Position Breakdowns and Battles Throughout Training Camp
Coming into the 2016 NBA season, the Detroit Pistons finally have something they haven’t had in nearly a decade: playoff expectations. Last season, the up-and-coming Pistons fought their way into the playoffs (8th seed) only to be promptly swept by the King & Co. This year, it will be critical the Pistons finish top 5 in the East to avoid superior teams such as the Cavaliers, Raptors, and Celtics in the early rounds of the playoffs. In order to make this leap, the Pistons front office realized they needed to add depth to the bench and they did this through free agency/the draft. But how much will the new players/rookies play? Going into training camp, what is their role? Are they competing for a starting job? This article plans to tackle these questions.
During the offseason, Pistons Czar of Basketball Operations/Coach, Stan Van Gundy, bolstered the roster, specifically the bench, by adding (PF) Jon Leuer, (PG) Ish Smith, and (C) Boban Marjanovic. Through the NBA draft, Pistons acquired (F) Henry Ellenson and (G) Michael Gbinije. For training camp, Pistons also signed (G) Old Dominion’s Trey Freeman, (F) USC’s Nikola Jovanovic, and former (PG) Sacramento King/Hometown hero Ray McCallum. Neither Freeman or Jovanovic are expected to make the team while McCallum is fighting to be the third string point guard. On the eve of training camp, the Detroit Pistons return all five starters but there is still plenty of competition for playing time between the newly acquired players and rookies. Let’s take a look.
This is Reggie Jackson’s second full year as the Pistons starting point guard. Reggie is looking to take his game to the next level, by eliminating turnovers (2.8 turnovers per game last year) and cutting down his dribbling. Former 76er, Ish Smith, is Reggie’s back up. Smith will use his speed and play making ability to force the second unit to push the ball thus leading to more fast breaks and easy buckets. Something the aged floor general, Steve Blake, struggled with last year. The biggest roster question we have going into training camp is who will be the third string point guard, Lorenzo Brown or Ray MaCallum? Whispers from the Auburn Hills say that Brown currently has the slight edge because of his performance at Summer League along with his familiarity with the offense. However, Ray MaCallum has a lot more NBA experience and he is a more efficient shooter, especially from behind the arch. Both pillars of a SVG offense. Ultimately, these attributes will ensure MaCallum makes the roster.
Shooting Guard is the shallowest position. Behind Kentavious Caldwell Pope, SVG will rely on a mix of Darrun Hillard, Stanley Johnson, and Reggie Bullock. Going into camp, Hillard is the tentative No. 2 but that may change depending on the development of Bullock’s perimeter shooting. More than likely this will be a time share because Stan believes both guys bring something different to the position. During an interview in August, Van Gundy was asked about this very subject. Stan stated, “Darrun gives us a guy who can make plays off the dribble probably better than anybody on our team other than Reggie Jackson or Ish (Smith). Later he said, “And then Reggie Bullock really emerged as our best perimeter shooter.” Overall, Bullock’s shooting versatility will earn him more playing time down the stretch.
As of now, there is no position battle at Small Forward. Marcus Morris is the unquestioned starter. Morris started 80 games last year and posted career highs in points, rebounds, and assists. However, Stanley Johnson, currently our 6th man, is quickly closing the gap.The second year swing-man looks to build off an impressive rookie season by improving his shooting and dribbling while maintaining his defensive aggressiveness. During this years playoff chase, Johnson will be competing with Morris to close out important games. Reggie Bullock will also get a look at the three spot, mostly spreading the floor but will not play too much. During training camp, rookie Michael Gbinije will push for time at the 2/3 spot as well but is expected to spend most of the season in the D-league.
On February 17, 2016 SVG made his best trade yet by acquiring versatile playmaker, Tobias Harris. Tobias is very important to this offense because of his ability to put the ball on the floor and create his own shot. Newly acquired John Leuer replaces crowd favorite Anthony Tolliver as the back up PF. Lear will spread the floor while bringing better shooting and defense. Rookie, Henry Ellenson, will look to “learn on the job” by developing his three-point shot and defense as the third string Power Forward. Expect him to play 10-12 minutes per game.
Andre Drummond. Andre Drummond. Andre Drum…you get my point. Most of the teams’ success will fall on Drummond’s young, albeit strong, shoulders. He is the Catalyst of the team both offensively and defensively. Aaron Baynes will continue his role as the back up center. Primarily restoring order when opponents call for the “Hack-A-Dre.” Former Spur, Boban Marjanovic, will serve as the third string center. Mostly developing his game during garbage time. However, Boban’s development is especially important because next year he will more than likely be the back up center. So pay close attention when he does play.
Overall, there is virtually zero drama when it comes to position battles or roster spots in Auburn Hills. Similar to SVG’s Orlando Magic Era, each player has a well-defined position and expectation. Training Camp will be an opportunity for the returning starters to teach the newly acquired Pistons and help them find their role on a playoff bound basketball team.
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