The Detroit Pistons begin their preseason on Thursday against the Brooklyn Nets. It’s a fun time in the NBA, as basketball returns even though it is only the preseason. The preseason is a time for teams the work on building chemistry with the players that remained on the roster learn to mesh with the team’s offseason additions. The Pistons made multiple moves this offseason, which makes the preseason important for them, as they look to build chemistry heading into the 2016-2017 season. The preseason is also a time for players who were invited to training camp to try to earn a spot on the main roster. The Pistons have seven new players in the roster, that were not on the roster at the end of last season. They are: Henry Ellenson, Michael Gbinije, Ish Smith, Jon Leuer, Ray McCallum Jr, Trey Freeman, and Nikola Jovanovic.
The Pistons enter the preseason with multiple questions entering the 2016-2017 regular season, and the preseason will be the time for Stan Van Gundy to try to answer those questions.
1.) Who will be the third string point guard to begin the 2016-2017 season between Ray McCallum Jr and Lorenzo Brown?
The third string point-guard spot is one of the bigger questions for the Pistons going into the season. Detroit signed Lorenzo Brown to a multi-year deal after he had been with Detroit on multiple 10-day contracts. Heading into the offseason it seemed as Detroit had their third string point guard, but made training camp and the preseason a little more interesting when they inked Ray McCallum Jr to a partially guaranteed deal. Brown never appeared in a game for the Pistons last season, but did play in the Orlando Summer League with Detroit. He was fantastic with the Pistons, averaging 14.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, two assists, and 3.6 steals per game. He shot 53% from the field, and 37.5% from the three-point line. He was the catalyst for the Pistons they went on to play in the Orlando Summer League Championship. Ray McCallum Jr spent time with both the San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies. He played 31 games with San Antonio and 10 games with Memphis. He averaged 3.3 points and 1.5 assists last season.
This spot is truly up for grabs. When the Pistons drafted Michael Gbinije, there was a chance that he would presume that role, but MLive’s Aaron McMann has reported that Gbinije will only play on the wing in his rookie season, at least for now. Between the two, the race is very close. I asked Aaron McMann who he believed had the lead currently.
I agree with McMann. From watching Brown he truly seems ready to stick in the NBA. He dominated in Summer League, and has the familiarity with the Pistons coaching and playbook. McCallum has the NBA experience though, and he’s played in the NBA for a reason. It will be a close and fun battle to watch in the preseason.
2.) Can Reggie Bullock and Darrun Hilliard force Stan Van Gundy to use a 10-man rotation, and if they do, who will be the 10th man?
The battle for the 10th spot in the Pistons rotation that may or may not exist come the start of the season is something to watch for. Aaron McMann recently reported from training camp that Van Gundy may or may not use a 10-man rotation. Both Bullock and Hilliard deserve to be in the rotation, but if both were to play that would push the rotation to 11, which is not plausible. It will come down to which is the better player. With Stanley Johnson penciled in as the backup small forward, one of Bullock or Hilliard will not play regularly. This preseason will determine which player will be included in the rotation and who will not. This is going to be a close battle, as each had a similar year compared to one another. Bullock appeared in 37 games last season, averaging 3.3 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. He shot 41.5% from three. Hilliard appeared in 38 games, averaging four points and 1.2 rebounds per game. He shot 38% from three. As you can see, the two players are very similar.
While this may mean nothing at all, at the Pistons “Meet the Team” event on Tuesday night, Stan Van Gundy brought out ten players to showcase a play they had been working on. One group consisted of the starting five from last year, while the other group was made up of Ish Smith, Stanley Johnson, Jon Leuer, Aron Baynes, and Reggie Bullock. Does that mean tha Bullock is the backup shooting guard? No, but it may be a hint to who has the advantage in the competition right now.
If I was a betting man, I’d select Bullock to secure the spot. He is in a contract year, and the Pistons are interested in re-signing him. That means they trust him and believe he can be a contributor on a team that wants to contend in the Eastern Conference.
3.) Do Nikola Jovanovic and Trey Freeman have a shot at making the final roster?
Tuesday night the Pistons held their “Meet the Team” event. While I noticed who Trey Freeman was, I did not even realize who Nikola Jovanovic was until after the event when the Pistons posted something about him on social media. That really does not matter when it comes to this topic, just wanted to point that out.
Freeman is a 6’2 combo guard. He played at Old Dominion University last year. He averaged 22.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, and three assists per game. He can score in multiple ways, although his three-point shooting is only average. He shot 34.9% from deep last season. Freeman brings versatility to the guard position, but it will be tough for him to crack a roster spot with so many guards on the roster.
Jovanovic is a combo bigman out of USC. He averaged 12.2 points and seven rebounds per game last season for the Trojans. He does provide some range, as he shot 7/13 from the three-point line, at 53.8%. Jovanovic is a long shot to make the roster. Detroit drafted Henry Ellenson this offseason, who projects as a power forward that can play center. They also signed Jon Leuer, who plays power forward along with center. Jovanovic does not provide anything that Ellenson and Leuer don’t which makes it very tough for Detroit to carry three bigmen that all have the same skill set.
If it came down to one of them to make the roster, I would put my money on Trey Freeman, especially after the Reggie Jackson injury.His skillset is something that detroit could use, unlike Jovanovic’s who Detroit already has.
Featured image via: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports