POP Season Preview: Jon Leuer Got Paid for a Reason

The Pistons went into the offseason on a mission. They needed to upgrade their bench unit, specifically at backup point guard and power forward. After drafting Henry Ellenson and Michael Gbinije, Detroit attacked free agency, upgrading significantly at both spots. At point guard, they signed Ish Smith. At power forward, they inked Jon Leuer to a four-year deal. Leuer is a 6’10 power forward who brings a lot to the table for Detroit.

Last season Leuer had an up and down season with the Phoenix Suns. His play was not bad, but Suns coach Earl Watson prefered to play other forward such as Mirza Teletovic ahead of him in the rotation. His numbers were solid, as he averaged 8.5 points and 5.6 rebounds per game last season. Where he is the most valuable is his shooting. He shot a marksman percentage of 38.2% from the three-point line last year. He also is a solid mid-range shooter. Leuer will provide Detroit with a legitimate floor spacer off the bench, when Tobias Harris is out of the game. Lauer’s efficiency is what got him the contract he received this offseason, a hefty $42 million over four years. He is a definite upgrade over Anthony Tolliver, who struggled to shoot with consistency last year with Detroit. Tolliver went on to sign a two-year deal with the Sacramento Kings.

Leuer is a versatile scorer, as this clip shows:

He also has some exciting athleticism, as he shows in this clip where he posterizes DeMarcus Cousins:

Leuer also gives Detroit flexibility, at 6’10, he can play and defend both power forwards and centers. He spent 52% of his minutes last season at power forward, while spending 32% of his minutes at the center position.

To get more of a feel for what happened with Leuer and the Suns misfit, I talked with SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun’s Scott Howard. Here’s what he had to say on the Sun’s dislike of Leuer:

“What’s bizarre with Leuer is that Earl Watson didn’t seem to like him that much – playing time went down after Hornacek and that was even after Markieff was gone . He’d play Len and Chandler – an admittedly awful mix – together in lieu of Leuer. I’d say it’s probably a mix of the price being a little high, then signing Dudley (who is a fan favorite), and the team drafting Bender/Chriss. Most of us fans liked him a lot. Personally I think he’ll thrive in Detroit and is a wonderful fit with SVG.”

The Suns opted to go in a different direction, as Howard mentioned. They drafted two power forward with different skill sets, in Dragon Bender and Marquese Chriss. They are younger than Leuer, who is 27, and have more potential than him. That helped the Pistons find the backup power forward they so desperately needed.

Jon Leuer is the backup next season, but Leuer needs to prove he is worth the money he was given, or Stan Van Gundy will most certainly look to move him. Detroit needs Leuer to be a knockdown shooter, which is something very feasible for him. If he shoots consistently and rebounds well, Detroit will be set at the backup power forward spot for the foreseeable future.

Featured image via: Tim Fuller/USA TODAY Sports