Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy on preparing for the Bucks in the preseason finale. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Auburn Hills — It was almost like playing Hot Potato. When Langston Galloway got the ball, he found a way to get in position to get a good shot, with some success.
In Tuesday’s loss to the Toronto Raptors, the Pistons guard put up a team-high 15 shots, making five, including 2-for-5 from 3-point range. It’s a gunner role that he’s taken on as one of the lead bench scorers, a new look off the bench.
Galloway signed as a free agent in the summer and was a versatile guard who coach Stan Van Gundy coveted — to the tune of three years and $21 million. Though some questioned the price tag, Van Gundy saw the opportunity to cross off two needs with one player, getting a third point guard while improving the veteran depth at shooting guard.
Last season, Galloway hit 39 percent on 3-pointers — an area the Pistons finished 28th in the league — and his versatility showed in playing backup point guard while Reggie Jackson missed the first two games in the preseason, then stepping into the shooting role when Avery Bradley missed the next two.
“He’s shooting it a lot, which is good, and he’ll shoot it better,” Van Gundy said Thursday. “They were all good shots and I liked them. That’s what we want him to do and that’s his greatest strength and what we want.
“It’s natural for him. That’s what he does and he has a quick release, doesn’t need a lot of time; he has great range, so we want him to shoot the ball. He can drive and kick and make plays to people and play both positions.
At 6-foot-2, Galloway doesn’t have ideal size but he makes up for it with dogged defense and an affinity for creating opportunities for others. While the backcourt is crowded with several reserves jockeying for playing time, Galloway seems comfortable with his role, getting the green light to shoot on offense — and the freedom to create when he’s at the point.
“Coach is just trusting in me whenever I go out there and give energy, whether it’s on the defensive end or offensive end. I’m just going out, playing my game and having fun,” Galloway said. “The first thing we talked about (when I signed) was having me as a combo. I’m excited that he has confidence in me to play either one; that’s a good sign.”
Galloway, 25, posted 8.6 points and 2.2 rebounds in 55 games with the New Orleans Pelicans before going to the Sacramento Kings in the DeMarcus Cousins trade late in the season. In 19 games with the Kings, he averaged 6 points, 1.5 assists and shot 48 percent on 3-pointers — part of what caught Van Gundy’s eye.
So far, so good.
For Van Gundy, it’s just about finding what everyone does well — and it’s easy to see in Galloway’s case.
“We’ve been talking to everybody about what’s your greatness — where do you stand out?” Van Gundy said. “Where he stands out is as a 3-point shooter who can shoot a lot of them and make a lot of them. That’s what we want him first and foremost ready to do.”
Van Gundy said all of the Pistons, except Dwight Buycks, were able to practice on Thursday, which means he could have his full rotation healthy and ready to play on Friday night at Milwaukee.
It’s the final opportunity to tinker with the rotation and see how the pieces fit — especially Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith at point guard. Smith has been the Pistons’ best player overall in the preseason and Jackson, who is ramping up his basketball activity following a rest during the summer, is taking more time to get his mojo back.
After Tuesday’s 22-point loss to the Raptors, defense was foremost on his mind, though.
“We had to go back and do some very basic things. It’s good every once in a while to get drilled like that in the preseason against a good team,” Van Gundy said. “It’s good because it made us go back and re-evaluate some things. We made some fairly minor schematic changes that will help us and that’s what we worked on.”
Pistons at Bucks
Tip-off: 8:30 Friday, Bradley Center, Milwaukee
TV/radio: No TV/950
Outlook: The Pistons wrap up the preseason looking to get healthy and finally get a look at their regular rotation playing together.