AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — Stan Van Gundy has to do a lot to reshape the Detroit Pistons into a team that can consistently win.
Two days before the NBA draft in which Detroit would have to make a deal to acquire a first-round pick, the team’s president of basketball operations and coach said what happens with Greg Monroe will be pivotal.
“It’s the most important thing on our plate this offseason,” Van Gundy said Tuesday.
Van Gundy wants “good value” for the restricted free agent if the franchise chooses to give him up in a sign-and-trade deal. He insisted even if the 24-year-old power forward gets offered a maximum contract by another team, the Pistons may determine they can live with paying him, Andre Drummond, and Josh Smith a lot of money to essentially play two positions.
Van Gundy also said having Monroe sign a one-year qualifying offer that would make him an unrestricted free agent next summer would be OK for the team too.
“We’re comfortable with all of the options,” Van Gundy said. “On the parts that we can control, we’re comfortable that we’ll be OK no matter what. There can’t be a trade we don’t like.”
The Pistons will probably see a lot of players they like get drafted before getting an opportunity to select a player Thursday night because they are not scheduled to make a pick until No. 38 overall. Detroit had to give the No. 9 overall pick this year to complete a trade former executive Joe Dumars made, a salary cap-saving deal that sent Ben Gordon to Charlotte for a future first-round pick.
The Pistons might give up a future second-round pick and cash, Van Gundy said, to acquire one of the final slots in the first round if there is a player they had rated perhaps No. 17 overall and he’s available at No. 27.
Van Gundy said if the team stands pat with its pick early in the second round, history says there’s a 50-50 chance the selection will end up contributing.
“We think we can get a guy at that spot who can come in and play for us,” he said. “Does that mean he’s going to start? Probably not.”
The Pistons, Van Gundy made clear, are rebuilding around 20-year-old center Andre Drummond, entering the third year of his career. They likely are stuck with Smith, who signed a $54 million, four-year deal last summer, whether the Van Gundy wants him or not. And, point guard Brandon Jennings is entering the second year of his $24 million, three-year contract that probably keeps him on the roster for at least next season.
Monroe, though, could stay or go.
Detroit drafted the 6-foot-11 former Georgetown star with the No. 7 pick overall in 2010. He has averaged 14 points, nine rebounds, 2.3 assists and more than a steal per game over four seasons.
The Pistons haven’t been in the playoffs since 2009 — when Monroe was still in college — and need to make moves to improve their roster with or without him. In particular, Van Gundy acknowledged they hope to get help at shooting guard and small forward in free agency.
“We targeted nine or 10 people [Monday] that we’d want to have initial calls with right away and target,” Van Gundy said.
Cavs mull choices
CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers have had plenty of practice picking first in the NBA draft.
That doesn’t mean they’ve gotten better at it.
For the second straight year, third time in four years and fourth time since 2003 — when they selected a high school phenom named LeBron James — the Cavs own the No. 1 overall selection. On Thursday night, the Cavs, who only chose new coach David Blatt last week, will once again be the first team on the clock.
They’ve been lucky. Now, they need to be good.
Cleveland is expected to select either Duke forward Jabari Parker or Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins, considered a pair of can’t-miss prospects who could help push the Cavs back to respectability. Either of them could also make their roster more appealing in case James, who opted out of his Miami Heat contract on Tuesday, is thinking about bringing his talents back to his native Ohio after four years — and four straight trips to the finals.
James’ decision to hit the free-agent market has Cleveland, and nearly every other NBA team, re-evaluating draft plans. The Cavs are in an interesting predicament: They could overhaul their roster by trading star guard Kyrie Irving or another starter two to create salary-cap space for James and to possibly land another all-star, but then risk having James break their hearts again and sign elsewhere; They also could make a play for Minnesota’s Kevin Love.
They could work a trade to acquire players or picks. It’s possible the Cavs are still intrigued enough with Kansas center Joel Embiid, who recently underwent foot surgery and is expected to be sidelined for six months, to strike a deal, move out of the top spot, and select the 7-footer.