups. Staying healthy will give the Pistons an edge over last season. The fact it’s the second year under John Kuester’s system should help further.
Ray (Detroit): Anyone who has watched the preseason or looked at a box score has seen Austin Daye getting big minutes and putting up big numbers. What are the odds he starts?
Langlois: Right now, I’d say the odds are pretty good. He grabbed 17 rebounds in the two games over the weekend, so he’s holding his own on that score. The concern with Daye will be can he hold up against the more physical power forwards and can he avoid foul trouble playing that spot? His scoring ability and versatility make him a real weapon, but would John Kuester worry that playing Daye at power forward will wear him down and neutralize his offensive ability? A good push from Charlie Villanueva this week heading into the regular season could nail down the starting spot for him, but Daye at least has given Kuester an awful lot to consider. And whether Daye starts or not, he’s all but proven he deserves to play.
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