Pistons mailbag: How many players would sit if a playoff berth was on the line?

Detroit News

Detroit — With the Pistons regular season winding down, there are several topics to discuss. Detroit’s playing without most of their rotation players on a nightly basis due to injury, which has also given opportunities to some of the team’s new additions. It’s been a while, so it was the perfect time to release another Pistons mailbag, crafted from questions via social media.

Question: How many of our current players are out with injuries that would keep them out if we were playing for a playoff spot? – JDsSportsTweets

Answer: The Pistons’ injury report was lighter than usual on Wednesday. The team had six rotation players (seven, counting Cade Cunningham) listed as out for Tuesday’s loss to the Washington Wizards. However, Jalen Duren (bilateral ankle soreness) and Killian Hayes (left hand contusion) were upgraded to probable for Thursday’s showdown against the Charlotte Hornets. That leaves four players — Bojan Bogdanovic (left Achilles tendinopathy), Alec Burks (left foot soreness), Isaiah Stewart (right hip soreness) and Hamidou Diallo (right ankle sprain) — listed as out for the foreseeable future.

The stakes are different. Detroit’s not competing for anything meaningful at this point of the season, but it would be in the team’s best interest to remain among the bottom of the league’s standings for the best chances at landing the No. 1 pick in this summer’s NBA Draft. However, if the Pistons were competing for a potential Play-In spot (7-10) or playoff berth (1-6), the only player that would likely be unable to be on the floor is Diallo.

Diallo suffered a Grade 2 ankle sprain Monday against the Portland Trail Blazers and left the arena in a walking boot. He is expected to be re-evaluated in three to four weeks, but the regular season will have only a week left by then, which likely rules him out of helping the team clinch a playoff spot.

Bogdanovic is an interesting case because he appeared well rested after his first missed game due to the Achilles in both legs. He returned against the Chicago Bulls and dropped 34 points on 8-of-12 from the 3-point line.

Pistons coach Dwane Casey said the team would keep an eye on Bogdanovic’s health, but according to a report from the Athletics’ Shams Charania, the Pistons are considering taking precautionary measures to manage Bogdanovic’s health and could shut him down soon for the remainder of the season.

That leaves Burks and Stewart, who are dealing with lingering soreness from previous injuries. Burks has missed the last two of the last three games due to the same foot he had surgery on in the offseason to repair. My gut tells me that he could play if the Pistons were fighting for the postseason. Stewart has missed the last five games due to his hip, which could be serious if not managed well. Regardless, Casey says the lineups will be fluid for the rest of the season. That said, my answer is two: Diallo and Bogdanovic.

Q: What are your thoughts on Wiseman thus far and how he fits with the team, and do you believe he can develop into the type of center that (Joel) Embiid is? – LeeHanna48

A: The eye test can tell you that James Wiseman is putting together some of the best games of his NBA career. The numbers are also there, too. Since joining the Pistons at the trade deadline, Wiseman has averaged 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in his newfound opportunity. He’s collected 62 total boards (15 offensive rebounds), which are the most in any eight-game span of his career. He’s growing more comfortable within the offense. He has great touch around the rim. His defensive presence has also made an impact, simply because he’s able to move his feet in Detroit’s switching scheme.

His fit with the team well, but there are some concerns when he’s on the floor with Marvin Bagley since both players have similar skillsets. Duren is probable to return to the lineup Thursday, so it’s possible that we could see them both in the same lineup but Casey has been cautious about that pairing because he’d like one of them to stretch the floor with their perimeter shooting. Right now, Wiseman would likely be that option since that’s an area that he’s shown glimpses of.

As for the comparison to Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, let’s pump the brakes a bit. It took Embiid several years to develop into the MVP-caliber player that he’s become today, especially after his initial trouble with injuries. Wiseman would need to become more physically imposing and put on some more weight before he’s lined up against Embiid. However, that doesn’t mean that he can’t become his own version of a dominant center. He has the tools, he just needs the time to develop.

Q: On a scale of 1-10, what’s the possibility of the Pistons re-signing (Hamidou Diallo) in free agency and how much do you think he’s worth annually? Does (Pistons general manager) Troy (Weaver) view him as a core piece? – @chrisredds

A: I’m not going to place a number on the probability of the Pistons re-signing Diallo, who will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. What I will say is Diallo has earned an opportunity to be a part of the future of the Pistons’ rebuild with his energy and effort off the bench. Diallo’s averaging 9.3 points and 3.5 rebounds off the bench, while shooting a career-high 57% from the field.

“He changes the game,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said before Tuesday’s loss to the Wizards. “That’s why we struggle scoring in the first quarter, and when he comes in, good or bad, the game changes. We need his energy, offensively and defensively, his rebounding. He increases the speed of the game, pushing the ball down the floor. He brings so much energy to the game. That’s what we’ll miss. Somehow, some way, we’ve gotta turn that switch on.”

That statement doesn’t say much about Diallo’s future with the team, but it shows how valuable the Pistons brass believes he is to this group, as constructed. As for his worth, Diallo could find himself somewhere between the range of a short-term two-year, $16 million deal, which $3 million more per year than his current contract. Of course, he could attract more, depending on this offseason’s market for a player of his caliber.

Diallo’s 3-point and free-throw shooting aren’t his strengths, but he’s leaned all the way in on doing what works for him, which is defending, cutting and playing with a tempo that the rest of his teammates has to adjust to. His athleticism is his most valuable asset, and he’s learned to use it on both ends of the floor.


Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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