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'Turkish Thunder' says he'll give Drummond free rein

Terry Foster
The Detroit News
Stan Van Gundy introduced Ersan Ilyasova on Tuesday in Auburn Hills.

Auburn Hills – The Pistons introduced "Turkish Thunder" to Detroit on Tuesday, but the addition of 6-foot-9 power forward Ersan Ilyasova might as well have been a coming out party for center Andre Drummond.

Drummond wants to add more thunder to his game, and Ilyasova, 28, could help him do just that.

"We hit a home run with this deal," Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said Tuesday.

The Pistons send Caron Butler and Shawne Williams to the Bucks last week for Ilyasova, who has career averages of 23.9 minutes, 11.5 points and 6.0 rebounds in seven seasons in Milwaukee. Last season he made 38.9 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Ilyasova can provide the outside shooting Van Gundy covets. However, this move also paves the way for Drummond to get more touches inside this season as frontcourt mate and unrestricted free agent Greg Monroe is seemingly headed for the exits.

"He is a great, talented player and obviously he is on the low post and he needs space," Ilyasova said Tuesday of Drummond. "Me being on this team gives him a lot of space. I try to stretch the floor -- not just for him, but for the point guards and everyone on the team. I try to help teammates, and on the pick-and-roll game somebody is always rotating, so I look for the open guy."

Van Gundy admitted that the Pistons can now focus on getting a small forward in the draft. That is why it was interesting that Duke small forward Justise Winslow visited Tuesday the day after Arizona small forward Stanley Johnson worked out for the Pistons on Monday.

The Pistons had two giant voids in their starting lineup and Van Gundy feared not being able to fill both with quality players during the offseason. Now is looks like he will be able to pull it off.

Getting Ilyasova was like signing a free agent for two years. He will be paid $7.9 million in 2015-16 and $8.4 million (non-guaranteed) in 2016-17. Butler and Williams might be released so the Bucks can free up cap space to sign a center and work on signing restricted free agent Khris Middleton.

Now, the Pistons' starting lineup could feature Reggie Jackson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at guard, Johnson at small forward, and Drummond and Ilyasova up front.

Van Gundy was looking for shooting, toughness, defense and high energy in a stretch four. He says he got all of those qualities in Ilyasova.

"That was our plan for the entire summer, not really thinking we would get all of those things in one guy," Van Gundy said Tuesday. "That is why this deal was really exciting for us. We didn't just get a stretch four. We got someone who can add a lot more for us."

Van Gundy added later: "There are some (trades) where you end up liking the deal and you take it. And it is maybe 51-49 (percent) about how you feel about it. We were 100 percent on this one. This was a great deal."

The Pistons got a glimpse of what Ilyasova can provide, even as he played with the Bucks. Drummond began the season in a crowded and unproductive front court with Josh Smith and Monroe. It was still crowded inside, even after Smith left, because Monroe gets most of his buckets inside, same as Drummond.

On the rare occasions Monroe ventured outside, it was a disaster. He made just 27 percent of his shots from mid-range and out.

Here are more telling numbers. Drummond averaged 18.3 points and 16.1 rebounds per 36 minutes without Monroe on the floor. They fell to 14.9 points and 15.7 rebounds alongside Monroe. Of his 494 field goals, 231 were putbacks or tip-ins.

Stan Van Gundy

Now the Pistons want to dump it inside more so Drummond can unleash his new moves.

This is a re-creation of Van Gundy's Orlando experiment when he paired center Dwight Howard with shooter Ryan Anderson. Howard averaged 18.3 points, 13.2 rebounds and shot a career-high 61.2 percent from the floor in 2009-10. Anderson, meanwhile helped ease pressure by hitting 38 percent of his 3-point shots.

The Magic finished 148-82 during the three-season span from 2009-12 and made the Eastern Conference finals in 2010.

This allows the Pistons to focus on getting a small forward in the draft and a backup center with their second-round pick or through free agency.

"You have a pretty thin list (of free agents) who can play at a high level," Van Gundy said. "For us, if Ersan were a free agent, he would have been at the top of the list of guys we would have gone after. So it was a pretty easy decision to make, this trade. This helps us narrow our focus (in the draft). We did not expect we would get this kind of early start in the offseason. It has been great for us."