Pistons mailbag: Answering questions about the coaching search, picking at No. 5

Detroit News

Detroit — Late May usually marks a time in the offseason when most of the attention shifts to the NBA Finals, or in the case of most lottery teams, toward the NBA Draft.

The Pistons are in a unique position alongside three other teams who are still searching for a new head coach. It’s been 51 days since Dwane Casey announced his transition to the front office following Detroit’s regular-season finale on April 9.

Sporadic reports regarding the Pistons’ distinctive selection of coaching candidates, which reportedly are down to former Overtime Elite coach Kevin Ollie and Milwaukee Bucks assistant Charles Lee, have dominated the team’s offseason so far. But the lengthy process has some fans wondering why there is such a long wait in hiring Casey’s successor.

This week’s edition of Mike’s Mailbag breaks down the latest on the Pistons’ coaching search and looks at their options in next month’s draft:

▶ Question: When will the coach be named and are there any more candidates outside of Ollie and Lee? — @GibbsIntern

Answer: The short answer is there’s no clear timetable. The Pistons won’t officially announce their new coach until both parties agree to a deal and that person signs the contract. Until then, it’s probably best for fans to sit tight and wait until concrete reports surface of who’s expected to fill Detroit’s vacancy.

As for the remaining candidates, Lee and Ollie remain as finalists, as Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports reported that New Orleans Pelicans assistant Jarron Collins is no longer in the running for the job. The Pistons reportedly lobbed a “big-money offer” to former Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams, but the offer was unsuccessful.

▶ Q: Do you think we have a chance of getting (Brandon) Miller at 5th? — @1inamillion5991

▶ A: I mentioned this in a story about the Pistons’ draft options shortly after the lottery, but there’s a very, very slim chance that Miller will fall to No. 5. If Miller’s stock drops, it likely won’t be because of his basketball ability. The 6-foot-9 forward was involved in a gun controversy that overshadowed his spectacular freshman season at Alabama. Depending on his interviews, combined with how the Charlotte Hornets compare his fit versus G League Ignite guard Scoot Henderson could be the determining factor in where Miller lands.

If Charlotte selects Henderson, then that would lead to Portland and Houston as the next possible destinations for Miller. The Trail Blazers are reportedly looking to trade their pick depending on how their offseason conversations with Damian Lillard go, and if the Rockets choose one of the Thompson twins to complement their young guards, it would clear the way for Detroit to choose Miller with the fifth pick. There are a lot of hurdles that would need to happen, but it’s … possible.

▶ Q: Are the Pistons waiting and hoping Monty (Williams) changes his mind? — @RthaTruth

▶ A: I can see a scenario in which the Pistons’ front office gives Williams as much time as he needs in order to make a decision on whether he wants to coach next season or not. However, I don’t think they’ll wait too long. They want to make the right choice and that should be kept in mind as they continue to evaluate their options.

▶ Q: Who do you think will be starting in our frontcourt? — @Kermac21

▶ A: The frontcourt is technically defined as the forwards and centers, so I’ll go with who I believe will be starting next season based on how the roster is currently constructed. Expect Bojan Bogdanovic to remain as the team’s starting small forward as long as he’s not part of any offseason trade. Jalen Duren, who exceeded most expectations as a rookie, is the team’s big man of the present and future. That leaves the other forward position as the most uncertain, and the Pistons could go in a couple of directions.

Isaiah Stewart transitioned to that position as he expanded his range and became the team’s starting four-man. The team’s new coach could also play James Wiseman at the power-forward spot, but he’ll need to show more consistency in shooting the 3. Marvin Bagley III also showed promise in the latter month of the season, but he’s probably best utilized in the team’s second unit. For the sake of the question, I’ll say Bogdanovic, Stewart and Duren will serve as the team’s starters in the frontcourt. That’s also considering the Pistons strike out on a potential free-agent signing.

▶ Q: As of today, who do you think the pick would be at No. 5? — @1_in_a_willion

▶ A: “With the fifth pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, the Detroit Pistons select … Jarace Walker from the University of Houston.” I can’t see the future, but that’s how I would imagine draft night going for the Pistons if they choose to keep the fifth pick. Walker was the Pistons’ selection in my first mock draft of the offseason for a couple of reasons. Detroit is vying to return to its defensive roots of the past, and Walker fits the bill as one of the premier defensive forwards slated as a lottery pick.

Walker possesses the defensive versatility needed to play both forward positions and potentially a small-ball center if his perimeter game develops over time. He also shows promise as a playmaker, which the Pistons could use in the frontcourt to take some pressure off of the team’s guards. Walker showed his humorous personality off during his media availability at the NBA Draft Combine, which correlates to the character quality that Troy Weaver tends to regard when making his draft selections.,

► Q: Will Grant Williams be a (free-agent) target? How much would you pay as the starting (small forward)? — @bigdogpistons

► A: The Boston Celtics are fresh off their failed comeback from down, 3-0, in the Eastern Conference Finals. The franchise could take a look in the mirror and evaluate how it’ll revamp its roster for next year. The fate of Williams, who is going to be a restricted free agent, lies with the Celtics’ front office. Should the Pistons, or any other team extend an offer sheet to Williams, Boston can decide whether to match or not.

Williams is an intriguing wing at 6-foot-6 and he’s coming off his best season, with averages of 8.1 points and 4.6 rebounds. His role increased heavily this season in Boston, and I’d imagine they’ll want to keep him around, but only for the right price. Personally, I’d pay somewhere in the range of $11 million annually for Grant’s services, but the Pistons will have around $30 million in cap space and would be in a position to offer him a little more. It’s not a bad number, considering it’s close to the mid-level exception of 12.2 million. His ability to shoot the 3, crash the boards, and defend could be worth it.


Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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