The Pistons’ Point Guard Predicament

Image: David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports

For years, depth at point guard was an issue for the Detroit Pistons. With starting point guard Reggie Jackson sidelined for a big portion of his tenure with the team, the Pistons have struggled to make the position a positive over the years. Steve Blake, Beno Udrih (who was actually pretty decent), and Jose Calderon have all been relied on for significant minutes over the past few seasons. Prior to Derrick Rose’s arrival, the only other productive backup in recent memory has been Ish Smith. Smith was an exciting speed-demon with great vision, and constantly ran in transition when he was able to come off the bench. Unfortunately, he was forced into a starter’s role more than anticipated due to Jackson’s injuries.

Even with another Jackson injury, it appears this roster’s weakness has been shored up – for now. The Pistons possess a number of point guards that bring something different to the team, a luxury that didn’t exist before this season. Derrick Rose has continued to reinvent his game despite losing his vertical explosiveness due to injuries – he’s proven to still be elite finishing around the rim and creating his own looks. Bruce Brown’s transition to point guard has helped elevate his game on nearly every level, with his playmaking, finishing, and 3-point percentage all-seeing eye-opening improvements. Reggie Jackson, who should be returning from a back injury soon, brings an all-around game alongside remarkable chemistry with Andre Drummond – if neither of them are traded, at least. Not to mention, second-round pick Jordan Bone has been dominating in the G League and could be with the Pistons for good by the end of the season. Tim Frazier plays sometimes, too.

The dilemma here is that, while the Pistons already have five point guards on the team, they are rumored to want to add more ball-handlers without having a plan to trade any away. Andre Drummond has been the hot topic of trade rumors in Detroit, with some mock returns featuring point guards such as Dennis Smith Jr, Frank Ntilikina, Anfernee Simons, and Collin Sexton. Also, the team has already announced that they have no plans to trade Derrick Rose unless he asks out, despite his high-level play easily warranting a first-round pick from a contender. Reggie Jackson is all but gone by the end of the season, and there’s serious doubt Detroit would be able to coax any value out of him, despite his useful expiring contract.

The front office will have decisions to make, but with the likely inability to trade Jackson, they need to either bite the bullet on a Rose trade or avoid point guards in any Drummond move.

Derrick Rose has been fantastic for a mediocre and rebuilding Pistons squad this season, which is exactly why moving on from him might be the team’s best course of action. (Image: Brett Duke/Associated Press)

The loyalty the Pistons have shown to Rose is expected – Detroit’s vice chairman, Arn Tellem, is Rose’s former agent – but it feels like a mutual separation could be the best option for both sides. His value has never been higher than it is now, as the former MVP is on the heels of seven-straight 20-point games. Detroit would be able to add an asset or two while Rose would have an opportunity to play a large role on a playoff team. This would open up the room to add one of the aforementioned point guards in a potential Drummond trade if Ed Stefanski finds a deal worth pursuing.

Not to mention, Detroit, who currently has the 6th-worst record in the NBA, will also have their choice of prospects in a guard-heavy lottery class. With exciting talents like LaMelo Ball, Cole Anthony, Tyrese Haliburton, Nico Mannion, and Killian Hayes touted as likely top-10 picks, it may be in the team’s best interest to find their future of the position in the draft. Detroit hasn’t drafted a point guard in the first round since Brandon Knight in 2011, but now have a prime opportunity to move away from their recent trend of starting mediocre veterans. Adding a young playmaker next to rookie sensation Sekou Doumbouya could make for a franchise-leading duo in the future, as well.

If the front office pulls the right strings now and in the offseason, Detroit could be looking at a point guard rotation chock full of skill, potential, and youth going into next season. As the team’s lottery odds continue to rise and trade suitors continue to pop up, it doesn’t seem far fetched that the Pistons could put together a guard rotation of a lottery pick (Ball, Anthony, Haliburton, Mannion, Hayes) and a development project (Smith Jr, Ntilikina, Simons, Sexton) alongside Brown and Bone at the one. This would give Detroit a slew of options to decide from for the future of the position without breaking the bank, as all of those players would still be on their rookie deals. This would also enable the team to use their coveted cap space elsewhere, whether it be adding wing depth, finding a replacement for Andre Drummond, or taking on bad contracts in exchange for assets.

There’s always a mix of uncertainty and wishful thinking when it comes to visualizing who will and won’t be on the roster next season. It’s a very real possibility that both Drummond and Rose remain with the team, and the Pistons simply ride out the roster they have.

Detroit hasn’t had an exciting point guard rotation in a long time, but nailing a few lingering decisions in both the next few weeks and this summer can change that. Finally, the Pistons have an opportunity to move on from the old and infuse some new talent at basketball’s most important position, but will they take it?

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